Prince William campus gets first executive officer

Annie Burris will start her role as Executive Officer of the Prince William campus in October (photo courtesy of Georgia Health Sciences University).
Annie Burris will start her role as Executive Officer of the Prince William campus in October (photo courtesy of Georgia Health Sciences University).

After years of expansion at the George Mason University Prince William campus, Mason has hired its first executive to oversee operations and ongoing changes to the campus.

In the middle of rush-hour traffic, Annie Hunt Burriss had much to say about her new home at the university.

"I'm ready to work hard," Burriss said in a phone interview. "I'm going to create an environment where people can succeed and be happy and innovative."

Burriss joins Mason after serving on the president’s cabinet of Georgia Health Sciences University for five years. She served as special assistant to the president and director of economic development.

Burriss will begin her new role as the head executive of the Prince William campus on October 12th.

"It was decided last spring that we need a central administrative authority on the campus," said Provost Peter Stearns, who made the final decision to hire Burriss. "Partly to coordinate the campus itself, but particularly to help with outreach and coordinate economic development."

According to Burriss, the first step in this process is to listen.

"I'm listening to the ideas of the Prince William leadership of business and government and the GMU leadership communities, as well as the president who is creating his vision of GMU," Burriss said. "I think it's important to listen to other peoples’ ideas and to synthesize them into a future plan."

A search committee chaired by Dean Mark Ginsberg from the College of Education and Human Development chose her for the position. Many applications were considered before the list was narrowed to the few that came in for interviews.

"She did a very impressive interview," Stearns said. "The search committee was very enthusiastic and I agreed with them. Her track record and the fact that she has worked extensively in the life sciences, these were what sold us.”

Burriss will collaborate with the deans of various schools located at Prince William, including the Colleges of Science, Performing Arts and Human Development.

She is particularly enthusiastic about continuing her work with life sciences.

"A lot of medical research we're doing is attractive to the life sciences industry," Burriss said. "They want biologists, chemists, business majors, and educators. To quote Benjamin Franklin, this industry is all about 'doing well by doing good.'''

For students, this means that more opportunities in these fields will be available at the Prince William campus, including internships.

 "What I want is a greater array of business activity out there, which among other things will provide internship opportunities for our students in these fields," Stearns said. "I think it will make the Prince William campus a much richer and livelier educational experience than it now is."

"One of our challenges is motivating students to take the trouble to go out there," Stearns said. "I want to increase the motivation."

Burriss also described her vision for the Prince William campus as it being an attraction for Mason students.           

"I hope that when people come out that they will find an atmosphere that is so dynamic and exciting that it is where they will choose to be," Burriss said. "My dream is to be behind the scenes, helping these talented people in faculty and staff that are really good at what they do." 

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