FROM THE PRESIDENT
Diversity is not only an attribute of our university. it is a central part of our mission, and a distinctive strength.
Our students come from 130 countries and all 50 states. Nearly half of our incoming freshmen this year were minorities; 27 percent come from low-income families―they qualify for federal Pell Grants―and 35 percent are the first generation in their families to attend a four-year college.
We are committed to being an inclusive community where all students can thrive regardless of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, religious preference, or sexual orientation. And the data show that we are delivering on that promise. Contrary to national norms, Mason students show similar achievement rates independently of their ethnic or socioeconomic background.
More than ever, Mason is proving that accessibility and academic achievement can work hand in hand. This year, for the first time, we earned a spot among the most elite research universities in the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, becoming one of the youngest institutions in the group.
We have a term for our winning combination―inclusive excellence. Our goal is to be the best university we can be, for the broadest group of students. We are as committed to access and inclusion as we are to academic excellence.
This academic year, for example, we have devoted additional resources to our diversity and inclusion initiatives to enhance the Mason experience for all. One objective is to recruit and retain faculty and staff members who better mirror the diversity of our students. We are also working to ensure that all faculty and staff have the resources they need to better serve an increasingly diverse student body. George Mason University has the opportunity to be a model institution for other diverse universities to emulate.
One of the tremendous benefits of having students, faculty, and staff from such varied backgrounds is that we are exposed to a host of views. I tell our students on their first day on campus that we learn not by surrounding ourselves with people who think like us, but by exposing ourselves to people and ideas that may challenge the way we think. For diversity to have maximum value, we must ensure the freedom of thought and expression of every member of our community.
Sometimes that means being comfortable with being uncomfortable, because you might not agree with everything you hear, see, or read. But that’s precisely how learning happens. The opposite―the rejection of ideas, research, or speakers based on someone’s opinion or perspective―would run counter to our fundamental belief in academic freedom.
“Freedom and Learning,” the motto on the Mason seal, are not just aspirational words. They are the essence of our university.