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President's Message | Reports & Announcements


February 19, 2015

 TO: AU Community
 FROM: Neil Kerwin, President
 SUBJECT: Final Review of Strategic Plan Objectives, Years 7 & 8

With this memorandum, I am transmitting draft objectives for years 7 and 8 of American University’s strategic plan, Leadership for A Changing World. As has been our practice, our planning for the next two years began last fall, when I asked the university community for ideas, suggestions, and recommendations for this newest set of objectives.

Specifically, I asked you to consider ideas that will consolidate our progress, build on the considerable gains we have made in the first six years, and sustain the transformation we have achieved through the effort and resources dedicated to previous objectives. Information on progress made on current objectives is online (myAU login required.)

In response to the call for new objectives, we received responses from faculty, deans, staff, and students. In addition, governance organizations, including Faculty Senate and the Staff Council, provided feedback. Of course, we solicited ideas from the university’s leadership, including provost, vice presidents, and directors, some of which resulted from consultations in the schools, colleges, and divisions of the university.

This extensive consultation produced feedback that ties directly to specific new objectives. Some of the most important themes we heard included:  

  • make term faculty salaries a priority 
  • focus on the dramatically different needs of AU’s changing student population 
  • stress the importance of more cross-unit collaboration that has the potential to impact policy and foster positive relationships with the Washington, D.C., area 
  • update and modernize AU’s approach to graduate and professional education, including recruitment and admissions processes 
  • improve career development opportunities for staff

Finally, the feedback that the university gave during the Middle States self-study review process was incorporated in our planning. Many objectives come directly from the report’s recommendations, formed as a result of that review. At this point we have a set of draft objectives (attached below) which are ready for final review. I ask you to review them and provide ideas on how they can be improved. Your feedback will be considered before the final objectives are presented to the Board of Trustees for consideration at their upcoming March meeting. That will allow us to ensure our next two-year budget allocates resources in a manner consistent with the strategic plan.

Please forward your comments to me at





1. Epitomize the Scholar-Teacher Ideal

  • Develop and implement new ways to evaluate teaching, including a new Student Evaluation of Teaching.  
  • Demonstrate the scholarly, professional, and creative impact of AU faculty in their fields, as measured by books, journal articles, citations, grants, and other methods articulated in faculty tenure and promotion guidelines.  
  • Begin a multi-year effort to raise the salaries for the lowest compensated term faculty members and improve the overall term faculty experience.  
  • Maintain collegial relations with adjunct faculty and engage in productive dialogue with the SEIU.  
  • Develop more systematic mentoring and review processes to guide faculty in meeting the expectations for advancement in rank and continued productivity corresponding to their respective career stages and objectives, in either tenure-line or term positions. 
  • Secure current or deferred commitments to endow at least three new academic positions or programs.

2. Provide an Unsurpassed Undergraduate Experience  

  • Attract high-quality undergraduate students as demonstrated by an increase in freshmen and transfer applications (above 16,000 for freshmen and 1,500 for transfers), high yield rates, strong entering SAT and GPAs, the diversity of the entering class, and other measures of quality.  
  • Develop models of student services designed to lead to success and prepare an approach to implement the models that leverage technology and other resources.  
  • Strengthen initiatives aimed at retention of sophomores and create an environment that ensures student success for other important cohorts (such as first-year students, transfers, underrepresented minorities, athletes, Pell eligible, first generation) with the goal of improving student retention and graduation rates.  
  • Develop and pilot a transition experience for first-year students. 
  • Fulfill the guidelines of the Healthier Campus Initiative as part of the Partnership for a Healthier America. 
  • Improve capacity to meet key institutional learning outcomes (such as quantitative literacy, written communication, and other goals) by reviewing undergraduate requirements, including the General Education Program.  
  • Strengthen the relationship between liberal arts coursework and career skill sets for undergraduates. 
  • Transition to new May graduation format and implement new December graduation ceremonies with no diminishment of experience/satisfaction by graduates and families.
  • Improve opportunities for student engagement with University Athletics by providing programs and facilities that lead to healthy lifestyles and by being the nucleus for school spirit, pride, and solidarity through varsity competitions.

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

  • Target digital graduate and professional marketing, deliver technology initiatives to modernize and enhance recruitment and admissions systems, and use these enhancements to meet or exceed graduate enrollment targets. (Cross-list with Transformational Goal #9) 
  • Develop and implement programs, services, and professional opportunities designed to meet the changing educational needs of graduate, professional, and law students. Expand opportunities for online learning (both through the number of programs and the number of participants). (Cross-list with Enabling Goal #1) 
  • Provide greater opportunities to perform advanced work in graduate programs by enhancing institutional capacity to instruct and support in areas such as cutting-edge statistical and methodological training and information literacy.

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

  • Enhance the work of schools, colleges, centers, and institutes by facilitating cross-unit collaboration, investing in faculty positions that support AU2030, obtaining external grants, and promoting the success of AU’s research initiatives and the work of each center/institute.

5. Reflect and Value Diversity  

  • Maintain a high percentage of undergraduate, graduate, and law students who are underrepresented minorities and provide a positive student experience. 
  • Offer programs and other opportunities for continued dialogue that engage students, faculty, and staff in discussions on issues of race, class, culture, religion, and personal background in order to foster an institutional environment of understanding and respect. (Cross-list with Enabling Goal #5) 
  • Provide new training programs for Title IX compliance, unconscious bias, and race relations to promote diversity and inclusion across campus. 
  • Generate a minimum of $3-4 million in total cash (new gifts and pledge payments) and a minimum of $4 million in fundraising progress (pledge commitments and outright gifts) to support students who otherwise may not be able to attend AU.

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

  • Maintain high levels of student involvement in study abroad, as documented by results such as the Open Doors Survey.  
  • Maintain or increase international student enrollments.

7. Act on Values through Social Responsibility and Service 

  • Utilize the Sustainability Plan to advance toward fulfilling the 2020 climate commitment. 
  • Pursue LEED certification of existing buildings and all new buildings. 
  • Develop and prioritize a list of energy efficiency measures, define funding, and commence implementation of plan. 
  • Increase AU’s presence in and impact on the off campus/DC community, through work with disadvantaged youth and underserved populations and through on-campus programming.

8. Engage Alumni in the Life of the University 

  • Increase alumni donor count, with emphasis on attracting and retaining donors who are 1) from affinity groups with enhanced programs; 2) volunteers; 3) young alumni; and 4) those who have given previously.  
  • Sustain affinity programs through event programming and semiannual Multicultural Alumni Reunion (MCAR) Program. 
  • Encourage increased use of the alumni audit program.  
  • Create virtual/digital engagement opportunities to enhance alumni affinity and career programs and expand regional and international reach.

9. Encourage Innovation and High Performance  

  • Seek outside funding from leading national foundations and present at major education conferences to highlight AU as a center for innovation in higher education. 
  • Continue to strengthen the financial health of the university through balanced budgets, appropriate levels of reserves and debt, effective endowment management, and consistently strong audit results. 
  • Provide training initiatives for faculty and staff that enhance leadership, performance, innovation, professional growth and institutional competitiveness.  
  • Review and improve HR employment policies and procedures to ensure greater effectiveness for changing business conditions, to comply with new local and federal requirements, and to make AU a more nimble organization. 
  • Support a healthy, resilient, and productive workforce by promoting wellness programs through AhealthyU and improving flexible work arrangements for faculty and staff. 
  • Focus on the WAMU “station identity” process to build on station strengths to adapt and transition in key areas: programming, fundraising, news, delivery platforms, engineering, and management. 
  • Ensure effective management of enterprise risk and continue to ensure campus safety and security.

10. Win Recognition and Distinction  

  • Demonstrate excellence in undergraduate and graduate student outcomes, as evidenced by the employment and graduate school outcomes of recent graduates and external awards. Further promote and leverage success of alumni through WE KNOW SUCCESS site.  
  • Maintain President's Honor Roll distinction and support service learning and community-based research initiatives. (Cross-list with Transformational Goal #7) 
  • Increase awareness of AU in the Washington Metropolitan region and improve perceptions of AU's quality and distinctiveness relative to competitors. 
  • Integrate concept of academic innovation into brand strategy. 
  • Position faculty who are developing high-impact research in national media read by higher education peers. 
  • Measure and report on AU's presence (compared to competitors) in traditional and social media, based on measures of frequency and quality. 
  • Be among the athletic league leaders in conference championships, coach/player of the year awards, and academic awards such as Scholar-Athlete of the Year, All-American, Academic All-League, and Patriot League honor roll. 
  • Undertake a market and operations review of the three AU international sites with the goal of increasing productivity and revenue.



1. Diversify our Revenue Sources  

  • Build WAMU membership/giving in all forms through greater efficiency, technological sophistication, and addressing obstacles that hinder success. 
  • Secure a total of at least six principal gifts of $1 million or more, not including deferred gifts. 
  • Increase number of annually identified and documented deferred or realized estate commitments by 20 percent.  
  • Continue to attract philanthropic support for in-progress capital programs, including but not limited to East Campus, School of Communication, and Washington College of Law expansion, while also assessing and continuing appropriate fundraising for the life sciences.

2. Employ Technology to Empower Excellence

  • Deliver technology initiatives to enable graduate and non-traditional adult learner admissions and student success related goals, and support initiatives that realize process efficiencies across business and academic units. 
  • Mature and expand the use of business intelligence on campus to better support the university’s strategic and analytical decision making. 
  • Re-platform Ellucian Colleague (university’s ERP system) from Unidata to SQL Server in order to improve scalability, security, and sustainability. 
  • Manage the university’s diverse technology infrastructure, building in the right level of reliability, availability, and security.

3. Enhance the University Library and Research Infrastructure  

  • Implement NCURA recommendations in the areas of streamlined workflow processes, improved campus communications, and opportunities for training and professional development. 
  • Maintain journal databases and update collection based on emerging research priorities.

4. Forge Partnerships by Leveraging our Capital Location  

  • Strengthen the quality and intensify collaborative partnerships with government, local industry, and other universities in order to offer programs that meet the needs of the region, the changing workforce, and AU. (Cross-list with Enabling Goal #1)

5. Continue as a Model for Civil Discourse 

  • Support and assist student representatives in communicating AU business to their student constituencies.

6. Align Facilities Planning with Strategic Goals 

  • Construct and open the new WCL campus, the East Campus residence halls, and the Myers Technology and Innovation Building. 
  • Complete the planning, design, and construction activities comprising the capital expansion plan, while ensuring compliance with the 2011 Campus Plan. 
  • Develop new facilities plans for 4801 Massachusetts Ave. and the current Beeghly Sciences Building.  
  • Make enhancements to student social and event space. 
  • Implement prioritized ADA compliance upgrades within current facilities.

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

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