Accelerated by the pandemic, the nation’s economy has endured drastic changes in the last year, with unemployment rates skyrocketing and joblessness peaking in April 2020 at an all-time high. Even with an improved economic outlook for the balance of 2021, Mason needs to take a critical role to ensure the revitalization of the region’s economy.

An educated, multifaceted, and skilled workforce is the engine that drives economies forward. Mason is a proven innovator in new pathways to a quality education that is both affordable and accessible. Our students aren’t just experts in their fields—they’re also well-versed in technology, strong critical thinkers and effective communicators, and equipped in all the fundamental soft skills that employers indicate are imperative for professional success.

In tandem, we’re looking for ways to further empower the region’s workforce by serving more types of learners and creating more programs and modules that are immediately relevant to the region’s employers. And we’re not acting alone. Investing in our local economy means cultivating our existing private and public partnerships—and forging new ones—to drive innovation.

Healthy Economy Spotlight

A Dynamic Regional Transformation

In the next five years, Mason’s Arlington Campus will undergo a $250 million transformation that will serve as a critical catalyst for the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, a dynamic and growing innovation district with a thriving high-tech ecosystem. Mason’s Institute for Digital InnovAtion (IDIA) will support the university’s tech-based research and related educational programs and provide collaboration and convening spaces to support public programming for the Arlington community.

“The plans we have for our Arlington Campus promise to connect Mason to the Northern Virginia community in ways that we haven't been able to do before,” says Paula Sorrell, associate vice president for innovation and economic development.

“We intend to make it clear that Mason is the region's research university, and that we're fully committed to working with all of our partners in the Rosslyn-Ballston innovation corridor, in the region, and far beyond.”

Concept rendering by Mason Innovation Partners / EYP

Healthy Economy Spotlight

Seamlessly Transferring with ADVANCE

Just a few years ago we introduced ADVANCE, our unique partnership with Northern Virginia Community College that allows students to seamlessly transfer to Mason while saving time, money, and credits. With a $1 million grant from Strada Education Network, we subsequently launched the ADVANCE Career Accelerator Toolkit, a first-of-its-kind web-based application designed to help prospective students select majors based on desired career outcomes and better communicate to employers how their experiences relate to prospective jobs.

“This work is another example of how Mason is creating access to excellence for our students,” says Mason Provost Mark Ginsberg.

“We provide the necessary conditions for students to excel and experience transformational learning throughout their time with us. At the same time, we also ensure that the knowledge they gain is of consequence, that they can use it to contribute effectively to society.”

Healthy Economy Spotlight

A Liaison between Policy and Practice

Assistant professor of accounting Bret Johnson, who was awarded a one-year academic fellowship with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), is assisting with oversight of accounting and auditing issues, helping companies implement new accounting standards, and sharing the latest academic research on economic and financial reporting regulatory issues.

“Almost all of my research has to do with the SEC and how the SEC affects company behavior,” Johnson says. “I’m grateful to have this opportunity to contribute directly to the work of the SEC by being a liaison between academia and the regulators.”

Mason professors and students are shaping policy in a variety of places, including the Securities and Exchange Commission in Washington, D.C.

Healthy Economy Spotlight

Impactful Partnering with the Region

In 2020, the Mason-based Virginia Small Business Development Center Network (SBDC) assisted 9,500 businesses, resulting in $86 million in new capital received and 1,167 loans obtained.

“SBDC staff really were early responders when the crisis hit, helping businesses get the information they needed and the resources and assistance to apply for the disaster financing and develop new marketing and business plans to respond to their rapidly changing environments,” says Virginia SBDC state director Jody Keenan.

Healthy Economy Spotlight

The Tools to Reach Further

Via the Continuing and Professional Education Program, Mason is developing and delivering professional certification for entry-level and middle managers looking to advance their careers and is focused on serving dislocated workers with degrees and helping them fill a skill gap—known as upskilling—that improves their eligibility for a career switch.

“Mason’s microcredentialing effort brings our faculty closer to our industry partners and opportunities to engage and incorporate emerging industry-use cases and applications for the principles and theories they are teaching,” says Liza Wilson Durant, associate dean for strategic initiatives and community engagement at the Volgenau School of Engineering.

A Healthy Economy Requires Healthy People

Maintaining a healthy economy is paramount to the success of the region and the world, but none of this progress is possible without the contributions of a healthy workforce. As the pandemic illustrated, a health crisis of national or global proportions can quickly send economies tanking and wipe out decades of growth. Read on to see how Mason is taking lessons learned from the pandemic and approaching human health from multiple angles.