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Distributed Campuses

Distributed Campuses

George Mason has its largest campus in Fairfax, though it eschews the term “main campus.” It also has increasingly thriving campuses in Prince William and Arlington and various other sites.

The distributed campus principle is meant to be an alternative to branch campuses. Each of the three main campuses has some distinctive programs not replicated elsewhere. There is a single academic administration for the entire university rather than separate provosts, regional deans and so on. This is a desirable framework, but also a challenging and demanding one, and we continue to fine-tune.

Arlington is in many ways well-defined with little undergraduate activity and three major graduate and professional units: law, public policy, and conflict analysis and resolution (this last, however, runs undergraduate programs in Fairfax). We will seek to add some further research efforts in Arlington and work to improve daytime classroom utilization, but many character features are set.

Prince William houses our major research facilities in the life sciences. It also, however, centers important undergraduate programs in IT as well as Health, Recreation and Tourism, which means, among other things, that some undergraduates housed in Fairfax travel to the campus recurrently. The campus also boasts some new but thriving medical education programs collaborative with the Georgetown Medical School. A great deal of attention focuses as well on regional economic development with, again, a number of successes particularly in the biomedical field. Classroom utilization, long a problem, is now quite strong, and indeed, space is an issue. At the same time, a fully settled campus definition remains a work in progress, and it’s fair to anticipate continued evolution.

Sites include activities in Loudoun County, where a potential campus awaits further planning and additional local support, a probable environmental studies center at Belmont Bay, a probable center for continuing and professional education in the expanding Tysons area, and new buildings being developed in Mason’s collaborative Center for Conservation Studies with the Smithsonian at Front Royal. And there’s also active interest in a more direct presence in the District of Columbia.

All of this is to say, first, that the regional presence of the university is broadly established, and indeed Mason has arguably become the clearest organizing regional institution; second, that the range of facilities and prospects remains fascinating; and third, that the dynamism of current and probable plans around the distributed campus concept will present important opportunities and administrative challenges in the near future.