Convocation Showcases University Milestones, Mason Inn

Posted: October 15, 2010 at 1:01 am, Last Updated: October 15, 2010 at 5:57 am

By Robin Herron

At the Oct. 13 convocation, President Alan Merten reported on the university's physical infrastructure. Creative Services photo

Attendees at the first convocation to be held at the new Mason Inn on Oct. 13 were treated to tours, tea and scones, a showcase of Mason services and an update by top Mason administrators.

President Alan Merten opened the session with an overview of the “physical infrastructure that supports the intellectual infrastructure” of the university.

Merten focused on the campuses’ newest buildings and facilities, including the Mason Inn, which he said is “already changing the university.” He cited the many uses of the facility, from hosting Chamber of Commerce political debates to wedding receptions. He was also pleased to report that that the inn is being used by students’ families who travel from out of state to visit their children at Mason.

Michelle Marks, associate provost for graduate education, reported on some of the university’s recent academic milestones, including the fact that a chapter of Phi Kappa Phi, the nation’s oldest, largest and most selective honor society for all academic disciplines, will be initiated at Mason. She also noted

  • The Honors College has doubled its enrollment this year
  • Student retention is up to 87 percent
  • 5,400 students currently live on campus
  • Living Learning Communities on campus continue to increase, with a new International community being initiated next year
  • Mason’s partnership with Georgetown University on the graduate bioscience program has enrolled double the number expected in its first year
  • The Conservation Research Center with the Smithsonian Institution at Front Royal, Va., continues successfully, with new housing for students under way and plans for expanding its operations in the works
  • Funded research at Mason has reached the $110 million level
  • Pathways to entering Mason have been expanded with the international student Access program
  • Distance education offerings continue to increase

The new Mason Inn's ballroom was the setting for the fall convocation. Creative Services photo

Senior Vice President Maurice Scherrens provided an overview of the university’s current $900 million budget. He pointed out that federal stimulus funds have eased the recent budget crunch, but that funding source will end by 2012. However, the university has tried to “position ourselves as well as we can” by carrying over unexpended funds and relying on reserves and contributions from Auxiliary Enterprises.

He also said

  • With  state support to the university down to about 20 percent of the budget, and no state support for operating new facilities, it is likely that tuition will need to be increased over the next five years.
  • At this point, no employee salary increase is expected in fiscal year 2012.
  • Limited enrollment growth is expected in the next few years.
  • Construction of new buildings and renovations and expansion of older buildings on the campuses will continue “since we’re getting the best prices now than we’ll ever get.”

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