Provost Reports on State of Mason Academics

Posted: November 3, 2008 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Robin Herron

As part of his twice-yearly series on the state of Mason academics, Provost Peter Stearns gave a wide-ranging update last week at the Fairfax Campus, touching on many topics that directly and indirectly affect academics.

  • The university’s global engagements are “healthy,” the provost said. He recently returned from a trip to China, where he signed several agreements for collaborative projects, including one for a Confucius Institute at Mason that will begin operations early in 2009. Enrollment at the Ras Al Khaimah Campus in the United Arab Emirates continues to grow. The provost stressed that the campus is not funded by Mason, and its impact on the budget is minimal.
  • Mason’s Strategic Plan for 2014 (see the Office of the Provost web site) has been finalized, although Stearns termed it “a living document.” Among other things, the plan addresses goals for funded research, student diversity, lifelong learning and distance learning.
  • According to surveys of graduating seniors, Mason seems to have improved in student-faculty interactions outside of classes, which was formerly identified as a concern. Now a new concern has surfaced among upperclassmen: the degree of serious intellectual stimulation and the practical applications of academics to the real world.

In response to questions raised from the audience, the provost said

  • Regarding budget cuts, some programs that have been found to be unsuccessful will be discontinued. On the personnel side, “There’s no question we will be doing less hiring,” the provost said, and some positions will go unfilled. He said faculty will be encouraged to take on more and larger classes, and administrative faculty will be encouraged to teach when possible.
  • Goodlett McDaniel is heading a group looking at ways to further develop distance learning at Mason. Although most of this is expected to be at the graduate level, it is likely that some undergraduate general education courses will be offered via distance as early as next summer.
  • The university remains committed to sustainability, but the current budget climate makes achievements in this area more challenging. Mason will continue to look at ways of adding sustainability issues to the curriculum.
  • The university is “actively moving forward” with plans for faculty/staff housing, and some housing units may be available as early as next summer.
  • Even in the face of budget constraints, the university remains open to taking advantage of new opportunities.

The provost’s final forum for the fall will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 4, from 10 to 11 a.m. at the Prince William Campus, Verizon Auditorium.

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