Campbell joins George Mason’s research enterprise


Sarah Campbell, George Mason University’s new associate vice president of research for defense and security initiatives, joined the university in February 2024. She comes to George Mason with close to 20 years of experience in academia, government, and defense, most recently serving as the chief of staff at University of Maryland’s Applied Research Lab for Intelligence and Security. A George Mason alum, Campbell graduated with a master’s in international commerce and policy in 2011.

Sarah Campbell
Sarah Campbell. Photo provided

What attracted you to this position at Mason?

I was attracted to this position and George Mason writ large because of the impact the university is making, and I wanted to be part of the future growth potential as we drive transformative change. George Mason is a young university so the faculty and staff here have a growth mindset and are adaptable to change faster than most organizations. My background aligns with the cross-disciplinary collaborative approach to achieving ambitious research and development goals. I have experienced successes at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the University of Maryland in large-scale research operations and strategic partnerships that will help propel the objectives of the Office of Research, Innovation, and Economic Impact (ORIEI) well.

Yours is a new role in the Office of Research, Innovation, and Economic Impact. What have you been charged to do in this role?

Over the course of the last year, ORIEI has been on an internal realignment/reorganization project to better serve the greater George Mason research community. To that effect, I will be working closely with the VPR [Andre Marshall] and the other members of his executive leadership team on this effort with the shared goal to increase operational efficiency and effectiveness, enhance Mason’s ability to scale research and build infrastructure, and improve risk management and compliance. I am also responsible for managing special projects that strengthen George Mason's position as a leader in innovation and research.

I will also focus on organizing and elevating the various defense and security initiatives to enhance the university's research profile. I will work closely with university leadership and the respective academic units to identify university-wide applied research goals, key resource needs, and funding sources to support defense and security programs at George Mason. I hope to advance a shared university-wide vision and execution for defense and security projects.

In your first weeks, you've been taking a deep dive into George Mason's research enterprise. What have you discovered?

I’ve confirmed what I already knew—George Mason is a wonderful and supportive community of incredibly accomplished and respected intellectual leaders. It is also clear the university has seen significant growth in research expenditures, furthering its competitive advantage as a large player in the area of research.

In those individuals with whom I’ve had the pleasure of connecting in my first few months, the dedication to breaking down silos for enhanced collaborative research is refreshing and something that will only continue to expand the research activity on campus in a way that benefits our faculty and students. This vibrant environment is ripe to further strategic initiatives, especially in the biohealth, sustainability, and quantum and digital innovation domains, which often have interesting intersections in the defense and security space.

What do you hope to tackle first?

My initial focus will be to enhance the infrastructure and systems supporting research collaboration, and ensure it is fully integrated with Mason's strategic objectives. As the research enterprise has grown significantly over the last several years, our infrastructure and supporting systems have not necessarily kept up, and we need to take a look at how we scale effectively and how we manage the ever-changing compliance environment for federal research for greatest impact.

What do you do for fun?

For fun I am usually consumed by the activities of my three very energetic school-aged sons. As a family, we also like to travel, go to the beach, attend sporting events, and spend time with friends. I personally enjoy cooking and exercising to decompress, along with getting outside when I can for long walks.