George Mason University’s Board of Visitors met last Wednesday for its first meeting of the 2010-2011 year, approving several measures as well as welcoming five new members to its ranks.
“Things went very smoothly,” said Peter Pober, chair of Mason’s Faculty Senate. “The meeting was very productive.”

The governor-appointed board that primarily deals in oversight and policy making for Mason has extended President Alan Merten’s contract to serve as president through July 2013, said the board’s rector, Ernst Volgenau.

The board approved the formation of the Office of Global Strategy, which will act as a liaison between Mason and various international institutions, Pober said. In addition, the board approved changing the name of the Volgenau School of Information Technology and Engineering to simply the Volgenau School of Engineering.

The board approved a new Master of Engineering program called GeoConStruct, derived from Geotechnical, Construction and Structural Engineering.

The board approved a measure to consolidate the Department of Bioinformatics and Computational Biology with the Department of Molecular and Microbiology. The new department will be known as the School of Systems Biology within the College of Science, said J. Thomas Hennessey Jr., chief of staff for the Office of Mason’s President.

“More than anything, it provides a unified department on those key areas that were in the past separated,” Hennessey said. “It’s absolutely a positive change.”

The board approved a number of 9C and 9D bond sales to fund several projects across the Mason university system. These projects include new student housing, renovations of existing housing, Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning work at the Aquatic and Fitness Center, life and safety improvements for the Field House and the phase II addition of the Krasnow Institute.

While the bond sales have been approved, contractors must still be selected, Hennessey said. Representatives of Mason can request that bonds be sold by the state to fund new projects.

Bonds are sold to various groups, including investment groups, insurance companies and investment corporations.

The board approved building plans for the Prince William campus, including a mixed-use facility adjacent to the Hylton Performing Arts Center and an expansion of lab space which Hennessey said was “desperately needed.”

The approved measures now go to the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia for approval.

Five new members were appointed to the board, which now has 16 members. Each member has a four-year term, resulting in four vacancies each year. The fifth vacancy was the result of a resignation.

The new members are C. Daniel Clemente, chairman and CEO of Clemente Development Company Inc.; R. Carter Pate, managing partner of PricewaterhouseCoopers; Mark F. McGettrick, executive vice president and CFO of Dominion Resources Inc. and a 1980 graduate of Mason; Nancy Mitchell Pfotenhauer, president of MediaSpeak Strategies and a 1987 graduate of Mason; and David-Imad Ramadan, president of Rama International Inc. and a 1993 and 1995 Mason graduate.