With the new academic year rapidly approaching, I am providing an update on a number of important topics that will command our attention over the coming months.
Fall Freshman Class
I congratulate all who assisted in recruiting and enrolling the Class of 2018. The effort was, as always, led by the Office of Enrollment Services. When fall classes begin, we expect more than 1,700 new freshmen. Of the 15,147 applicants, 46 percent were offered admission, and the yield was greater than ever in our history. Increasing by five percentage points, which is the largest change in acceptance of admission offers we have ever seen in a single year, the yield is an indication that AU is strengthening its position among talented students in an increasingly competitive environment. In addition, more than one-third of the incoming first-year class were early decision applicants, who clearly see AU as the destination of choice. This year’s class will be as academically strong and talented as previous ones. Housing and Dining Programs staff are working to accommodate this larger-than-anticipated freshman class. I am confident our entire community will make every effort to ensure their transition to life at AU entails minimal inconvenience and provides them all they need for a strong start.
I will provide a more comprehensive report on enrollment and where we stand with our current year budget in my next letter early in the fall.
On January 7 of this year, I appointed our colleague, Doug Kudravetz, then senior associate vice president, to lead the Office of Finance and Treasurer on an interim basis. I have examined the functions that have been managed by this division in light of our ambitious agenda.
We are engaged in the largest physical expansion of the university in our history. This activity will only intensify in the next two years, as we focus on the financing, construction, support systems, and services required to open and to sustain our new and renovated facilities. Strong leadership and appropriate organizational structures will be vital to our success in these efforts.
Doug Kudravetz has performed exceptionally well in his interim capacity and has been appointed to the position of CFO, vice president and treasurer. Given the growing and interrelated demands of our current facilities operations and the institution’s finances, it is critical that he be able to focus more time and attention on these functions. Accordingly, two areas of administration will change their reporting to other executive leaders. The changes outlined below will enable Doug to apply his professional skill and long experience to ensure sound financial management, construction, and commissioning of our new projects that are on time and on budget; effective management of our existing facilities; and the safety of people and property.
The Office of Human Resources, headed by assistant vice president Beth Muha will now report to vice president and general counsel Mary Kennard. While implementing core critical functions, such as recruitment, training, benefits, performance appraisal, and myriad others, the law and regulation drive many of the existing and emerging issues that our human resources professionals manage. Mary has supervised human resources operations at other points in her career.
The Office of Information Technology, headed by chief information officer David Swartz, will now report to me. The management of information services, security, and related institutional risks are increasingly important, touching every aspect of university operations. David’s voice will be a welcome and valuable addition to meetings of the university’s senior managers.
In addition to these changes, Mary L. Clark, formerly professor of law and associate dean for faculty and academic affairs at WCL, has been appointed interim dean of academic affairs and senior vice provost; this appointment is for an indefinite period, while Phyllis Peres is on short-term leave.
I am confident that the organization outlined above will serve us well for the challenging tasks ahead.
On August 1, WAMU welcomes new general manager J. J. Yore to lead the station to new heights. As a veteran content producer and public radio executive, J. J. was general manager of the Marketplace portfolio and helped build the syndicated popular program into a national brand delivering multiple programs and digital news content to an extensive audience. With WAMU’s reach now including seven radio stations, seven websites, four Internet streams, and a total weekly audience (all platforms) of 838,000, his multi-platform experience in national public media will be crucial as the station adapts to the evolving media landscape and changing audience preferences for programming and delivery systems.
Strategic Plan Objectives (and Link to Budget)
It is time to set objectives for years 7 and 8 of the university’s strategic plan, Leadership for a Changing World: American University and the Next Decade. As is our practice, at the start of the new semester I will send a communication to the campus community requesting ideas for a new set of plan objectives, supplemented with a report on the progress we’ve made on the objectives we set for the two-year period that is now drawing to a close. In that communication, I will outline areas that I consider high priorities for the institution over the next two years, and all suggestions will be taken seriously. I will ask that active discussions about objectives be undertaken in venues where faculty, students, staff, and alumni meet to discuss matters of importance.
In the upcoming communication, I also will set a schedule that enables us to reach closure on new objectives in time to inform the development of budget proposals for fiscal years 2016 and 2017. Once again I will impanel a broadly representative University Budget Committee that will be cochaired by Provost Bass and Vice President Kudravetz. The committee will be charged with developing recommendations for me to consider in preparation for meetings of the Board of Trustees in November of this year, at which budget formulation guidelines will be approved, and in February 2015, when final decisions on the two-year budget are made.
Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention
On June 15 and July 15, vice president of campus life Gail Hanson provided progress reports for the campus community regarding strengthening AU’s efforts to prevent sexual violence and to support victims/survivors. Our efforts are in line with a White House-led initiative and national dialogue on this topic that affects every college and university. Among the items Vice President Hanson outlined in the July update are revisions to AU’s Discrimination and Sexual Harassment Policy (which are in progress); a reorganization of the Student Conduct Code to make it easier for victims/survivors to see their rights and responsibilities; stronger education and training programs, including the STEP-UP! bystander intervention programs; promotion of an app—U ASK DC—to provide immediate information needed in the event of a sexual assault; a training program hosted by AU Public Safety that placed greater emphasis on sexual assault investigations; authorization of an external review of fraternity and sorority life at AU to begin this fall; and the addition of a new full-time staff member for victim advocacy and support, education, and training to be housed in the Wellness Center.
This is significant progress in a short period of time, and no challenge is more important for American University and higher education than to deal with this issue as a high priority.
Campus Construction and Renovation
Progress has been made on a variety of projects underway during summer, including:
Hughes Hall—After extensive summer renovations, Hughes will be ready for returning students this fall.
Tunnel—Renovations are underway to enhance pedestrian and vehicular circulation, lighting, and overall appearance. The tunnel roadway will be closed through August 4 for resurfacing, and the project will be completed in August.
Terrace Dining Room—Improvements, including updates of kitchen equipment, are underway and will be finished in August.
Law School/Tenley Campus—Work continues on the foundations and below-grade parking structure. In early September, the above-grade concrete superstructure work will begin and continue until the end of 2014. Bad weather during winter and spring impacted the overall schedule, but the project will be finished for the 2015 fall semester classes.
East Campus—After May graduation, the Nebraska Avenue parking lot was closed to prepare for construction. Work has begun on site fencing, tree removal and relocation, and other preparations for shoring and excavation to start in August.
New Parking Policies
The East Campus construction (and removing some 900 parking spaces from inventory) will prompt new parking procedures for American University starting fall semester. Public Safety recently led a University Parking and Transportation Task Force with cross-campus representation to provide recommendations to mitigate the effects of closing the Nebraska Avenue parking lot and the resulting increase in parking facility occupancy rates. The task force put forward a number of solid recommendations to optimize the number of parking spaces on main campus, while meeting our community’s needs. More details will be provided in a series of emails from Public Safety.
In addition to the new procedures for on-campus parking, we must continue to adhere to the standards regarding off-campus parking as outlined in the AU Good Neighbor Policy—which prohibits students, faculty, staff, contractors, and visitors from parking on the adjacent neighborhood streets. Please review the policy.
It is imperative that all members of the AU community abide by these policies. Adjusting to constrained parking resources may be challenging, but abiding by the policies—particularly the prohibition on parking in our surrounding neighborhoods—is an institutional obligation in the Zoning Commission order that authorizes the construction of new facilities currently underway. Failure to comply with these requirements may jeopardize our ability to complete these critical projects on schedule. Your cooperation during this period when parking space is limited is both essential and appreciated. Every member of this community shares responsibility.
New Graduation Schedule for May 2015
Largely because of the significant reduction in available guest parking due to East Campus construction, adjustments were made in the commencement weekend timeline (May 9–10, 2015). This will enable the five graduation ceremonies to flow unfettered in Bender Arena over a two-day weekend, with sufficient time for attendees to enjoy each ceremony and reception, and to arrive and depart with minimal challenge. The law school graduation is the following weekend. Much more information on all commencement activities will be available in the coming weeks and posted on the graduation website so that families can begin to make plans, but the starting times for the ceremonies are:
Saturday, May 9—9 a.m., School of Public Affairs; 2 p.m., School of Communication; 7 p.m., College of Arts and Sciences
Sunday, May 10—10 a.m., Kogod School of Business; 3 p.m., School of International Service
Sunday, May 17—1 p.m., Washington College of Law
A more extensive communication will be forthcoming after everyone returns from summer break.
Solar Purchase and Clean Energy
In late June we announced an innovative project that will enable AU to meet more than half of our energy needs using solar power—via a three-way partnership with George Washington University and GW Hospital. The Capital Partners Solar Project will break ground this summer on three solar farms in eastern North Carolina, be finished in late 2015, and through 243,000 solar panels supply power to our region’s electrical grid and significantly reduce both AU’s and GW’s carbon footprint—the equivalent of removing 12,500 car trips off the road annually. When finished, it will create the largest photo-voltaic solar power operation east of the Mississippi River. The 20-year purchase agreement provides fixed pricing at a lower rate than the schools currently pay for power. AU is maintaining its aggressive goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2020.
Honors and Awards
A number of prestigious awards were announced this summer, including:
The School of Public Affairs is ranked 5th worldwide, 3rd in the U.S., and 1st in the Washington, DC area for institutional impact on research in the field of public administration, according to a new study published in the Journal of Public Affairs Education.
Barbara Romzek, dean of the School of Public Affairs, will receive the 2014 John Gaus Award from the American Political Science Association (APSA) in August and will give the 29th John Gaus Distinguished Lecture at the APSA annual meeting. Dean Romzek was chosen for her “lifetime of exemplary scholarship” in political science and public administration, and is the third member of the SPA faculty to win this award. Professors David Rosenbloom and Robert Durant have also won this award.
Diane Rehm, host of WAMU 88.5’s and NPR’s The Diane Rehm Show, will receive a 2013 National Humanities Medal from President Barack Obama at a White House Ceremony on July 28. The medal honors individuals or groups whose work has deepened the nation's understanding of the humanities, broadened our citizens’ engagement with the humanities, or helped preserve and expand Americans’ access to important resources in the humanities. Recipients are selected by the president of the United States in conjunction with the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Terry Flannery, vice president for communication, was elected to the Board of Trustees for the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE).
AU’s communications and marketing efforts were recognized for numerous professional awards, including an Emmy for the JFK 50th anniversary video, Building Peace for All Time. AU also received five international CASE Circle of Excellence Awards for both university and school publications, including Kogod Now. AU was notably the only university in the world—competing with institutions submitting nearly 3,000 entries—to earn recognition at all levels, including grand gold, gold, silver and bronze. The highest distinction of grand gold was awarded to AU’s redesigned American magazine, about which the judges said, “The overall quality has been raised to the point that American magazine should be considered among the top university magazines in the country.”
Development and Alumni Activities
Our fiscal year 2013–2014 closed with news of great philanthropy from thousands of generous members of the AU community. We received gifts and pledges of $32.3 million on our goal of $26.5 million, a success that marks widespread alumni engagement and development activity across campus. Specific academic programs, student aid, and capital programs all benefited from the support of our alumni and friends. Not only is this collective giving essential to our institution’s success, it is also illustrative of our community’s strength and pride in what we do and the state of our institution. Alumni activity continues over the busy summer months. Thirty-seven alumni and parent volunteers across 22 cities are hosting our sendoff events for entering AU freshmen. Sixty-six additional events continue to engage alumni in career networking, mentoring, and social activity around the globe. This fall, I look forward to visiting alumni groups in Boston and Chicago.
The Army Corps of Engineers notified us last week that their timeline for completion has shifted on the university-owned residential property at 4825 Glenbrook Road, next door to the president’s house. Project completion, site restoration, and returning of the property to AU had been projected for spring 2016, but the Army Corps now believes that summer 2017 is a more realistic target. Reasons for the delay include the removal of higher amounts of contaminated soil than was originally envisioned and the removal of an extensive amount of concrete. We will continue to work with the Army Corps and their project partners to ensure that the work proceeds with protocols in place for the safety of campus and the citizens who live close to the work site. More information is online.
AU Night with the Nationals
Marking our third year of this successful partnership, we will celebrate “AU Night at National’s Park” on Friday, August 22, at the Nationals play the San Francisco Giants in pursuit of the National League pennant. Prior to the game, alumni, students, faculty, and staff will gather for a picnic on the main concourse, and t-shirts will be given to the first 25,000 fans attending the game. The national anthem will be sung by Treble in Paradise, one of AU’s popular a cappella groups, and the first pitch will be thrown by AU alumnus and sports journalist David Aldridge. Tickets for the game and alumni picnic can be purchased online.
Over the summer, we shared four brief videos that reflect on the past year’s accomplishments and celebrate the AU community. The videos focused on our academic achievements (July 1); service (July 9); the campus plan and philanthropy (July 21); and athletics (July 28). If you missed them, I invite you to view the videos and share them with others.
Welcome Week begins on Saturday, August 16 and comes to a close on Friday, August 22, on a day that features Opening Convocation, the All-American Barbecue, and the Nationals game that night. Fall classes start on Monday, August 25.
Until then, enjoy the rest of summer, and I look forward to your return in a few short weeks.
AU's strategic plan, Leadership for a Changing World, outlines goals and objectives for the next decade at American University. Visit american.edu/strategicplan for more information. (myAU.american.edu login required for some documents)