Success of Men’s Basketball Team Creates ‘Perfect Storm’ at Mason

Posted: March 23, 2006 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

President Alan Merten
President Alan Merten

With the current success of its men’s basketball team, George Mason is experiencing its own “perfect storm” that is making this time in its history “probably our most exciting ever,” according to university President Alan Merten.

“Coach Jim Larranaga continues to urge his players to develop ‘habits of excellence.’ This is exactly what we have been striving to do in all areas of the university,” says Merten.

Merten notes that the school’s recent success in research combined with the amazing performance of the men’s basketball team have created a unique opportunity to build national visibility for the university.

“There is no doubt about it – the national attention we are experiencing this week shines the spotlight on George Mason University in all areas, and we’re ready. Now the nation knows that George Mason University is unique, special and one of the most exciting universities in academics and athletics,” says Merten.

As the only institution of higher learning in Virginia to have two Nobel Prize winners on its faculty, Mason is no stranger to exhilarating moments and successes, Merten notes. The team’s never-before entrance into the coveted “Sweet 16” of this year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament is the latest in a string of exciting accomplishments. These include its research initiatives and unprecedented physical expansion of the campus.

More to Mason than Athletics

One example of Mason’s academic excellence is found in its strong base of research in the areas of cancer biology and biomedicine, neuroscience and bioengineering and the global biosphere. Groundbreaking sponsored research includes ways to detect early stages of ovarian cancer, breast cancer and lung cancer; identifying new treatments for devastating brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and epilepsy; and examining the influence of global weather temperature patterns on hurricanes.

Mason’s current annual research expenditure totals $65.9 million. However, the university is poised to grow its total research expenditure to $150 million over the next five years by leveraging its private, state and federal support. Other recent university accomplishments include:

  • The university received a $25 million award – the largest research award in Mason’s history – from the National Institutes of Health for construction of a Regional Biocontainment Laboratory at its Prince William Campus.

  • The Volgenau School of Information Technology and Engineering at George Mason celebrated its 20th anniversary with a $10 million gift from Ernst and Sara Volgenau. This was the largest individual contribution in the history of the university.
  • The Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study purchased a state-of-the-art brain scanning machine last October, becoming one of two, alongside Princeton, non-medical schools with a cognitive neuroscience research institute to own functional imaging technology.

Growing and Growing

Mason’s long-planned physical expansion is also well under way. Recently, the university announced plans to establish a fourth campus in Northern Virginia. To be located in Loudoun County, this campus will join ones already bustling with activity in Fairfax, Prince William and Arlington counties.

At present, a $100 million construction boom is under way at Mason. This project will result in the opening of new classroom and research buildings, a conference center/hotel, exercise facilities, restaurants and additional student housing.

Mason began as University College in 1957 as a branch campus of the University of Virginia. In 1972, the commonwealth established George Mason University as an independent member of Virginia’s systems of colleges and universities, so the school is officially 34 years old. Since then, more than 100,000 men and women have earned degrees at Mason. Currently, 29,600 students are enrolled at the university.

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