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World Congress Puts Mason in International Eye

By Diane Britton

Excitement is building on campus as George Mason University prepares to host the 1998 World Congress on Information Technology. As the first university to host this prestigious international conference, George Mason has an exclusive opportunity to showcase its academic programs, its technological capabilities, and its role as an educator and a research partner with the region's and the world's information technology businesses.

"I will make sure everyone knows what we are and who we are," says Alan Merten, president of the university. "The session that we'll do on higher education [Merten's address on "Global Universities and International Education"] will show how universities, George Mason included, are using information technology in various areas. And we're going to do it in four areas: learning, research, administration, and outreach, and to have a set of examples in each one so that people can see how universities have changed as a result of information technology, how George Mason has changed."

The 1998 World Congress, to be held June 21-24, will bring to campus more than 1,700 senior information technology executives from around the world to network and discuss emerging markets and how legal, political, and economic trends affect business opportunities in these markets. Top executives such as James L. Barksdale, president and CEO of Netscape Communications Corporation; Alfred R. Berkeley III, president of Nasdaq; Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Harvard Institute for International Development; Phil Condit, chairman and CEO of The Boeing Company; and Takuma Yamamoto, chairman emeritus of Fujitsu Corporation, are slated to speak. Representatives from a wide variety of industries, government entities, and associations will address the delegates, nearly half of whom will be from foreign countries, in breakout sessions and in the large group. Sixty businesses, local governments, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the federal government have so far sponsored the event.

"There's another component to this [congress], and that is for people on campus and the alumni to be aware of the global activities of the university," explains Merten. "We're in Northern Virginia, we're in the national capital area, and we've really got to play on a much broader playing field. We need to take advantage of who we are, in terms of our student population, our curriculum, our faculty and research, and the global issues we look at."

So that the George Mason community can be involved with and learn from the event, plans are to to broadcast the proceedings live over GMU-TV. And while most students, faculty, alumni, and staff won't have direct access to the congress participants, they will have numerous opportunities to serve in planning and support roles--as "ambassadors," or guides, to the delegates; as translators; as designers of the George Mason exhibit in the Johnson Center, or as aides in the media center, for example. Those interested in such service should contact the World Congress office in the Johnson Center at (703) 993-4550.

The World Congress has hired two student interns to help with logistics, marketing, and international protocol, and plans to hire a computer science student to help information technology director Bob Moe provide delegates with full communication capabilities, including video, Internet/intranet, and e-mail services. SmartCards, the "next-generation swipe cards," according to Moe, will be coded for each delegate to provide security, medical, and network functions. Moe, an EDS executive on loan to the congress, is also developing a George Mason channel for the PointCast news distribution network he has installed, and encourages students who want to learn about PointCast and other technologies to volunteer to work with him.

"I'm here to teach and be a mentor for these students," Moe says. "Students will get the benefit of my knowledge as a senior executive in the information technology industry."

After the event, the university plans to continue to capitalize on the contacts it makes during the congress. Merten says a website will be set up that summarizes the congress's proceedings and links them to Mason. "I see another thing happening," he says. "People, for at least another year, will be able to do smaller events. Six months later, one could do a symposium [relating to] the World Congress."

Several projects are in the works, such as a three-dimensional map and tour of George Mason on the web, that will not only assist participants during the congress but will benefit the university community long after the event is over.

For more information about the congress, check out their web site at

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