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Mason President Ángel Cabrera named a Great Immigrant

June 29, 2017

Mason President Ángel Cabrera is the first native of Spain to be president of an American university. He is joined as a Great Immigrant by Zainab Salbi, BIS '96, a former Mason Alumna of the Year.

The Carnegie Corporation of New York announced on June 29 that George Mason University President Ángel Cabrera has been selected to its 2017 class of “Great Immigrants.”

The group of 38 distinguished naturalized citizens will be saluted in a full-page public service announcement in the New York Times on July 4 to highlight the role that immigrants play in U.S. society, culture and the economy.

The 2017 class includes Americans from 30 countries, including six Nobel Prize winners, a Pulitzer Prize winner and Academy Award winner Anthony Hopkins. The honorees also include humanitarian Zainab Salbi, BIS ’96, a former George Mason Alumna of the Year who founded Women for Women International, an organization that educates and advises women in war-torn countries.

Cabrera, the first native of Spain to have served as president of an American university, said he was “honored and humbled” by the “Great Immigrant” distinction, given the personal, academic and professional journey that led to him becoming president of the largest public research university in Virginia.

“When I first came to this country 25 years ago, I could barely understand the pilot’s announcements, because English wasn’t my first or even second language,” Cabrera said. “Now I have the good fortune of leading a world-class U.S. public research university, one that welcomes diverse talent and ideas from all corners of the globe.

“Providing opportunities for the talents, ideas and skills of immigrants is what built our country. That’s also what will sustain it.”

Cabrera became Mason’s president in 2012 after leading IE Business School in Madrid and Thunderbird School of Global Management, now affiliated with Arizona State University. Cabrera earned BS and MS degrees in engineering from Universidad Politécnica de Madrid and MS and PhD degrees in psychology and cognitive science from Georgia Tech, which he attended as a Fulbright Scholar.

Salbi, an Iraqi-American, champions “education and empowerment” for women in war-torn regions. Women for Women International has taught business, vocational skills, legal rights, and health and nutrition to hundreds of thousands of women in war-torn countries so they can develop the tools and resources to become self-sufficient. PBS in its “Makers” series in 2012 featured Salbi among “Women Who Make America.”

The Carnegie Corporation, the oldest grant-making foundation in the nation, has honored the contributions of high-achieving naturalized citizens since 2006. Cabrera joins such past selections as Madeleine Albright, Henry Kissinger, Google founder Sergey Brin, eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and singer Gloria Estefan.