Fairfax City and Mason come together to spur economic growth and student success


Fairfax City mayor and George Mason University alumna Catherine S. Read, BA ’84, and Mason's School of Business Dean Ajay Vinzé signed a partnership agreement on Oct. 2 aimed at promoting economic growth in the city while giving students access to experiential learning opportunities that will benefit local businesses and students.

business students at ACE hardware
Students get hands-on retail management experience at Fairfax Ace Hardware. Photo provided

This partnership will extend the walls of the business school’s classrooms into the local business community, by affording business students with the opportunity to learn and practice leadership skills across several industries in the “classroom beyond the classroom.”

“Our collaboration with the George Mason University School of Business is about investing in our future, and being open to change and innovation,” said Read. “By welcoming Mason students and faculty into our business community, we’re bringing fresh faces and new ideas to city planning in support of our vision for a vibrant commercial district.”

“The School of Business emphasizes student experience and career readiness via public, private, and academic partnerships,” said Vinzé. “We see Mason as your hometown university, and this partnership is an exciting opportunity for us to invest in the growth and economic development of this wonderful city, while providing our students with a hands-on learning experience that will prepare them for successful careers in business.”

Experiential learning opportunities in Fairfax are expected to draw Mason students from each of the business school’s four centers of excellence—Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE), Center for Real Estate Entrepreneurship (CREE), Center for Retail Transformation (CRT), and the newly named Greg and Camille Baroni Center for Government Contracting.

With some programs already underway and additional planning discussions on the horizon, both sides are looking forward to expanding the current collaboration in the spring. Among the projects slated to launch are

  • a CIE-led vendor management experience for students with retailers in the Old Town Fairfax Business Association (OTFBA)/FCED “Wander In” retail incubator,
  • a CREE site plan analysis for determining best use options of commercial real estate sites in the Northfax Small Area Plan and other areas of Fairfax City,
  • an in-store retail management experience with CRT students and Fairfax City retailers, and
  • a study by students from the Greg and Camille Baroni Center for Government Contracting, in coordination with the Mason Enterprise Center, to identify ways to improve business outcomes for small business federal contractors.

“What makes this program unique among ‘classroom beyond the classroom’ partnerships is our collective focus on leveraging the short-term benefit of student employability into a longer-term relationship with our city and its business community,” said Christopher Bruno, executive director and CEO of FCED. “One of the reasons we decided to partner with Mason is its track record of driving economic growth in the region—close to 70% of its alumni live and work in a 50-mile radius of the Fairfax Campus—and the confidence that gives us that many of the relationships we form now with Mason students and alumni are going to serve as a magnet for new businesses in the future.”


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She has ideas to bring Mason and Fairfax City together

“You look at our downtown and where are the students, where is the activity, where is the energy?” said Catherine Read, the first Mason alum, and first woman, to be Fairfax mayor. "What kind of things can we do between the campus and the city? That’s what we should be asking ourselves."

Learn more about her plans >>