Wednesday, February 26, 2020

George Mason University selects first African-American president

The George Mason University Board of Visitors on Monday announced the selection of Dr. Gregory Washington as the university’s eighth president.Washington is the dean of the Henry Samueli School of Engineering at University of California, Irvine. He will join the university on July 1, 2020.

Dr. Washington will serve as the first African-American president in school history.

When the Board set out to fill this position, we were determined to find someone who was both a strategic thinker with the vision to see our future and a mobilizer with the ability to inspire our community to build on Mason’s success,” said Rector Tom Davis. “Dr. Gregory Washington stood out in a very competitive search. “He showed tremendous vision for the future of our region and how we fit in, and displayed the ability to motivate and inspire our community. I look forward to working with him and seeing him position Mason as a leader in higher education.”

“I am honored to accept this position and thrilled to lead Mason at this exciting time,” Washington said. “What attracted me to Mason was its reputation for having real impact, providing access and for its commitment to inclusive excellence. Those values are in direct alignment with how I operate as an academic leader. I look forward to helping continue to accelerate the trajectory of the institution. The Mason community has laid an extraordinary foundation and my job is take us forward and build on that success. I feel really blessed to have been given this opportunity and can’t wait to get started.”

Washington is an accomplished researcher who specializes in dynamic systems, with an emphasis in the modeling and control of smart material structures and systems. He is the author of more than 150 technical publications in journals, edited volumes and conference proceedings.

At UC-Irvine, Washington launched a new graduate and undergraduate programs with the Paul Merage School of Business and the School of Humanities, and is leading the development of the Horiba Institute for Mobility and Connectivity to advance next generation advanced mobility systems with an $8.5 million gift from Horiba, one of the top 25 analytical and life sciences instrumentation companies in the world.

He is a proven leader in both faculty recruitment and enrollment, having hired one of the most diverse engineering faculty cohorts in the country—more than 60 new faculty with more than 40% of those faculty being women or underrepresented. In addition, he expanded undergraduate enrollment by 1,100 students and graduate enrollment by more than 200 in seven years. He also launched a freshman experiential learning initiative that has led to more than 60 percent of UCI undergraduate engineering students conducting research.

He also established OC STEM, one of the nation’s first STEM ecosystems, in Orange County, which impacts more than 2,500 students per year and more than 250 K-12 teachers and administrators. He also established a citywide effort to help community college students transfer to four-year institutions.

“Greg Washington is a collaborative and solutions-oriented leader,” said Enrique J. Lavernia, Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor at the University of California, Irvine. “The prestige, popularity and external resources of UCI’s Samueli School of Engineering rose steadily during his tenure as dean. He worked closely with his colleagues, both on campus and throughout the community, to establish integrated research opportunities and a robust pipeline of future engineers. I have been impressed with his accomplishments, both as a provost and as a member of his faculty.”

Rector Tom Davis thanked the search committee for its outstanding work in helping find such an accomplished and diverse pool of finalists. “I’m particularly thankful for co-chairs Dr. Shannon Davis and Vice Rector Jimmy Hazel, who helped us navigate this comprehensive and nuanced process and ensured it was inclusive and thorough.”

“We had a very successful search for the next president at Mason,” said Hazel. “A number of highly qualified individuals from across the country applied for the position because of how impressed they are with Mason's positioning in higher education and our location."

Hazel said Washington brings the right mix of a strong academic and research-based background with demonstrated higher education leadership success.

Washington’s selection culminates an eight-month search that began with multiple listening sessions at Mason’s Fairfax, Arlington and Science and Technology campuses. The search committee included members of the Board of Visitors, faculty, student and staff representatives, as well as members of the George Mason University Foundation Board of Trustees.

“Dr. Washington has been recognized as one of the best deans in the country,” Hazel said. “While he is proud of his engineering success, he has a clear understanding of the importance of other disciplines, such as the arts, humanities, and athletics, as well as faculty issues and student life and that all of these are part of the Mason community,” Hazel said.

He earned his bachelor’s, master’s and PhD at North Carolina State University.

“Gregory Washington is the Mason story,” said search committee co-chair and Faculty Senate Chair Shannon Davis. “His experience as a first-generation college student who rose through the ranks of higher education, coupled with his honesty and ability to bring people together, will enable him to connect with our community on a level that is rare for a president.”

She said Washington’s selection is an important victory for faculty.

“The board sought our input at several points during the process,” she said. “We had members on the search committee and for the first time in Virginia had a faculty member serve as a co-chair of the search committee. Furthermore, the board ultimately agreed to allow Faculty Senators to meet with the finalists and provide input ahead of the selection. We had real impact on this search, and I believe others will look to us as a model for how to balance the demands for discretion with the importance of shared governance.”

Interim President Anne Holton said she looks forward to working with Washington to ensure a smooth transition. “I am so pleased to welcome Dr. Washington as George Mason University’s next president,” Holton said. “I congratulate the Board on its choice of a visionary leader who embodies George Mason’s core values of Access to Excellence.”

Washington and his wife will be formally introduced to the university community on Thursday, Feb. 27, at the Board of Visitors meeting.

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