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O3V Partner Lisa Donnan Featured in GMU Engineering Article

This article was originally published on on 08/02/20

As Mason Engineering’s enrollment and research continue their upward trajectory and the School of Computing prepares to launch, the engineering school’s advisory board is actively supporting Dean Ken Ball and the administration.

“It’s an exciting time to be at the Volgenau School of Engineering (VSE),” says Lisa Donnan, the advisory board’s new chair and a partner at Option3Ventures.

“When I joined the board almost a decade ago, Volgenau was about five percent of the student body at Mason; now, with more than 8,000 students (2019-2020 academic year), we are over 20 percent, and we’re the largest school on campus. We would like to be about 10,000 students by 2024.

“We’ve grown so much, but we have so much more to do because the country needs a strong engineering capacity,” Donnan says. “As we are seeing with COVID, technology is enabling us to change the way we work and live.”

The board’s agenda is to support and enable the school and university strategy, she says. “We are an engaged board.”

It meets four times a year formally and has other meetings as needed. “We have committees that take on specific initiatives that are deemed strategic to the school, dean, and the collective board. For instance, one advisory board committee worked on building relationships with federal agencies to increase job and internship opportunities for engineering students,” Donnan says.

Next up, the group plans to help the school increase research and development expenditures.  “We have had significant growth in sponsored expenditures, but we will need more agility to continue this growth trajectory, including facilities, staffing, and more sponsors,” she says.

The board is supporting the administration’s plans for the School of Computing. “We’re so excited about it, and the advisory board is in complete support of the school—and it being part of the College of Engineering and Computing.”

Members do well when they are about objectives and outcomes, Donnan says. “Our advisory board has a lot of passionate folks who are results-oriented.

“We saw this amplified when we decided on the need for a Department of Cyber Security Engineering. We first began with supporting the development of the bachelor’s program, which has been very successful, and then we moved to support a master’s degree … and we are taking our first students this fall,” Donnan says.

“There is such a demand for cybersecurity engineers in this country that it just made sense to launch a multidisciplinary program. It was exciting to see it come together.”

Liza Wilson Durant, VSE’s associate dean for strategic initiatives and community engagement, says, “Our board members are deeply engaged with our faculty and students and are invested in our success and its impact on the success of the region. They bring their leadership, organizational and technical expertise to guide new programs, emerging areas for research, and our strategic growth.

“Our newest and most successful programs were developed in partnership with our board members and their organizations and those relationships have positioned VSE to meet industry and government’s technical and talent needs in real-time,” Durant says. “The impact of their service extends beyond George Mason University and is having an impact on the talent-shed across the entire region.”



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