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George Mason University President Gregory Washington welcomed thousands of new students Friday by informing them they had already made two of the most important decisions of their lives—whether and where to go to college.
“I contend to you, these are great choices!” Washington told the newest Patriots at a spirited New Student Convocation at EagleBank Arena. Mason this fall welcomes the largest (about 4,200) and most diverse freshman class in its history.
Washington rattled off several points to support his contention—the opportunity to work alongside world-class faculty at a top research university, diverse student demographics that resemble what the country will soon look like, bountiful internship and job opportunities in the Washington, D.C., region, and a host of others.
“They’re all keys to your success,” Washington said, with special shout-outs to first-generation students and community college transfers. “Just take a key and open a door…. Mason is a place where the only limits are the limits you place on yourself.”
Provost Mark Ginsberg posed a question to the students, asking, “Do you know what time it is? It’s Mason’s Time,” he said to cheers. “It’s also another time. It’s your time. It’s your time to explore. It’s your time to meet new friends. It’s your time to learn new things. And it’s your time to push yourself to new heights.”
Faculty keynote speaker Karen Akerlof, assistant professor in the College of Science, encouraged the students to engage in “good trouble” by determining what social changes they would like to see on campus, in their hometowns, or even nationally or internationally, and what actions they can take to help achieve them.
To spur opportunities for student impact, Akerlof said the Office of Community Engagement and Civic Learning (CECIL) will host monthly hour-long “community conversation circles” throughout the fall semester.
“You don’t have to wait until you come back here for graduation in your robes to start thinking about and acting on the ways in which you want to make an impact on the world,” Akerlof said. “Both in and outside of the classroom, this university is a place where you can explore these questions, work with others, and make your voices heard.”
Doc Nix and the Green Machine surely got the students to make their voices heard in a different context—by teaching them the university fight song and making a date to meet back up at EagleBank Arena on October 14 to kick off basketball season with Mason Madness.
Mason student body president Sophia Nguyen recalled feeling confused and overwhelmed, yet eager, as a first-year Mason student, but said she soon busied herself in various campus activities.
“You’ll find that there’s always something every day for everyone here at Mason,” said Nguyen, who held a White House internship this summer. “You just have to be open to finding it.”
Washington emphasized to the incoming students to be mindful of their mental health and to take advantage of the many resources available to help them.
“Remember one thing,” he said. “You are not alone. You are never alone—even if you might feel that way sometimes. This is indeed a family, and you are a part of that family.
“Our faculty, staff, students and alumni—we all take care of each other. And we’re going to take care of you, too.”