The Board of Trustees
held their annual retreat and early fall meeting on Thursday, September 15 at Airlie—a 300-acre conference center in Warrenton, VA, that has been gifted to American University by the Airlie Board of Directors. The world-renowned meeting and conference center includes the historic Airlie House, meeting facilities, and guest rooms set in a verdant Virginia setting. Airlie has hosted global leaders, heads of state, and diplomats who have convened for conferences and programs dedicated to social progress, education, environmental research, and public health. We look forward to fully utilizing this new university amenity as an extension of our teaching and education mission.
During the board’s business session, we announced the appointment of two new trustees for three-year terms—Fernando Lewis and David Trone. Both were approved by the Board of Trustees and endorsed by the United Methodist Church’s General Board of Higher Education and Ministry to begin their terms. Mr. Lewis resides in Panama; he is executive chairman of Grupo Mundial and serves as treasurer of its board. He also is an AU alumnus (Kogod/BSBA) and a current AU parent. Mr. Trone, co-owner of Total Wine & More, lives in the DC region and also is an AU parent.
The board also gained a new ex-officio member—Reverend LaTrelle Easterling, who was named bishop of the Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church, upon the retirement of former Bishop Marcus Matthews, who served the AU board with distinction for the past four years. Also stepping down from board service was trustee Susan Carmel, who remains a solid AU friend and benefactor.
In other action, President Kerwin said the freshman enrollment was on target with some 1,700 new students starting their studies, which is an historic low (and highly selective) admit rate of 26 percent. Freshman-to-sophomore retention also was strong, at some 90 percent. He complimented the Housing and Dining Programs staff for their dedication in accommodating all students in campus housing as we await the completion of the first two East Campus residence halls and prepare them for occupancy in January 2017.
The president summarized the work completed for years seven and eight of AU’s strategic plan, American University and the Next Decade: Leadership for a Changing World, as we prepare to set goals for the final two years of the plan and begin to align those goals with the start of the two-year budget process. Provost Scott Bass and CFO Doug Kudravetz gave a brief overview of the budget process timeline—that began with the formation of the University Budget Committee; will then follow with developing guidelines and identifying strategic plan objectives; hosting community forums and consultations with the deans, vice presidents, faculty senate and division leaders; forwarding recommendations to the president for his review and recommendations to the board’s Finance and Investment Committee; which then sends the final proposal to the full board for its review and a final vote.
Presidential Search Committee chair Jeff Sine updated the trustees on the status of the presidential search; the committee has begun to interview an initial group of candidates, some of whom will be called back for more comprehensive interviews in October. We will keep the campus informed.
Vice President of Development and Alumni Relations Courtney Surls gave a presentation and led a discussion on AU fundraising and the preliminary planning for AU’s next capital campaign. A number of things suggest the timing is right for a comprehensive effort—with the conclusion of a decade of transformation under President Kerwin; AU’s strong financial position; AU’s image as a thriving and emergent institution; and a dedicated board.
The board was informed of campus climate issues that our entire university community is working to improve. Among them is a concerted focus on diversity and inclusion, Title IX, and student mental health, among other issues. The board will be kept fully informed and will monitor the efforts and results as we strive to be an even more inclusive and vibrant academic community.
Following reports from the vice presidents, the board went into closed session and the meeting concluded.
The next meeting of the Board of Trustees will be November 17–18 on the AU campus.