New Century College Celebrates 10th Anniversary

Posted: September 20, 2004 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Tara Laskowski

In 1995, the Johnson Center had yet to be constructed and Innovation Hall was just a dream, but New Century College had already begun to help George Mason University stand out as a unique and innovative four-year institution. Now celebrating its 10th anniversary, a “Decade of Discovery and Innovation,” NCC is still going strong with record enrollments, successful alumni, a first-class faculty, and participation in national events and conferences.

NCC was created 10 years ago as an answer to the Commonwealth of Virginia’s call for a “University of the 21st Century.” The college promotes experiential learning, which combines classroom learning with hands-on learning in the form of field studies, internships, co-ops, community-based service learning, and research.

Part of the College of Arts and Sciences, NCC offers its students the seminar-style classes and collaborative faculty involvement of a small college, complemented by the academic and social resources of a major research university. The college offers undergraduate degrees in integrative studies, interdisciplinary minors, and a certificate in leadership studies.

For Janette Muir, associate dean, the success of New Century College comes from the students. With the number of entering freshman reaching a 5-year high of 150 students, the college continues to grow. Students fill two Living and Learning floors in the residential halls, where they are able to study and gain support from their peers during their first-year experience. More than 500 students have chosen concentrations in areas such as organizational and leadership studies, new media and the arts, conservation studies, and pre-professional studies (which includes education, law, and medicine).

“These successes underscore the fact that NCC has carved out an important niche at Mason,” says Muir. “While the program is clearly not for every student, the ones who stick with it and work hard tend to thrive in this environment and build successful careers once they graduate.”

To commemorate its decade of learning, NCC is planning spring activities for alumni, faculty, students, and staff. John O’Connor, founding dean and current professor, and Lesley Smith, assistant professor, are also in the process of editing a book on the history of NCC, its pedagogy, and the best practices of experiential learning.

DebateWatch programs to be held at the end of the month will provide students, faculty, staff, and the community a place to watch the U.S. presidential candidates’ debates on television and then discuss the debates before listening to television commentary and media bias.

In October, NCC will host part of the American Association of Higher Education’s annual meeting for disciplinary societies. Special guests will be representatives from the United Kingdom’s Learning and Teaching Support Network. The meeting will focus on using electronic portfolios for assessment.

In addition, NCC’s annual Fall Festival, to be held on Nov. 2, will unveil a 10th anniversary logo and a new NCC Citizenship Award.

“Celebrating an anniversary like this one is important for many reasons,” says Muir. “It provides an opportunity for NCC to reflect on the challenges and successes of the last 10 years, and it provides an opportunity to envision the futureā€”to think about the college’s next steps. There have been times when some people on campus thought, or perhaps hoped, that NCC would no longer exist. The fact that the college is still here and thriving is a testament to the many faculty, staff, and students who have worked hard to honor the mission of the college and keep it going. It is also a testament to those administrators who understand the value of having this kind of program at George Mason University.”

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