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American Magazine

Academics

American University and the Next Decade

Leadership for a Changing World

By Sally Acharya

Photo: AU faculty, students, and staff

(Photo: Jeff Watts)

It’s time to make the push. Time to take the best of American University, spread it to every corner of campus, and make sure the world knows about it.

That’s the commitment at the heart of a 10-year plan for AU’s future that seeks to bring the university to unprecedented prominence by committing us to doing more—a lot more—of what we do best.

When President Neil Kerwin launched the strategic plan process last year, it became clear that AU was at an exciting point in its history. In a sense, the AU of 2008 was like a top athlete poised for the Olympics. Years of effort and discipline had paid off, and the components of greatness were in place: the talent, the focus, the passionate commitment.

AU has risen in the ranks of the academic elite and anticipates rising even higher with its strategic plan, American University and the Next Decade: Leadership for a Changing World.

The plan emerged after months of forums and the use of both high-tech and traditional tools to gather insights from the entire community—in essence, an ongoing meeting of hundreds of minds.

From that process, Kerwin and the planning committee crystallized a vision that takes AU’s greatest strengths and proudest accomplishments and commits the university to propel them further. When the Board of Trustees met in February, they called the plan “courageous” and unanimously approved both the plan and a budget that allows AU to begin implementation this year.

Will the current economic difficulties impact the new plan? AU is confident they won’t, in part because its prudence and financial stewardship have paid off dramatically. The university is operating from a position of financial strength. Unlike many universities that finance much of their operating budgets—sometimes 40 percent—from endowment income, a miniscule 1 percent of AU’s budget comes from endowments.

While our reliance on tuition has always brought some uncertainty, today, AU is a high-profile university where admission is eagerly sought by a large applicant pool of talented students who know its excellent track record for educating leaders. AU is financially strong and in high demand. The time is right for the university to surge ahead, and Kerwin and the trustees are moving forward on the far-reaching agenda.

The strategic plan is the road map to the future. Ten transformational goals define where AU is heading; six enabling goals describe the tools needed to support the effort; and action steps lay out specifics of how to achieve the goals.

The strategic plan is the road map to the future. Ten transformational goals define where AU is heading; six enabling goals describe the tools needed to support the effort; and action steps lay out specifics of how to achieve the goals.

This vision, however, is more than a plan for AU’s future. It’s a celebration of what we already are, a recognition that greatness is within our grasp, and a commitment to the sustained and passionate drive needed to take AU to the highest levels of scholastic excellence and real-world leadership.

Click on the goals below to read the words and stories of a few of the extraordinary people who are poised to point AU toward a future of leadership in a changing world. (To download a PDF of the complete story click here.)

1. Epitomize the Scholar-Teacher Ideal

2. Provide an Unsurpassed Undergraduate Education and Experience

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

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

5. Reflect and Value Diversity

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

7. Act on Our Values through Social Responsibility and Service

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

9. Encourage Innovation and High Performance

10. Win Recognition and Distinction

To read the strategic plan click here.