George Mason University President Gregory Washington thanked the university community at the Board of Visitors (BOV) meeting on Thursday for its efforts to manage the pandemic and shifted focus toward the goals he announced in July to “transform the campus and move it from a good campus to a great one.”
Those plans include the Mason Virginia Promise, a pathway to a bachelor’s degree or business for any Virginian who seeks it, by utilizing the more than 30 Mason-run Virginia Small Business Development Centers around the state. Other initiatives include a branding campaign to better articulate Mason’s strengths to its home region, finalizing the master plan, and seeking more public-private partnerships now that the university has more fiscal management autonomy to do so.
At the BOV meeting in Merten Hall, Washington discussed how during the pandemic the university has provided safe campuses, kept students on track to graduate, weathered financial hardships, and shifted from traditional learning to online and hybrid courses. He also cited the implementation of “best-in-class” COVID protocols that include rapid-return saliva tests created by Mason faculty and administering 90,000 vaccinations at clinics on the Fairfax and Prince William Campuses that in addition to serving the community provided valuable hands-on experiences for Mason students in health-related fields.
“I will tell you, we didn’t just do okay,” Washington said. “We did extraordinarily well. I want to thank all of you in the room, all of our faculty and staff who are listening, and particularly our students, because they had to sacrifice as well to make this happen.”
While managing the pandemic, Mason last spring graduated its largest and most diverse class in its history, finished 2021 with a modest fund balance increase and grew enrollment this fall. Washington also noted that members of the university community were among the volunteers that supported Afghan refugees when they arrived in Northern Virginia in August.
“This is a big deal,” Washington said. “We did all of that [amid] COVID. So what does that tell me? There is absolutely very little that this campus can’t do and can’t do in an extraordinary way. I am not just humbled but excited for our future.”