By Dave Andrews
Thousands of new residence hall rooms, robust campus life programming and a growing number of out-of-state students have officially transformed Mason into a “primarily residential” university.
Mason’s reclassification as “primarily residential” comes from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Previously, the foundation gave the university the designation “primarily nonresidential.”
For more than a decade, Mason has used a recipe — adding student housing, increasing on-campus extracurricular activities and expanding academic programs — to solidify its position as an established research institution with a vibrant campus life and to distance itself from a commuter-school image.
The change at Mason can be attributed largely to a dazzling array of new buildings that have permanently altered the campus. To go along with numerous new classrooms, lab spaces and athletic and recreation facilities, administrators have fulfilled their vision for a traditional campus, anchored by state-of-the-art residence halls.
“The campus has really become its own community in recent years, and because of that, there’s a new level of energy and heightened sense of pride among our students,” says Jana Hurley, executive director of housing and residence life.
“The growing number of on-campus residents has been a key reason why we’ve seen such an increase in the number of clubs and student organizations, as well as the number of students taking advantage of our career services and health services.”
Adds Dean of Admissions Andrew Flagel, “For the past several years Mason has focused on enhancing its residential communities, and it is great to see that progress being officially recognized. Next to academic quality and tuition rates, housing is generally the most important factor prospective freshmen list as influencing their college decision.”
Currently, close to one-third of Mason’s undergraduates live on campus, a huge jump from just a decade ago. The on-campus population will have nearly doubled from less than 3,000 students in the year 2000 to 6,000 students by 2012.
“Mason’s development of a neighborhood atmosphere and the rapid increase in campus programming in recent years continue to impress students from across the country and around the world,” Flagel says. “Our massive growth in volume and impressive profiles of freshman applicants are largely due to a combination of a dynamic campus life with an incredible range of regional employment opportunities.”
One freshman, Bryan Dombrowski, a computer game design major, says he chose Mason over the University of Maryland because he liked Mason’s campus better.
The College Park, Md., campus “felt too big,” he says. “Even though Mason is about the same size” in student population, he says the Fairfax Campus “felt smaller and closer together.”
The demand for housing has increased along with the growing number of out-of-state students eager to enroll at Mason. Not long ago, the vast majority of Mason students came from Northern Virginia. But now, the school must be able to cater to many more out-of-staters, as well as those from more distant corners of Virginia.
Freshman economics major Brett Baker hails from Youngstown, Ohio. He says he heard about Mason from one of his brother’s friends who attended. Once he visited the campus and checked out the first-rate economics program, he knew he wanted to come to Mason.
“I like the feel of the campus,” says Baker. “Plus, with our location, you can go into Washington, D.C., if you want.”
Hurley says one of her biggest goals is to continually enhance the student experience by emphasizing all that the university has to offer.
“We have the benefit of having a relatively young campus that has made a conscious decision to go in the direction of expanding our residential offerings,” Hurley says. “We’ve designed facilities and created an overall program that addresses the needs of today’s students, as well as anticipates the needs of future students 10 and 20 years from now.”
Additional reporting by Leah Kerkman Fogarty.