Named after American revolutionary, patriot, and founding father George Mason, the University was founded as a branch of the University of Virginia in 1957 and became an independent institution in 1972. Recognized for its strong law, economics, nursing and public policy programs, the University enrolls over 30,000 students, making it the second largest university in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
The City of Fairfax, Virginia, then the Town of Fairfax, purchased and donated of land to the University of Virginia for the college's new location, which was referred to as the Fairfax Campus. In 1959, the Board of Visitors of UVA selected a permanent name for the college: George Mason College of the University of Virginia. The Fairfax campus construction planning that began in early 1960 showed visible results when the development of the first forty acres of Fairfax Campus began in 1962. In the Fall of 1964 the new campus welcomed 356 students.
Local jurisdictions of Fairfax County, Arlington County, and the cities of Alexandria and Falls Church agreed to appropriate $3 million to purchase land adjacent to GMC to provide for a Fairfax Campus in 1966 with the intention that the institution would expand into a regional university of major proportions, including the granting of graduate degrees.
On April 7, 1972 the Virginia General Assembly enacted legislation which separated George Mason College from its parent institution, the University of Virginia. Renamed that day by the legislation, GMC became George Mason University.
In 1979 GMU opened its law school in Arlington by acquiring the International School of Law, which was a private institution that had recently attained provisional accreditation from the American Bar Association (ABA). By 1981 the law school, now known as the George Mason University School of Law (GMUSL), gained full ABA accreditation.
Also, in 1979, the university moved all of its athletic programs to NCAA Division I. Enrollment that year passed 11,000. The university opened its Arlington campus in 1982, two blocks from the Virginia Square-GMU station in Arlington. In 1986 the university's governing body, the Board of Visitors, approved a new master plan for the year based on an enrollment of 20,000 full-time students with housing for 5,000 students by 1995. That same year university housing opened to bring the total number of residential students to 700.
Through a bequest of Russian immigrant Shelley Krasnow the University established the Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study in 1991. The Institute was created to further the understanding of the mind and intelligence by combining the fields of cognitive psychology, neurobiology, and artificial intelligence. In 1992, GMU's new Prince William Institute began classes in a temporary site in Manassas, Virginia. The Institute moved to a permanent site located on the Rt. 234 bypass, ten miles (16 km) south of Manassas, by the year 1997, and is now known as the Prince William Campus. The university graduated more than 5,000 students that following spring.
While George Mason University is relatively young, particularly compared to established research universities in Virginia, it has grown rapidly, reaching an enrollment of 29,889 students in 2006 , and is the second largest university in the state of Virginia, exceeded only by Virginia Commonwealth University. According to a 2005 report issued by the university, enrollment is expected to reach 35,000 students by 2011 with more than 7,000 resident students.
In 2002 Mason celebrated its 30th anniversary as a University by launching its first capital campaign with a goal to raise $110 million. It concluded by raising $142 million, $32 million more than their goal. The George Mason University logo, originally designed in 1982, was updated in 2004.
The Fairfax campus is served on the Washington Metro by the Vienna/Fairfax-GMU station on the Orange line. A 15 minute shuttle in addition to the CUE bus, free for students with a Mason ID card, serves the students through routes from the Metro station to the University.
Master plans were developed to incorporate further development, which saw new additions such as Fenwick Library and Lecture Hall. By 1979 master plan development was handled by the firm of Sasaki & Associates, which continued to work alongside the university in the years that followed. Student housing first became available in 1977. The 1980s saw the biggest expansion with new buildings being added on each year including the Patriot Center.
Recent years have seen the most activity on campus. Innovation Hall, a new academic building, opened in 2003. Student apartment buildings Liberty Square and Potomac Heights opened in 2004 to accommodate an unprecedented demand from students. The fall of 2005 saw the number of residential students surpass 4,100. The Sandy Creek parking deck and Research I, a four-story facility that includes faculty offices and instructional and research laboratories, opened in 2006. The latter includes a semi-detached tower that houses the Astronomy Department’s rooftop telescope.
The Fairfax campus is undergoing a massive, $500 million construction campaign that includes a new Information Technology and Engineering building, a new Visual and Performing Arts building, a new dining hall, a renovated Physical Education building (in addition to the recently renovated Aquatic and Fitness Center), and a new residential building. Also, George Mason is planning a new hotel and conference center, and yet another new residential building. Even the roads are changing: the Patriot Circle has received a new roundabout this summer. By 2010, Mason will have over of new building space as compared to 2006. Not only is Mason experiencing a construction boom, but it also has another Master Plan and Library Master Plan in the works. The Fairfax campus is undergoing a complete transformation.
York River Corner includes Liberty Square and Potomac Heights, built in 2003. YRC houses approximately 1,000 upperclassmen combined, with about 500 at each development. Both are fully furnished apartments in two, four, or six-person units.
Chesapeake includes the buildings Tidewater, Piedmont, Blue Ridge , Shenandoah and Northern Neck. Northern Neck consists of Upperclassmen housing in Apartment style rooms, while the other buildings feature combinations of various suite style rooms. The area also contains a Conference Space, Convience Store, Dining Hall, Fitness Facility, and a future Starbucks (completed in Spring 2009).
President's Park opened in 1989 and is the largest housing area, with more than 1,000 students living in two, three, or five person dorm rooms. President's Park is exclusively for freshman. There are thirteen residential buildings, all named after past U.S. Presidents, surrounding Eisenhower hall in the center, with a diner,vending areas, study lounge, and TV lounge.
Dominion Hall, University Commons and Commonwealth Hall, or DUCC, houses approximately one-thousand students, including some freshmen, sophomores and primarily upper-class students. Dominion and Commonwealth Hall were built in 1981 and are five-story buildings offering double-occupancy suite-style rooms for upperclassmen. University Commons was built in 1986 and comprises eight buildings.
Townhouses, Student Apartments, Patriots Village, houses approximately 1,000 upperclassmen. The townhouses and student apartments became available in 1987, and Patriots Village which has modules from 1984 through 1988. There are 35 two-bedroom townhouses located 1/8th of a mile north of the campus on State Route 123. In summer 2008 the Patriot Village area will be demolished to make room for the hotel and conference center. Student Apartments were renovated in 2002 and are located inside Patriot Circle, just west of the main quad. They comprise nine three-story buildings of one, two, and three-bedroom units. Patriots Village consists of dozens of permanent modulars located outside of Patriot Circle, just east of Ox Road, offering modular and suite-style units.
The Johnson Center
The George W. Johnson Learning Center, more commonly known as the Johnson Center or JC, is the central hub on campus, completed in 1995 and named after University President of 18-years, George W. Johnson. Located in the center of campus, the $30 million, building was built as the first of its kind building on any American campus, acting both as a main library and a student union. The ground floor includes a buffet style restaurant, the campus radio station, a coffee shop, 300-seat movie theater, and Dewberry Hall. The main floor includes the campus bookstore, a large food court with several fast food restaurants, and the ground floor of the library. The second and third floors of the Johnson Center are primarily used by the library, with multiple group meeting rooms, computer labs, and a full service restaurant located on the third floor.
The Johnson Center serves as the center for student life with many activities and productions sponsored by Program Board and Student Government. In 2004 during the Democratic Primaries, Senator John Kerry, the eventual Democratic Nominee for President, visited George Mason University and gave a speech on the floor of the Johnson Center. In 2007, shortly after announcing on his website that he would establish a presidential exploratory committee, Senator Barack Obama gave a speech at the "Yes We Can" rally at the Johnson Center atrium. The next week he formally announced his intentions of running for president.
The Center for the Arts includes a 2,000-seat Concert Hall built in 1990. The concert hall can be converted into a more intimate 800-seat theater. Most Center for the Arts events take place here, including operas, orchestras, ballets, and musical and theatrical performances.
The Patriot Center
The Patriot Center is a 10,000 seat arena for the Men's and Women's basketball team. The Patriot Center is also host to over 100 concerts and events throughout the year, annually attracting major performers like Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Ricardo Arjona, REM, Linkin Park and the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
The Aquatic and Fitness Center opened in 1998 at a cost of $11 million. The center includes an Olympic size swimming pool containing eight 50-meter lanes, twenty-two lanes, two movable bulkheads, and a diving area equipped with two 1-meter and two 3-meter spring boards, a Warm-water recreational pool, Locker rooms, a whirlpool, a coed sauna, and a family changing room.
Fenwick Library was originally built in 1967, with additions in 1974, a tower in 1983, and renovations in 2005-2006. It was named for Charles Rogers Fenwick, one of George Mason's founders. Fenwick Library is the main research library at George Mason. Its resources include: most of the university's books, microforms, print and bound journals, government documents, and maps. Electronic resources include networked and stand-alone CD-ROMs, the libraries' online catalog, a number of databases available through the libraries' membership in various consortia, and Internet access. Another important collection of research materials housed in Fenwick is the Government Documents collection. This collection includes both federal and Virginia state documents. Both sets of documents contain items from the administrative, legislative, and judicial branches of government, and constitute an invaluable source of primary source materials for students and faculty in political science, public policy, sociology, business and other fields. There is also a special GIS center in Fenwick Library which conducts GIS drop-in sessions every week.
George Mason is a member of the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area, granting it access to resources of thirteen other libraries in the Nation's capital.
The 5.2 acre Arlington campus was established in 1979 by the Virginia General Assembly for the newly founded law school. In 1980, graduate and professional programs were also offered in the building, a converted Kann's department store. Since then the school has grown to offer a multitude of graduate degrees. In 1996, Arlington's campus began its first phase in a three phase campus redevelopment project. In 1998, Hazel Hall was completed to house the law school, the Mercatus Center, and the Institute for Humane Studies. The second phase, to be completed in 2007 is underway for a building to house the School of Public Policy, the College of Education and Human Development, the School of Information Technology and Engineering, the School of Management, the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, the School of Computational Science, the College of Visual & Performing Arts and academic and student supports services. Arlington's campus is projected to reach an enrollment of 10,000 students by the completion of its redevelopment.
Prince William offers: a M.A. in New Professional Studies in Teaching, M.A.I.S. with a concentration in Recreation Resources Management, B.S. in Administration of Justice, Undergraduate programs in Health, Fitness, and Recreation Resources, Graduate programs in Exercise, Fitness and Health Promotion, and Nontraditional programs through Continuing and Professional Education in Geographic Information Systems and Facility Management.
Prince William also boasts the 300-seat Verizon Auditorium, the Freedom Aquatic and Fitness Center, and an , $40 million Performing Arts Center scheduled to open in 2008. Other buildings on the Prince William campus include: The Occoquan Building, which houses various academic, research, and administrative resources including a Student Health clinic, Bull Run Hall, a building which opened in the fall of 2004, and Discovery Hall, which was completed in 1998 at a cost of $20.4 million.
Mason's current Loudoun site offers four graduate programs: Master's in Business Administration, Masters and doctoral programs in the College of Education and Human Development, Graduate Degree in Nursing, and a Master of Science in Telecommunications. It also offers five undergraduate programs: minor in Business and Management, certificates in the College of Education and Human Development, BS in health science, minor in Information Technology, and an introductory course in Social Work. Other graduate level courses, such as those offered by the Department of Information and Software Engineering, are periodically taught at the site.
As Mason's presence in Loudoun grows from a small branch of the university into a major satellite campus, it will increasingly offer the same services available to students attending George Mason University's Fairfax, Arlington, and Prince William campuses.
The Ras Al Khaimah campus is currently offering three undergraduate degree programs, BS in Biology, BS in Business Administration, BS in Electronics and Communications Engineering. All credits earned at the campus will be fully transferable to George Mason University in the United States. The certificates issued at the Ras Al Khaimah campus will be identical to those issued by the University in the United States.
The university has strength in the basic and applied sciences with critical mass in proteomics, neuroscience and computational sciences. Research support comes to Mason faculty from such agencies as the National Institutes of Health, NASA, the National Science Foundation and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.Likewise, the Center for Secure Information Systems is designated as a Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education by the National Security Agency.
Mason is also home to the Center for History and New Media whose various history websites attract more than one million visitors each month.
Mason's Center for Global Education's study abroad program has been rated highly offering dozens of programs ranging from one-week spring break programs to full year programs.
Mason was awarded $25 million, in 2005, from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, for construction of a Regional Biocontainment Laboratory at the Prince William Campus in Manassas.
The school's sports teams are called the Patriots. The university's men's and women's sports teams participate in the NCAA's Division I, and are members of the Colonial Athletic Association, or CAA. The school's colors are green and gold. George Mason has two NCAA Division I National Championships to its credit: 1985 Women's Soccer and 1996 Men's Indoor Track & Field.
George Mason University was catapulted into the national spotlight in March 2006, when its men's basketball team qualified for the Final Four of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament by defeating the Michigan State Spartans, the defending champion North Carolina Tar Heels, the Wichita State University Shockers, and the top-seeded Connecticut Huskies (UConn). Their "Cinderella" journey ended in the Final Four with a loss to the eventual tournament champion Florida Gators by a score of 73-58 As a result of the team's success in the tournament, the Patriots were ranked 8th in the final ESPN/USA Today Poll for the 2005-06 season. The New York Times, The Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, and USA Today featured the story on their front pages, and was ranked by several publications as the sports story of the year.
The Patriots, who had never won an NCAA tournament game before 2006, became the first team from the CAA to crash the Final Four and were the first true mid-major conference team since 1979 to do so (that year, the Larry Bird-led Indiana State Sycamores as a #1 seed, and the Penn Quakers as a #9 seed both reached the Final Four). The Patriots also tied LSU as the lowest-seeded team to reach the Final Four (both did it as #11-seeds; LSU did it in 1986).
In 2008, the Patriots returned to the NCAA Tournament after winning the CAA Tournament. They were given a 12 seed and matched up against 5th-seeded Notre Dame. The Patriots were unable to make another miracle run, losing to Notre Dame by a score of 68-50.
Between approximately 1993 and 1998, George Mason University was also the home of The Fractal: Journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy.
George Mason University does not have traditional Fraternity & Sorority housing or a "Greek row." Several Panhellenic Council organizations have, however, established "Living/Learning Floors" in the University Commons. Alpha Omicron Pi has had a floor since 2004, Gamma Phi Beta has had a floor since 2006, and Alpha Phi has had a floor since 2007.
Officially, "Greek Life" is referred to as "Fraternity & Sorority Life" at George Mason University to eliminate confusion among the very diverse student population.
Most organizations in the Interfraternity Council (IFC) and Panhellenic Council (PHC) hold one or two large charitable events each year. Most organizations in the National Pan-Hellenic Conference (NPHC) and Multicultural Greek Council (MGC) hold a series of smaller charitable events throughout the year. The NPHC is also known for its annual Step Show.
The most well-known event associated with Fraternity & Sorority Life on campus is held each spring and is called Greek Week. This annual event includes competitive sporting and trivia events, charitable fund raising, and is usually ended with Greek Sing. Organizations participating in Greek Sing put together 10-15 minute themed shows which have included extravagant costumes, set designs, lighting displays, multimedia presentations, dances, singing, acrobatics, and more.
PHC holds a formal recruitment each fall. Informal recruitment is held in spring. Many PHC organizations also offer continuous open recruitment (or continuous open bidding) after the designated recruitment period. IFC has a designated one-week rush period in the fall and spring. This week is regulated and monitored, but participants are not registered or tracked.