Mason President Welcomes Students to New Academic Year

Posted: August 26, 2011 at 11:03 am, Last Updated: August 26, 2011 at 11:08 am

Text by Robin Herron; video by Paul King

In what has become an annual ritual since he joined Mason in 1996, President Alan Merten donned a bright gold Mason T-shirt emblazoned with his name and took to the parking lots on the Fairfax Campus on Aug. 25 to welcome families as they unloaded cars and moved freshmen into the residence halls.

“Hi, I’m Alan Merten, president of George Mason. Welcome to George Mason!” the president repeated over and over as he extended his hand to the waves of students and parents.

The usual response from parents and students was surprise that the president of a large public university would be out in the parking lot calling out such a welcome.

“Some people are shocked when they find out who I am,” Merten says. “People will read the T-shirt, which I’ve worn now for 16 years, and they’ll come up to me and say, ‘You can’t really be the president.’ And I’ll say, ‘Well, I am the president.’”

Merten joined dozens of staff members in helping to make move-in successful. Many members of campus sororities and fraternities also pitched in to help students with their loads.

“What I enjoy most about move-in day is talking to students and their parents about their expectations,” Merten says. He also uses the opportunity to remind the newcomers that the university has students from all over the world, and that the diversity will enhance their educational experience.

Another thing Merten says he enjoys about move-in day is hearing incoming students and their families talk about “why George Mason.”

“They come here because of George Mason University,” Merten says. “They come here because of a specific program; they come here because of what they feel they can learn in the classroom and outside the classroom. So all the things that we try to do — at this day, I get to see people tell me we did it!”

For Merten, the most recent move-in was the last time he will wear the bright gold “President Merten” T-shirt, as he’ll be stepping down from his post at the end of June 2012. While he says he will miss the annual tradition, the final move-in was “celebratory” for him in a way.

“I will be grateful for what we did in the years that I was president,” Merten says. “And when I’m not president, I’ll continue to do whatever I can to have George Mason continue to grow in every possible way. Go, Mason!”

 

 

 

 

 

Write to mediarel at gazette@gmu.edu