President Merten Reports Strong Vital Signs for University

Posted: October 15, 2009 at 1:05 am, Last Updated: October 14, 2009 at 4:36 pm

By Robin Herron

President Alan Merten

President Alan Merten

Mason President Alan Merten opened his remarks at his state of the university address on Oct. 14 by thanking Mason faculty and staff “for all that you do each and every day.” He added, “Despite our challenging times, I am proud to report that the vital signs of George Mason University are strong.”

Merten went on to discuss the latest state budget cuts. He pointed out that whereas the state provided about 60 percent of the university’s general fund 10 years ago, now it is less than 30 percent, requiring the university to “sacrifice” in many ways.

He said, “I know how frustrating this budget situation is for all of you. I also know it is very unfair, particularly when the quality of your overall work continues to be so high.” He said that the university continues to work toward improving salaries but that the current economic climate makes that challenging.

As to the enrollment increase this fall of 1,500 students over target, Merten acknowledged the strains it is putting on the university, from slightly larger class sizes to the need for more services. At the same time, he said, “I know some universities that would love to have this problem.”

Determining what level of enrollment the university should aim for will be a priority in the coming months, he noted, with the budget continuing to be a major factor.

Merten also traced the university’s history and its tradition of handling growth and change with creativity, a tradition that he said continues today. He outlined some of the university’s recent achievements, such as being at the top of the U.S. News and World Report’s list of “schools to watch,” being named one of the best places to work for people over 50 by AARP, and being named by several business publications as a best value in higher education.

The president also remarked on the university’s outstanding faculty researchers and noted that the university recently surpassed $100 million in research expenditures.

One of the indicators of change, burgeoning construction on all the campuses, prepares Mason for the future, Merten said.

“The purpose of our growth in the form of our many capital projects is two-fold: to meet the demands of the present and to prepare for the needs of the future.”

Merten concluded, “The current state of our institution speaks to our resolve to be the best we can in the face of doubt and limited resources. But the best part of our story is that our best days are still ahead. Our star remains on the ascent.”

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