A Magazine for the George Mason University Community

With a Future This Bright, We’re Going to Need Shades

By Preston Williams on June 6, 2022

George Mason University has a history of rapid growth, rising to challenges, and embracing change. It has become part of our identity.

We thrive on academic and geographic expansion and on the eagerness to introduce new and innovative programs. We launch initiatives, open buildings, produce groundbreaking scholarship, and provide access to high-quality education.

We grow. It is what we do.

As we look to our second half century, it helps to envision the world Mason is preparing our students to enter. It is getting more diverse, more technology driven, more crowded, and more affected by climate conditions. Our job is to keep pace with that change.

That tireless drive to repair the world of today, and building the world of tomorrow, is what unites us at Mason. Patriots know the world is going to change. Because together—we will be the ones who change it.

Take a look at some of Mason’s plans.

George Mason University and Mason Innovation Partners join for a groundbreaking ceremony for the new building at Mason Square in Arlington. Photo by Ron Aira/Creative Services

Reimagining Mason’s Campuses

Mason is in the middle of an intensive master planning process that has welcomed all voices—about 5,000 participants registered their ideas through an interactive online mapping survey, and another 2,000 participated in town halls or dozens of stakeholder meetings. Phase 2 of the process concluded in December 2021.

The master plan process emphasizes five points, which are shortened and paraphrased here:

  • Put strategy first by establishing distinct identities for the three primary campuses.
  • Cluster academic activity in a compact manner to encourage collaboration and surround these areas with student life to create a sense of place.
  • Make every dollar and every square foot count by efficiently using resources, with buildings and open space working together to serve the greater whole.
  • Connect places, people, and communities—both internal and external—and be mindful of aesthetics both with structures and the natural environment.
  • Embrace environmental stewardship to act sustainably.

Fairfax Campus

The long-term plans for a reimagined Fairfax Campus include a compact academic core linking three quads surrounded by student residential and recreational activity to enhance the student experience, promote health and well-being, and define a sense of place. A linear park would wind through campus. Outdated buildings would be replaced by modern facilities to better serve Mason students, faculty, and staff. More faculty and staff housing would also be added.

Arlington Campus

The 345,000-square-foot new building, Fuse at Mason Square, is home to the Institute for Digital Innovation and programs from the new School of Computing, and will enhance a campus now known as Mason Square, an anchor in the Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor.

A welcoming front plaza and mixed-use space will serve as an inviting pedestrian-friendly civic space for Mason and the host community.

Rendering of the outside of the future Life Sciences and Engineering Building on the Science and Technology Campus

The new Life Sciences and Engineering Building on the Science and Technology Campus will provide highly specialized instructional labs, classrooms, and support spaces. Concept rendering by EYP

Science and Technology Campus

The planned Innovation Town Center, to be built adjacent to the SciTech Campus in Prince William County, will blend into the campus with a proposed “main street,” providing seamless community connectivity to Mason buildings, including the Hylton Performing Arts Center. The new Life Sciences and Engineering Building will deepen the academic footprint on the SciTech Campus.

Leading in Public Health

Finding collaborative solutions to improving the public’s health is now more important than ever. Mason offers an interprofessional model to eliminate health disparities and to prepare the next generation of health leaders. Toward these efforts, the university anticipates launching Virginia’s first College of Public Health in the near future.

Mason is continuing to explore the possibility of adding a medical school on the SciTech Campus to focus on clinical training and help the state keep pace with growing health care needs.

Mason Virginia Promise

One of President Gregory Washington’s signature programs, the Mason Virginia Promise, delivers on his belief that Mason is first and foremost in the “success business.”

For some students, that pathway to success—a Mason bachelor’s degree—begins at community colleges throughout the state. Those students will have access to transfer partnerships similar to the national model transfer partnership ADVANCE, which Mason has established with Northern Virginia Community College.

Other Virginia residents might be less interested in earning a degree and more interested in starting or growing their own business. They can receive guidance and support from the 27 Small Business Development Centers that Mason manages throughout the commonwealth.

With Mason’s infrastructure and statewide business resources, the university is well positioned to deliver on this promise.

As part of the Mason Virginia Promise, the university will expand the Early Identification Program (EIP), which works with area school systems to find potential college students from underrepresented groups and provide them with academic support to help them reach their academic goals. EIP has ushered more than 1,900 students to Mason degrees.

Mason Talent Exchange

Another signature program, the Mason Talent Exchange, upskills and reskills workers for success in the post-pandemic economy. There are more than 6 million unemployed people in the United States and more than 10 million job openings.

Mason will work with employers to provide the evolving talent they need by offering students microcredentials, courses, and certificates to meet that demand. Employers will do their part by providing scholarships and experiential learning opportunities to help develop their future workforce.

Dynamic New Partnerships

The digital innovation headquarters that Mason is building at Mason Square in Arlington is the kind of public-private partnership that will inform future growth at the university. These alliances will attract and engage Mason partners from industry, education, government, and the community, creating ecosystems that benefit our region.

The major innovation hubs in the country—Silicon Valley, Raleigh-Durham, and Boston, to name a few—all have universities that work together, and with industry and government, to maximize their potential and impact.

Mason has started this process with a pilot space in Vernon Smith Hall at Mason Square, foreshadowing the work that will be done in the new building.

Carbon Neutrality

Mason will be a leader in environmental sustainability with a goal to be carbon neutral by 2040. A defined greenbelt will run through the Fairfax Campus, and the new building at Mason Square will be certified as LEED Platinum and net-zero ready. Mason is accelerating action in response to the climate crisis by developing a new Climate Action Plan, an initiative led by a partnership between Mason Facilities and the Mason Sustainability Council’s Carbon Neutrality Task Force.

Mason’s Institute for a Sustainable Earth and Center for Climate Change Communication will continue to bring together the university community to pursue climate research and advocacy.

Tell Our Story

Mason’s 50th Anniversary provides the opportunity to share the remarkable Mason story locally, statewide, nationally, and globally. Even in our own region, many are unaware that Mason is the largest and most diverse university in Virginia or has one of the nation’s fastest-growing research portfolios.

In the past year, Mason has embarked on an extensive branding campaign to advertise in airports, on Metro, and in high-profile digital outlets—and even on campus—to heighten awareness of the George Mason University of 2022.

The Mason of 2072? You’ll have to stay tuned for that.

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