New academic building has a name: Horizon Hall

Horizon Hall, under construction as shown in this May 20 photo, is the cornerstone of the Core Campus Project, which is transforming the Fairfax Campus. Photo courtesy of Mason Facilities.

When Debra Lattanzi Shutika talks to students and prospective students at George Mason University, she emphasizes how a humanities degree will broaden their horizons.

That is why the chair of the English Department in Mason’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHSS) believes Horizon Hall is the perfect name for the new academic building that is scheduled to open on the Fairfax Campus in January 2021 .

“Horizon Hall,” she said, “absolutely gets at the expansive possibilities of a humanities degree.”

The name was approved by the Board of Visitors at its May 20 meeting.

The new building, which will replace Robinson Hall A and B and is part of the Core Campus Project, will be a state-of-the-art, six story, 218,000-square-foot structure housing classrooms, conference rooms, community spaces, and a Mason Innovation Exchange (MIX) as well as many of CHSS’s departments and interdisciplinary programs.

Classrooms will accommodate 27 to 118 students and will be outfitted with an instructor computer and display capabilities, all with the goal of fostering discussion and active learning. Large windows throughout the building will maximize natural light in internal spaces like the six-story atrium as well as internal offices.

“It’s going to be such a fantastic building,” Mason Interim President Anne Holton said. “It’s right at the center of the Fairfax Campus. And with these fabulous state-of-the-art, high-tech classrooms, it will expand our active learning classrooms to further enhance the student experience while creating a vibrant, globally connected hub for intellectual exploration."

“The forward-looking vision of the university is so much about facilitating multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary work,” CHSS Dean Ann Ardis said. “Populating the building with disciplines in the humanities and social sciences that haven’t always lived in easy proximity to one another on the Fairfax Campus can enable cross-disciplinary interactions and collaborations. And the atrium as well as the garden area adjacent to the Wilkins Plaza will be stunning new spaces for special events and receptions.”

But back to that name: Horizon Hall.

It fits so well, Ardis said, because so many humanities and social science majors are “discovery” majors.

For example, she said, high school curricula don’t typically include exposure to disciplines like anthropology, art history, linguistics or sociology. Many high schools also don’t offer opportunities to study critical languages like Korean, Arabic or Chinese. 

“Students often discover their interests and aptitudes in CHSS majors and minors because they are introduced to these disciplines for the first time through Mason Core requirements,” Ardis said. “A lot of our majors grow over time. A college education opens a student’s horizons by introducing you to a far broader complement of disciplinary practices, methodologies and career opportunities.” 

Lattanzi Shutika said she knows students who have graduated with English degrees who are working in tech, as publicists, teachers and writers.

“That’s the beauty of getting a degree in English,” she said. “It broadens your horizons.”