Provost Reports on Academic State of Mason

Posted: October 13, 2011 at 1:03 am, Last Updated: October 12, 2011 at 9:23 pm

By Erin Cushing

Provost Peter Stearns hosted a forum on the academic state of Mason at the Fairfax Campus on Oct. 12. He previously held forums at the Arlington and Prince William Campuses this fall.

Following are highlights of the provost’s comments.


  • There has been a moderate increase in freshman admissions numbers.
    • Test scores, GPAs and the general quality of incoming freshmen have also moderately improved.
  • Graduate student admissions are down slightly, following the national trend, which is down by 1.5 percent; the university will work on increasing graduate admissions.
  • Retention levels of freshmen and sophomores were higher than expected.
    • The goal was a 0.5 percent increase; the actual rate was 1.7 percent.
  • The university’s Six-Year Plan projects moderate growth and moderate retention rates.

University Research and Funding

  • Research numbers are healthy.
  • Federal funding accounted for $128 million this past year.
    • The College of Education and Human Development received a major STEM grant.
  • Mason is “concerned about the funding climate” because of the weak economy.
  • Mason is trying to raise more money for PhD research.
    • The five-year goal is to have at least one-third of PhD programs funded “at competitive levels.”

University Budget

  • State agencies were required by the state to provide budget plans for 2-, 4- and 6- percent reductions next year.
  • Universities may be expected to reduce budgets by 2 percent, although not required to do so.
  • Mason’s budget is safe from cutting this year.
    • “Prudent management of resources” is required to ensure that the budget remains safe.

Distributed Campuses/Locations

  • At the Arlington Campus, research and planning has been begun on improving the daytime utilization of classrooms.
  • Prince William Campus:
    • The College of Science will offer a special semester for Life Sciences students to work hands-on with researchers.
    • The School of Health, Recreation and Tourism will greatly expand on the campus.
    • The university would like to enhance activities and enrollment to help alleviate pressures on Fairfax Campus resources.
  • Belmont Bay, designed for environmental science programs, is close to the building stage.
  • In Tysons Corner, a modest initial space is being leased to house some management, IT and College of Science needs.
    • This is meant to give Mason a “foot in the door” in the area.
    • Mason wants a significant presence in the Tysons Corner area, especially with the new Metro line coming in.
  • Front Royal: New residence hall buildings on the Front Royal property for the Smithsonian Institution partnership are under construction.

International Campuses

  • Mason is looking to expand collaborations in India and Brazil.
  • Plans are currently being negotiated for undergraduate programs in management and economics in South Korea.

Personnel Transitions

  • Searches are under way for deans of the Volgenau School of Engineering and the College of Health and Human Services.
    • The search for the new university president is actively under way.
    • The new president will be in place by the start of the 2012 academic year.
    • Anyone with nominations should direct them to Board of Visitors member Lovey Hammel, chair of the search committee.



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