George Mason University's Board of Visitors voted unanimously Thursday to select Angel Cabrera, the president of an international business school in Arizona, as its new president.
Cabrera, 44, was introduced at a news conference immediately following the board's vote. He will replace Alan Merten, who is retiring in June after a 16-year run in which he oversaw rapid growth in the school's enrollment and reputation.
Cabrera, a native of Spain, is currently the president of the Thunderbird School of Global Management in Glendale, Ariz., a private graduate school that has received top rankings for its international MBA program.
Cabrera's international background and expertise will serve him well at Mason, which has an incredibly diverse student body fueled by the increasingly international flavor of the student pool in the northern Virginia suburbs.
Board members said they selected Cabrera out of an initial batch of more than 400 prospects because they were impressed with his entrepreneurial spirit and his energy and people skills.
``He kind of has a sparkle about him,'' said Lovey Hammel, who led the Board of Visitors' search committee.
One thing Cabrera does not have is experience at a public university and the budget battles with state legislatures that accompany such a position. Cabrera said he plans to listen and learn to get up to speed on those issues.
Rector Ernst Volgenau said Cabrera's lack of experience at a public university - before serving as president at Thunderbird, he was professor and dean at the IE Business School in Madrid _ was discussed by the board, but said his overall strengths outweighed his lack of experience at a U.S. state school.
``We wanted an energetic leader,'' Volgenau said. ``We really do think we can go to the next level of being a world-class institution.''
Mason has grown and enhanced its reputation in 16 years under Merten. Enrollment has increased from 24,000 to 33,000 while at the same time becoming more selective, with its acceptance rate declining from 75 percent to 50 percent. In 2008, U.S. News and World Report named Mason the nation's top ``up-and-coming'' university in its influential rankings.
Cabrera said he was attracted to Mason by that success and the innovative ways they have achieved it.
``It really has transformed itself,'' he said. ``It's been fascinating to watch for someone that's an educator like me.''
Cabrera will become the sixth president in the history of the university, which was founded in 1972. Volgenau said Cabrera's salary is still being negotiated.