May 19, 2015

Reflections on the First Year

(2015-MAY-19)
Dear Colleagues:

As we wrap up the academic year, I want to extend my heartfelt gratitude to our exceptional faculty and staff for your hard work, dedication, and great achievements for another outstanding year.

I would also like to reflect on my first year at the university and our progress toward reinforcing and strengthening Mason’s academic enterprise. Our plans and actions aim to position Mason to meet our strategic goals as the premier public research university for the National Capital Region.

First and foremost, we made great strides together defining and refining Mason’s Intellectual Signatures, the specific programs that will highlight our true excellence and intellectual distinction. During the spring semester, we formed a faculty task force to outline the concept and structure for a Platform for Educational Innovation, a university-wide academic platform that will incubate new multidisciplinary and cross-college programming. This will facilitate broad collaboration among faculty, staff, students and community partners.

The Platform will serve as a “sandbox” of ideas that can respond to rapidly evolving demands and focus on complex problems that matter. The Platform concept will be first piloted in the former New Century College, which was recently re-launched as the School of Social Impact and Innovation.

Second, we held an inaugural Multidisciplinary Research Symposium in late April, an event that helped further clarify our Intellectual Signatures. This event attracted some 250 members of the university community to engage in a conversation about important research questions in health and healthcare and to form collaborative teams and clusters. Program officers from major funding agencies also attended the symposium to present research trends as well as funding opportunities.

As a next step, my office has issued a campus-wide request for proposals that will award seed grant funding to support initiatives put forward by multidisciplinary teams of investigators across academic units. Our plan is to have similar multidisciplinary gatherings at least once a semester, with varying broad topics as focal points.

We aspire to be the innovation engine for the region. A tangible first step toward that goal was the April announcement of the university’s Institute for Advanced Biomedical Research on our Science and Technology Campus in Prince William County. This institute will bring together Mason experts in science, education, engineering and health disciplines, while leveraging local and regional access to hospital networks and industries such as biotechnology, information technology and device manufacturers.

Mason has grown tremendously over the past decades. We must continue to improve our structure and organization to meet the scope and complexity of who we are today, and who we aspire to become. Specifically, we’ve taken a critical look at the Provost’s Office operations and determined that we need to be better focused around our mission and have a greater ability to work across teams. That will allow us to integrate and coordinate our services for the Mason community. As such, the Provost’s Office will be organized into four key functional areas:

  • Academic and Student Affairs will help entrench us at the forefront of educational innovation.
  • Teaching, Learning and Technology will bolster a greater platform-rich, technologically savvy learning environment.
  • Campus Strategy and Leadership will further engage and partner with regional and global communities.
  • Research and Entrepreneurship will amplify and leverage our Intellectual Signatures, while reinforcing our position as the leading innovation engine for the region.

Reorganizing our operations will make us leaner and allow us to work more collaboratively across the university. It will also help us more effectively manage our resources amid shrinking public funding. In collaboration with the Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration, the Provost’s Office has achieved $6.5 million in permanent savings for fiscal year 2016 and beyond, freeing up resources to invest in faculty positions ($1.4 million) and to fund university-wide initiatives such as admissions/enrollment and the Honors College ($2.6 million).

I believe that we’ve grown stronger and more focused on our core mission. But we will need to continue to find ways to work even more effectively.

It’s an exciting time to be at Mason. We have so much to be proud of, and I am honored to work with such dedicated and talented professionals.

Sincerely,

S. David Wu
Provost and Executive Vice President

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