Being “there” implies complacency. It implies that students, staff, faculty and administration are content with what this institution has become. And it suggests that Mason, a university based solely upon the principal of innovation, has nothing left to innovate.

On Monday, The U.S. News and World Report compiled its data and released to the public its fifth annual list of the best universities. The criteria focused on universities that are making the most promising changes in the area of academics, faculty and student life and, after claiming the No. 1 spot in 2011, Mason was pinned as the No. 1 up-and-coming university in the nation.

It may seem off-base and out-of-touch to consistently refer to any institution as up-and-coming. It seems natural that, at some point, the university would finally arrive at its intended destination and graduate to a list of more stagnant universities.

Not a chance.

An old Hindu proverb states, “There is nothing noble about being superior to some other man. The true nobility is being superior to your previous self.”

It would be an incredible honor for Mason to frequently top the list of up-and-coming universities for the rest of the institution’s existence. Such an honor denotes an attitude of challenging oneself, and ones’ students, to strive to be better. It denotes an approach that is forever adjusting and forever adapting to the changing landscape of the college education.

Mason is a different type of university. We are very much unlike the University of Virginia. We are different from Virginia Tech. And we are different from William & Mary.

But different does not mean worse.

The rate at which this university has grown is exponential. At just 40 years old, Mason has grown into the largest institution in Virginia in terms of student enrollment and has surpassed the giants in our state. We have continued to expect more, demanding higher qualifications for freshman applicants, and we have made significant strides in challenging students to go out and experience their education.

Mason has been up-and-coming for several years and we have attained an incredible feat – not that we have been recognized, but that we continue to be recognized as a university that is still coming.

We do not set our sights on being better or more prestigious than other institutions. We focus our goals on becoming a better, more prestigious, more up-and-coming Mason.

Are we “there” yet? Well, I hope we never are.