Provost Holds ‘State of Mason Academics’ Forum

Posted: December 20, 2006 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Robin Herron

On Tuesday, Provost Peter Stearns talked with faculty about the university’s presence in Loudoun County, Va.; Mason’s international initiatives; the governor’s proposed budget for the second year of the biennium; the Board of Visitors discussion about a “great university”; and the finding that Mason students appear to be better qualified than ever before.

As part of his “State of Mason Academics” forum, Stearns detailed aspects of current top initiatives. On Loudoun campus plans, for example, Stearns said the university is “aiming for a permanent campus site,” and continues to explore potential sites after an initial arrangement was rejected by Loudoun County.

“International initiatives are going ‘okay’ to ‘quite well,'” Stearns reported, citing reciprocal programs with Chinese and Korean universities and students and Mason’s Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) Campus in the United Arab Emirates in particular. He noted that the new vice president selected for the RAK campus, Sharon Siverts, will be starting work in January or February, and that part of the new campus now under construction is on track to open in 2008.

The budget proposal submitted by Gov. Timothy Kaine to the Virginia General Assembly “looks pretty good for us,” Stearns remarked, pointing to capital funds earmarked to complete the Arlington Campus building, build Academic VI and Research II on the Fairfax Campus, add to the Performing Arts Building on the Fairfax Campus and relocate power lines at the Prince William Campus in preparation for construction there.

Other budget plusses for Mason include additional scholarship and operational funding, as well as a 3 percent salary increase for faculty and staff. Mason will continue to push legislators for a cost of living adjustment for employees, Stearns added.

Stearns commented that the Board of Visitors ongoing discussions about raising Mason to the level of a “great university” have focused attention on areas where Mason is strongest. In addition, the need for the commonwealth to recognize the level of funding required for Mason to attain the status of “great” has been highlighted.

Finally, Stearns noted that student surveys over the past couple of years indicate that the quality of Mason students is increasing, raising the question, “Should we be asking more of our students?” Stearns said the university would be looking more closely at this, possibly through focus groups, and he welcomed thoughts and suggestions from the faculty.

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