Another year in the books….

This is commencement week at George Mason and marks the end of another academic year at once of the most dynamic higher education institutions in America. I continue to be amazed at the growth of this place. With the Washington DC area topping many of the human development metrics, it’s easy to imagine what we might look like in a decade or two and be filled with optimism.

Here at the Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study, we’ll be celebrating the minting of new PhD’s, our first short-course collaboration with the Santa Fe Institute and a incredibly intense scientific year. Our final Institute seminar brought Nobel Laureate, Bert Sakmann to campus. Our PI’s work on areas ranging from molecular neuroscience to complex simulations of labor markets, all with the common themes of complexity and cognition (writ large).

Next week, we come back and head into our annual science retreat where we walk the walk of transdisciplinary scholarship. I’m really looking forward to it.

Finally, there’s the professional satisfaction of seeing some of my fine neuroscience undergraduate students stand up and be awarded their bachelors degree this Saturday. Priceless.

Academic Year 2011-2012: Perspectives

As we get ready this week for the return of our students and the beginning of another academic year, it’s useful to take a bit of time for some perspective on what lies ahead here at the Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study…..

In terms of research, the Institute’s full complement of wet labs are now on-line and, together with our faculty, constitute a critical mass to move the experimental aspects of our neuroscience inquiries forward. We are well-funded, we have imaginative scientists and students, and we can ask the next level of questions. This is propitious for high-risk, high-payoff experimental science.

At the same time, we are engaging with students at all levels of higher-education, through our programs. The quality and quantity of our students continues to increase. This is both a function of commitment and support for graduate education from the central administration here at Mason, but also of some recent private gifts, which ensure our ability to attract and train the very brightest.

We are also committed to enhancing undergraduate education here at Mason as part of the University’s Quality Enhancement Program, Students as Scholars. Embedding undergraduate student scholarship within an institute for advanced study represents an “out-of-the-box” approach to improving learning outcomes, particularly in STEM fields.

We are also getting traction on our Krasnow Phase III project (stay tuned for images) which will expand our computational social sciences programs beyond what they are now, and, at the same time, bring them under the central roof of the Krasnow Institute facility. My hope is to raise approximately $14M in new gifts over the next year or so, to bring Phase III into being.

We are also moving ahead full-speed into two new arenas for the Institute: executive education and international initiatives. In some cases, we’ll combine the two. The goal is to broaden the Institute for Advanced Study’s research and education portfolio. We’ll work closely with other academic units here at Mason and our long-term external partners in these efforts.

It’s an exciting time to be serving as institute director and chief academic unit officer. I’m looking forward to a great year.