Cornerstone
College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Humanities and Social Sciences: Moving Faster, Farther with George Mason University

by Anne Reynolds

The Faster Farther Campaign Launched in 2015.

This year, George Mason University announced the public phase of its historic comprehensive campaign, Faster Farther. No longer an up-and-comer, Mason has arrived. The institution that started as a concept and an experiment 45 years ago is now the largest public research university in Virginia with a world-class faculty providing an outstanding education to one of the country’s most diverse student bodies. Mason has moved faster and advanced farther than anyone anticipated. And the university is just getting started. The campaign seeks to celebrate and build on this success, providing resources to support its award-winning faculty, diverse student body, and thriving campus. With a $500 million goal, the campaign has raised $363 million at Cornerstone’s press time.

Conceived as an institution that would add to the intellectual and cultural life of the Northern Virginia region, Mason has grown from an offshoot of the University of Virginia, holding classes in an old elementary school building, to a thriving center of education, an economic engine, and a powerhouse among research universities. Through this growth, the university has maintained its primary mission of serving students and the Northern Virginia community, and has expanded its impact to the nation and the world. This history is a solid foundation, and these achievements are only the beginning.

Mason’s comprehensive campaign puts the university’s students, research, and campuses at its center. For students, the university seeks to expand resources for financial aid, online learning, and career support. For research, the university aims to keep and add to its outstanding faculty, foster their research initiatives in all areas of scholarship, and expand opportunities for faculty-led student research and experiential learning.

Finally, the campaign recognizes that the university’s campuses in Fairfax, Arlington, and Prince William County represent assets to the communities in these areas, and seeks to enhance its physical spaces for the arts, athletics, and cultural life, as well as scholarship.

Running through 2018, the Faster Farther campaign invites the university’s alumni, students, faculty, staff, and friends to support the continued growth of George Mason University, and to come along as it travels faster and farther into its future as a vital, integral part of the Northern Virginia community that it serves for the benefit of our students, our commonwealth, and our world.

FASTER FARTHER WITH HUMANITIES AND SOCIAL SCIENCES

The Faster Farther Campaign recognizes that each of George Mason’s colleges and schools are important components of its growth so far and are vital to its future success. The College of Humanities and Social Sciences enthusiastically supports the university’s efforts and looks forward to working with the entire Mason community to further its priorities in tandem with Mason’s.

Kevin Augustyn, the college’s new director of development, sees outstanding humanities and social sciences education and research as integral parts of the positive growth of George Mason University.  “The humanities and social sciences are not luxuries, but necessities, when it comes to a complete education,” he says. “They are absolutely the best way to develop a student’s skill at thinking critically, communicating clearly, and gaining the intellectual flexibility that is needed to address our society’s national and global problems.”

Along with positioning the college firmly within the university’s course for growth, Augustyn and his development team have outlined specific funding priorities within the college.

THE DEAN'S ENDOWMENT FOR FACULTY EXCELLENCE

The college’s outstanding faculty is at the very heart of the education and experience it offers to its students. We are highly motivated to bring on and keep top-quality scholars in the college—scholars whose experiences, research, and teaching acumen will provide first-rate education to our students. As the largest of Mason’s colleges, the College of Humanities and Social Sciences plays a role in the education of every student of the university. We hope to support our faculty’s teaching and research by funding opportunities for professional development and strategic salary increases for our current faculty, and by extending competitive offers to our future faculty members. Toward this goal, the dean has invested a previously unrestricted gift of $1.5 million in a new endowment, hoping that others will match such generosity.

THE DEAN'S ENDOWMENT FOR GRADUATE STUDIES

The college seeks to attract a strong cadre of the next generation of scholars, making it a nationwide destination for the most promising students. This new endowment, once again seeded with a $1.5 million gift, will offer funding for our master’s and doctoral candidates as they further their education at Mason. We compete with a number of other institutions for our graduate students and we hope to match the efforts of these competitors by offering increased funding for our top PhD candidates and generous scholarship opportunities for our MA students.

THE JAMES BUCHANAN LEGACY CAMPAIGN

The James Buchanan House

James M. Buchanan, distinguished professor emeritus of economics and founder of Mason’s Center for Study of Public Choice, was a pioneering economist whose theory of economic and political decision making (widely known as public choice theory) made him the first faculty member of George Mason University to receive the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, in 1986. In his honor, the college seeks to renovate and rename Mason Hall to reflect his contributions to the university. This location will house the entire, highly regarded Department of Economics within a central place on Mason’s Fairfax Campus. The fund will also renovate and expand the existing James Buchanan House, on the eastern edge of the Fairfax Campus, as a study and conference center.

THE CENTER FOR HISTORY AND NEW MEDIA

The Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media uses digital media to bring history to life. In its 20-plus years of award-winning work, the center has developed more than 60 projects, including educational resources and courses for all levels of learners; open-source software, online exhibits, and collecting sites; and forums to develop knowledge and build community among those in the humanities working with digital technology. The center works with educators to excite students about learning about the past. Its aim is to make history accessible to all, not just to experts. And its open source tools serve researchers, educators, and libraries in their efforts to uncover and relate the bottom line of history.

THE CENTER FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF WELL-BEING

The Center for the Advancement of Well-being

The Center for the Advancement of Well-Being promotes the science and the practices that can lead to a life of vitality, purpose, and resilience. This interdisciplinary center is housed in the college, but it serves the university and Mason’s broader community through programming that emphasizes the tools to thrive in a world of complexity and uncertainty.

These specific areas for development all interlink with the college’s defining belief: that the insight and intellectual flexibility taught through the study of the humanities and social sciences offers students the best preparation for a lifetime of career success and continued learning.

As this lifetime learning never ends, the college seeks to maintain ties to its vibrant network of alumni, near and far. We ask alumni to share information about themselves in profiles that we can add to the web pages of our programs. We seek involvement with our alumni chapter to connect with the college’s students and fellow alumni. And, by participating in the Faster Farther Campaign, we offer our alumni the opportunity to play a role in the continued growth of the college and its programs.

“As the college’s offerings adapt and expand to meet the challenges and needs of today’s society,” explains Augustyn, “the study of the humanities and social sciences remains grounded in the wisdom of our history and culture. In these rapidly changing and uncertain times, when it’s hard to find common ground, people are hungry for values. These enduring values can be found in the humanities and social sciences, and we look forward to growing along with the university to fully address the challenges that face our students and our community.”

This article originally appeared in the 2016 edition of Cornerstone.

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