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President's Message | Archive

February 23, 2007

TO: Campus Community
FROM: Neil Kerwin, President
SUBJECT: Campus Update

As we approach mid-semester, it’s a good time to update the community on a number of significant issues.

Progress Report on “AnewAU”

Since my last communication, our “AnewAU” capital campaign has grown to $133 million.  Abbey Silberman Fagin, senior director of development, reports that our current efforts should push that number past the $140 million mark before the end of this academic year. The progress is great, but we still have much work to do to bring the campaign to a successful conclusion. There are many individual goals to achieve and two of the highest priorities are the targets we’ve set for the new homes for the School of International Service and School of Communication.

Web Initiative

This month, we will sign a contract to engage the Web technology and marketing firm HUGE to work with AU to re-envision our Web presence, structure, and effectiveness.  The entire process will stretch out over months, but a key first step will begin this spring as a research and discovery phase that will focus on organizational research and analysis; an assessment of “”; competitive market research; audience/user research; and a summary report for next steps. More than just a redesign of key pages, we will use this opportunity to re-envision what a Web site is and can be for a university. We will update the campus in the weeks to come on this project’s progress, the steps involved, and the ultimate impact.  

Current Year Finances

In November I reported on our finances and that a revenue shortfall was likely due to weakness in a few key enrollment categories. I also noted that the combination of our tuition reserve account and prudent expenditure policies in the units would help produce a balanced budget. Now that the spring numbers are firming, I can confirm that assessment was accurate. Despite stronger than expected showings in most undergraduate enrollment categories, the Washington College of Law, and institutes, the less-than-expected enrollments in graduate programs and the Washington Semester will result in our missing our aggregate revenue targets by about 1 percent. However, other categories of revenue, the reserves, and expenditure management will offset the shortfall and achieve a balanced budget as mandated by board policy. It is encouraging to note that currently, we have had larger than expected enrollments this spring in freshmen, transfers, and some graduate programs. Combined with the fact that we will exceed last year’s record number of applications for the fall 2007 freshman class (perhaps by as many as 600), the enrollment picture is strengthening.

Budget for the Next Two Fiscal Years

Enrollments are a major factor in building the budget for the next two fiscal years, and that process has now concluded. The University Budget Committee, chaired by interim provost Ivy Broder and vice president of finance and treasurer Don Myers, prepared its recommendations for my review following months of work in their group and with various constituencies.  The committee recommendations were guided by the budget formulation criteria endorsed by the Board of Trustees at its November 2006 meeting; in my review of their proposals, I paid particular attention to advancing the current strategic plan.  The committee recommendations were sound and as such, they formed the basis for my proposal to the Board of Trustees. The board deliberated and approved our budget proposal.  The demands on our resources are numerous, but our institution is financially solid and growing stronger.  It is a budget that represents another important step in ensuring that our faculty, students, and staff have the resources they need to perform at the highest levels. The community will receive a full report on the next two-year budget approved by the Board of Trustees in a subsequent communication.

Board of Trustees

The February meeting of the Board of Trustees has just been completed. All board committees, with community representatives present, met on the 22nd, and the full board, also with community members participating, met on the 23rd. As is his practice, board chair Gary Abramson’s report to the community will be posted on the board Web site.   

Communication from the Internal Revenue Service   

On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I want to inform the AU community that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has notified us that it is conducting an examination of the university’s returns (form 990) for tax years ending April 30, 2004, April 30, 2005, and April 30, 2006. We are cooperating with the IRS and will provide all information requested. This review was anticipated in light of the prior issues related to executive compensation matters. The Board of Trustees is committed to continuing to work in the best interest of the university and looks forward to this matter coming to closure.  We will update the campus on this issue when there is something to report.

Global University

Our global efforts continue apace. Some 320 AU students are studying abroad in a variety of locations; dozens of students utilized short-term opportunities during intersession for “alternative break” activities; and we have more than 130 international students studying with us for a semester (or more) through the Washington Semester and Abroad at AU programs.  During winter break, the Alternative Break Program (supported by the Community Service Center), sent 59 students to international destinations associated with four social justice study topics, with a particular focus on Brazil—the Landless Peasants Movement; Bolivia—the Indigenous Rights Movement; China—Environment and Culture; and Thailand—Burmese Democracy. I recently attended a meeting of the Board of Trustees of the American University of Sharjah. We have been associated with AUS for nearly a decade and are discussing how to take our working relationship to a new stage. If current discussions are successful, we will establish an AUS-funded program that will provide a permanent source of scholarships for qualified AUS students to pursue both graduate degrees and short-term study abroad here at AU. Meanwhile, our work with ABTI-American University in Nigeria is also important. We recently hosted the provost and deans of ABTI-American here on campus, where they participated in a series of meetings with our senior administrators and faculty. I will travel to Yola, Nigeria, at the end of February to observe the work of ABTI-American first hand. I also should note that we are in discussions with a group in India interested in creating a new, American-style university outside of Mumbai. These discussions are still in early stages, and we’ll report on their progress as developments merit. The sum of these efforts is a resounding affirmation of the global role that American University plays in higher education and the high esteem in which we are held.

Facilities Update

Among the striking indicators of change on the AU campus in recent years are the facilities improvements already made, coupled with the work underway or soon to commence. The Nebraska Hall project is on schedule to open for fall 2007, which will augment campus housing and provide 113 beds for upperclassmen to live on campus. The project to enhance the Kogod School of Business has begun, with the end result increasing the classroom, faculty, and student spaces in the business school; the target completion date is fall 2008. As reported in the “AnewAU” item, the fund raising continues to enable us to begin construction on the new home for the School of International Service and the School of Communication; we have all zoning approvals for the SIS building project and seek only final Zoning Commission approval on the SOC building to provide a green light for that essential project. It’s no exaggeration to suggest that while the face of AU has changed dramatically over the past decade, additional changes for the better are coming.

Athletics Director Search

Under the guidance of vice president of campus life Gail Hanson and with assistance from the Parker Executive Search firm, the search committee winnowed a pool of more than 60 applicants to a group of six for first-round interviews that were held February 20-21. From that group, the committee has chosen finalists for campus interviews on February 26-27, with possible selection to follow. Key attributes that we seek in all candidates include skills in athletics financial management and fund raising; the ability to inspire the coaches; attentiveness to student academic and athletics success; an appreciation of Patriot League values; the commitment to have AU athletics as an integral part of campus life; and the desire to stay and help AU athletics build a strong foundation for competitive excellence.

Individual and Institutional Accomplishments

The reports of the interim provost and the vice president of campus life contain information on a number of accomplishments, honors, and distinctions earned by our faculty, students, and staff since our last report to the board.  While all are notable, I will underscore the International Documentary Association’s 2006 Preservation and Scholarship Award for Career Achievement won by Professor Patricia Aufderheide, a former Scholar-Teacher of the Year. I also wish to commend Vice President Hanson and the staff in Campus Life for winning a Gold Award from NASPA for their exemplary work. 

Underscoring her prominence in the profession, vice president and university counsel Mary Kennard is currently the first vice president of the National Association of College and University Attorneys (NACUA) and will be its president in 2008. She is also the current president of the Washington Metropolitan Area Corporate Counsel Association (WMACCA), the largest chapter of the Association of Corporate Counsel (United States), the in-house corporate bar association with over 1500 members in the D.C. Chapter, including Capital One, Lockheed Martin, Red Cross, and Sallie Mae, among others.

Army Corps of Engineers Work and Related Activities

We continue to expend considerable effort to establish a date certain when the Army Corps of Engineers activities on our campus and adjacent properties will end. As has been communicated previously, the next area for planned activities are the two properties owned by the university on Glenbrook Road, which includes the president’s house at 4835 and the adjacent property at 4825. Work has been delayed because the Army Corps did not receive full federal funding to resume work (although some partial funding might materialize). In sum, we do not have a timetable for when work will resume on those properties—nor do we know currently how long the properties will be affected.

The Ann Ferren Teaching Conference

Spring semester began smoothly, opening with an event that is now a tradition: the Ann Ferren Teaching Conference. Some 200colleagues discussed a range of pedagogical topics in seminars and workshops that included a session with three current trustees reflecting on their time here as students. This annual conference speaks volumes about the dedication of our faculty and their collective commitment to ensuring that our teaching is second to none.  At a time when the cost and priorities of higher education are being questioned and we are pressed to demonstrate that we add value to our students’ lives, the teaching conference sends a powerful message—both symbolic and real—that the AU faculty cares deeply about student learning and professional development. The Center for Teaching Excellence organizes this program and handles the myriad logistics. Thanks and admiration to John Richardson, John Doolittle, and the CTE staff for a job well done.

In closing and as noted throughout this campus letter, American University continues to thrive because of the considerable efforts of faculty, students, staff, alumni, trustees, and administration members, all striving to make AU an outstanding university.  The efforts of everyone are greatly appreciated.

February 23, 2007 3:57 PM


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