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Memorandum November 21, 2017

To:
AU Community
From:
Jack C. Cassell, Chairman, Board of Trustees
Subject:
Board of Trustees Late Fall 2017 Meeting Summary

The Board of Trustees held its fall meeting on Thursday, November 16, and Friday, November 17, on the East Campus of American University. I want to share with you a number of items that came out of the two days.

Following a full day of committee meetings, Thursday night featured a reception and program to celebrate the opening of the Don Myers Technology and Innovation Building. The occasion was an opportunity to honor the memory of the building’s namesake—former CFO, Vice President and Treasurer Don Myers—whose four decades of service under six presidents helped build the university’s long-term financial health, human resources, facilities, and grounds to support AU’s academic programs and aspirations. The program honored Don and his family; thanked the board, whose significant support helped make this project possible; and celebrated the academic spaces and innovative programs that our faculty, students, and staff are now fully utilizing. Presentations by two College of Arts and Sciences students exemplified the applied academic creativity put to use every day in the Myers Building and showed how AU students truly are changing the world.

At a Friday morning breakfast, trustees and cabinet members met with close to 40 students to hear their perspectives on AU, followed by a Q&A with President Burwell and me. This included undergraduate, graduate, and law students—and representation from cultural, religious, and political organizations, as well as transfer, international, and veteran students. The event, organized by student trustee Valentina Fernandez, with assistance from vice president of campus life Fanta Aw, is part of the board’s ongoing commitment to create opportunities for trustees to engage with campus constituencies in a range of settings, both formal and informal.

The board met for the rest of the day on Friday to conduct the university business as part of its quarterly meeting. Among the actions were the approval of the recent faculty manual revisions as endorsed by the Faculty Senate and the Academic Affairs Committee of the board, following months of work; the approval of a new MFA in games and interactive media in the School of Communication; and the approval of a new trustee, Gaurdie E. Banister Jr., the parent of a recent AU graduate and retired chief executive officer of Aera Energy, LLC. Mr. Banister will bring an array of experience and insights to the board, including but not limited to applied expertise on diversity and inclusion, an interest in campus climate, and a wide range of other issues.

A key part of the meeting was a “competitor analysis” review and discussion of AU as compared with seven other prominent universities with whom AU competes in a range of areas. Terry Flannery, vice president of communication, guided the trustee discussion—covering categories such as academic reputation, students, enrollment, faculty, finances, philanthropy, and brand attributes—and posed the questions of where are AU’s opportunities to lead and to compete head-to-head—and what are our weaknesses to address? Conversations such as this with campus constituencies will help shape our strategic plan discussions in the weeks to come.

A number of key announcements were made regarding upcoming prominent events. Fall commencement will be held at 10 a.m. Sunday, December 17, in Bender Arena, with United States Archivist David S. Ferreiro as the commencement speaker and honorary degree recipient.

We also are pleased to announce that the formal inauguration of Sylvia Mathews Burwell as president will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday, April 12, 2018, in Bender Arena. A variety of campus events are being planned for the two days—Wednesday, April 11, and Thursday, April 12—to celebrate American University’s past, present, and future and to inaugurate AU’s 15th president on this historic occasion. Information will be forthcoming on participation opportunities for the AU community.

The next Board of Trustees meetings will be February 22-23, 2018, on the AU campus.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday and best wishes for a successful conclusion to fall semester.