Mason is No. 1 among public institutions for research performance in entrepreneurship


George Mason University is No. 1 among public universities for research performance in entrepreneurship, and No. 2 overall nationally, in the latest report from EduRank.

students at work in the mix
Students at work in the MIX. Photo by Evan
Cantwell/Office of University Branding

The rankings were determined by analyzing 1.8 billion citations received by academic publications and the popularity of recognized alumni, according to EduRank’s website.

“There are so many ways to think about academia as being isolated and away from the real world,” said Stefanie Haeffele, a senior research fellow at Mason’s Mercatus Center. “But all of the departments and different programs at Mason are connected to how we understand people and interact in the world. It’s great to see the recognition and that intention leads to really good things.”

The ranking comes on the heels of a $50 million planned gift to Mason—the largest school naming gift in the history of the Northern Virginia-based university—to name the Donald G. Costello College of Business. The planned gift establishes an endowment that will provide scholarships to undergraduate and graduate business students to help them prepare for successful careers as entrepreneurs.

The ranking also coincides with the establishment of Mason’s new Entrepreneur-in-Residence program that will be housed at Fuse at Mason Square and bolster the startup market and opportunities in the Washington, D.C., area and across Virginia.

That rich environment of innovation is a main contributor to the university’s R1 designation from the Carnegie Classification of Higher Education as one the top research universities in the nation.

someone presenting at Accelerate
Harsha Rajasimha presented Jeeva Informatics at Mason's venture capital conference, Accelerate 2022, in October. Rajasimha took part in Mason's I-Corps program. Photo by Max Taylor Photography

It also fosters a business and entrepreneurship ecosystem at Mason that is committed to solving the world’s grand challenges by nurturing fearless leaders and thinkers.

Dynamic educational platforms in the School of Business include the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which provides several ways for students to dig into entrepreneurship, from the theoretical to the experimental.

At the Mason Innovation Exchange (MIX), students, faculty, and staff can use makerspaces, media labs, and incubators. The National Science Foundation I-Corps program works on exploratory business ventures started by faculty, staff, students and recent alumni. 

The Office of Research Innovation and Economic Impact has overall responsibility for Mason’s research enterprise and to support entrepreneurship and innovation. And the boots-on-the-ground Mason Enterprise in 2022 provided—mostly free of charge—40,000 hours of one-on-one counseling to 10,000 small businesses. 

“A No. 1 ranking in this space is what’s possible when you have a president [Gregory Washington] and a vice president for research [Andre W. Marshall] who understand the importance of playing an economic development role in the region and the state,” said Paula Sorrell, who is associate vice president for innovation and economic development at Mason and oversees Mason Enterprise.

Research is the bedrock on which entrepreneurship is built, said Zoltan Acs, professor emeritus in Mason’s Schar School of Policy and Government and a renowned expert in the field.

The research can include the study of the cognitive nature of individual entrepreneurs and their companies, how entrepreneurship impacts employment and productivity, and how it impacts people’s lives.

“And if you really think about what [Mason] did in the classroom and in the laboratory in terms of research,” said Acs, now a research fellow at Mathias Corvinus Collegium in Budapest, who has written more than 200 articles and 30 books about his inquiries, “we were really an A or A-plus institution.”

Mason research includes reams of papers from faculty published in top journals such as Research Policy, Small Business Economics, Journal of Business Venturing, and Entrepreneurship and Regional Development.

“For entrepreneurship, innovation is very important, so we want to improve the area,” said Lei Gao, associate professor of finance in the School of Business, whose Mason research has been published in the Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, Research Policy, and the Journal of Banking and Finance.

“Breakthroughs in technology and innovation are necessary to push a whole company to grow fast,” Gao said. “So what kind of factors lead to more effective innovation?”

Haeffele’s Mercatus research includes how communities respond and recover after disasters, and her paper, “Entrepreneurship During a Pandemic,” was published in the Journal of Law and Economics.

“The role of entrepreneurship in society matters,” said the Mason alumnus, MA Economics ’10, PhD Economics ’16. “To be at a place where we care about putting theory into practice, and being recognized for that, is really great.”