I’m Neil Kerwin, president of American University. Spring is an exciting time on the American University campus. We’re saying goodbye to our most recent graduates and alumni, and celebrating their accomplishments, while we’re preparing to greet a new group of students in August.
With five ceremonies completed and the law school’s soon to come, commencement is an important time for American University. Our speakers this year are a remarkable group of people. They’ve inspired future journalists, they’ve discovered galaxies, and they’ve provided public service in important and varied ways.
Our graduates and most recent alumni are remarkable people, too. Thirty-five hundred strong, they’ve influenced their fields and their communities in important ways. More than 80 percent interned while they were here, and more than 75 percent provided volunteer services.
Two students and recent graduates who exemplify this university’s mission are this year’s President’s Award winners, Cassandra Ricketts and Alexander Priest. Cassandra’s from Utah, a biochemistry major and intercollegiate athlete. Alexander is from rural Kentucky, graduated with two degrees, and founded the first student-led social media club in America.
Another side of this university’s impressive progress is the faculty. Over the past two years, 70 new colleagues have joined this faculty, two dozen tenure and tenure-line positions. They represent diverse interests; they cover the full range of our scholarly professional and artistic work.
Just this year, COTELCO (Center for Research on Collaboratories and Technology Enhanced Learning Communities), a center established by Professor Derrick Cogburn in the School of International Service, received a $10 million grant from the Nippon Foundation. The center is doing groundbreaking work on disability and public policy in the ASEAN countries.
Building on American University’s tradition of excellence, we will soon welcome the Class of 2015. We had nearly 19,000 applications for this year’s freshman class, and over the past two years, our admissions rate has dropped from 53 to 41 percent, making us one of the more selective universities in the United States. This fall, we’ll welcome the first class of the new PhD program in our School of Communication.
Consistent with our strategic plan goal of being carbon neutral by the year 2020, American University continues to work on green initiatives and sustainability. Our new School of International Service building received a LEED Gold rating. We’ve installed seven green roofs, and we operate the largest array of solar panels in the Washington, D.C., area. These green initiatives are a part of a much larger program to enhance the facilities at American University. This summer, we’ll begin work on a new home for the School of Communication by renovating the McKinley Building on campus.
We have submitted to the District of Columbia a new campus plan covering 10 years of development. It will provide new housing for our students, new academic facilities, including a new home for our Washington College of Law, and new opportunities for recreation and athletics. The campus plan is critical to our future, and we welcome your support at this point, particularly those of you who live in the District of Columbia.
Earlier this spring we opened this new Admissions Welcome Center. Every year, American University welcomes 25,000 visitors to the campus, and we know the campus visit is one of the most important factors in a student’s decision to enroll at AU. We want the campus visit and the experience in this welcome center to be unlike any other.
This new welcome center is a prominent example of the KNOW/WONK campaign across the campus. It’s tied to an effort that brings the KNOW/WONK concept through advertising to the greater Washington area. We’ve heard from many who’ve seen the ads, and they’re proud to call themselves WONKS.
It’s been a productive and exciting year on the American University campus. I urge you to take advantage of all the resources this great university offers.
Email me with your thoughts and suggestions. I look forward to seeing you sometime soon on campus.