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Dean's blog: Thanks to life (at Mason), which has given me so much

Dean Fernando Miralles-Wilhelm

By now you may know that starting July 1 of this year, I will be moving to the position of President of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science and Vice Chancellor for Sustainability of the University System of Maryland

While I am excited about taking on this new professional challenge, leaving George Mason University is going to be a difficult thing to go through; I can feel it already. In the almost 4 years since I came on board as dean of this great college, the institution has grown on me in a way that is generating all sorts of mixed feelings of nostalgia and sadness. I’m emotionally attached to Mason in a way that has not happened before; that is something to say about this very special and great university.


I have also been humbled by the multitude of congratulatory messages I have received from colleagues and friends here at Mason, across the country and all over the world. When you have been in professional life for more than 30 years, worked in five universities in three states, you cultivate many relationships and their well wishes warm my heart. More importantly, these messages come through multiple generations: individuals that I have worked for, others that have worked for me, and others that have worked with me; students that I have interacted with through my research, in the classroom and many of other activities that three decades have given me time to do.

Receiving all these messages in the span of a little bit more that 24 hours has made me reflect about the power of relationships, and specifically, of mentoring. I have had the privilege to mentor many students during my career, and that provides a feeling of fulfillment that is difficult to match. But I have also been mentored along the way by the myriad of individuals: professors, supervisors, collaborators, coworkers, team members, colleagues, too many to count, too many to acknowledge one by one, but to whom I am always indebted.

And I have to say that a lot of that mentoring has happened during my time at Mason. Working with our students, with our staff, with my fellow faculty colleagues, other deans and the management team of our university has been a wonderful professional development opportunity and personal experience; the kind of thing I’ll tell my grandchildren about. When you oversee a college with more than 500 faculty and staff members, more than 4000 students, 12 departments and programs, 15 research centers, and more than 100 degree programs, there is something to be learned every single day. 

Being your dean has inspired me. I am not the same person that came here four years ago; I feel transformed. I have grown, I have matured. I have learned. I feel like a much better person, a much better academic and a much better leader. I have no way to express my gratitude for all of this!

Here is what happens next. Provost Walsh will reach out and meet with our college community for a consultation on the appointment of an interim dean and next steps towards a search for our next permanent dean. I am here through June 30 and will keep you posted on further details as they become available. 

There is a beautiful song composed by Chilean folk singer Violeta Parra and that was released on the year I was born (1966). I particularly enjoy this rendition of the song by music legends Mercedes Sosa and Joan Baez. The song is titled (in spanish) “Gracias a la vida, que me ha dado tanto”. Thanks to life, which has given me so much. Thanks to all of you!