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MEMORANDUM
March 15, 2016

TO: American University Community
FROM: Jack Cassell, Chairman, Board of Trustees
SUBJECT: Board of Trustees Winter 2016 Meeting Summary
______________________________________________________________________________________

 

The Board of Trustees met on Thursday, February 25, and Friday, February 26, on the AU campus for its winter meeting.

Committee meetings were held on Thursday with actions reported out the next day at the full board meeting. After the committee meetings were concluded, a social period and dinner were held for the trustees and university leadership which featured a guest speaker—Lisa Gelobter, the chief digital service officer with the U.S. Department of Education. She discussed her role in bringing digital technology and customer service to the U.S. government and in particular, to the Department of Education and its College Scorecard project.

At the board meeting on February 26, the trustees heard a plenary presentation and update on RiSE (Re-inventing the Student Experience) delivered by eight senior AU leaders heavily involved in the project. The plenary reviewed how AU is assessing the student experience; developing a service philosophy; improving its organizational structure; learning from experts; and tapping modern technology. The goal of RiSE is to create an unsurpassed student experience; instill in students a sense of responsibility for their own academic success; realize the efficiencies of 21st century technology while maintaining authentic personal relationships; and to be transformative in rethinking the traditional structures of higher education. The basic structures of campus operations and student services (at AU and elsewhere) were built after World War II and may have been updated periodically; but RiSE is a comprehensive analysis that focuses on students in the 21st century.

The Washington College of Law opened its new campus for classes in January; a series of celebratory events were held in February to mark this achievement, and which featured among an array of distinguished guests, including Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and DC Mayor Muriel Bowser.

Among the actions taken by the board was the approval of a new graduate degree program—the SPExS Master’s of Science program in Applied Evaluation Sciences which is a fully online program.

The trustee Class of 2019 was approved by the full board, and includes current trustees Gary Abramson; Gina Adams; Gary Cohn; Pam Deese; Marc Duber; Tom Gottschalk; Gerald Bruce Lee; Alan Meltzer; and Peter Scher; trustees typically serve for a three-year term that is renewable.

Also approved were two new trustees whose terms begin after the May 2016 meeting—Janice M. Abraham and Susan Carmel Lehrman. Approved for terms also to begin after the May meeting are Todd Eisenstadt as the new faculty trustee; and Shyheim Snead as the new student trustee. All trustee appointments will be forwarded for endorsement by the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the United Methodist Church, as stipulated in the bylaws.

In a special resolution (and as a heartfelt gesture of genuine appreciation) the board voted to express thanks for all AU staff and contract workers (housekeeping and food service) for their “above and beyond” diligence and devotion to task for keeping AU up and running smoothly during the winter snowstorms.

The reports of the president, provost, and vice presidents facilitated discussion on a number of key topics. Among them, we know that only a portion of the East Campus project will be completed in time for fall semester 2016, even under the best of circumstances. It may be possible for two of the three residence halls to be delivered if all current challenges are resolved. Nevertheless contingency planning is under way to cover the housing needs for students for fall semester 2016. Updates will be provided to students, families, and community members as this situation evolves.

The provost reported that AU received 19,285 applications for admission for fall 2016 as we seek to enroll a class of 1,700 new students. The admit rate to achieve this yield suggests could be less than 35 percent and may be as low as 29 percent. For current student achievements, AU again leads the nation in the number of Presidential Management Fellow finalists and is number two among similar sized schools for students entering Peace Corps service.

Following reports from the vice presidents and campus representatives, the meeting concluded.

The next meeting of the Board of Trustees will be May 12–13 on the AU campus.