George Mason University is the top-ranked university in Virginia, and No. 7 nationally, for LGBTQ+ students, according to Best Colleges.
The ranking adds to Mason’s reputation for inclusivity and accessibility that was spotlighted by a five-star premier rating from the Campus Pride Index, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to creating safe LGBTQ+-friendly environments at colleges and universities.
“It’s an acknowledgment that Mason is the place to be, particularly in Virginia, for LGBTQ students,” said Josh Kinchen (he/ze), director of Mason’s LGBTQ+ Resources Center.
For Kinchen, what distinguishes Mason is what he called “genuine authentic support among faculty and staff, and representation at every level of our administration from folks who are themselves out as LGBTQ+ people.”
That support, he said, creates “a true desire throughout the university to engage with how we can do better for LGBTQ+ people, students, and also employees.”
Added Rose Pascarell, vice president for University Life: “Mason takes seriously its commitment to access and providing a welcoming environment to everyone on our campuses, and rankings such as these are a welcome reminder to our existing and prospective students. The message is that Mason is not just trying to create a welcoming environment, but our practices and policies reflect that.”
Mason has been a consistent leader in creating an LGBTQ+-friendly campus.
The LGBTQ+ Resources Center has operated for more than 20 years and provides leadership and mentoring programs, and a clothing resource for trans and nonbinary students.
Mason’s LGBTQ+ Faculty/Staff Alliance is a space in which the university’s LGBTQ+ employees can find community. And the Lamba Alumni Chapter of the Alumni Association is one of the oldest LGBTQ+ alumni chapters in the country, according to the Campus Pride Index.
Mason’s Learning Communities, including the LGBTQ+ Learning Community, allow like-minded students to live in the same residence hall, fostering connections and creating access to resources. The university also has a gender-inclusive housing policy for students living outside the Learning Community.
Mason also worked directly with Fairfax, Virginia, this year on the city’s first-ever Pride celebration.
William Barker (they/he), a rising junior and chair of Mason’s Queer Student Leadership Council, said Mason’s Best College ranking is a reflection of the university’s commitment to encourage opportunities for everyone.
“It’s about opening doors,” the public administration major said. “I’ve had a lot of opportunities here at Mason and it’s all because it has been very supportive of the LGBTQ+ community.”
That doesn’t mean the work is done, Kinchen said. But he is encouraged because “there’s an actual ecosystem for LGBTQ+ affirmation at Mason. There is an understanding that this is part of who we are, and that is important.”
Best Colleges created its rankings in partnership with Campus Pride Index, while applying its own metrics to assess institutions’ academic quality and affordability, its website says.