President's Blog

A year in (brief) review

It’s been a productive year at George Mason University on many counts.

This academic year we welcomed the largest freshman class in our history, as well as the largest transfer class. In fall 2013, 3,011 first-time freshmen arrived on campus, with 2,390 being from the Commonwealth and 621 coming from out of state. The 2,659 degree-seeking, undergraduate transfer students was almost as large a group as the freshman cohort; and when spring 2014 transfers are included, the number of new transfers reached 3,931.

And we’re not just becoming larger; we’re also becoming more effective. Our 6-year graduation rate has steadily increased from 64 percent in 2009 to about 67 percent in 2013 (and at 72 percent and 71 percent, respectively, women and Hispanics are the first two groups to have surpassed the 70 percent mark). Add to that high employment outcomes of our graduates, as reported by SCHEV, and low student loan default rates, as reported by the Federal Government, and we can safely and proudly claim that we are serving more students and serving them better.

These numbers in fact put us firmly on track to achieve our goal of 100,000 graduates over the next 10 years, a strategic objective that ranks among our most ambitious. Here’s our point of departure.  In 2012-13, we awarded 8,410 degrees and 549 certificates. Of those degrees, 59 percent (4,920) were undergraduate, and one-third (2,756) were in the humanities and social sciences, with an additional 40 percent (3,331) pretty evenly distributed among education, business and engineering. Our graduates also earned 261 law degrees, 249 PhDs, and 2,980 Masters. No other four-year institution in the Commonwealth awarded more degrees. We anticipate similar numbers this year, and gradual overall increases thereafter.

Here are several other highlights (a more exhaustive list and data will be available this Fall as part of my president’s report–here’s a link to last year’s):

  • We produced a university-wide strategic plan, and developed unit-specific plans for each of the colleges under that framework. We created a unified brand profile that is effective July 1. A campus master plan and a campaign plan are under way.
  • We recruited a new provost, David Wu, who begins July 1. David completes a new leadership team with robust and diverse backgrounds.
  • We established a partnership with INTO that will greatly increase our international student population.
  • We agreed to merge the School of Public Policy and the Department of Public and International Affairs into a new School of Policy, Government and International Affairs that will stand out in breadth, depth and quality.
  • The Mason-Korea campus in Incheon welcomed its first class in March. Initial enrollment totaled 40 students, including six undergraduates from Fairfax.
  • We raised more than $51 million, which makes fiscal year 2014, once again, a record fund-raising year.
  • We transformed the Mason Inn into the Mason Global Center, that will add much needed educational and residential space while ending years of operating losses.
  • We consolidated and moved administrative offices, including the provost and president’s offices, into Alan and Sally Merten Hall (formerly, University Hall), a move that created an additional 25,000 square feet of renovated academic space, without requiring new construction.
  • We launched five new fully online programs this year: MEd, Education Leadership;MS, Applied Information Technology; MS, Biodefense; Graduate Certificate in Emergency Management and Homeland Security; and, Graduate Certificate in Geospatial Intelligence. All will offer their first set of online cohorts this fall.  We also are launching a fully online asynchronous MS program in Systems Engineering.
  • We opened the Simulation and Computational Gaming Institute in March, and last month we announced the creation of the Sustainable Earth Institute.
  • We helped incubate a new Education Design Lab (an initiative with former member of the Board of Visitors and benefactor Kathleen DeLaski), dedicated to designing new solutions in higher education, and launched two pilot projects—one on apprenticeships and one on 21st century skills.
  • We joined the Atlantic 10 conference and won four conference championships on our inaugural season—men’s soccer, baseball and women’s indoor and outdoor track and field. Our results in men’s basketball were disappointing, but the national television exposure and as the six bids to the NCAA tournament reaffirmed the value of our decision. Tom O’Connor retired, and we hired Brad Edwards as our new Athletic Director.

Much, much more was accomplished throughout the university.  And much more is under way.  Thank you to each and every member of the Mason community–students and families, faculty and staff, alumni, volunteers, board members, friends, elected officials, donors and partners–for all you do to move this university forward.  Looking forward to an equally productive 2014-15!