Reorganized College to Better Serve Community’s Health and Human Services Needs

Posted: October 6, 2005 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Lori Jennings

Gerontology and international health will be among the primary areas of focus for George Mason’s newly named College of Health and Human Services (CHHS), approved on Oct. 5 by the university’s Board of Visitors. Formerly known as the College of Nursing and Health Science, the reorganized college will focus on an expanded multidisciplinary approach to meeting the health and human services needs of the Northern Virginia community. The reorganization will occur in phases, beginning in fall 2006 and continuing through 2011.

Other core care and service offerings will include health administration, health policy, health information systems, health services research, nursing, nutrition, rehabilitation science, senior living and social work. Critical target populations have been identified as children; aging adults; disabled individuals; culturally, economically and ethnically diverse clients; and poor and low-income families.

With the reorganization and new growth, the number of students enrolled in CHHS is anticipated to double by 2011 from its current enrollment of 1,400 to more than 2,800.

“As the largest public university in the Northern Virginia area, George Mason is proud of our role in providing for the higher education needs of the regional workforce,” says Alan Merten, university president. “Our focus on addressing current and emerging health and human services educational needs is a prime example of our collaborations with the community, including regional health systems and Northern Virginia Community College.”

The expanded multidisciplinary CHHS will field program expansion and support new program development, including research in critical areas of public health, rehabilitation science, senior care and doctoral education for social work. Cutting-edge interdisciplinary programs of research are anticipated in chronic illness, senior care, e-health, health information systems, health policy and health services research.

The restructuring and name change were based on findings from a 22-member health commission appointed by Peter Stearns, provost, in December 2004. The commission represented relevant George Mason faculty, stakeholders in the Northern Virginia region and the Virginia Secretary of Health and Human Resources.

“I believe the commission did an outstanding job of developing a shared vision for the expansion of health and human services educational programs at Mason,” says Stearns. “In addition, the commission took into account the array of community service and research opportunities that come with these programs, making the change one that truly benefits the university and its faculty and students, as well as the local community.”

CHHS reorganization and expansion plans include:

  • Establishing a school of public health by fall 2010
  • Developing an interdisciplinary MS degree in behavioral health by fall 2008
  • Developing MS degrees in occupational safety and environmental health by fall 2008
  • Implementing a MS degree in rehabilitation science by fall 2008 and a PhD degree by 2010
  • Implementing an undergraduate certificate and MS degree in senior life and wellness services by fall 2008
  • Offering a PhD in social work by fall 2010, with the Social Work Program transitioning to a school of social work by fall 2011
  • Creating provisions at Mason for faculty in the expanded college and others on campus to engage in broadly defined faculty clinical practice opportunities by fall 2007
  • Establishing study groups to explore in-depth the feasibility of developing schools of medicine, pharmacy and dentistry at George Mason

The Board of Visitors approved a new PhD in Health Services Research and Policy at the Oct. 5 meeting as well.

“We are confident that our expanded college will only strengthen our current programs in nursing and health science, already known for their high quality and rich academic traditions,” says Shirley Travis, CHHS dean. “The School of Nursing will continue its role as a leading force in educating our region’s nursing workforce. The new multidisciplinary environment in an expanded college will allow us to develop compelling research and educational collaborations between faculty in our existing programs and faculty in our new health and human services programs.”

With a 30-year history, CHHS has received sustained and widespread support of the programs from the greater Northern Virginia health care community and the graduates of the program. For the past 10 years, the graduate nursing program has consistently been ranked among the top 50 programs in the United States, according to U.S. News & World Report.

The name change and reorganization must still be approved by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia. For more information on the CHHS restructuring, visit this web site.

Write to at