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President's Message | Archive



December 20, 2010

 TO:  Campus Community
 FROM:  Neil Kerwin, President
 SUBJECT:  End of Semester Update


We’ve reached the end of the fall semester, and there are a number of items worthy of consideration.

Condition of the University
As fall semester draws to a close, the condition of the university is sound. In my September 20 memo, I noted a number of significant developments related to the core academic mission. Among the most notable changes since then is the action by the Board of Trustees approving a new doctoral program for the School of Communication and a new master’s degree in social enterprise offered by the School of International Service. The SOC program is the first new doctorate to be launched by the university in several decades. It is the result of several years of planning and preparation which involved examining best practices nationwide and shaping an innovative degree reflective of our unique location.

With regard to our finances, based on summer and fall semester performance, as well as early indications for spring, the university is on track to close the current fiscal year with our revenue and expenditure budgets in balance or better. Our attention is now focused on a number of critical planning decisions—strategic, budgetary, and physical—and I discuss those next.

Strategic Plan
On November 11, I communicated with the campus community on the next round of work related to our strategic plan (see Specifically, I reported that I had asked the provost, vice presidents, and directors to initiate discussions that will lead to the selection of objectives we will set over the next two years. This timeframe will roughly coincide with the next two-year budget currently under development and discussed briefly below. Once again, I urge all members of the community to review my September 27 report to the Board of Trustees (; login required) on the progress we have made on the first two-year set of objectives under the plan and participate actively in the ongoing discussions in the divisions. If you prefer to send ideas directly to me, please submit feedback before the end of December to

In early January, the provost, vice presidents, and directors will submit their recommended objectives for the next two years along with their proposed budgets. Based on these submissions and any others submitted, I will develop a list of proposed two-year objectives and present them to the campus community for review and comment by mid-January. A town meeting on the objectives will be held prior to my submission of proposed objectives and a proposed two-year budget to the Board of Trustees for their review and action at their next scheduled meeting (February 24–25, 2011). The timeframe is challenging, but the fundamental goals of the plan remain unchanged. The new objectives will consolidate the gains of the past several years while challenging us to strengthen our performance in key areas of our academic, administrative, development, and community work.

Campus Plan
In our strategic plan, “enabling goal #6” calls for aligning our facilities planning with strategic goals to support our overarching transformational goals. Essential to that process is the development and approval of a comprehensive facilities plan—a campus plan—for the next 10 years. For more than a year, work has continued on the plan elements, with discussions both on campus and with the neighboring community. We anticipate filing the plan with the D.C. Zoning Commission in March 2011, with a draft plan in circulation for review and comment in mid-January. Campus plan materials are posted online ( and are updated periodically. The main points are aligned with our strategic plan objectives—including a commitment to sustaining an unsurpassed undergraduate experience and supporting distinction in graduate, professional, and legal studies among them. The facilities needed to support these two priorities include providing additional housing—through the creation of an East Campus complex on what is now the Nebraska parking lot and an addition to Nebraska Hall—and building a new home for the Washington College of Law on the Tenley campus, adjacent to the Wisconsin Avenue corridor and walking distance to the Metro.

Our desire is to bring undergraduate students back to campus in updated and attractive accommodations that meet contemporary standards. AU has not had any major housing construction in more than 25 years, and we’re overdue. The housing mainly will serve students already here, as we do not anticipate any sizeable growth in our undergraduate population—approximately 150 new undergraduates would be added to the campus population over the coming decade. The projected student growth would be in graduate, professional, and law programs, which is a different matriculation and campus-use pattern.

As we get into the new year, we will provide updates to enable you to be fully informed of the plan content and next steps leading toward public discussion and Zoning Commission review.

Budget Process
In September, I appointed a University Budget Committee to develop revenue and expenditure recommendations for the next two fiscal years, 2012–2013. Chaired by Provost Scott Bass and Vice President of Finance Don Myers, the committee includes faculty, staff, and student representatives. The committee has been working diligently to develop the budget guidelines for FY 2012–2013 and review the market data and trend analyses. I am pleased to inform you that the budget guidelines were endorsed by the board at their November 2010 meeting, and we are moving forward with development of the two-year detailed budget. The committee solicited input from the university community via a town hall meeting in December, is coordinating with various constituencies, and is working to incorporate the next two years’ action plans of the strategic plan into the new budget. Budget proposals from the provost and vice presidents are due to me on January 7, 2011. At the board meeting in February 2011, I will present a balanced two-year budget, which reflects alignments with the objectives and action steps of the next two-year phase of the strategic plan.

Alumni and Development
At its November meeting, the Board of Trustees unanimously voted to conclude the AnewAU campaign on December 31, 2010. Donors may still be a part of the most successful fundraising initiative in AU’s history to-date by making a gift by the end of the year. Instructions are available online ( or by calling 202-885-5900.

As the campaign conclusion approaches, we are more than $11 million ahead of the original $200 million goal and are thankful for the thousands of donors, volunteers, and members of the entire AU community who helped achieve campaign success. While the campaign’s success was indeed historic for AU, fundraising to support new capital projects, such as the School of Communication building, student scholarships, and hiring and retention of the world’s best faculty through chairs and other faculty endowments, will continue without interruption.

We are encouraged by ongoing activities for alumni, such as the December 8 reception at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City. With more than 300 guests attending, it was the largest alumni event held outside Washington. For an institution whose alumni have so much experience and intellectual capital to offer, engaging alumni is the key to our future fundraising success.

Fall Athletics
Our competitive profile has been strong during the fall season. Field hockey won its eighth straight Patriot League regular season and tournament championships and was one penalty stroke away from advancing to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Championship, before falling to fifth-ranked Connecticut in double overtime thriller. Volleyball advanced to its ninth NCAA Championship in 10 years and in the Austin, Texas, bracket took UCLA to five sets before losing. Men’s cross country was second in the Patriot League for the second straight year, and Craig Brown and Colin Eustis were named to the All-Patriot League First Team for the second straight year. Men’s soccer was only one win away from an NCAA tournament appearance but lost in the Patriot League championship. Women’s cross country was sixth overall with two All-Patriot League performers leading the way; Octavia Rinehardt was named All-Patriot League First Team for the second straight year. Wrestling is currently ranked ninth nationally, and swimming and diving are off to a great start. Both basketball teams were selected as the preseason pick to be the Patriot League champion of their respective leagues.

AU’s branding campaign has been introduced in advertising for master’s student recruitment in the local Washington media. You may have picked up the references to our active citizens, passionate focus on issues that matter, and of course, our Washington, D.C., location—in our first-ever video holiday card. Response to the card has been very impressive; it was viewed more than 11,000 times in one week in 85 countries. Through distribution in social media, it quickly became a D.C. trending topic on Twitter and a source of alumni pride on Facebook. Special thanks goes to the team who worked on this first-time effort.

In mid-January, work will be complete on the admissions welcome center in the Katzen Arts Center, where the brand positioning has been integrated into an impressive redesign of the campus visit experience. The center features a compelling visual presentation on a 92-inch screen. Preview tours of the space and visitor experience will be offered to the AU community when we return after winter break and before we start welcoming prospective students and parents in February. The campus visit will become a “must-see destination” for students and families on the college visit tour.

Integration of the brand will next be introduced into recruitment materials for the Class of 2016. Nearly 70 different pieces will be created in a process that gets underway in February 2011.

Accomplishments and Honors
Here is a sampling of recent accomplishments by our students, faculty, staff, and alumni in recent weeks: 

  • The Sustainable Endowments Institute—gave American University a B+ grade on its 2011 College Sustainability Report Card, which ranks green initiatives at more than 300 colleges in the U.S. and 8 Canadian provinces. AU’s overall grade has improved consistently since its debut on the Report Card in 2008 and ranked highest among all the colleges and universities in both D.C. and the Patriot League.
  • The Institute of International Education (IIE)—ranked AU fifth among doctoral institutions in study abroad. In 2008-2009, 828 AU undergraduates participated in study abroad.
  • Vice president and university counsel Mary Kennard—is one of two new directors to the Board of the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC), the in-house bar for for-profit and nonprofit corporations worldwide. ACC has more than 26,000 attorney members in chapters throughout the United States and around the world.
  • Kogod professor Peter Chinloy and fellow Real Estate faculty—were recognized in the Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics for significant research contributions in the field of real estate. Professor Chinloy was ranked in the top 10 researchers, and the Kogod School’s research contributions were ranked in the top 30 of real estate programs and departments worldwide. This was the highest ranking of any real estate degree program in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.
  • Creative writing teacher Danielle Evans—was named to’s list of 40 D.C. attention-getters who shaped 2010. Evans, author of the short story collection Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self, joins Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, mayor-elect Vincent Gray, Supreme Court justice Elena Kagan, former schools chief Michelle Rhee, and Arena Stage artistic director Molly Smith (CAS/BA ’76).
  • Department of Performing Arts assistant professor Meghan Raham—served as set and costume designer for the new musical Venice, which was recently ranked second on Time Magazine’s list of top 10 plays and musicals of 2010. 
  • Student-athletes Colin Eustis, Matt Makowski, and Cassandra Ricketts—were named Patriot League Scholar-Athletes of the Year in cross country, men’s soccer, and volleyball, respectively.
  • Undergraduate students Christian Kingston, Leigh Cramer, Dhruv Sarin, and Sam Hagedorn—won Deloitte’s Battle of the Beltway Federal Consulting Case Competition. The team beat colleagues from AU, Princeton, Georgetown, George Washington, Howard, Richmond, Wake Forest, and William and Mary.
  • Students Aleks Ristovic and Pren-Tsilya Boa-Guehe—received the prestigious Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship, which provides financial support to students preparing to enter the United States Foreign Service. This year, AU boasts 2 out of 40 Pickering fellows nationwide, as well as a national finalist. 


To everyone, best wishes for a safe, happy holiday season and for the New Year.

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

watch video