Arlington Campus Represents Multiple Connections

Posted: September 11, 2001 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Elena Barbre

Alan Merten’s first glimpse of George Mason University during his interview for the job of president in March 1996 was the Arlington Campus. “It’s the first place they took me from the airport, and it gave me an early recognition that this university has multiple presences,” says Merten.

The Arlington Campus’ presence as part of the university, the local community, and the national capital region has only grown stronger in the past five years. “The campus is in a prime location,” says Merten. “It is connected via Metro within a community that’s on the upswing. To me it signifies part of the rebirth of Arlington and represents a dual connection with the Arlington community and our nation’s capital. Wherever our campuses are, they both draw upon and contribute to the local area. With the Arlington Campus we get that two times, in Arlington and in D.C.”

Merten notes the positive progression of the Arlington Campus’ vision, from its narrow identity as “the law school and miscellaneous” to the integrated, interdisciplinary presence it has now, based on strengths in public policy, education, information technology, and management, as well as law.

Local community and business leaders have always been supportive of the campus, though early on it was “emotional but unfocused support,” says Merten. “They were pleased and honored we had a broad vision for the Arlington Campus in the community, and they knew they wanted us but they were unsure what they wanted us to do.

“Our first breakthrough was integrating The Institute of Public Policy, now the School of Public Policy, at the Arlington Campus,” he says. “We’ve gone from the School of Law and miscellaneous to the Arlington Campus that houses the School of Law and sizeable components of different schools and colleges. That changed attitudes on and off campus.”

The campus faces new challenges in the new century, including a demand for class space and research activity that outpaces supply, says Merten. Arlington II, the $40 million building that will house both university facilities and those to share with the community, cannot be built soon enough. “In the next decade, as the demand for our teaching and research grows, I can see us easing off the main campus footprint in Arlington, moving further into the community,” says Merten. “Arlington is a good place for us to be.”

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