President's Blog

R1: What it means to be listed again among the most research intense universities

Below is a message I shared this afternoon with the Mason community.

Dear Colleague:

I am delighted that the new Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education released today placed George Mason University once again in the top tier of research universities in the nation.

Only 120 institutions received the “very high research” (or R1) designation, and George Mason University is the youngest among them. This is the second consecutive time in our history that we have been included among the most research-intensive universities in the nation, an affirmation of our commitment to excellence and recognition of the caliber of our faculty. It is an impressive achievement for our entire university community.

Few institutions have grown in size and stature as rapidly as George Mason University. Established as a regional university serving mostly local residents, Mason has emerged as a nationally and internationally recognized research university serving the largest and most diverse student body in Virginia.

Our traditional strengths in social sciences and humanities, coupled with a fast-growing portfolio in engineering, science and other disciplines, have driven our ascension into the top tier of research universities. Annual sponsored expenditures for research, scholarship and creative work rose 14 percent between 2017 and 2018, setting a new Mason record. Our sponsored awards increased by more than 30 percent over the same period, which puts us on pace to meet our strategic goal of $225 million in annual research expenditures by 2024.

These gains reflect the increasing confidence that federal research agencies and other sponsors place in faculty throughout the university. Consider the following highlights:

  • Mason has been the eighth-highest recipient of funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities in the past decade, at $5.8 million.
  • The Department of Homeland Security committed $40 million in funding for Mason to lead a national Center of Excellence in Criminal Investigations and Network Analysis, leveraging the excellence of our research and scholarship in social science, computing and engineering.
  • Mason is in the top 23 percent of universities in research and development expenditures from the National Science Foundation in fiscal year 2017.

The Commonwealth of Virginia also continues to invest in Mason, helping fund state-of-the-art research facilities on all of our Northern Virginia campuses.

  • In Fairfax, the much-anticipated Core Campus Project will be the center of our College of Humanities and Social Sciences, and Peterson Family Health Sciences Hall is home to multidisciplinary research in the much-needed area of public health.
  • In Arlington, the state has pledged $125 million to help us expand and create the Institute for Digital InnovAtion (IDIA) and a new School of Computing. These projects are essential to develop the talent and ideas demanded by companies like Amazon and many others.
  • At SciTech in Manassas, we are expanding our Institute for Biohealth Innovation (IBI) and doubling the size of Bull Run Hall to meet lab space demands and open new research avenues.
  • In April, Mason dedicated the Potomac Science Center, a 50,000-square-foot waterfront facility in Prince William County. It is home to a multidisciplinary team of environmental scientists and engineers and our impending sustainability institute.

The Carnegie Tier 1 status sends an unequivocal signal to our partners and funders about our capabilities. It also elevates the demands and expectations that they place on us. Retaining this status and delivering at the level expected of the top universities in the nation will require sustained work and investment and a broad conversation with state decision makers about the current disparities in operating funding of our university relative to other doctoral research universities in Virginia.

But for now, let’s take a moment to celebrate this important recognition. Thank you for all you do to push George Mason University forward.