George Mason University graduation 2018

George Mason University students (back row) Phil Dyer, Dalton States, Ryan Bello, Mark Yale and Olivia Lanham and (front row) Savannah Jeter, Cheyenna O'Brien and Madison Lane pose before receiving their diplomas during May 18 commencement ceremonies. (Photo by Brian Trompeter)

George Mason University used the occasion of its 40th anniversary in Arlington on Nov. 20 to flesh out plans for expansion of facilities in the county.

The plans include development of a state-of-the-art, 400,000-square-foot building that will be home to the new School of Computing, as well as the Institute for Digital InnovAtion (IDIA), a university think tank that will welcome more than 1,200 entrepreneurs, researchers, technologists and business leaders from the public and private sectors to anchor what is being termed the Arlington Innovation District.

“We will be using all of our different talents to raise up this corridor from Ballston all the way to Rosslyn, and we are so proud of it,” said Anne Holton, the interim president of the commonwealth’s largest research university.

To meet increased demand for highly skilled graduates, the university has pledged to invest more than $250 million over the next five years to grow programs, hire additional faculty and expand its physical presence in Arlington from its current 700,000 square feet to 1.2 million square feet.

The expanded facilities “will integrate business, community and education to launch a true innovation district,” said Liza Wilson Durant, the associate dean for strategic initiatives and community engagement in Mason’s Volgenau School of Engineering.

Mason currently enrolls more than 6,500 students in its computing programs, and expects to grow that to more than 15,000 by 2024.

Mason dates its presence in Arlington to 1979. The university initially occupied an empty Kann’s Department Store building in the Virginia Square area, with its Arlington campus growing up around it.

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