Over the past several years, through a process known as AU 2030, American University has invested significant resources in the development of specific academic areas that cut across our seven schools and colleges. AU 2030’s themes have emerged from an ongoing participatory process in which AU faculty members identify priorities for the long-term development of the academy. Our goal is to foster cross-unit faculty collaboration in the conduct of larger scale, team-based research that responds to the great issues of our time.
In choosing to call our program “AU 2030”, we sought to stress the imperative of focusing on those emerging research topics that will be critical to the well-being of a global society in 2030. Likewise, we aimed to be responsive to the interests of our changing student population, which will be markedly more diverse than it is today. Through AU 2030, in other words, we are committed to identifying key areas of academic excellence that will serve as magnets to attract future generations of students and faculty. This letter updates you on our progress to date in the implementation of several AU 2030 themes, the names of which you will find bolded below. You can find past updates on AU 2030 at http://www.american.edu/provost/communications and all of the original AU 2030 submissions at www.american.edu/AU2030 (portal log-in required).
Directed by Eric Hershberg, our Center for Latin American and Latino Studies – an initial AU 2030 area – continues to thrive. Recently, CLALS received a $670,000 grant from the National Institute of Justice to carry out research to assess the transnational criminal capacity of the MS-13 gang in the U.S. and El Salvador. In addition, the Henry Luce Foundation awarded CLALS funding to conduct a two-year project entitled Religion and Democratic Contestation in Latin America. In many ways, CLALS has been (and remains) a model of the sort of cross-unit faculty engagement AU 2030 is meant to foster.
Health, Risk, and Society was another early area of focus, exemplified by Kim Blankenship’s Center for Health, Risk and Society. To our already impressive cohort of faculty working in the area of health, we have recently added Erdal Tekin, a new senior colleague in SPA focusing on health economics, and junior colleagues Nicole Angotti (Sociology), Kristina Crona (Math-Stat), and Kathleen Holton (SETH).
When we launched AU 2030 in spring 2012, Metropolitan Studies quickly emerged as an area of great cross-school faculty interest. This Fall, we are joined by Derek Hyra (SPA) and Jennifer Steele (SETH), whose areas of specialization are inner city economic development and urban education, respectively. (This academic year, my office will be offering particular support, outlined below, to our ongoing efforts in the areas of Global Health and Urban and Metropolitan Studies.)
Also joining us this Fall are Adam Auerbach and Miles Kahler in SIS, who will appreciably bolster AU’s expertise in the 2030 area of Global Economic and Financial Governance. Mark Laubach, a senior Biologist in CAS, will likewise be a significant addition to our already strong group in Behavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience. Joshua McCoy (Computer Science) and Benjamin Stokes (arriving in AY 15-16 in SOC) will add important expertise to our increasingly world class faculty in the emerging field of Game Design and Persuasive Play. Thomas Zeitzoff (SPA) is a strong addition to our many impressive scholars working in the area of Human Security. Finally, AU’s commitment to build its capacity in the area of Big Data is clearly manifest in the recruitment of our new Carroll Professor of Mathematics and Statistics, Michael Baron.
Hires like these not only bolster our research capacity, they play a significant role in shaping our curricula to respond to the needs of a rapidly evolving world. This Fall, having already established the AU Game Lab and begun fruitful collaborations with ETS and other marquee partners, SOC and CAS will launch their widely anticipated new Master’s program in Game Design and Persuasive Play. This semester also marks the launch of AU’s first undergraduate major in Neuroscience. A new cross-school Master’s program in Analytics, led by Kogod, awaits approval by the Board of Trustees. Additionally, SPExS is in the process of developing an allied program in Health Service Administration and Data Analytics.
This coming year, in support of AU 2030 efforts in Environmental Studies, we will be conducting a team hire of three researchers in Environmental Science, with an additional hire in Environmental Economics. We expect another team hire of three in Computer Science to grow our capacity in Big Data and Analytics. SIS will be hiring a new faculty colleague with expertise in Global Economic and Financial Governance, and SPA will be doing the same in Human Security. Currently, SOC is conducting four tenure line searches, including the areas of emerging media and advanced applied communications research.
Working to build faculty research across traditional divisions, departments, and schools has its particular challenges, even at a university like AU that is wholeheartedly committed to the interdisciplinary ideal. For that reason, I am pleased to announce that, for this coming academic year, the Office of the Provost will provide faculty working to build multi-school capacity in the areas of global health and urban/metropolitan studies with an increased level of support, including (but not limited to):
Organizational and logistical assistance to mitigate possible institutional challenges to cross-unit research efforts;
Assistance in clarifying large scale, long-term objectives for potential collaborative research projects;
Identification of potential funding sources;
Access to proposal template materials, grant-writing consultants, and proposal editing assistance;
Identification of additional resources needed to facilitate cross-unit collaboration and mechanisms to continue collaborations following an initial period of support; and
Establishment of a campus-wide Faculty Research Advisory Council that will consider institutional policies, structures, incentives, and procedures to further facilitate cross-unit research collaborations.
Next year, as we continue to add faculty in AU 2030 areas and evaluate this year’s experience, we would like to provide this level of support to other emerging collaborative research areas.
Please join me in welcoming the new AU 2030 faculty listed above, and indeed all our new faculty on campus this fall. We plan to feature several of the AU 2030 initiatives at the October 10th and 11th Faculty Retreat at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay in Cambridge, Maryland.