George Mason University

News at Mason

Lester Arnold seeks to serve the community, move Mason forward

October 10, 2019   /   by Mariam Aburdeineh

Lester Arnold

For Lester Arnold, George Mason University’s new vice president for Human Resources and Payroll, creating an environment and strategy to help people grow in their careers is one of the most rewarding parts of his work, but so is contributing to an overall mission.

“What better business is there to be in other than the business of educating young minds and being in a place where you can make an impact on something that is so critical?” Arnold said.

Arnold, who started at Mason in July, has worked in human resources for nearly 30 years. Most recently, he served as the chief human resources officer/associate vice chancellor for Human Resources at Winston-Salem State University.

He spoke recently from his office in Merten Hall.

What is it about Mason’s culture that attracted you?

When I visited campus, did my research, and heard from Mason’s previous president, and all that was involved in the search process, it was obvious what the university stood for: embracing diversity, honoring differences and respecting varying cultures.

What are some of your goals for Mason?

My first goal was to restructure the Human Resources and Payroll team to be focused on the four major ways we serve Mason: strategy and organizational development, operations, HR services and consulting, and information technology.

My second goal is to keep investing in our faculty and staff. We can achieve this by building on the good work being done in leadership development and through proper succession planning.

I have also started creating a comprehensive plan around classification and compensation by developing a consistent philosophy around equitable and fair pay and enhancing our culture surrounding performance management.

Another goal is to enhance our strategic approach around talent acquisition. While we need to think about developing our employees, we also need to be marketing Mason as an employer of choice.

Through all these goals, I always have technology in mind. In everything we do from now on, we will work to become a more technologically advanced department.

What is something Mason does well in employee retention?

Mason is always striving to create an environment that celebrates, appreciates and values diversity. We want people to have the opportunity to be their authentic selves because they feel like they are working in an inclusive environment.

We work to provide some of the best support resources, reward and recognition opportunities, and benefits to our faculty and staff. The Outstanding Achievement Awards is one way Mason recognizes and honors the exceptional contributions of faculty and staff, by supporting and showing appreciation for those who work tirelessly, lead by example and embrace Mason’s values. 

What is the biggest misconception about HR?

One of the biggest misconceptions is that Human Resources and Payroll is primarily administrative. Every decision Mason makes has an impact on employees. As the university’s needs grow and the work we do grows in complexity, we need to strengthen our infrastructure and foster the partnerships and collaborations that are necessary to help everyone at Mason thrive together.

One of the ways that I’d like to continue to foster our partnerships and collaborations is through being a strategic business partner with individual departments and units and also with the decision makers of the university.

You’ve volunteered with several organizations and served as an adjunct faculty member at Winston-Salem. What motivates you to give back?

My community service interest started in college as a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. Most recently, I have served as a board member for several organizations including the Employer Advisory Board at UNC Charlotte, Global Business Advisory Council at Clayton State University, the Multicultural Foodservice and Hospitality Alliance, and Simon Green Atkins Community Development Corporation. I have also served as a member of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee for the YMCA of Greater Charlotte.

One of my biggest volunteer passions is advocating for the inclusion of people who are on the autism spectrum. My youngest son is on the spectrum, and I am consistently involved in this community. I have had board responsibilities with ABC of North Carolina, an organization focused on educating children with autism, and I’ve worked with the Autism Speaks organization.

Giving back to my community fulfills me; I believe it makes me a better dad, a better professional and a better leader. If I could give advice to anyone, I would tell them to volunteer for a cause they feel passionate about.