By Mark F. Gray
AFRO Staff Writer
mgray@afro.com

For the first time in the 70-year history of the institution, George Mason University (GMU) will be led by a Black president. Dr. Gregory Washington, dean of the Henry Samueli School of Engineering at University of California-Irvine, was selected to become GMU’s eighth president by its board of visitors Feb. 24.

Dr. Washington will officially assume the job and become the first African-American president on the Fairfax, Virginia campus July 1. Though he has made his mark in the college administrative world on the west coast, Washington received his bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees at North Carolina State University.

“What attracted me to Mason was its reputation for having real impact, providing access and for its commitment to inclusive excellence,” Washington said. “Those values are in direct alignment with how I operate as an academic leader. I look forward to helping continue to accelerate the trajectory of the institution.”

George Mason’s new president is also noted for being an accomplished researcher who has written over 150 technical publications in journals, while leading the course of diversity in faculty recruitment and student enrollment. Dr. Washington has been recognized for building one of the most diverse engineering faculties in the country, with more than 60 new members to his staff and more than 40 percent of those faculty being women or minorities. While at University of California-Irvine he expanded undergraduate enrollment by 1,100 students and graduate enrollment by more than 200 in seven years.

“He worked closely with his colleagues, both on campus and throughout the community, to establish integrated research opportunities and a robust pipeline of future engineers,” said GMU Vice Rector Jimmy Hazel. 

One of Washington’s major accomplishments was establishing OC STEM, one of the nation’s first STEM ecosystems, in Orange County, Calif. The program has impacted over 2,500 students annually and more than 250 K-12 teachers and administrators. He also established a citywide effort to help build bridges, which helps community college students transfer to four-year institutions.

He worked closely with his colleagues, both on campus and throughout the community, to establish integrated research opportunities and a robust pipeline of future engineers, said Enrique J. Lavernia, provost and executive vice chancellor at University of California-Irvine. “I have been impressed with his accomplishments, both as a provost and as a member of this faculty.”

Dr. Washington’s selection concluded an eight-month national search. The new president will oversee four regional campuses in Fairfax, Arlington, Prince William and Loudoun Counties. The school also has instructional sites in Herndon, Lorton, Woodbridge and Front Royal, Va.  George Mason has an undergraduate enrollment of 26,192 students according to U.S. News and World Report.

“While he is proud of his engineering success, he has a clear understanding of the importance of other disciplines, such as the arts, humanities, and athletics, as well as faculty issues and student life and that all these are part of the Mason community,” Hazel said.

Washington becomes the second Black president with an engineering academic background hired by a major university in the area within the last month. He follows Darryll Pines, who became the first African American hired to the same position at the University of Maryland. Ironically, both will be sworn in on July 1.