President Washington highlights Mason’s success in workforce development, student support

sunset on Wilkins Plaza
Sunset on Wilkins Plaza. Photo by Sierra Guard/Creative Services

George Mason University President Gregory Washington told the Board of Visitors (BOV) on Thursday, Feb. 23, that “there may not be a better place in the state to make an investment” than Mason.

Washington highlighted several factors, including Mason driving enrollment in the state, admitting almost 90% of applicants and graduating students at about a 70% clip, growing research expenditures, recently increasing compensation for some faculty and staff, flourishing partnerships with Amazon and other leading companies, the university’s impact on small business around Virginia, the latest online program rankings, the university’s upgraded credit rating, and graduates’ favorable salaries.

“Find me a greater human development program in the state currently,” Washington said during the livestreamed meeting. “Find a better human development program in the state over the last 20 years. You probably have to go back to the New Deal to find a better human development program than what is happening en masse here at George Mason University.

“We are coming as close to firing on all cylinders as we possibly can given the uncertainty and the challenges that are in front of a public institution in an environment in which we exist.”

Provost Mark Ginsberg noted in his remarks that Mason has been officially reaccredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) through 2032, the longest possible term. “That’s an affirmation of the quality and integrity of our academic programs,” Ginsberg said.

Ginsberg also reported that the number of Mason students studying abroad has jumped from 118 in 2020-21 (the height of the pandemic and down from 667 in 2019-20), to 764 in 2021-22 to 1,383 in 2022-23.

Ginsberg provided an overview of the university’s mental health resources. Since the start of the fall 2022 semester, there have been more than 5,000 visits by Mason students seeking mental health services from on-site professionals or via telehealth The university last fall teamed with TimelyMD to provide a 24-hour virtual extension of campus counseling center resources to improve student well-being.

Ginsberg added that campus police now carry NARCAN, which also is available at Student Health Services. The Student Support and Advocacy Center offers NARCAN training to the Mason community.

Among other happenings from the BOV committee meetings or full board meeting:

  • The board approved a mechanical engineering PhD.
  • Trishana Bowden, vice president, Advancement and Alumni Relations and president of the George Mason University Foundation, noted that Mason is eight weeks from publicly launching its $1 billion campaign.
  • Andre Marshall, vice president for Research, Innovation, and Economic Impact, reported that the university’s FY22 research expenditures were $230 million, up 7.5%, and that Mason secured a state-leading $5.8 million in congressionally directed projects.
  • Dean of Admissions Alan Byrd said enrollment this spring is up 1% from last year, with record enrollment for undergraduate students, and credit hours are up 1.6%. Mason has an all-time high of more than 3,800 international students. Fall 2023 applications are up 13% and more than 16% of high school seniors in Virginia have applied to Mason.
  • David Farris, executive director of Safety and Emergency Management, provided an update on the policies, protocols, and activities to prepare for, respond to, and recover from potential emergency situations. He discussed the required employee civility and violence prevention training and emergency preparedness training and other action threat resources and optional training available to Mason employees. He also discussed adjustments in emergency communication.
  • School of Business Dean Ajay Vinzé explained ways that the business school can work with other Mason schools and colleges to award certificates across disciplines to provide students an even more customized academic experience that will accelerate their careers. Vinzé added that one in four Mason undergraduates takes some form of business education and that 68% of School of Business alumni live and work within a 50-mile radius. “This is something I've been emphasizing to the CEOs and business leaders as I speak to them because we are the talent pipeline,” Vinzé said.
  • With an overarching theme of “The arts create community,” College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA) Dean Rick Davis presented on the history and mission of the arts at Mason and highlighted several prominent CVPA faculty members.
  • Patrick Vora, director and founding member of Mason’s Quantum Science and Engineering Center, and Mason alum Jaydeep Joshi, who completed a PhD in physics in 2021, provided an overview of the center, founded in 2018 to focus on a transdisciplinary approach to quantum research and education.

A recording of the February BOV meeting is available here.