Statement from the Dean

Painting pinned to a black fence

Learning from the past, understanding the present, and devising paths to peace and progress

The College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHSS) has, throughout its history, been a leader in diversity, equity, and inclusion work at George Mason University. Grounded in the liberal arts tradition of studying human experience, beliefs, languages, cultures, histories, societal structures, and forms of creative expression, it has encouraged and supported its scholars, staff, and students in their work towards creating a more just and equitable future for all. 

In 2020, a convergence of events brought us as a nation, university, and individuals to a pivotal moment of decision: do we turn a blind eye to the inequity and injustice before us, or do we make diversity, equity and inclusion a top priority and begin the arduous work of confronting and changing the structures and systems with which we were familiar? 

President Gregory Washington, in an act of boldness and bravery befitting a Mason Patriot, chose the latter. “In my opinion, it is the act of a Patriot not to deny the contradictions in our history, our community, and our own lives but to face them, embrace them, and grow honestly through them,” he said in his opening statement as Mason’s newest president.  

Education is one of our greatest tools in the fight for equity and justice. We must all be open to learning, changing, and acknowledging our missteps and mistakes in order to become better advocates and allies and to transform our institution. As Mason is the most diverse research university in the Commonwealth as well as one of the most diverse R1s in the nation, the College of Humanities and Social Sciences is uniquely positioned to provide the resources and research necessary to create a diverse, equitable, and inclusive world. Vartan Gregorian, the president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, describes the humanities and the social sciences as “a way for this country to learn from the past, understand the present, and devise paths to progress and peace.” This is not a charge one can passively accept: we must work diligently, thoughtfully, and intentionally each day.  

For us, diversity, equity, and inclusion are not buzz words: they are the weight-bearing pillars of our community. It is why our faculty, staff, and students were major contributors to President Washington’s Anti-Racism and Inclusive Excellence Taskforce. It is why our students and faculty led the historical and archival research on George Mason IV’s contradictory legacies that led to the redesign of Wilkins Plaza to encompass a memorial to the Enslaved People of George Mason. It is why we all must continue to make a concerted effort to address and resolve structural and systemic inequities.  

Our work on diversity, equity, and inclusion concerns not only our individual thoughts and actions, but also the work of our departments, the college, and the university as a whole. Through our Inclusive Excellence plan, we are reviewing organizational structures and practices in order to assess where and how we can make our college a more accepting, supportive, and welcoming place for all.  

This college has an opportunity, I believe, to lead the way at Mason in creating more diverse, equitable, and inclusive systems, structures, and organizational culture. Because this work demands transparency in order to achieve accountability, and because there will always be opportunities to learn from each other as we pilot new practices and structures, this site will serve as a public repository for our departments’ and interdisciplinary programs’ IE SMART goals. It will also be a venue for showcasing college-level initiatives, events, and resources. And it will feature DEI projects and initiatives by faculty, staff, and students.  

President Washington’s challenge to all of us as Mason Patriots lays the foundation for the next chapter in this college’s history:  “not to deny the contradictions in our history, our community, and our own lives but to face them, embrace them, and grow honestly through them,” as we model in all of our day-to-day interactions the civility, respect, and sensitivity to cultural nuances and cultural differences that will make all members of our community feel safe, heard, respected, valued, and truly welcome. 


Ann Ardis signature

Ann Ardis
Dean, College of Humanities and Social Sciences