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President's Reports & Announcements


July 27, 2010

 TO:  Campus Community
 FROM:  Neil Kerwin, President
 SUBJECT:  Mid-Summer Update

Since my last letter to the AU community at the close of the spring term, there have been a number of developments worth noting.

General Condition of the University

The condition of the university is sound. Summer enrollments are consistent with the targets set in the current two-year budget, and we are on track to meet our goals for most enrollment categories, including freshmen, transfers, graduate students, and law students. Fall revenues are developing according to plan, and while it is still early in the fiscal year, the current trends are positive and our expenditure budgets on target.

The 2010 annual financial audit by PricewaterhouseCoopers is just now finishing up, and we fully expect to receive another unqualified opinion on our financial statements. The university experienced another strong year financially, and we were able to set aside additional reserves to support our strategic plan initiatives.

Strategic Plan and the Next Two-Year Budget

At the September meeting of the Board of Trustees, I will present the first comprehensive report on the university’s progress under the strategic plan, American University and the Next Decade: Leadership for a Changing World. The Strategic Plan Implementation Report ( will provide the framework for my communication to the board and will be based on information collected by the Strategic Plan Measurement Team. After the board meeting, my report will be available for review; as we move toward developing the next two-year budget, a process for community comment and discussion will be important.

Meanwhile, we will work conscientiously to meet the objectives for the current two-year period that closes on April 30, 2011. As we did in February 2009, we will propose a set of objectives related to the strategic plan’s goals to be accomplished during the next two-year budget. During fall semester we will assess where we stand with the strategic plan and identify areas for particular emphasis over the next two years and how the resources can best be used. I will provide more detail on that process when I write again as fall semester begins.

Presidential Visit

We were honored to have President Barack Obama visit American University on July 1 to deliver a major address on immigration reform from our new School of International Service building. Echoing themes that resonate on a campus as diverse and multicultural as American University, President Obama reminded us that, “Being an American is not a matter of blood or birth. It’s a matter of faith, of shared fidelity to the ideas and values that we hold so dear. That’s what makes us unique. That’s what makes us strong. Anybody can help us write the next great chapter in our history.”

The visit was historic for the university, timely for the nation, and significant as an important inaugural event for our new School of International Service building. Special thanks go to individuals and offices across campus who worked tirelessly to host the flawless event and ensure that AU again presented itself well during an event of national importance.

Enrollment and Admissions

Summer enrollment is strong. Although undergraduate credit hours for students taking classes taught in face-to-face format were slightly below projections, credit hours for online courses soared. Also, graduate, law school, and distance education enrollments exceeded enrollment expectations. Fall 2010 promises to be a strong enrollment semester as well. As of July 19, the university has met its nonlaw enrollment target for the semester, with 4,056 undergraduate returning students enrolled (8 percent over target). Growth at the undergraduate level is a direct result of record levels of retention (92 percent freshman-to-sophomore and 85 percent sophomore-to-junior). Graduate enrollments have already met and exceeded enrollment goals for the fall semester, and additional enrollment is expected.

The university expects to meet its goal of 1,500 new full-time freshmen. The incoming class is strong, with an average SAT score of 1275 and an average high school GPA of 3.79. The admit rate (an indicator of selectivity) was 43.5 percent—the lowest in AU’s history and almost 10 percentage points below last year’s rate of 53.2 percent.

Student Housing

Realigning our housing priorities last spring has helped alleviate some of the residence hall pressures felt last year, as have the additions of Clark and Roper Halls to the housing inventory, retention of 100 apartments at the Berkshire, and the availability of some spaces for transfer students at Tenley. We will also make progress in our efforts to house more students in learning communities. Students in University College seminars will be concentrated in a first-year community in the south residence halls—Letts, Clark, and Roper. Among the north halls, Hughes will house a concentration of honors students and Frederick Douglass Scholars. Occupancy numbers are not yet firm, but we have made progress in reducing the number of temporary triples. When the halls open in August for new students, a team of “Welcome Wonks” will facilitate move-in as part of a new volunteer program. AU community members also can participate by calling Housing and Dining Programs at x3370.

Housing and Dining Programs will offer expanded services this fall for students seeking off-campus housing. From vacancy listings to housing search workshops and personal search assistance, nonresident undergraduate, graduate, and law students will have more support in addressing their housing needs.

New Student Orientation

AU welcomed 1,167 students and 1,145 parents and family members over the six orientation sessions hosted in June and July, with participants traveling from as far away as Brazil, Switzerland, China, Great Britain, and South Africa. This year’s program incorporated new “Meet the Dean” sessions for each school and college on the first day of the two-day program, following the Academic Transitions session led by vice provost Phyllis Peres. A unique feature of this summer’s orientation was a successful reunion event for former orientation staff members—with 30 current and former staff members on campus for weekend activities.

Facilities and Services Summer Projects

A number of construction, upkeep, and maintenance projects have been underway over the summer:

  • Anderson Hall North Renovation—Part of our regular refurbishment of residence halls, this project includes cosmetic and infrastructure replacements.
  • Roper and Clark Residence Hall Conversion—Converting former office buildings into housing for 116 undergraduate students for fall semester.
  • Kreeger Audio Technology Labs Renovation—Renovating a portion of the former music building to house offices and specialized labs for the audio technology program.
  • Other Maintenance and Replacement Projects—Other projects in progress as part of the capital renewal and deferred maintenance program include Mary Graydon Center window replacement, south campus steam line replacement, Reeves Aquatic Center mechanical replacement, Ward Circle Building mechanical replacements, and Bender Library electrical distribution improvements.
  • Dining Changes—In the Marketplace, a made-to-order sushi venue will open, and the former Panini Express will be transformed to Pronto, which will feature a wider selection of sandwiches. Asian Flavors, a new venue, will open in late September next to the UPS store.

The Office of Information Technology (OIT) has a number of initiatives underway this summer:

  • New AU Wireless Network—Efforts have begun to replace and upgrade the existing wireless network that has served AU for almost a decade. The new wireless network will be based on the most current 802.11n standard and support much higher bandwidth and capacity than the existing network. The number of wireless antennas will also be increased to improve access and availability. On any given day at AU, more than 4,000 people will be logged into the wireless network, which is double the number of concurrent users from just two years ago. The growth in demand and the projections for future growth make this project important to the campus community.  The new wireless network will be implemented in phases over the next year, with performance enhancements done as each phase is completed.
  • E-mail Improvements—An important OIT priority has been to address the problems encountered with Lotus Notes e-mail this past spring. A new back-end for the e-mail system has been constructed to reduce the likelihood of system failures and to build in more capacity to handle the growing workloads. A new system of e-mail archiving has been implemented and tested. It will be extended to the campus to reduce the huge volumes of e-mail within inboxes yet provide user access to historical information to support university activities. A new voice mail integration with the e-mail system has been implemented and tested and will begin to be deployed to the campus offices this fall.
  • Web Phase 2—The second phase of the AU Web site improvement activities has been completed on schedule in collaboration with University Communications and Marketing. Thousands of new Web pages have been updated and added to those sites covered during the phase 1 initiative that launched in spring 2009.

AU Central

On July 1, AU inaugurated AU Central, a new service center for students and families designed to integrate the previous functions of the student accounts, financial aid, and the registrar offices. Two years in design, AU Central provides a one-stop service focused on student needs. Located in Asbury Hall, the new state-of-the-art facility reflects a growing national trend of point-of-service integration for students. The initial response has been literally overwhelming, and the AU Central staff has been hard-pressed to keep pace.

With telecommunication enhancements and additional help from the offices of the registrar, financial aid, and student accounts, AU Central is working to keep up with the flow of inquiries. With mid-July to September as a peak period for AU Central, we ask the community to be patient as our staff takes the additional steps necessary to firmly establish effective and efficient service for our students.

Campus Plan

Work continues on the items to be included in AU’s 2011 Campus Plan—the 10-year facilities plan required by the D.C. government that must be approved by the D.C. Zoning Commission. Almost monthly meetings are being held with the surrounding community to review the plan proposals, and all materials are posted on the AU Web site ( devoted to this important project. We plan to file the plan this autumn for Zoning Commission review soon afterward.

The 2011 Campus Plan is based on AU’s strategic plan, and a top priority is student housing. AU currently has more than 200 students in triple rooms, 200 others living in university-leased housing in the Berkshire apartments on Massachusetts Avenue, almost 500 more living on the Tenley campus, and other students scattered in the surrounding neighborhoods. Our goal is to better accommodate our students with improved housing on four different sites—including an addition to Nebraska Hall, a new south campus residence complex, additional housing at the Clark site, and the development of a new east campus complex on what is now the eight-acre asphalt Nebraska Avenue parking lot. All proposed housing is in the current university footprint, and if fully built, almost 78 percent of our student housing would be on what has traditionally been considered the “main campus,” with the other 22 percent on the new east campus site or the Nebraska Hall site adjacent to Katzen.

In the weeks to come, AU’s planning ideas and the possible impact of these changes will be thoroughly discussed and vigorously debated in meetings, public forums, and the local media. As a public and political process, this also is a time when some may seek proof of AU’s commitment to the surrounding region, our role in the local community, and our ability to manage our impact. I am confident that we can continue to demonstrate our significant and historic role in the area and fulfill our obligations. I ask that you please visit the Web site and become knowledgeable of AU’s planning objectives and aware of the issues.

Notable Achievements

Recent achievements by AU community members include the following:

  • Dean Claudio Grossman (WCL) was reelected to the board of the International Associations of Law Schools and is currently the only dean from an American university to serve on the board. Dean Grossman also was reelected as chair to the United Nations Committee against Torture.
  • Department Chair and Professor Caleen Jennings (Performing Arts, CAS) was named by Michelle Rhee, D.C. Public Schools chancellor, to a Blue Ribbon Commission established to plan a new, citywide arts middle school for students in grades six through eight.
  • Professor and Director of the Center for Social Media Patricia Aufderheide (SOC) was awarded the Communication Research as an Agent of Change Award by the International Communication Association, a leading academic association in communication for social science scholarship.
  • Professor and Director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies James Thurber (SPA) has been given the 2010 National Capital Area Political Science Association Walter Beach Phi Sigma Alpha Award. This award is given to a political scientist who has made a substantial contribution to strengthen the relationship between political science and public service.

Development and Alumni

After a record-breaking year of alumni engagement, the summer also has been filled with activity. I met with enthusiastic alumni and parents in Panama City and hosted receptions with the mayors of Tampa and Orlando. Pam Iorio, BS/SPA ’81, the mayor of Tampa, graciously agreed to host our alumni for an event that attracted nearly 85 guests. Buddy Dyer, the mayor of Orlando and an AU parent, shared with us some of his son’s successes at AU during a luncheon for alumni, parents, and friends in Orlando. In the coming year I will again take to the road, visiting with our AU communities in Boston, New York, Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Philadelphia.

Although early in the effort for fund raising in the fiscal year, all measures are performing well. The AnewAU campaign has topped $205 million handsomely, in part due to a $1 million gift directed from AU trustee Gary Cohn, BA/Kogod ’82, that will be designated to endowed scholarships in the Kogod School of Business. We will celebrate the completion of the campaign at the President’s Circle Dinner on October 21 as the unofficial kickoff of alumni and family weekend, All American Weekend, which is scheduled for October 22–24.

Other News

Teach for America named American University one of its top contributors (19th) among the top 20 medium-sized colleges and universities nationwide in its annual ranking of schools contributing to its teaching corps. Teach for America members are top college graduates and professionals who commit to teach for two years in underserved schools and become lifelong leaders in the pursuit of educational equity.

The Student Health Center has been accredited by the Accrediting Association of Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHC) for the maximum three-year period. Accreditation is a voluntary process through which an ambulatory health care organization is able to measure the quality of its services and performance against nationally recognized standards. Accreditation involves a self-assessment by the organization and a thorough review by the Accreditation Association’s expert surveyors, who have extensive experience in the ambulatory environment. Alan Duffy, health educator at the Student Health Center, has been elected cochair of the Athletic Special Interest Group for the international Academy for Eating Disorders. He and his cochair, Jennifer Harriger of Pepperdine University, will have responsibility for helping to guide eating disorder research and programming worldwide.

During spring semester, the academic performance of AU student-athletes was superb, with an overall GPA of 3.376. Women’s swimming and diving led the way with a fall semester 3.569 GPA, while two other teams (field hockey and women’s soccer) earned an average GPA of above 3.5. Thirteen student-athletes had a 4.0 GPA, while 48.5 percent of student-athletes earned a spring semester GPA above 3.5. Overall, 80.4 percent of all student-athletes had a spring GPA of 3.0 or above. Additionally, 88 student-athletes met the requirements for Dean’s List (3.5 GPA and a minimum of 15 credits).


I will communicate to campus again as fall semester begins. Until then, enjoy the rest of the summer break.

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)

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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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