As the new academic year gets underway, I want to take this opportunity to share with you my excitement for the year ahead.
With Mason’s significant enrollment growth and expanding diversity, our students are challenging us more than ever to create an accessible, innovative and inclusive learning environment where all members of the university community are welcomed, valued and supported.
With that in mind, our priority is to reinforce Mason’s academic core. We will create enriching and transformative learning experiences for our students while cultivating vibrant new environments for higher learning by leveraging our capacity as a Carnegie Tier 1 research university and aligning our intellectual core for high-impact research and scholarship.
Our focus must remain sharp as Mason continues to grow. The university now serves 36,000 students, and this year’s incoming class is the largest, most diverse and strongest academically in our history. Our new budget model is helping us to create a financial framework that will fortify our intellectual and academic core. Along with the incoming class of students, we are thrilled to welcome over 170 new full-time faculty members whose diverse areas of expertise build on the remarkable talents in our faculty core. The pace and scale of growth can seem overwhelming at times as it puts greater demands on our faculty, staff and infrastructure. But as we grow in size, we are also rising to the challenge of meeting those demands by differentiating our educational experience, strengthening our research and innovation enterprise, and continuing to cultivate a diverse and inclusive learning environment.
Differentiate and Improve Educational Experience
Our first goal is to provide students a transformative educational experience that will help them make a real impact in the world. Mason Impact shapes our students’ development as engaged citizens and well-rounded scholars who are prepared to act through innovations in global education, civic engagement, research, and entrepreneurship. Integrated with the Student Experience Redesign, we are scaling our systems and infrastructure to provide students better and more personalized guidance to curricular and co-curricular opportunities.
The new Stearns Center for Teaching and Learning highlights our commitment to supporting faculty excellence in teaching and educational innovation by providing integrated and state-of-the-art instructional design, as well as active collaboration across disciplinary boundaries.
Strengthen Research and Innovation Enterprise
Our mission, though, goes far beyond the dissemination of knowledge to the creation and appropriation of new knowledge. Over the past year our research community has identified several areas for multidisciplinary research and education that will engage faculty across the university. These areas include Health and Wellbeing, Cyber and Data Analytics, and Resilient Human, Built, and Environmental Systems. Our investments in multidisciplinary research are bearing fruit; early successes include a 10-year Center of Excellence grant from the Department of Homeland Security in which faculty from six academic areas will collaborate on thwarting transnational crime. A Commonwealth appropriation for the Institute for Biohealth Innovation (IBI) will help establish our research/clinical partnerships with Inova and the UVA Health System.
A Diverse and Inclusive Learning Environment
With Mason’s mission as our guide – an inclusive community committed to creating a more just, free and prosperous world – it is critical we remain a model of civil and informed discourse, a space where people of all backgrounds, perspectives and convictions can thrive and be free to express themselves without fear. By supporting faculty and professional staff in facilitating difficult dialogues and discussions, we are ensuring our increasingly diverse student body has the support to succeed both in and out of the classroom.
This is an extraordinary time at Mason as we engage the challenges and opportunities facing our nation and our world. I am deeply honored to share in your successes and to celebrate your dedication to cultivating and creating the best university for the world.
S. David Wu
Provost and Executive Vice President