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Building an Inclusive Campus Culture

A community that welcomes everyone.

A Message From the President

American University is committed to ensuring that we are a community where people of all identities and experiences are understood, appreciated, and fully included.

Nearly 125 years ago, our founders endowed us with the core values of equality, diversity, justice, human rights, and public service — values that have shaped our mission and influenced our actions to this day. We are dedicated to retaining these principles as we respond to the needs of a changing world.

We foster a community where diverse perspectives are discussed and debated in an environment that values human dignity and respect, academic freedom, and freedom of expression. When we invite different perspectives and listen to others, we have the opportunity to consider new viewpoints and sharpen our own perspectives. We learn and thrive. I look forward to learning from all of you.

— Sylvia Burwell
President, American University

You Are Welcome Here


No matter who you are, no matter where you are from, you are welcome here at American University.

AU Hosts Keynote on Fear in the Workplace

For AU leaders and managers who would like to better understand how to reconcile the concerning events of the May hate crime and campus climate with their personal lives and communities. Learn about the impact of fear on the workplace, and how leaders can address it.

June 29th

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Ibram Kendi

Ibram X. Kendi Joins AU

Kendi will serve as a professor of history and international relations and will be the founding director of the new
Anti-Racist Research and Policy Center at the university.

Read the Full Story

AU Leadership Meeting

Responding to Hate

On May 1st, 2017, American University was alerted to a racist incident that occurred in our community. We strongly condemn what happened and will do all that we can to find those responsible.

Read Updates

President’s Council on Diversity & Inclusion(PCDI)

We look forward to hearing from you!

(PCDI) advises the president and reviews and makes recommendations regarding diversity and inclusion-related strategic plan goals, as well as AU policy and procedures.

We hope that this page is engaging and informative. It represents many hours of discussion, debate and work, yet it is neither complete nor perfect. If it does not represent you, or if it lacks important information, please let us know at

President's Charge February 29, 2016

To make lasting improvements in both the diversity and inclusiveness of our community, AU is committed to the following actions:

  • Establish a presidential council to oversee these plans, monitor institutional progress, recommend new objectives, and plan necessary resources
  • Introduce a mandatory course on diversity and inclusion for all first year and transfer students
  • Revise and elevate awareness of discrimination policies, channels for complaint, and avenues for support
  • Reallocate five tenure or tenure track positions to recruit diverse candidates to AU's faculty
  • Develop programs to cultivate inclusive classrooms, including an entry program for newly appointed tenure track faculty and dialogue sessions for current faculty

Charting Progress

  • American University Experience (AUx), a set of two required transition courses, is tested with a core of trained faculty and staff and is expected to be rolled out to all first-year students in 2018
  • Starting in 2015, professors Dr. Andrea Brenner (sociology) and Angie Chuang (communication) researched and developed AUx through town hall meetings and working sessions with students, faculty, and staff
  • American University Experience II (AUx2), the follow-up course, delves into social and culture relations, and issues of diversity, identity, and race
  • PCDI hosts a series of listening sessions in residence halls where students can have one-on-one conversations about AU's environment of diversity and inclusion
  • PCDI drafts recommendations for diversity and inclusion objectives that President Kerwin incorporates into the university's strategic plan
  • PCDI engages with AU community through interviews and discussions with key AU stakeholders, student leaders, faculty senate, and administration members
  • A plan for diversifying and retaining diverse faculty — Target of Opportunity Program (TOP) — is developed by Mary Clark, Dean of Academic Affairs and Senior Vice Provost and Dr. Cheryl Holcomb-McCoy, Dean of the School of Education
  • Human Resources examines every phase of staff hiring process with the goal of increasing diversity and inclusion
  • HR leaders meet with 60 staff members of color to identify changes the university could make to improve racial climate and establish a new staff and faculty people of color affinity group
  • PCDI provides input on the Undergraduate Campus Climate Survey to the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment
  • Revisions to survey are made to gather more comprehensive data from current undergraduate students regarding diversity and inclusion on campus
  • Ibram X. Kendi, best-selling author and award-winning historian, is announced as the founding director of AU's new Anti-Racist Research and Policy Center
  • The Center will bring together teams of faculty and student researchers to conduct cutting-edge, intersectional, and interdisciplinary research of racial inequality and discrimination of a national and international scope
  • AU believes the Center will serve as a global leader for anti-racist research and policymaking

Pathways for Change

We are establishing an infrastructure to support, cultivate, and foster greater diversity and inclusion.

Reporting Bias

For complaints against:

Looking forward

To make a lasting impact, we must continue to uphold our core values.

Diversity on campus

AU aligns with the work of the Association of American Colleges & Universities in defining diversity and inclusion.

AU's population 1

Minority Freshmen
32 %
Undergraduates of color
31 %
Full-time faculty of color
18 %
  1. Data from 2016

Diversity is defined as individual differences (e.g., personality, learning styles, and life experiences) and group/social differences (e.g., race/ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation, country of origin, and ability as well as cultural, political, religious, or other affiliations).

Inclusion is the active, intentional, and ongoing engagement with diversity in the curriculum, co-curriculum, and communities (intellectual, social, cultural, geographical) with which individuals might connect.

Exploring Identity

AUx is a huge step in a positive direction.

I've been a student peer leader in the AUx2 course [on race, identity, and inclusion]. I love the class discussions because, with issues of identity and culture, the conversations can go in a wide variety of directions. AUx is a huge step in a positive direction, eventually having all first-year students required to come face-to-face and learn in a safe environment. At AU, I think people become more self-aware and more aware of people who are not like them. Students hopefully learn to step outside their own experiences and understand other points of view.


TEDxAmericanUniversity Students, Faculty, and Alumni Speak on the Theme of Inclusion

TEDxAU Speakers (from left to right) Philippa Hughes, Shyheim Snead, Taylor Dumpson, Elisa Frost, Richard O'Brien, Leena Jayaswal, Makaya Revell, Caty Borum Chattoo and Katie McNerney.

Founded in 2013, TEDxAmericanUniversity, returned for its fourth live event on June 22 exploring stories of leadership, listening, and coming together in an increasingly divided world. The nine passionate speakers included several AU professors, alumni, and current student leaders who spoke on the this year’s theme of inclusion(left). As part of their ongoing focus on diversity and inclusion, AU School of Public Affairs was the TEDxAmericanUniversity sponsor for this event.

TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. It strives to bring the stories within the community to the larger DC and TEDx communities. Visit TEDxAmericanUniversity to learn more about recent and past events.

The goal is to make AUx2 be mandatory for all incoming first-year and transfer students in 2018-2019.

On Campus

First-Year Students Dive Deeper in New Class on Race

The new course is part of the American University Experience pilot.

Full Story

artistic representation of racial dialogue

On Campus

Staying in the Conversation: Race and Its Intersections

AU professors go back to the classroom for intensive sessions on race and identity.

Full Story

Creating Change

I do see change, and I do feel it, because I’ve been part of it.

I think AU and campus groups are facilitating more avenues to talk about race and diversity. In my department, we teach 12 different languages and we live that diversity in a way that is so natural to us. Yet throughout the university, we need to have difficult conversations, and we won’t always have closure. I do see change, and I do feel it, because I’ve been part of it. Having lived in Latin America for 15 years and been exposed to different environments, I can say that this campus has been very welcoming. I do feel at home here.

Get Involved

Embracing Diversity

Across our campus, community members are committed to cultivating a diverse and inclusive culture.

  • School & College Initiatives
  • Center for Diversity & Inclusion
  • Department Initiatives

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Student Activities

There are more than 200 student-led organizations that help students create connections and find support systems on campus.

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Alumni Association

AU offers a diverse range of affinity groups and networks that celebrate identity, industry, leisure, student activities, and student experience.

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