In the spring of 2012, we launched AU Project 2030—a long-term academic planning process aimed at identifying a number of leading-edge research areas in which we might build significant strength today in order to position American University for leadership in those areas in the decades to come. By identifying and supporting distinct clusters of allied faculty across our schools and colleges, AU Project 2030 seeks to improve our ability as a university to address questions that are large in scale, difficult to tackle from a single disciplinary or professional perspective, and on which a team of scholars from different intellectual traditions can appreciably advance our insight. In so doing, it helps us bring into sharper focus those long-term academic investments that we will need to make in order to be an ever more vibrant and engaged university, known world-wide for its high impact research and creative activity.
AU 2030 Progress to Date
Let me take a moment to review our progress over the past several years.
Even before the inception of AU Project 2030, we made significant investments in two interdisciplinary areas—Latin American and Latino studies and global health—that fully embody that project’s spirit. Indeed, thanks to the leadership of their respective directors, both our Center for Latin American and Latino Studies and Center on Health, Risk and Society have developed into models of what we hope to accomplish with AU 2030.
In February 2012, we created the AU 2030 website, where faculty could post their ideas for fruitful areas of research expertise that cut across our respective disciplines and schools and, in return, receive valuable feedback from their colleagues. I asked the deans to review the 25 proposals and related comments that emerged from this initial call in light of our collective strengths and opportunities. Identifying especially compelling proposals and consolidating several, they outlined six areas for further discussion: decision science for policy; environmental studies; global disability policy, technology and education; global economic and financial governance; human security; and metropolitan studies.
In May 2012, we held a series of half-day workshops to further explore these six areas of interest, with an eye toward AU’s investing over time in several of these emergent fields. These workshops were well attended and have helped the deans and me to better assess areas of significant opportunity and readiness for future investment.
Because a dynamic university needs constantly to evolve, the AU 2030 website (www.american.edu/au2030) remains open for further postings by the faculty. Since last spring, four new strong proposals on the following topics have emerged: big data, the biology of cognitive dementia, internet governance, and persuasive gaming.
The ideas proposed in the AU 2030 process have already had a significant impact on faculty hiring allocations. Over the past two hiring cycles, we have authorized faculty lines—many at the senior level—in the areas of big data (three positions), environmental studies (three positions), global governance, health (three positions), neuroscience (two positions), persuasive gaming (four positions), security (two positions), and metropolitan studies. Without losing sight of our traditional areas of disciplinary strength, we have consistently sought to complement that strength by nurturing our emerging areas of cross-disciplinary excellence.
AU Project 2030 Moving Forward
Where might AU 2030 take us from here?
Consistent with the AU 2030 mission, the deans, vice provosts and I have been exploring two initiatives to further support faculty scholarship.
The first involves establishing a research methodology support center specializing in advanced quantitative and qualitative methods. Modeled on the University of Washington’s Center for Statistics and the Social Sciences, the center would appreciably bolster our ability as a university to address the great issues of our time in a rigorous, interdisciplinary way.
The second aims to ensure that, from its very inception, the scholarship of AU faculty is poised to have the highest possible impact, whether it be through prestigious placements (in journals, presses or creative venues) or through the translation of that work to a wider public. We envision CTRL, the Library, faculty trainings and academic unit support all playing a key role here.
If there is one message I hope you take from this update, it is this. Like the great problems of our time, the AU Project 2030 process is a dynamic, ever evolving one. Please revisit the project’s website on a regular basis, post new one-page proposals for groundbreaking work across our schools and colleges, and provide feedback on the emerging areas of faculty interest discussed there.
Many thanks for your efforts to date in support of AU Project 2030. I look forward to working with you all in the months and years to come to help realize our vision of an ever stronger American University.