By Preston Williams
For George Mason University and the MITRE Corporation, the talent pipeline flows in both directions. Career-ready Mason graduates join the MITRE workforce each year, and MITRE provides funding for its employees to earn career-related advanced degrees at George Mason.
It’s a natural partnership—the largest public research university in Virginia and a not-for-profit organization that shares Mason’s interest in tackling research and development of national and global significance.
MITRE’s work for the federal government aligns with Mason’s strengths in STEM fields, health care, and many other areas. It’s a boon for the company to have one of the world’s top 200 research universities 10 miles away.
“It’s a fantastic advantage,” said Julie Gravallese, MITRE vice president and chief human resources officer. “We want to invest in George Mason because that really does invest in our future.”
The ties between Mason and MITRE are deep―and deepening—with current research initiatives or likely future projects in cybersecurity, big data analytics, health care, software development and computational social sciences.
In September, Mason president Ángel Cabrera gave a presentation at MITRE about the university’s role as an economic engine in the region. Many of those in attendance were among the more than 450 Mason alumni employed at MITRE. Of MITRE’s 7,500 employees, more earned degrees from Mason than from any other college or university, Gravallese said.
MITRE president and CEO Alfred Grasso visited the Mason campus for an event during the fall. Many of his colleagues regularly make that short drive―MITRE pays for employees to take courses at Mason, and MITRE engineers frequently serve as adjunct professors, sharing their practical experiences with Mason students.
In one collaboration in recent years, Mason and MITRE brought together students, first responders, law enforcement, and the military for a simulation experiment that examined social media’s effectiveness in emergency response.
MITRE representatives also provide recommendations for Mason academic programs. For example, MITRE principal scientist Charles A. Worrell, who received his PhD from Mason in 2003, is a founding member of the Mason Mechanical Engineering Department’s industry advisory board.
In addition, Mason and MITRE are exploring training and development partnerships between George Mason Learning Solutions and the MITRE Institute, MITRE’s internal corporate center for education, training, and development. They also are considering possible collaborations between Mason’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and MITRE’s Technology Transfer Office.
“The collaboration with MITRE reaffirms George Mason University’s commitment to produce a career-ready workforce aligned with the societal and economic needs of the region,” Mason Provost S. David Wu said. “As the largest public research university and an economic development engine for the National Capital region, Mason welcomes committed partners in exploring new opportunities in research, innovation, and economic growth.”
Gravallese, who during her 34 years at MITRE has seen Mason blossom from a small regional school into an international university, is a Mason enthusiast in more ways than one. Her daughter, Jessica Richardson, is an art and visual technology major at Mason.
“I have every reason to want George Mason to thrive and continue to produce the best-educated graduates that it possibly can,” Gravallese said.