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Dean’s blog: Making progress

A year ago, I delivered my first State of the College Address as Mason Science Dean. One of the first ‘events’ back after the pandemic, it was a hybrid presentation which detailed where we stood at Mason and within our college on many fronts; enrollment, research productivity, diversity. I outlined the current state of higher ed and shared our people-focused and innovative program goals, all the while knowing we were challenged to connect a community still dispersed by pandemic, and restart our innovation engine after some of our research efforts were put on hold when campus access was not possible.

Transparency and benchmarking with data were key elements of my presentation as I referenced Mason’s and our College’s then current state in relation to US News and World Report’s Top 50 US R1 institutions and included the factors necessary to rise in the rankings. I suggested a number of goals on hiring, enrollment growth, research expenditure increases, and diversity efforts. And we set to achieving them. The priorities of our ‘success business’ implementing our Inclusive Excellence Plan, maximizing our hiring opportunities to improve our staff diversity, and reimagining how we operate our academic and research enterprise to address advising, retention while building a new research support infrastructure.

Fast forward to now.  Today, we’re acknowledging a very successful year. In a time when enrollment declines were the norm, both Mason and the College saw growth. Research expenditures also increased and the College continues to maintain the largest carry forward funding of any College to propel Mason to a rise in both research prominence and national rankings (we’re now #64). And one of the top 10 most diverse universities in the nation (#7).

Speaking of diversity, we all learned a new acronym AJEDI – Access, Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. Our recently hired Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Dr. Paula Danquah- Brobby, hit the ground running, holding listening sessions, individual meetings across various stakeholders, and events, while also surveying staff and faculty to build on the strong foundation of the College’s draft Inclusive Excellence plan. I am thrilled to move forward with the new feedback-based, comprehensive 5-year AJEDI Strategic Plan to build a college culture of access, justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion that permeates throughout our entire Mason science community. The AJEDI strategic plan will be shared with staff and faculty next week, with meetings to follow to solicit feedback. The plan will feed into our larger Mason Science strategic plan.  

Over the year, we brought in key academic and research focus areas hires. We also strengthened our leadership team, onboarding a Chief Business Officer, Meghan St. George, who orchestrated the shift to our new research support model and will work with me to champion our strategic planning efforts, two new Directors, Myisha Washington and Jessica Rosera (of Human Resources and Finance respectively), and Dr. Cody Edwards, who served in an interim, now permanent role as Senior Associate Dean of Faculty and Academic Affairs.

We seek continued growth of our research portfolio, through investments in human capital, infrastructure, and expanding collaborations and innovation. We look to enhance faculty and staff development and advancement through investments in compensation, processes, training, mentoring, and resources. Moreover, we will work together across the college to improve the student experience by embracing a culture of student success and wellbeing, preparing students to be global leaders in their respective fields, and creating ways for them to develop a lasting connection and engagement with Mason. We will need the full might and commitment of the entire Mason Science community to leverage our academic and administrative activities. This commitment includes cultivating partnerships and community engagement that foster sustainability, improved livelihoods, and societal gain.

You’ve probably seen or heard Mason’s new tagline:

All Together Different.

As our college’s strategic planning process begins, I encourage you to engage. Help shape our path forward. We will need to think different, welcome different, and work different to ultimately deliver different to our stakeholders. Only with our full community support, can we fully establish the values and culture we seek and the goals I’ve shared.


Visit the dean's blog for more insights from Dean Fernando Miralles-Wilhelm.