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President's Message | Reports & Announcements


December 4, 2012

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


As we reach the end of a busy fall semester, I am providing an update on current campus news and priorities.

Strategic Plan Objectives for Years Five and Six

Now that we head towards the midpoint in AU’s 10-year strategic plan, American University and the Next Decade: Leadership for a Changing World, I have directed the provost and vice presidents to develop specific objectives for the plan’s fifth and sixth years. These objectives will proceed from the base of accomplishments from the past four years that were reviewed with the Board of Trustees in September. A summary can be found online (myAU login required). These objectives drive the specific proposals for new budgets we present to the board at their winter meeting in February.

I encourage you to participate in the discussions about these new objectives that occur in your school, college, or division or to send ideas directly to me by using the strategic plan site feedback link.

Budget Process for Fiscal Years 2014 and 2015

At its November 16 meeting, the board approved a set of budget formulation guidelines for fiscal years 2014 and 2015. These guidelines were developed and proposed by the University Budget Committee, co-chaired by Provost Scott Bass and CFO, Vice President, and Treasurer Don Myers. Now with the board’s approval, the Budget Committee will develop a set of revenue projections and expenditure proposals with input from all divisions.

The external conditions affecting the preparation of this two-year budget remain challenging. National concerns about the costs of university education are shared by our own students, who have expressed their views in a number of ways. While some students have advocated for no tuition increase, the Faculty Senate passed a resolution supporting a rise in tuition consistent with increases in the university’s operating and educational costs, and the Student Government Commission on University Budget Policy produced a report asking that any tuition increase be limited as much as possible to cover necessary costs.

All of these concerns persuaded the Budget Committee to recommend a range of possible tuition increases for the next two years that is the lowest in memory—from 2.5 to 4.5 percent. I endorsed that range, and it was unanimously approved by the Board of Trustees.

Considerable uncertainty has been created by the ongoing deliberations regarding the fiscal cliff and whether the mandatory sequester will take full effect or, if not, then what combination of federal budget cuts and tax provisions will replace it. The effects on higher education could be significant.

Closer to home and in areas we can influence, when we launched our strategic plan nearly four years ago we were clear that we would first invest in the core elements of AU’s mission. Only when that was underway would we consider the major transformations of our physical space needed to support our academic and student life goals. That occurred when the D.C. Zoning Commission approved our 10-year campus facilities plan earlier this year.

We also made major commitments to alumni, development, and communications to enhance their ability to support the work of our faculty and staff. Over the past four years we have invested in those goals, and the results are now a matter of record.

While we have enjoyed (and appreciate) the support from our alumni and other donors, the resources that helped us produce these results came largely through enrollment growth and tuition increases—and both will be different over the next two years. Our undergraduate program is essentially at the target we’ve set; however, we have not been able to meet the objective of increasing our graduate enrollment.

A key factor in future budgets will be either to meet that objective or to produce their equivalents from other sources. It is likely our tuition increase will be less than the average of the past four years.

There is much more detail to explore, but as I currently see it, the next two years will be a time to consolidate to ensure the academic and cocurricular gains of the past four years are secure. This includes additional support for salaries and benefits for the current faculty and staff, and funding to complete and sustain the transformation of our physical plant and the benefits it brings to our academic mission. We must seriously examine whether the current levels and mix of financial aid for our students are appropriate given their needs and the institution’s competitive position.

Through both reallocation of existing budgets and modest increments of new resources, we must invest in critical areas of the academic and student experience components of the strategic plan, as well as areas that support those two key missions.

To review the considerations noted above, discuss the budget development process, and continue our commitment to community participation and transparency, the Budget Committee will hold an open forum at 12:30 p.m. Friday, December 7, in Mary Graydon Center, rooms 4 and 5. We will explore in greater depth the conditions we face, and we welcome the views from the campus community regarding what will best advance AU’s mission and achieve our strategic plan goals. I expect a spirited debate about our priorities and how they might be accomplished, and I am confident the results will advance AU’s overall mission and most important objectives.

BOT Meeting and Town Hall

Our Board of Trustees met on campus November 15–16 for their annual fall meeting. In addition to approving the budget development guidelines for FY 2014 and FY 2015, the board passed resolutions to honor Keith Gill’s service to AU athletics and to honor the memory of former trustee, alumnus, and benefactor Abbey Joel Butler, who died this past fall. On November 15, board chairman Jeff Sine and I hosted a forum to hear from campus constituencies on an array of topics. The issues raised were numerous and included the budget and how to access budget information, projected tuition rates, the need for comparative data, the recently announced “tobacco free” policy to take effect in August 2013, parking costs and how future rates will be determined, and numerous other issues.

The board began hosting these forums six years ago as an opportunity for the campus community to have open and candid discussions with the trustees and campus leadership. We were pleased with the lively participation, range of questions, and desire to become informed and involved campus citizens.

Smoking Task Force

To lead our transition to a “tobacco free” campus, I am appointing a steering committee to be chaired by Beth Muha, assistant vice president of human resources, and Rob Hradsky, assistant vice president and dean of students. The steering committee will include the chairs of five subcommittees and at-large representatives and will focus on the key areas of policy, communications, health and wellness, enforcement, and facilities and grounds. The subcommittee membership will include staff, students, faculty, and external constituents and will make recommendations on effective implementation.

Athletics Search

Upon the departure of athletics director Keith Gill (December 5), we will formally begin the search for a permanent AD. Chairing the search committee is vice president for campus life Gail Hanson, who led the search five years ago that brought Keith Gill to AU. We again will work with the Parker Executive search firm, with whom we partnered in the last AD search. In addition to Vice President Hanson, serving on the committee will be Athena Argyropoulos, associate director of athletics; Sarah Irvine Belson, dean, School of Education, Teaching, and Health; Steve Jennings, head coach, field hockey; Kiho Kim, associate professor, environmental science; Doug Kudravetz, associate vice president of finance and assistant treasurer; Emily Maher, student athlete (lacrosse); Tom Minar, vice president of development and alumni affairs; and Ron Vogel, AU alumnus. Our goal is to name a new permanent AD late spring semester. Until that time, athletics will continue to report directly to me, with my chief of staff David Taylor serving in an interim oversight capacity.


The construction and renovation projects launched this past summer are proceeding at a rapid pace, as four projects are slated for completion in 2013.

  • North Hall—The final floor construction is nearing completion. After winter break, the precast exterior panels will be installed starting on the west side and wrapping around the building. The interior mechanical, piping, and duct work will continue at pace.
  • Nebraska Hall Addition—The first floor walls are under construction along with under-slab plumbing and electrical work.
  • McKinley Building—All demolition is complete, and the new structure foundation will be under construction when we return from break. The building profile will start to emerge in January and February.
  • 4401 Connecticut Avenue—Final demolition is underway to prepare for the interior construction and renovation of the new home for WAMU 88.5, University Communications and Marketing, and some select academic programs in the School of Public Affairs. The phased move in will start in May 2013.
  • WCL and Tenley Campus—Whiting Turner has been selected as the construction manager and will be assisting in the final design and preparation for construction.

Development and Alumni News

Fall semester ends with nearly 4,000 alumni across the globe having participated in events and programs sponsored by Development and Alumni Relations—which is the same number as attended in the whole of FY 2010. A big factor in this success was All American Weekend, which grew in alumni participation by more than 50 percent. As we enter December, typically one of the busiest months for fundraising, indicators are very healthy. The alumni donor count is up by about 10 percent over last year, annual funds are ahead, and major gifts are also strong. Although concerns about the fiscal cliff and implications for taxation and charitable deductions have yet to be determined or realized, we remain positive about achieving strategic fundraising goals for scholarships, budget-relieving annual giving, faculty endowments, and capital projects in the School of Communication, Washington College of Law, and WAMU 88.5.

Communications and Marketing

The first issue of AU’s newly redesigned university magazine, American, is published this week. The primary audience is more than 100,000 alumni and friends, and copies also will be made available to faculty, staff, and students. Members of the communications and marketing team studied best practices at other universities and benchmarked against top magazines in other sectors before completely re-imagining the magazine. Over the next year, the magazine’s digital presence will be fully developed.

Honors, Awards, and Accomplishments

With one of our strategic plan goals as “Win Recognition and Distinction,” we are pleased with the ongoing achievements of AU community members. In recent weeks, a few were especially significant:

  • Fanta Aw, assistant vice president of campus life and director of international student and scholar services, was elected to a year-long term as president and chair of NAFSA: Association of International Educators. NAFSA is the world’s largest nonprofit professional association dedicated to international education, with nearly 10,000 members in 150 countries.
  • Claudio Grossman, dean of the Washington College of Law, was named by the National Jurist as one of the 25 most influential people in legal education. The selection was based on nominations from law schools nationwide and ratings of each nominee by legal educators and law school deans.
  • Patrick Thaddeus Jackson, associate dean of undergraduate education in SIS, was named U.S. Professor of the Year for the District of Columbia by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education for his classroom creativity and commitment to inspiring his students.
  • Mary Kennard, vice president and general counsel, earned the 2012 Corporate Counsel Career Achievement Award from the Washington Metropolitan Area Corporate Counsel Association. She also is on the board of directors for the Association of Corporate Counsel.
  • David Swartz, assistant vice president and chief information officer, earned the EDUCAUSE 2012 Leadership Award, which is that organization’s highest honor given to individuals whose significant achievements have advanced the theory and practice of higher education information technology.
  • American University was named a “top producer” of U.S. Fulbright Scholars. With 14 awardees and one alternate this year, AU ranks 18th nationwide and is tied with Duke, Georgetown, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Maryland.
  • American University was named by the American Marketing Association’s D.C. Chapter as “Top Marketer of the Year” for the American Wonk campaign.

These are just a few of the many distinctions garnered during fall semester by AU faculty and staff.

Graduates Reception

We will honor AU’s newest alumni—our August and December 2012 graduates—on Friday, December 7, with receptions for graduates, family, and friends. The event for graduating seniors will be at 5 p.m. at the University Club, Mary Graydon Center; the event for master’s, doctoral, and law graduates will be at 6 p.m. at the Katzen Arts Center. Congratulations to AU’s new graduates, and I hope that you will return to campus to participate in the May 2013 commencement for your school or college.


As a reminder, American University will be closed for winter break, December 24 through January 1, with some limited exceptions.

I wish everyone a successful end of term and extend holiday greetings to all.

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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