George Mason University receives $5 million gift for Department of Economics

Charles Koch Foundation gift will support hiring of three new faculty members 

Fairfax, VA— George Mason University announced today that it has received a gift of $5 million from the Charles Koch Foundation to benefit Mason’s Nobel Prize-winning Department of Economics. The gift will be used to hire three new faculty members, including a senior scholar.

“Mason’s Economics Department is a top-ranked department, a source of pride for the university and a core reason we have earned a global reputation for excellence,” said Mason President Ángel Cabrera. “This generous gift builds on our legacy as a leader in the field of economics and as a top research university with a mission of public service.”

Mason is the largest public research university in Virginia and a Tier-I research institution, the highest designation from the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. The Economics Department is consistently regarded as one of the top programs in the world and its faculty members have twice won the Nobel Prize for Economics. The department is currently ranked 26th worldwide by the prestigious Shanghai Ranking Consultancy and boasts a faculty of scholars who have created a distinct approach to the study of economics.

Mason’s Economics Department has educated more than 4,000 undergraduate majors, 1,000 master’s students, and 400 PhDs during its four decades.

Dan Houser


“The accomplishments of our faculty speak to why we attract grants and gifts that advance our scholarly work,” Economics Department Chair Dan Houser said. “This funding will help Mason compete for top quality faculty in a competitive market and improve the excellence of economic education and research at George Mason University. Talented, diverse economists are what drive our department, provide undergraduates with a broad understanding of economics, and help prepare students seeking to become the next generation of scholars.”  

Through grants to more than 350 colleges and universities, the Charles Koch Foundation provides resources that allow scholars and students to explore ideas and solutions that meet the challenges of our day.

“Mason was recently named among the top-tier research universities in the country. This distinction of academic excellence gives the university an opportunity to attract additional top-tier faculty and students, and this contribution will provide them the resources to do that,” said Charles Koch Foundation President Brian Hooks. “We’re glad to be able to support the expansion of an already world-class Economics Department and add to the opportunities available to Mason students.”

The Charles Koch Foundation’s gift was made in support of the Economics department’s Buchanan-Smith Legacy Campaign, named after Mason’s two Nobel Laureates. The campaign seeks to raise $15 million over three years to benefit students and faculty and advance the Economics Department’s reputation as a leader in the field.

The $5 million gift provides seed funding for six years that will allow the Economics Department to hire three new tenure-track faculty positions. These include:

  • A senior scholar who can bring added leadership to the department, advise students and mentor faculty.
  • Two junior scholars with promising research agendas.


The new faculty members will also have the opportunity to affiliate with the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. Mercatus is a university-based research center that attracts scholars from across the globe and bridges that gap between academic ideas and real-world problems. Tyler Cowen, the Holbert L. Harris Chair of Economics at George Mason University, is the general director of the Mercatus Center.

“This is an exciting opportunity for Mason,” Cowen said. “It helps us strengthen our faculty and attract talent that may someday bring a third Nobel Laureate to our campus.”

James M. Buchanan received the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1986 for his contributions to the theory of political decision-making and public economics. Vernon L. Smith won the award in 2002 for developing methods for laboratory experiments in economics that help researchers understand economic behavior.

About George Mason

George Mason University is Virginia’s largest public research university. Located near Washington, D.C., Mason enrolls more than 36,000 students from 130 countries and all 50 states. Mason has grown rapidly over the past half-century and is recognized for its innovation and entrepreneurship, remarkable diversity, and commitment to accessibility. Learn more at

About the Charles Koch Foundation 

For more than five decades, Charles Koch’s philanthropy has inspired bold new ideas to help people improve their lives. Inspired by a recognition that free people are capable of extraordinary things, the Charles Koch Foundation supports research, educational programs, and dialogue to advance an understanding of how people can best live together in peace and prosperity and challenge convention. The Charles Koch Foundation provides grants to support a wide range of inquiry including criminal justice and policing reform, free speech and open inquiry, foreign policy, economic opportunity, and innovation. To learn more visit

Media Contact:

Michael Sandler