Welcome back! I hope you had a pleasant winter break.
We enter the new year coming off three major developments that promise to accelerate the growth of our impact and reputation: the successful completion of the Faster Farther Campaign, Mason’s role in supporting the new Amazon headquarters, and the reaffirmation of the university’s status as a Tier-1 research institution.
These are no small feats. Together they illustrate how, through your hard work, the university is becoming a major player on the national stage.
While we’re still tallying the final numbers, our current total for the fundraising campaign we just completed is above $690 million. This result is significantly higher than the $500 million goal we had set, a target some experts had advised us was too ambitious for a university as young as ours. I’m glad our donors proved that initial assessment wrong, provided much needed resources for students, faculty and overall infrastructure, and helped triple the value of our endowment.
Our outstanding track record of producing first-rate talent and our remarkable growth over the last decade—Mason has accounted for 58 percent of all enrollment growth in Virginia over that period—helped convince Amazon to choose Northern Virginia for its new headquarters. Senior executives from the company have made it clear talent was the determining factor. Data shows (see my most recent speech to the Virginia Bankers Association, for example) that the concentration of world-class universities is a key driver of competitiveness. In addition to Mason, the Washington metro area enjoys the presence of three other universities that are ranked in the top 300 in the world according to the Academic Ranking of World Universities, and is within a short drive of four others. Amazon’s decision will accelerate our growth, attract investments by other universities (even from outside our immediate region), and act as a magnet for top tech talent from around the nation and the world. It is very exciting for Mason to be at the epicenter of this emerging hub of digital and business innovation.
Finally, I was also delighted that the new Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, released just before the end of the year, once again recognized Mason as one of the most research-intensive universities in the country, a distinction we first earned in 2016. Achieving research-one (R1) stature in record time—we remain the youngest institution among the top 120 research institutions in the top tier—is a recognition of the tremendous quality and depth of our faculty and a point of pride for the entire university.
But what makes me most proud of our university is that all these achievements are coming while we continue to be an example of access to excellence. Our ADVANCE transfer program with Northern Virginia Community College will add nearly 200 students this semester. We also continue to create more pathways to a degree by adding programs through our partnerships with Wiley Education Services and the Online Virginia Network. Moreover, our investment in online education is bolstering our reputation. U.S. News & World Report this month named many Mason online programs among the best in the nation.
Of course, we are only as good as the people who chose to join us and serve our mission. Our capacity to attract and retain diverse talent and to create an inclusive environment where all can thrive will continue to be central to our success. That’s why I was delighted when Mason was recognized this month by Forbes and Statista as one of the “Best Employers for Diversity,” taking into account age, gender, equality, ethnicity, disability, LGBTQ+ and other factors. This indicates the strides we are making to diversify our faculty and staff to better reflect a student body that U.S. News recognized as the most diverse in the Commonwealth and the 25th most diverse nationally.
We have much to look forward to in 2019. At the heart of that potential is the work and commitment of our faculty and staff. You’re why we’re able to provide opportunities for more students to achieve their academic goals and at the same time further establish Mason as one of the top public research universities in the country.
Thank you for everything you do for Mason.