GMU Looking To Raise Profile And $15 Million

By Ellen McCarthy
Thursday, May 5, 2005

Each of the 300 technology professionals who attended the annual gala for George Mason University's School of Information Technology and Engineering Friday evening walked away with a compact disc of classical music containing a thinly veiled message from Lloyd Griffiths , dean of the department.

"With the help of corporate sponsors and individuals like yourself, we'll move the School of IT and Engineering into a position of true national prominence and leadership," Griffiths says on the CD.

Translation: Get out your checkbooks, Mr. and Ms. Tech Exec of Northern Virginia; we're about to come calling for some of that cash in your piggy banks.

It won't be official until fall, but Griffiths and his faculty are already dropping plenty of hints about their plans to revamp the department and increase its status as a center for technology research -- and about the millions of dollars they'll need to accomplish those goals.

GMU's standing among schools of technology came into question last fall when Eugene J. Huang , Virginia's secretary of technology, suggested that the region consider an alternative to GMU for a major research institution to feed the technology industry in Northern Virginia.

Griffiths dismissed those concerns then, and now says he's grateful to Huang for shining a spotlight on the issue.

The dean's eyes light up as he thumbs through a black portfolio filled with drawings of a new, 180,000-square-foot building designed for the IT and engineering school. The structure -- which will include 20,000 square feet of space for tech companies -- comes with a $45 million price tag that Griffiths is hoping his friends in the tech sector will help defray.

The building will house existing faculty and departments as well as a new center for the study of bio-IT. Griffiths thinks this line of research will eventually put GMU on the map with leading technology universities such as Stanford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The plan is to raise $10 million to help fund the building and at least $5 million more for scholarships and salary packages intended to lure notable scholars away from other universities.

The school's advisory board includes such local tech heavyweights as Daniel R. Bannister , former chief executive of DynCorp ; Edward H. Bersoff , founder of BTG Inc. ; and Kathy Clark , former chief executive of Landmark Systems Corp., who are likely to be among the biggest supporters of the initiative.

"Does somebody want their name on a building? I don't know, but if they do, they'll have it there," Griffiths says with a smile. For the right price, that is.

MicroStrategy Inc . happily told investors last Thursday that its first-quarter revenue rose 22 percent, while profit jumped 45 percent.

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