Creativity, dedication have propelled Mason forward despite the pandemic, President Washington says

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slide from president's presentation
A slide from the president's presentation

George Mason University President Gregory Washington on Wednesday praised the Mason community for its collective response to the COVID-19 pandemic, calling it “as great of a team effort as I’ve ever seen in academia.”

In remarks at a general faculty meeting, televised on GMU-TV, Washington cited students, faculty and staff as well as his leadership team for keeping Mason campuses safe and operational during the pandemic.

At the same time, he emphasized that continued vigilance is necessary to finish the job.

“I don’t know how we tell this message and how we get it public, but a great thing has happened here over the last year,” Washington said. “There’s just no other way to say it. I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart for what you’ve done. All of you. The institution thanks you, the state thanks you and the nation thanks you as well.”

During a wide-ranging 30-minute talk billed as a state of the university address, Washington shared statistics he had cited at the Board of Visitors meeting in February, describing how favorably Mason compares to other Carnegie Classification Tier 1 research universities and to U.S. News & World Report top 50 institutions.

In regard to the university’s COVID response, Washington pointed out the research and technology of Mason faculty, discoveries that have enhanced national efforts to combat the virus. He also cited Mason economist Tyler Cowen’s Emergent Ventures Fast Grants program that has incentivized research and the College of Health and Human Services’ robust commitment to public health—about 21,000 Northern Virginians have been vaccinated thanks to Mason and Partners (MAP) Clinics and mass vaccination clinics held on the Mason campuses.

In addition, Washington praised the instructional creativity throughout the university, including the School of Dance with its innovative Center for Live Interactive Virtual Education and Window Wall, which allow dance instruction to continue while students are geographically dispersed, as another example of triumph at a challenging time for students, faculty and staff.

“If I look at all of our schools and colleges, I can find great things happening in every single one of them,” Washington said.

Washington also cited the university’s increased surveillance testing. Last fall, Mason conducted about 17,000 COVID tests on students, faculty and staff and experienced far fewer positive cases than many of its peers. This spring, thanks to saliva-based testing conducted on campus with same-day results, the university has already administered 27,000 tests.

Washington said that next week the university plans to offer vaccinations to Mason employees over 65 who have not yet received their shots. He added that the infrastructure is in place to vaccinate all Mason employees by the end of May, contingent on state rollout and regulations.