Skip to main content

President's Message | Reports & Announcements


January 28, 2013

 TO: Campus Community
 FROM: Neil Kerwin, President
 SUBJECT: Strategic Plan Objectives, Years 5 & 6


In November 2008, when the Board of Trustees approved American University’s current strategic plan, “Leadership for a Changing World: American University in the Next Decade,” we determined it would be beneficial to set objectives every two years to enable us to mark our progress on the plan’s fundamental goals. These objectives are more specific, largely subject to quantitative measurement and meant to reflect the most important issues related to each goal during the selected two-year period. They have provided the priorities for a number of actions we have taken during the past two years, including the allocations of resources from our budget. This semester will mark the close of the current two-year strategic plan period and the progress we have made on the objectives we set for this two-year period—years 3 and 4 of the strategic plan—can be found online.

Based on discussion in the academic units and the other divisions of the university a new set of objectives for the next two years have been developed and are ready for review, comment, and recommendations by the entire community. Those proposed objectives are attached. Please read them carefully. They have guided the budget requests of the provost and other vice presidents that are currently under consideration. They will be central to my actions on the budget proposals I will soon receive from the University Budget Committee and the proposed budget I will submit to the Board of Trustees for action at their meetings on February.

I plan to review these proposed objectives in detail with the University Council (member list online) when I meet with them this Thursday. I ask every member of the community to review these proposed objectives and take this opportunity to comment and make recommendations for additions or changes. Your ideas can be routed through the leadership of your school, college or division, your representatives on the University Council or sent directly to me at Please submit your comments and recommendations no later than close of business February 7.

I hope you find this rather long list of objectives a signal that we expect to make substantial progress on issues of great importance to the future of the university and the success of our current plan. In any event, I welcome your comments, whatever they may be. I can assure you they will be taken seriously. We will record each and find a means to communicate the action taken on them as soon as possible following the meeting of the board.


1. Epitomize the Scholar-Teacher Ideal

  • Increase the number of term faculty on multi-year contracts by 10 percent over two years.
  • Secure current or deferred commitments to endow at least three new faculty positions by the end of FY2015.
  • Increase scholarly and professional impact of faculty on their fields, as measured by books, journal articles, citations, grants and awards, election of faculty to honorary academies/associations, and comparable evaluations for fields not covered by Academic Analytics.
  • Maintain high level of instructional effectiveness as evidenced by strong SET results, student learning assessments, faculty teaching awards, and other examples of teaching quality.

2. Provide an Unsurpassed Undergraduate Education and Experience

  • Enhance financial aid from institutional and fundraising sources, and continue programs that educate students about ways to reduce loan debt; demonstrate desired results by FY 2015.
  • Increase freshman-to-sophomore retention rate to reach or exceed 90.7 percent by 2014. Improve the sophomore to junior retention rate to reach or exceed 84.4 percent by fall 2015.
  • Increase the retention rate of transfer students after one year to at least 80 percent.
  • Increase the number of courses designed for freshman with enrollments of 20 or fewer that are offered by full-time faculty.
  • Offer new three-year degree programs in SPA and SOC.
  • Prepare proposal and seek approval from the Faculty Senate to revise the University Honbors Program for implementation in fall 2014.
  • Propose and approve new undergraduate programs and expand the opportunities in the sciences.
  • Conduct a review of undergraduate quantitative offerings campus-wide, sharpen current curricular offerings and develop new training options.
  • Achieve a five percent increase in reported gains of freshmen and sophomores on understanding of statistical and quantitative analysis, as measured in the 2015 Campus Climate Survey.
  • Effectively communicate expected learning outcomes to undergraduate students and use assessments to demonstrate competencies and address areas of concern.
  • Increase first year student interest in AU as demonstrated by:
    • Increasing the percentage of those who apply early decision to 30 percent of all applicants;
    • Increasing the yield rate for admitted freshmen applicants to 24 percent (while maintaining current levels of quality and rate of admission) and
    • Increasing the percentage of freshmen who say AU was their first choice from the 2012 results (53.9 percent).
  • Strategically increase philanthropic dollars for student scholarship support: $200,000 total from FY2014-2015 for Emergency Financial Aid; eight new scholarship endowments (merit or need) by FY2015; and close one major gift for need-based financial aid.
  • Maintain a competitive Patriot League profile with a departmental GPA above 3.25 and a graduation rate above 90 percent.

3. Demonstrate Distinction in Graduate, Professional, and Legal Studies

  • By fall 2015, increase overall graduate, degree-seeking enrollment by 2 percent above AY2013.
  • Better communicate expected learning outcomes to graduate students and use assessments to demonstrate competences and address areas of concern.
  • Increase WCL revenue through continuing professional legal education.
  • Negotiate and sign a contract with providers to expand AU’s presence in on-line instruction, adding at least two new programs.
  • Develop strategies for serving online graduate degree students to support their academic success and sense of connection to the AU community.
  • Identify three AU master’s or certificate programs with the highest demand.
  • Study prospective master’s student views of AU and identify the top three reasons students choose or do not choose AU for graduate or certificate programs.

4. Engage the Great Ideas and Issues of Our Time Through Research, Centers, and Institutes

  • Build alliances across AU schools/colleges to foster new areas of research and instruction (AU 2030).
  • Increase the aggregate funding level of faculty grant awards in FY2014 by 5 percent over the current three-year average (FY2009-FY2012).

5. Reflect and Value Diversity

  • Maintain current high retention levels (89.4 percent) of underrepresented minority and Pell-eligible first-year students and maintain retention within percent of retention levels for all first year students.
  • Offer new pedagogical workshops for faculty related to improving diversity and inclusion.
  • Focus strategic enrollment management strategies at the graduate level on underrepresented minorities.
  • Generate a minimum of $3 to $4 million in total cash and minimum of $5 million in gifts and pledges for student support.
  • Provide financial support for study abroad and internship experiences to high achieving low-income students.
  • Establish priorities for Universal Design projects to enhance the inclusion of students, faculty and staff with disabilities in campus activities and events.
  • Continue to improve climate for diversity and inclusion for staff.

6. Bring the World to AU and AU to the World

  • By 2015, increase international student enrollment by five percent over fall 2012 level.
  • Maintain or increase levels of student participation in study abroad. Continue to receive recognition for the level of student involvement in study abroad, as evidenced by results of the Open Doors Survey and the National Survey of Student Engagement.

7. Act on Our Values Through Social Responsibility and Service

  • Develop better ways to track courses that include service components to the D.C. community. Ensure that most students have taken a course with such a component by the time they graduate.
  • Design a protocol and institutionalize the annual collection and reporting of comprehensive, campus-wide data on the university’s civic engagement and service in the District of Columbia.
  • Improve public health and sustainability by transitioning to a tobacco-free campus environment.
  • Complete a Sustainability Plan to guide continued implementation of sustainability and Climate Commitment goals.
  • Renew our commitment to ensuring competitive and responsible wage and benefit policies for the lowest paid workers including updating the university wage policy and medical plan subsidies.

8. Engage Alumni in the Life of the University, On and Off Campus

  • Increase Affinity Programs for under-represented alumni populations by 33 percent and total affinity program participation by 30 percent by end of FY2015.
  • By end of FY2015, average 12,000 alumni donors to the university annually, with specific emphasis on attracting and retaining donors who are:
    • From affinity groups with increased programs;
    • Engaged with any program sponsored by Alumni Relations or Regional Advancement; and
    • Previous donors.
  • Increase overall donor loyalty rate by three percent by end of FY2015.

9. Encourage Innovation and High Performance

  • Successfully complete the Middle States reaccreditation.
  • Develop faculty policies and benefits that promote work life balance.
  • Implement a campus-wide graduate enrollment management system.
  • Demonstrate that graduating seniors, masters and PhD students achieve success six months after graduation, either through employment in their chosen field or by continuing their studies in a graduate school of their choice.
  • Increase the number of cross-divisional collaboration initiatives, including faculty and staff working collaboratively as part of the Baldrige Initiative in Higher Education.
  • Expand financial management training (fundamentals and phase II) to all university managers six sessions per year.
  • Apply the new standards of performance in the revamped PMP program including the new overall rating system and the link between pay and performance.
  • Support leaders and managers in rapidly changing workplace through new manager training and development initiatives.
  • Build on WAMU 88.5’s fall 2012 Arbitron ratings of an 8.4 share of weekly listening; AQH (average quarter hour) of 31,900; a weekly cumulative audience of 647,800; and TSL (time spent listening) of six hours per week.

10. Win Recognition and Distinction

  • Produce success in national/international scholarships and competitions, including the Fulbright, where AU will have at least nine Fulbright scholars, with the aim to be one of the top institutions in the country that produces Fulbright student scholars (as reported in the Chronicle of Higher Education).
  • Maintain athletics competitive profile by winning team and individual Patriot League team championships (at least seven annually); at least four teams with a winning percentage of .600 or greater; and the number of NCAA appearances of six or higher.
  • Pilot a marketing initiative that employs inbound and Search Engine Marketing strategies with two high priority online graduate programs. Acquire top five search position for two master’s programs promoted through pilot program.
  • Renew AU’s web design to reclaim position as a pacesetter in higher education. Achieve a web “first” among nonprofit universities for trends in web presence in FY2015.
  • Evolve brand campaign and extend to new audiences. AU will be one of the top two most frequently mentioned institutions, when audiences are asked to name excellent universities in Washington.
  • Remain competitive in seeking #1 standing of WAMU 88.5 in the local radio market by mitigating the threat of new competition through ongoing investment in new programming, signal expansion, and augmenting the station’s digital presence.


1. Diversify Our Revenue Sources

  • Generate $1 million in new revenue through SPExS over FY2012 levels, by FY2015.
  • Enhance endowment management, identifying new strategies, opportunities and structure.
  • Generate additional investment return on working capital assets without sacrificing safety or liquidity.
  • Create a comprehensive marketing plan and conferencing operation to capitalize on suite and apartment style housing units on East Campus and increase summer revenue.
  • Secure at least six principal gift commitments of $1 million or more, and generate at least $10 million in new deferred or realized estate commitments by the end of FY2015.

2. Employ Technology to Empower Excellence

  • Meet the median level of peer schools as measured by EDUCAUSE benchmarks in the important areas of online learning, business intelligence and analytics, and cybersecurity across the entire university.
  • Improve operational efficiency through adoption of contemporary solutions like imaging and admissions systems.
  • Enable use of analytics through continued roll out of business intelligence to support critical institutional outcomes.
  • Reassess web content strategy (distributed publishing model) to ensure quality and accuracy.
  • Manage the university’s diverse technology infrastructure building in the right level of reliability, availability, and security.
  • Support and leverage the extensive campus plan related priorities.

3. Enhance the University Library and Research Infrastructure

  • Develop a long-range facility and space-use plan for the Bender Library.

4. Forge Partnerships by Leveraging Our Capital Location

  • Develop strategic partnerships with government and local industry to offer new professional education programs targeted to the regional workforce.
  • Explore partnerships with other national universities to offer academic programs in collaboration with AU in the D.C. region.
  • Maintain strategic partnerships with local organizations including the Washington Nationals, Smithsonian, National Archives, the Washington Post, and the Russian Embassy.

5. Continue as a Model for Civil Discourse

  • Develop effective relationships with AU collective bargaining units.
  • Develop effective dialogue with community, characterized by timely sharing of information about university activities that may affect the neighborhood environment and timely solution of problems associated with Campus Plan implementation.
  • Continue to collaborate with AU shared governance structures including the Faculty Senate on matters pertinent to the future of the academy.

6. Align Facilities Planning with Strategic Goals

  • Complete the planning, design and construction activities required to execute the capital expansion plan as detailed in the approved capital budget, with the focus on the major projects, including:
    • Cassell Hall
    • Nebraska Hall addition
    • 4401 Connecticut Avenue renovation
    • McKinley-School of Communication renovation
    • Washington College of Law–Tenley Campus
    • East Campus projects
  • Complete planning and implement foodservice facility and operational improvements to support new and expanded facilities.
  • Continue to perfect the university’s debt portfolio, both strategically for the long-term, and tactically in the near-term, including the capital financing for the new East Campus and WCL–Tenley projects.

Strategic Plan

AU's strategic plan, Leadership for a Changing World, outlines goals and objectives for the next decade at American University. Visit for more information. ( login required for some documents)

Read the Strategic Plan

view objectives, years 7 & 8

Building a Better AU

Visit the Building AU website to read about facilities projects that support AU’s academic aspirations and enhance campus ambiance. You can also learn more about AU's Campus Plan.

Building AU

watch video