Summer is traditionally the time when we look back on the academic year and reflect on our accomplishments. We have many to celebrate, and they all contribute to our collective effort to build a world-class research university in the heart of this dynamic, world-changing region.
With that in mind, I’d like to share with you an observation that a senior reporter from the Chronicle of Higher Education made to me recently about George Mason University. It says a lot about how we are doing.
“This place is kind of exploding,” he said. “There’s a lot of energy about it. We are hearing more buzz about the institution than we were a few years ago.”
It is no accident that the people who cover higher education have taken note of what’s happening at Mason.
Together, we attract bright young people from around the world and provide them with an education that makes our region richer, culturally and economically. At the same time, we deliver research that improves lives, strengthens the innovation fabric of a very sophisticated economic region, and contributes solutions to some of the most complex human challenges of our time. That dual mission built on excellence and access is what we mean when we talk about being a world-class research university. Every day, each of you contributes to making that a reality.
We’ve accomplished so much together this past year. We launched the Institute for Advanced Biomedical Research on our recently named Science and Technology Campus in Prince William County. We broke ground on the new health sciences building on the Fairfax Campus. These two commitments position the university to play a major role in biosciences and health—high-growth industries that serve our region and state.
Our students won a Mason-record nine Fulbright awards. We had our third consecutive record-breaking fundraising year. We added a Bachelor of Science Degree in Cybersecurity Engineering, a first-of-its-kind program that integrates cybersecurity into the design process. Our faculty members received prestigious awards, including an inaugural Andrew Carnegie Fellowship.
Our greatest success stories are our students. We graduated more than 8,500 individuals this year, the largest class in school history. They hailed from 68 countries. More than one-fourth of them were the first in their families to earn a four-year degree. And they are graduating with jobs, as we continue to deliver the highest return on investment in the state.
It’s not just the Chronicle of Higher Education that is taking notice of our progress. BestColleges.com reported that our student loan default rates are the lowest of any public university in the country. And Times Higher Education ranked us fifth among top American universities founded in the last 50 years.
We have come a long way in a very short time, but we have much more ahead. This fall, we expect to welcome the largest freshman class in our history. We will work to advance our research agenda in critical multidisciplinary areas. We will complete the Fenwick Library expansion. We will open two centers that further our mission to address global issues. Our Point of View center near Mason Neck will be a retreat where groups engaged in conflict can come together to reconcile their differences. Our Potomac Science Center on Belmont Bay in Woodbridge will allow Mason students and faculty to collaborate with government agencies and private industry in the study of environmental issues.
This fall we will also officially launch our largest fundraising campaign to date. We will ask our friends and neighbors, employers and partners, alumni and donors to join forces with us in building this world-class research university. Your efforts to grow this university have already resulted in an impressive amount of community support. I know through your continued dedication to excellence we can create even more buzz about Mason!
There’s much more I could say, but right now I’ll end with six words that can never be said enough: Thank you for your hard work.