April 3, 2006
|FROM:||Neil Kerwin, Interim President
Since my February communication to campus, there have been a number of significant developments and university activities. I begin with a number of academic accomplishments.
Building on their fall semester success in the Rhodes and Marshall Scholarship competitions, our students have continued to distinguish themselves and AU in a number of other recent competitions. For the second year in a row, American University placed first in the nation in the Presidential Management Fellows program--a prestigious competition among graduate students that attracts outstanding young women and men interested in leadership roles in the federal government. This is a remarkable achievement in that we are vying against the best universities in the nation; it is a tribute to the quality of our graduate programs and to the faculty who educated these students and prepared them for the rigors of the selection process.
I am also pleased to report that three of our four university nominees for the Truman Scholarship were selected as finalists, and Stacy Aldinger was chosen as a Truman Scholar--the nation’s pre-eminent scholarship for future leaders in the field of public service. As with the Presidential Management Fellows program AU has excelled in this prestigious competition, as Ms. Aldinger is our fourth Truman Scholar in the past six years. While commending the talent and dedication of our students and faculty in earning these honors, I thank and acknowledge the efforts of our Office of Merit Awards in the Career Center for their vital support in these scholarly competitions.
Our faculty also has had their share of important external recognition. Dr. Richard McCann, professor of literature in the College of Arts and Sciences and our current Scholar-Teacher of the Year, received a Guggenheim Fellowship for the academic year. This is the second Guggenheim won by an AU faculty member in the past three years, and speaks to the high external regard for our faculty quality and scholarship.
Based on current information, we are on track for the most successful year ever regarding external support for faculty work. The Office of Sponsored Research reports that as of the end of the third quarter (January 31), we have been awarded $14.5 million in grants and contracts, compared with $10.1 million for the same period last year.
Prior to spring break, vice president of finance and treasurer Don Myers reported to the Faculty Senate on the financial status of AU. A detailed outline of his presentation can be found on the vice president of finance and treasurer’s Web site at www.american.edu/finance/vpfin, but a few points are particularly important. In fiscal 2007 our revenue and expenditure budgets are projected to be slightly more than $381 million. This figure has changed dramatically in recent years, with a number of factors contributing to the growth in expenditures, including our commitment to maintain competitive compensation policies for faculty and staff; increases in student financial aid; operations and maintenance costs for a growing physical plant; and contributions to essential financial safeguard accounts such as enrollment contingency, quasi-endowment, pre-funding of salary increases, and deferred maintenance and debt service. Our endowment now stands at close to $318 million and has been skillfully managed. We remain, however, as dependent on tuition and related sources for operating revenue as we were two decades ago--approximately 95 percent. This underscores the crucial importance of the type of academic progress and strength noted above and our ability to continue to attract highly qualified students to our programs.
I just returned from Boston, New York, and Chicago, where I participated in events hosted by our Office of Enrollment for students admitted to the fall freshman class and their parents. Similar events will be held in the next few weeks in other major cities as part of our recruitment and conversion effort. The sessions were well-attended and the questions were focused entirely on our academic programs and details of the enrollment process. While we have had a record number of applications for the freshman class and our quality indicators remain strong, we must continue to work on the conversion of these admitted students, competing as we do with fine institutions. For now, transfer applications for the fall are essentially unchanged from last year. With the exception of the Washington College of Law, which again experienced increases in applications, we seem headed for another challenging year for many of our graduate programs. Applications for the fall are down slightly over this time last year and we face both a strong local economy and plenty of competition in many of our key areas. So, work remains to meet our goals for graduate enrollment.
The Board of Trustees continues to make progress in its ongoing work on institutional governance and broader participation in the university’s governance process. The board’s Special Committee on Governance, chaired by Pamela Deese and Jeffrey Sine, has intensified its meeting schedules to discuss the five major areas that have been the premier foci of their effort: the governance framework, structure and operations of the board; the executive committee and other board committees; the qualifications and characteristics of trustees; performance and expectations for trustees; and conflict of interest policy. The committee’s goal is to present a set of recommendations based on best practices for these areas to the full board at the mid-May meeting. Individual committee members have assumed responsibility for specific constituent groups and continue to communicate with them. In addition, the board continues to post on the university’s governance website a summary of its meetings as well as progress reports on the work of the Governance Committee. Once again, I urge all who are interested to express your views on these matters, either by working through your elected representatives or by contacting the board directly at AUBOT@american.edu.
After announcing its “Interim Selection Criteria for Trustee Nominees and Interim Procedures for Making and Processing Nominations” in late January, the board’s Trusteeship Committee has received more than 85 trustee nominations from trustees, vice presidents, deans, faculty, students, staff, alumni and friends of the university. Following the Trusteeship Committee’s and the full board’s initial review and discussion of nominees, meetings have begun with the first group of candidates. The goal is to elect several new trustees from this new open nomination process at the board’s next meeting.
I also should note that on March 3 the staff of the United States Senate Committee on Finance conducted an off-the-record roundtable discussion on the governance of non-profit institutions that included panels on the Red Cross and American University. In addition to reporting in the Eagle, the session was described in an on-line article in Inside Higher Education, which can be viewed at www.insidehighered.com/news/2006/03/06/senate. As the Senate Finance Committee continues its inquiry into non-profit governance, we will cooperate fully with their work and make every effort to keep our community informed of significant developments.
Our director of development reports that we have reached the $118 million mark for the campaign and now stand at roughly 60 percent of the total. Among the items of greatest importance to be supported by the remaining efforts to raise $80 million will be new homes for our Schools of International Service and Communication; endowed professorships for faculty; assistance for the library, Honors Program and Center for Teaching Excellence; and funding for various needs in campus life and athletics. I fully expect this final phase to be successful but there is no question it will require hard work for many members of the community. The impact this work will have on the quality of our academic programs and the support we provide to faculty, students and staff more than justifies the effort. Accordingly, I ask each member of our community to review--again--your commitment to the Campaign for AnewAU.
Projects to continue the physical development of the campus not specifically linked to the campaign are in various stages of development, and are described in Vice President Myers’ report to the Faculty Senate. They include the renovations of the New Lecture Hall/Experimental Theater as an addition for the Kogod School of Business; renovations to Nebraska Hall for student housing; and changes to the Watkins Building for instructional purposes. We are proceeding with renovations of the first floor and the “north addition” to the Mary Graydon Center, in our long-term effort to transform that building into a more extensive university center to house and support the expanding activities and programs of our Office of Campus Life.
Related to “facilities news”--is that while some “low probability” work on Lot 18 will continue into May, the major intrusive operations are finished and the Army Corps of Engineers has been de-mobilizing equipment from the site. Our plans are to move the Child Development Center back into their “home” in August, after being stationed in Leonard Hall Lounge since 2001. I appreciate the enduring flexibility and understanding of the CDC staff and the Leonard Hall students over the past few years in making this “temporary accommodation” successful. The Corps will develop a work plan for the university owned property at 4825 Glenbrook Road and eventually, for any work to be done at 4835 Glenbrook. We will continue to cooperate with the Army Corps in their ongoing efforts and will keep you informed.
Web Working Group
In March, I asked School of Communication dean Larry Kirkman to appoint an advisory committee to assess AU’s Web presence and what we might need to strategically prepare for the future. Dean Kirkman has assembled a team that includes representation from the academic and key administrative units to ask pointed questions, gather information, and make recommendations. The committee will work at a fast pace, with a goal to have a preliminary report in early summer. In the coming weeks, you will be learning more about this important effort and the broad scope of the work to be done.
Premier Global University
At the request of the Board of Trustees, I am conducting a review of our efforts to become “a premier global university,” as set forth in the “15 Points” (strategic plan). Our commitment to international work has long been a part of American University’s mission, and the board asked that for their May meeting, I provide an initial report on where things stand. The report will cover a number of areas, including international student enrollment; study abroad; faculty opportunities; the management of American-style universities in other countries; alumni relations and development; and how we are currently organized to manage these varied efforts. Since global involvement and international work are permanent parts of our mission, this effort will not likely be completed by the May board meeting, but I plan to make a substantial report with recommendations at that time. I will actively solicit the views of our academic leadership, vice presidents, Faculty Senate, and the University Council as the work proceeds.
I close with a reminder that we enter the final full month of the academic year and are making arrangements for commencement. On Sunday, May 14 we will have three ceremonies--at 9 a.m. for the School of International Service and School of Communication; 1 p.m. for the College of Arts and Sciences; and 4:30 p.m. for the Kogod School of Business and the School of Public Affairs. On Sunday, May 21, the Washington College of Law commencement will be held at 1 p.m. Please mark the dates. I encourage the faculty to attend this annual event to congratulate our students for their achievements--which is a message that Interim Provost Broder and the deans will repeat over the coming weeks. Commencement is a great day for the AU community to gather with our students and their parents to celebrate with our graduates who have reached a milestone in their lives.Updated: September 5, 2006 12:13 PM