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Strategic Plan Approved by Board of Trustees

Left standing: Terry Flannery, Tony Riley, Vice Chair Sarah Irvine Belson, President Kerwin, Chair William DeLone, Roseanne Robertson, Haig Mardirosian
Left seated: Tiffany Speaks, Amir Tejani, Nana An, Seth Cutter, David Rosenbloom (Photo: Jeff Watts)

The strategic plan that will guide the university over the next decade was approved on Nov. 21 by the Board of Trustees after months of committee meetings, forums, on-line chats, and other ways of gathering input aimed at making the process inclusive and transparent.

“American University and the Next Decade: Leadership for a Changing World,” as the plan is called, commits the university to 10 transformational goals and six enabling goals.

“I want to thank the entire community, especially the Strategic Planning Steering Committee, for the hard work, engagement, and deliberations that allowed us to reach this important milestone,” said President Neil Kerwin in his message to the community after the plan’s approval.

The next step involves the crafting of specific objectives, related action steps, and a budget for the next two-year budget cycle, which will allow the university to begin to make progress on the goals. Two-year objectives, action steps, and the budget proposal will be presented to the board in February 2009.

“The plan is a vision of the direction of the institution, and I’m absolutely committed to making this happen,” said Provost Scott Bass, who has already met with the deans as the next steps get underway. The deans are exploring ways to use existing resources to achieve the objectives and identifying where additional funds would be needed.

The plan was crafted in a process that focused on clarifying how the AU community sees itself, its purpose, and its potential.

The transformational goals set out a vision of AU that is distinctly academic in nature and express a conviction that AU’s academic strengths are grounded in its core values of social responsibility and a commitment to cultural and intellectual diversity. All of these themes emerged repeatedly in the meetings, forums, and discussions that have been held throughout the year.

The enabling goals are intended to bolster aspects of academic life that directly affect the ability to implement the transformational goals, such as intelligent financial planning, technology, the University Library and research infrastructure, partnerships, civil discourse, and improved facilities.

Each transformational and enabling goal was presented with a series of metrics by which to judge whether it is being successfully implemented.

Patrick Jackson, director of general education and a professor in the School of International Service, is among those who have been pleased by the plan.

“I was very impressed that the document reaffirmed the centrality of the undergraduate experience, because the thing that makes the university distinctive is the presence of undergraduate students who are exploring the world, and this is a great place to do it,” Jackson says.

“The fact that the plan is very conscious of that—saying we’ll take advantage of our location to help undergraduates do this—is very inspiring and reassuring. Obviously we have great graduate and professional programs, but the centrality of the undergraduate experience can’t be understated. I’m glad to see it being claimed gladly and proudly.”

Bass and vice president of finance Don Myers, Budget Committee cochairs, will lead the process of goal prioritization and implementation. The committee will be guided by budget criteria also approved by the board at its last meeting.

“It creates a road map for the values we’ve been talking about for quite a long time,” said Fanta Aw, assistant vice president of campus life, and one of the many members of the campus community who participated in the process. “It’s very much in sync with the values AU has not only espoused but tried to leverage. I think that’s an exciting part of it.

“It’s a very ambitious plan, which plans should be. Now we need to figure out how we operationalize this road map, given our resources. That’s going to require a different level of engaged conversation and dialogue.”

At the unit level, plans and action steps to reach the goals will also be developed, with emphasis on what can be accomplished in the first two years. These plans are expected to be done by the end of the current academic year in May 2009.

Ten goals

  • epitomize the scholar-teacher ideal
  • provide an unsurpassed undergraduate education and experience
  • demonstrate distinction in graduate, professional, and legal studies
  • engage the great ideas and issues of our time through research, centers, and institutes
  • reflect and value diversity
  • bring the world to AU and AU to the world
  • act on our values through social responsibility and service
  • engage alumni in the life of the university, on and off campus
  • encourage innovation and high performance
  • win recognition and distinction