Welcome to George Mason University

A university for the world

Posted: November 18, 2014 at 9:30 pm

image1I was proud to be part of the Mason delegation that received tonight NAFSA’s 2014 Senator Simon Award for our innovative international programs.  The award was given in part for the Global Problem Solving consortium, an initiative started by Provost Emeritus Peter Stearns, based on the idea that scholars from multiple cultural backgrounds and perspectives working together may be able to produce new approaches to some of the world’s most pressing challenges, from water, to food, to climate.

I love the photo, not only because it was taken by an alumna who’s an expert in international higher education (thank you Rebecca Morgan!!) but also because it depicts the diversity of people and backgrounds dedicated to internationalize our university: faculty, administration, and partners (thank you CISCO for the support!!).

When we crafted the new vision for the university, it became clear that global engagement would be one of our central commitments for the future.  The consensus in the community was so strong in fact that the idea of becoming a “university for the world” bubbled up as a headline for the new vision.  We are now working to make that vision a reality.  And I feel we have just the right people to make it happen!

Congratulations Mason Nation on this well-deserved recognition!

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Mason students help plan Fairfax future

Posted: November 13, 2014 at 11:11 am

By Cathy Wolfe & Ángel Cabrera

As we knew they would, our students played a crucial, proactive role in the three-day “Vision Fairfax Mason” event last week, when the Mason and City of Fairfax communities met to brainstorm ways we can make the most of our partnership.

Many of the Mason students who participated in the “charrette” likely will have graduated by the time the medium- and long-term projects are completed. But their ideas are likely to share the experience of future Mason students.

Vision Fairfax MasonAnd, with all of the job opportunities in the National Capital Region, many of our graduates will make the City of Fairfax their home as they start careers or pursue advanced degrees. Or both.

It was great to see the involvement of our students, faculty and staff, whether they attended the event or submitted their recommendations for consideration.

University and city officials identified several items that we can address right away. We can:

  • Create a more unified university/city feel, with better signage and an emphasis on pedestrian and bicycle traffic, and with more bike parking and bike sharing.
  • Assist students, faculty and staff with finding available on-campus parking by providing real-time parking information either at Mason entrances or by implementing more apps.
  • Provide late-night public access to Mason shuttles.
  • Add a Mason shuttle stop in Old Town Fairfax, especially around lunch time so that students, faculty and staff can visit City of Fairfax businesses without losing their parking spaces on campus.
  • Form topic-based working groups that bring together university and city representatives to discuss next steps on a variety of issues identified in the charrette.
  • Continue to encourage downtown merchants to accept Mason Money and carry Mason gear.
  • Create a University 100 “lesson plan” for Mason students to learn about city activities and offerings.
  • Coordinate the Mason Campus Master Plan with the downtown concept.
  • Incorporate sustainability throughout the planning and development process.

Here is a more comprehensive report, with the recommendations starting on page 58. And here is the social media conversation that took place during the three-day session.

As Ángel mentioned at the event, let’s figure out how the university and city can make each other the best we can be. We need to think big, think long term and think creatively to imagine what we can become together.

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What can we do to prevent sexual violence on campus?  

Posted: November 11, 2014 at 12:51 pm

I was invited to serve on the Governor’s task force to eliminate campus sexual violence and was assigned to the Subcommittee on Prevention. The subcommittee is meeting today at the University of Virginia for the first time.  We’re dedicating our first meeting to gathering evidence and facts.  I find it refreshing to hear the experts share what we know and we don’t know about the root causes of the problem and the most effective mechanisms of prevention.

The renewed interest in this important issue, driven by leaders in multiple spheres reaching all the way to the White House, has attracted a great deal of public attention and generated a great deal of noise– some of it politically motivated, some of it misinformed. The debates that fill websites and airwaves these days (whose fault is it when it happens, are the statistics exaggerated, what does “yes”–or “no”–mean) are fruitless at best if not outright harmful.

This is some of what I’m learning today from people who have studied this problem for a long time:

  • Prevention is not about telling women how to avoid being victimized or about lecturing men. Prevention is about changing the beliefs, attitudes and behaviors that lead someone to perpetrate a sexual assault.
  • Primary prevention means avoiding sexual violence before it occurs. It entails promoting healthy relationships and sexuality and counteracting the factors that enable or lead to sexual violence and intimate partner violence.
  • Prevention requires a broad culture change on campus. Calling men out as perpetrators and characterizing women as victims creates and perpetuates a gender divide which doesn’t help trigger a broad, shared culture change.
  • Typical prevention training sessions around “don’t blame the victim” admonitions, consent and similar topics are less effective than normally assumed and may in fact contribute to making students defensive and assume a confrontational attitude.
  • A much more effective angle may be to organize discussions about “what can we do (as potential bystanders) to avoid sexual violence?” That question creates a safer space for young men and women to understand the causes of sexual violence without becoming prematurely defensive (“I would never be that stupid or that bad”). It switches discussion from reactive to pro-active. It positions students not as potential perpetrators and victims but as potential actors of positive change.
  • Attitude change takes time, intrinsic motivation and incremental steps. A single shot, mandatory, one-hour session filled with dos and don’ts won’t do the trick. Embedding this content throughout existing, ongoing training and educational sessions could be more effective.
  • Because the vast majority of assaults is committed by serial perpetrators, a climate that promotes reporting and an effective response process lead to effective prevention.




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Tertulia in D.C.

Posted: November 9, 2014 at 7:55 pm

Google translates “tertulia” as “salon,” but this doesn’t quite capture what it means.  A tertulia is a group of people who meet regularly, over coffee, drinks or a meal, to have a relaxed, open-ended discussion about the issues of the day.  More often than not, there is no agenda.  And if there is one, it is loose at best and is generally ignored anyway.  Any topic goes, big (world peace) or small (unpaved potholes).  There’s no specific goal to be accomplished, no agreement to be reached, no resolution to be voted on.  The discussion is the end in and of itself.  And when it works, it is surprisingly and inexplicably therapeutic.

I was delighted to learn that Taberna del Alabardero, Washington’s oldest Spanish restaurant, has kept this tradition going with a group of Spanish business leaders.  It was great to be invited this past week, for a tertulia mostly centered around higher education.  Before the tertulia, I was interviewed by a tertuliano, Alberto Avendaño, who writes for El Tiempo Latino, Washington Post’s newspaper in Spanish.  Below are the video and the print version of the interview (both in Spanish).


Mantener un espíritu abierto a las oportunidades y trabajar para retirar obstáculos del camino educativo son dos elementos recurrentes en la conversación con el rector —o presidente como se le llama en Estados Unidos— de la George Mason University. El rector Ángel Cabrera es, además, hispano lo cual le convierte en una feliz “anomalía” en este tipo de cargo.

“Es un desafío increíble y para alguien como yo a quien le apasiona la educación es una oportunidad única”, dijo Cabrera a El Tiempo Latino, el 30 de octubre, unos minutos antes de participar, como invitado de honor, en la tertulia mensual que organiza la comunidad española de Washington en el restaurante Taberna del Alabardero.

(See more at: http://eltiempolatino.com/news/2014/nov/07/angel-cabrera-abre-oportunidades/#sthash.8fYQiDCh.dpuf)

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Attached at the hip

Posted: November 5, 2014 at 8:21 pm

The secret of a successful, long-lasting partnership is a shared vision about the future.

Ever since the City of Fairfax donated the original land for George Mason University more than a half-century ago, we have built a sturdy “town-gown” relationship with local residents and public officials. The City has been integral to George Mason growing into the intellectual and cultural hub of our region.  And the University has been integral to Fairfax becoming one of the best cities of its size to live.

Together, we’re always looking for new and better ways to serve our communities. This week there is an ideal opportunity for you to take part in the process. Mason and Fairfax officials are gathering Thursday through Saturday for a three-day “charrette” in partnership with the Northern Virginia Regional Commission and a panel of experts, consultants and guests.

Fairfax Mayor Scott Silverthorne and I would love for you to join us to share your ideas and thoughts about short- and long-term projects the university and city can tackle together. We’d also like to hear your suggestions about how we can work together more efficiently. No reservations are required.

A world-class university like George Mason University enriches its community culturally and economically, and a thriving community helps a university grow and succeed.  Mason and Fairfax do that for each other. When Mason is named one of the top 200 research universities in the world, that’s a recognition for the City of Fairfax and the surrounding area as much as it is for the University itself. When U.S. News & World Report selects us as one of the top up-and-coming universities, that’s a victory for the City of Fairfax and the surrounding area. We thrive together.

The amenities in Fairfax help Mason attract high-caliber students, faculty and staff from around the country and around the world. It’s part of our appeal. When newcomers arrive at Mason, I suggest that they treat Fairfax as their new hometown. Volunteer off campus. Eat at the City’s many terrific restaurants (and don’t miss Woody’s world-famous ice cream!). Browse the shops. Visit the parks and recreation facilities. Use public transportation.

We have students from 130 countries and all 50 states, and we have set a goal of producing 100,000 career-ready graduates in the next 10 years to help drive economic growth in our region. Many of those graduates will make this area their home. It means the world to us and to our students that Fairfax residents and officials make them feel so welcome here.

As you can see, the successes of George Mason University and the City of Fairfax are intertwined. We are, as they say, attached at the hip. Always have been, always will be. May the charrette this week provide the groundwork for many more shared accomplishments!


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Adjunct faculty

Posted: November 4, 2014 at 11:11 am

By Provost David Wu

Dear Colleagues,

I am writing to address an important topic that affects universities nationwide, including George Mason University: Work conditions among non-tenure-track faculty.

Mason’s leadership – including myself, the president, the deans and directors, and my senior staff – recently received and read a survey conducted by Mason doctoral students on this topic. We also met with the authors. While we didn’t agree with all of the survey’s findings, it raised some important issues that deserve our attention.

The mission of George Mason is to educate and prepare students for a complex and changing world. To meet that mission, we must attract and support an accomplished faculty. We are very proud of our faculty members. We are also aware of many of their concerns. Across the country, public universities have been educating more students with fewer resources. Slow economic growth has made employee morale a challenge, and Mason is not immune.

We understand that compensation is a concern for our faculty. Our challenge is to balance the high cost of living in the Washington, D.C. region with a commitment to keeping tuitions in line with our public education mission. We are also dealing with state budget cuts. Still, a top priority for Mason is to address the issue of compensation. We will not give up and will continue to find ways to improve the situation.  

At the same time, it’s important not to view all non-tenure-track faculty through the same lens. For example, full-time term faculty members, who were included in the survey, receive many of the same benefits as tenure-track faculty. And, our adjunct professors capture a diverse range of professionals. Our proximity to Washington, D.C. allows the university to attract leaders at the top of their fields, including practicing engineers, scientists, journalists, policymakers, and even current and former members of Congress. Some adjuncts are graduate students starting promising academic careers. Still, others depend on adjunct positions for full-time work.

The faculty members that I have had a chance to meet have a strong passion for teaching and research.  As a new provost, that is inspiring. We’ve seen that dedication reflected in a Chronicle of Higher Education survey that named us as one of the best places to work.

Nonetheless, we do believe that we can improve and are taking immediate action based on some of the survey’s findings. To start, we will invite all new adjunct faculty members to attend an orientation to make them aware of the resources at the university that can help them succeed and support students.

We will continue to actively monitor this issue and make additional changes as needed. We value our faculty and appreciate their dedication to strengthening the student learning experience at George Mason University.


S. David Wu

Provost and Executive Vice President

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To our alumni in D.C. and beyond: Tell our story!

Posted: November 3, 2014 at 5:42 pm

One of the many great things about our university being located near Washington, D.C., is that our students do not have to look far to find jobs. The National Capital Region has everything – including about 100,000 George Mason graduates.

We love it when those graduates come back for Homecoming, Alumni Weekend, sporting events, performances and many other happenings on our vibrant campus. So we thought it would only be fair that we bring George Mason to them in Washington, D.C. for a change.  And boy, are we so glad we did!

Alumni Engagement EventProvost David Wu and I enjoyed an evening with hundreds of alumni at the fabulous National Postal Museum. Most of the guests live and work in and around the National Capital Region and relished the opportunity to get together with fellow alumni right after work.

The talent and intellect in the room spoke volumes about this university. We have graduates in high-level positions in government, finance, technology, education, science, media, non-profits and so many other fields.

But we all shared common ground, because we all have been changed by Mason and we all care about Mason. With that in mind, I made a simple request of each of the alumni on hand (and I make the same request of each alumnus and current student reading this):

Tell our story.

Let everyone know what George Mason University is about. Tell about our research into the most pressing issues of our time. Tell about our quick ascension to becoming one of the top 200 research universities in the world. Tell about our diversity, our recent graduates earning the highest starting median salaries in Virginia, our return on investment, our largest freshman class in school history.

Tell friends, family and colleagues about the number of opportunities that the university can provide, not only here in the Washington area, but around the world.

Our alumni will forever be a part of the Mason story. And Mason will forever be a part of theirs. We all left the museum Thursday night knowing that we can best tell the Mason story by telling it together.

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Mason in Loudoun creates new opportunities

Posted: October 28, 2014 at 6:00 pm

Mason in Loudoun Grand Opening/Ribbon CuttingThe gates to Mason opened even wider Monday when we officially unveiled our new Mason in Loudoun site, in partnership with Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA).

NOVA President Bob Templin (scissors in hand with me in the photo) and I share a philosophy: the more talented students we can help earn college degrees, the better we all are, because an educated society is a stronger society.

By co-locating our Loudoun operation with NOVA (21335 Signal Hill Plaza in Sterling), we hope to strengthen our efforts to find accessible and affordable education options for students of all ages and backgrounds and explore new collaborations and integrated programs.

Only 1 in 4 college students fits the description of what we normally think of as a traditional student. By working together with NOVA, we hope to find ways to better serve the other 3 in 4 students, who find it hard, if not impossible, to adapt to a traditional college experience–be they right out of high school, working adults or lifelong learners. There is no start date or expiration date for an education.

Through the years, there have been tens of thousands of students who have leveraged their NOVA and Mason educations to write their own success stories. In fact, NOVA students account for more than half of Mason’s transfer students each year. We offer guaranteed admission to NOVA graduates who meet certain requirements.

Mason in Loudoun has offerings from our School of Business, College of Education and Human Development and the Volgenau School of Engineering, as well as executive, professional and continuing education. It is also the Loudoun home of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.

My thanks to the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors and the Loudoun business community for their support of Mason in Loudoun. There is so much that we can accomplish together.

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Global corporate citizenship: work in progress

Posted: October 19, 2014 at 9:17 am

IMG_1296A lot can change in two decades.

I went to Cleveland this past week, to the same stage where, eight years ago, a group of business educators committed ourselves to creating the Principles of Responsible Management Education: the Business as Agent of World Benefit Forum hosted by the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University.

Back then, the idea that business ultimately exists to serve society and that it therefore shares the responsibility with other stakeholders to address the world’s most pressing developmental challenges was still considered somewhere between subversive and marginal in the business education establishment.  Today, 565 business schools from around the world (including ours) have endorsed six principles that begin with the following declaration:

We will develop the capabilities of students to be future generators of sustainable value for business and society at large and to work for an inclusive and sustainable global economy.

Not that long ago, businesses and business schools were nowhere to be seen when the big questions about global development were at stake. That was the case in 1992, when the United Nations convened the Conference on Environment and Development (Earth Summit) in Rio, even though participants included 172 government officials, 108 at level of heads of State or Government, and some 2,400 representatives of non-governmental organizations.

In September 2000, the UN General Assembly’s Millennium Declaration recognized the need to “develop strong partnerships with the private sector and with civil society organizations in pursuit of development and poverty eradication”.  The idea was captured as part of the 8th (and last) Millennium Development Goal, under the rubric of forging a “global partnership for development”.

A couple of months before, in July 2000, then Secretary General Kofi Annan had launched in NY the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), a collaborative framework for “businesses that are committed to aligning their operations and strategies with ten universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labour,environment and anti-corruption” (the anti-corruption principle was actually added only after the United Nations Convention Against Corruption was adopted in 2003).  Over 10,000 organizations from 145 countries have since endorsed the Compact, including world giants like Coca Cola and Pepsi, Johnson & Johnson, 3M or Telefónica.

I would have loved to be able to claim that business schools were responsible for triggering this change, but the truth is that educators followed, didn’t lead, corporate attitudes.  However it happened, many business schools ultimately joined the movement.  During the second UN Global Compact Leaders Summit in Geneva in July 2007, the Principles of Responsible Management Education (PRME) were officially presented to the new Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.  I had the honor of chairing the international group of academics who ultimately produced the six principles and, while the process was more politically complex than I had anticipated, I am proud of the ultimate outcome and the fact that the PRME framework was launched with the support of AACSB, EFMD and other leading business school organizations.

Since 2007, the notion of global corporate citizenship has gradually become less marginal and a more mainstream. Harvard Prof. Michael Jensen, of agency-theory fame, now lectures on leadership and integrity. And Michael Porter, who taught us how to build competitive advantage by overpowering rivals, suppliers and customers, is now the most notable proponent of “shared value” creation.

By the time the UN convened the Conference of Environment and Development again in Rio in 2012 (20 years after the original Earth Summit, thus the Rio+20 name), businesses and business schools were much better represented. In fact, while questions were raised as to the effectiveness of the overall conference in reaching meaningful agreements among nation states, both the Global Compact and PRME were rather productive.

So where are we now?

The Millennium Development Goals are set to expire next year and a new framework is currently being developed under the name “Sustainable Development Goals“.  The latest draft includes 17 goals and the UNGC is bringing the perspective from the private sector and is proposing ways to help organize the goals into an easier to communicate framework (as shown in the attached photo).  There are two main differences between these new goals and the MDGs.  First, they target not only the needs and challenges of the developing world, but of the whole world (rich and poor).  Second, the private sector is no longer an afterthought but a central partner in achieving the goals.

With this work-in-progress as background, participants in Cleveland this past week discussed how business schools could take on a key leading role in pushing the new global development agenda.  Some of the most far reaching ideas included the following calls for action for business schools, especially those that have endorsed PRME:

  • Align their education, research, and engagement agendas with key global development issues as being articulated in the UN’s new Sustainable Development Goals framework;
  • Embed new content and transformative learning approaches, including experiential learning, throughout the curriculum in order to develop the competencies necessary for business to tackle our major sustainable development goals;
  • Engage in new forms of action research around the major sustainable development issues we face and create new solutions to help business play a more effective role in multiple local contexts;
  • Play an active role as public opinion leaders, advisors, solution providers and facilitators to help business become an effective agent of sustainable development;
  • Act as impartial facilitators for and between business, government, and civil society.

Interestingly, while some participants congratulated ourselves on the progress that has been made since 2006, one young executive who had just finished a global MBA program jointly offered by a select group of top business schools from different countries shared the fact that her curriculum didn’t include a single reference to global development challenges, UNGC or PRME.

So much work done, so much left to do!

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Top 10 reasons to study abroad

Posted: October 13, 2014 at 9:04 am

As we prepare for tomorrow’s official opening of Mason Global Center, I thought it would be timely to share my top 10 reasons why every college student should try to study abroad if at all possible:

  1. You will learn to appreciate what makes people around the world different
  2. You will learn to appreciate what makes people around the world the same
  3. Learning and using a new language is good for your brain (and for you)
  4. Your employer of choice either does business internationally or is likely to do so soon (Career Services offers a workshop on how to market your study-abroad experience effectively)
  5. You will dismantle some of your craziest beliefs about others and about yourself
  6. You will make your country stronger
  7. You will come back with a bunch of good stories to tell
  8. Many world leaders strongly recommend it, including First Lady Michelle Obama and even the King of Spain (who himself was a grad student in the U.S. years ago)
  9. You’ll make life-long friendships and professional relationships that may come in handy in the future
  10. If you happen to be a Mason student, our Center for Global Education makes it very easy to do, with more than 90 study abroad programs for you to choose fromIIE_Sept_22_14-11

Still unconvinced, watch IIE‘s #generationstudyabroad video.

One very good way to dip your toes abroad is to spend a semester in Mason Korea.  Seoul offers a unique window into Asia through one of the most creative and innovative spots today.  In addition to discovering the genius behind Samsung electronics and Korean industrial renaissance, or hopping on a short flight to experience Tokyo, Beijing or Shanghai, your Gangnam Style dance will never be the same!  You will take classes in a state-of-the-art campus in the brand-new city of Songdo-Incheon and can be in downtown Seoul (or posh Gangnam) in a simple metro ride.

If you can’t arrange for a semester-long program, the Center for Global Education offers two-week winter break programs that earn three credits. These are group-study tours led by a Mason faculty member.  There are also month-long, six-credit summer programs as well as a few summer school programs.

Students with 45 credits or more can participate in international internship programs in the summer (six to nine credits) or during a full semester (12 to 16 credits). Internship placements are arranged to match students’ career and academic objectives as well as possible.

Of course, if you can, go for a longer program. Students with 45 credits or more can go abroad for a semester or a year to one of Mason’s partner universities: more than 40 of them in 23 countries. If Mason options do not meet a student’s academic or geographic goals, that student can enroll in an accredited program offered by third parties and receive transfer credit.

For more information, go to http://masonkorea.gmu.edu/ or http://globaled.Gmu.Edu/ (email cge@gmu.edu or call 703-993-2154).

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