Today I begin my service as President of George Mason University. I am humbled to follow in the footsteps of great university leaders and I am proud to have as colleagues faculty and staff who are among the most innovative and dedicated in higher education.
Since being selected to serve as your new president by the Board of Visitors last December, I have spent a great deal of time learning about George Mason University. Through independent research and meetings with key leaders inside and outside of the university I have come to appreciate just how special this institution is. It is no accident that we are consistently recognized as one of the top up-and-coming universities in the U.S. and one of the best young universities in the world.
We live in interesting times. It is no secret to you that higher education is in a period of great change. The events in the last few weeks at the University of Virginia are one more symptom of the pressures all universities face. And, we are no exception. A combination of budgetary tightening and technological innovation is creating unprecedented challenges to traditional universities. But it is also opening great opportunities.
I have no doubt that George Mason University is among the institutions ready to turn these challenges into opportunity—just as we have done for the last 40 years. One of the reasons I was attracted to Mason was its unique innovative and entrepreneurial spirit. These principles are perhaps our most valuable asset as we continue to redefine what it means to be a great research, metropolitan university in the 21st century.
One of my first goals as I continue to get to know you is to craft a new vision for the next chapter in the life of George Mason University. I have already started gathering insights from the deans and senior administration. I have had preliminary meetings with Governor McDonnell and his cabinet. I am planning a strategic visioning retreat with the Board of Visitors in August. And, I am planning a process to gather and test ideas with faculty, staff, students, alumni, community leaders and friends of the university over the coming months. The new vision will be the foundation of a new strategic plan, as the current plan wraps up in 2014.
I do not believe we have to choose between inclusive decision-making and decisive strategic action. My goal is to achieve both in the spirit of shared governance and constructive debate that is the hallmark of a great university.
Let me close by thanking you for the warm welcome you have already extended to my family. Beth, Alex and Emily are looking forward to becoming part of the community fabric here in northern Virginia.
Thank you for all you do to carry out the university’s mission.