With the new academic year nearly upon us, I will update the community on a number of developments, some of which are central to our preparations for the start of school.
But, I'll start with another word of thanks to the Board of Trustees for their support in appointing me president of our university. It is a signal honor that I appreciate and welcome as a great opportunity. I also want to thank the AU community for the many expressions of encouragement I've received since the appointment was announced. Having experienced (and benefited from) AU from a variety of perspectives—as a student, alumnus, faculty member, dean, provost, parent, interim president, donor and fan—as I said at the announcement of my appointment, I will work to advance our university in a manner consistent with our mission and values. As proud as we are of our past, we can look toward our future with excitement and anticipation that AU's best years are ahead.
We expect to welcome close to 1300 new freshman to AU during Welcome Weeks in August—with almost 97 percent having participated in orientation. In addition, some 350 transfer and a new group of mentorship students will join our returning undergraduates to begin their studies. The freshman numbers are lower than anticipated—a mild surprise given the record number of applications received. The quality of our entering freshman and transfer classes is strong, essentially unchanged from last year. Study Abroad will enroll record numbers of AU students this fall and is currently on track to do the same in the spring. Washington Semester will enroll slightly below the levels set for its fall domestic component but the non-credit international program will meet or exceed its target.
The returning student component of our undergraduate enrollment is still developing, but no great surprises appear to be in the offing. Student retention is of great importance for AU; and while we compare favorably to national norms, efforts are underway led by interim provost Ivy Broder to ensure this area gets serious and concentrated attention in the coming years.
Graduate enrollments are on target. There is some variation across the schools and colleges but most are ahead of last year in deposits for their master's degree components. The Washington College of Law will have another very strong year in numbers enrolled and the qualifications of incoming students. Our doctoral programs also will meet their goals.
The overall message of this latest recruitment cycle is familiar. We work in a highly competitive and challenging environment, and the extensive use of the common application and our free, online application makes it increasingly difficult to predict enrollment based on traditional indicators. Prospective students considering us and other institutions focus on academic quality, cocurricular experiences and expected value when making their enrollment decisions. These fundamental dynamics will not change in the near future and we need to focus hard on them as well.
Consistent with the current enrollment situation, our budget is essentially on track. We will benefit from solid summer enrollments, which provide a positive start for current fiscal year revenues. The fall revenue situation will be clearer when I write again in September, but at present, considering what we know about those figures and current expenditures, we should not confront significant difficulties in keeping the budget in balance for this current fiscal year.
While it enters the headlines only occasionally these days, the Virginia Tech tragedy remains fresh in our minds. As we approach the start of the new academic year, it is imperative that our entire community refresh its familiarity with our procedures for dealing with various emergencies. We have an Emergency Preparedness link on the university main page for that purpose, and I urge everyone to take a few minutes and review those materials—including information on the D.C. Alert system, which allows us to send text messages to parents, students, faculty, and staff in an emergency. Throughout the year our emergency planning work group will continue its efforts to ensure that we take every reasonable step to protect our community while respecting the fundamental values that define a university.
Congratulations are in order for the Office of Information Technology and everyone on campus involved in the successful completion of the Datatel R-18 project. The upgrade was completed on schedule on July 20, and to date, our business operations have been functioning normally. Such a comprehensive project can become exasperating – but the efforts of all across campus, led by the IT office, have made this effort as smooth as possible.
In addition, through the summer we have continued to work with the Web design and consulting firm HUGE to reach a practical understanding regarding the important work to be done to reinvigorate AU's Web presence. The talks have been productive as we have continued to drill down on the costs and scope of work for a first-phase effort. We are very close to closure, and I expect an announcement around the start of the school year.
With the campus goals for academic year 2007-08 in circulation this week, you will note that the $200 million Campaign for AnewAU remains a high priority for us all. It is pleasing to note, building on the efforts of the development office and the individual schools and units, that our campaign total is now almost $143 million. We must re-double our efforts and commitment to the campaign's success, which is fundamental to building a stronger foundation for AU's future.
In other fund-raising news, thanks and congratulations to the 2007 senior class for raising more than $22,000 for their gift—an on-campus “Park and Park” and the Class of 2007 Endowed Scholarship. The “Park and Park” will combine picnic tables with a stationary bike parking area; the scholarship will provide financial assistance for one or more deserving students with demonstrated need.
The facilities management team uses the summer months to improve the teaching, learning, and living spaces on campus through a series of upgrades and renovations. This summer was particularly busy, with projects that included:
Nebraska Hall – Suite style housing for 113 students and a faculty apartment was created by gutting the old building interior. It will open for move-in on August 17.
University Center/Mary Graydon First Floor – The north end was remodeled to open up the space and improve the lounge areas; it includes an expanded seating and gathering venue in what was formerly the Tavern. A new cyber-café area, expanded information desk, and quiet lounge will greet students returning to campus this fall. The entire floor has new or refurbished finishes that give it a more contemporary look. The first floor will reopen on August 17, and the food service venues on August 27.
Leonard Hall – Many of the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing components were replaced as part of the regular schedule of residence hall refurbishment. The data cabling was also replaced to improve the speed and reliability of connections.
Greenberg Track – A new track surface was installed.
Kogod Expansion – The KSB renovation got rolling this summer, with the gutting of the former Butler Instructional Center to add classrooms and offices for the Kogod School of Business. The target completion date is August 2008.
MediaProduction Center – A new vegetative “green roof” was added as part of a regular maintenance/replacement plan. The green roof will reduce energy use.
Other Projects – Other north campus projects included the replacement of transformers, cabling, piping, manholes, and other equipment to save energy and improve system reliability. The amphitheater has been affected by a steam pipe replacement project, which will conclude in late August with site restoration and resumption of use by mid-September.
Notable Recent Achievements
Our schools and units have maintained a strong pace of innovation, activity, and achievement over the summer and preparing for fall. A few examples:
College of Arts and Sciences – CAS partnered with the D.C. College Success Foundation to host 200 college-bound high school students from high-needs D.C. schools in Ward 8 for their first campus experience—a three-day program (supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) to introduce them to the process of selecting a both a college and a major and in preparing their applications. Also, the School of Education, Teaching and Health was awarded a $1,080,539 Transition to Teaching grant to recruit, train, and facilitate the retention of new teachers in Washington, D.C. high-needs schools.
Schoolof Communication – This summer's Discover the World of Communication high school program, in collaboration with the National Student Leadership Conference, enrolled some 351 students (double from last year) taking 421 classes under the leadership of Professor Sarah Menke-Fish. Also, planning continues in a partnership between the SOC and USA Today to host a series of events at Katzen in September to mark the newspaper's 25th anniversary. Events will include an exhibition, American Forum, and special panel and reception with founder Alan Neuharth on September 10.
Schoolof Public Affairs – The July issue of PS: Political Science and Politics ranks political science PhD programs based on the success in placing graduates in tenure-track positions at graduate universities. SPA is ranked 46th, one spot behind Syracuse and ahead of Maryland, GW, and Georgetown. Also, Dean Bill LeoGrande was selected to be a member of the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) Educators' Advisory Panel.
Washington College of Law – In June, the War Crimes Research Office at WCL launched the Summer Law Program in The Hague, Netherlands—a one-month, six-credit study abroad program that is a unique collaboration between the WCL and the T.M.C. Asser Institute, one of the most prominent international law research institutes in Europe. Twenty-six students (including 21 from AU), studied cutting-edge issues of international criminal law and legal approaches to terrorism, taught by judges and practitioners from universities and legal organizations. Integral to the program were visits to major courts and legal organizations in The Hague.
KogodSchoolof Business – Starting this past summer, Kogod began offering hybrid courses to provide students greater flexibility in the delivery mechanism and improved delivery of content in areas where technology is more efficient than face-to-face presentation. Hybrid courses are taught both online in an asynchronous fashion and in the classroom synchronously. Starting this fall, the Kogod MBA program will offer three of its core courses in a hybrid fashion. Student response has been positive, as they are excited about not only the later evening start time for classes, but also fewer on-campus classes per week; they take class online one evening, and on campus a second evening.
School of International Service– On June 9, the school celebrated the 50th anniversary of its groundbreaking by reenacting the original event with more than 30 members of the Class of 1967 present for speeches and recollections. The next SIS groundbreaking event to begin construction of its new home is expected later this year.
WAMU – The spring Arbitron numbers revealed that WAMU 88.5 claimed some 656,900 listeners—a record high in the total service area and an almost 15percent increase in audience in the past year. This places WAMU as third most “listened to” public radio station in the nation.
Athletics – The fall sports season gets underway in late August, headlined with the volleyball, cross country, and field hockey teams defending their respective sixth, fifth, and fourth consecutive Patriot League titles. Student athletes posted their highest combined GPA ever (3.32) spring semester.
General Counsel – AU Vice President and General Counsel Mary Kennard is a finalist in the general counsel category of the WashingtonBusiness Journal's “Top Washington Lawyer” awards program. The winners will be announced on September 11.
Army Corps of Engineers
In the weeks to come, the Army Corps of Engineers will resume their work on the two AU owned residential properties on Glenbrook Road adjacent to campus—4825 and 4835. This means that 4835 Glenbrook (the president's house) will be effectively unavailable for university use and functions as of August 2007 and not available for use as a president's residence or as a site for president-hosted events for the 2007-08 academic year. We will be using other campus venues for our events.
The work at 4825 Glenbrook is, in essence, a return by the Army Corps to that site to complete work begun some years ago. The nature of this work—which entails the removal of a known cache of World War I munitions buried on the site—will require that the Army Corps take ample safety precautions to protect the workers on site, the residents along Glenbrook, and the adjacent area of the AU campus. We are currently working with the Army Corps regarding their work plans and timelines and our expectations for the safety measures we insist they have in place to ensure the protection of the campus community. We continue to have the assistance of a leading environmental science consultant, Dr. Paul Chrostowski, to help us in defining these requirements.
Those of us who have been part of AU for even a short time are aware of the long tenure of the Army Corps on our campus. The community is also used to periodic updates from me and other AU administrators on the Corps activities. However, this familiarity should not diminish our focus on the next round of work. It is significant, and when the schedule and safety precautions are finalized and the community returns from summer break, we will provide a full briefing, will post pertinent information on campus Web site devoted to the Army Corps operation, and will give this issue our sustained attention.
Housing & Dining Programs
More than 13,000 residents and guests were housed in the residence halls this summer, which included AU summer school students, interns and conference participants. The halls open for fall semester on August 17. In mid-June, Housing & Dining Programs launched a new web site with Off Campus Partners, Inc., which permits registrants to search current housing listings, post a new listing or use the message board to find roommates, buy and sell furniture, and other aspects of housing. The site should be particularly helpful for transfer, graduate and law students.
I will provide a mid-September report on the start of school and update many of the items outlined above. At that time I will also discuss the start of a new strategic planning effort. The time has come to replace the current “15 Points” plan with a new document to project the mission, values, and priorities of our institution and set specific goals for which we all will be accountable. I intend to fashion a planning process that is inclusive of the widest range of views and opinions as we move toward a clear, coherent document that enjoys wide support among key constituencies. By mid-September I will have done a substantial amount of initial consultation regarding the process best suited for American University. I expect to hear a great deal on the topics and issues our new plan should address. I ask that every member of our community begin thinking about this important work and send your initial thoughts and ideas to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. As the strategic planning process begins, we will establish a strategic planning Website to post relevant documents and communications for easy access and review.
Enjoy what remains of the summer. The work in the year ahead will be plentiful and challenging but with more than ample rewards. We look forward to the symbolic start of the new school year—Opening Convocation on Friday, August 24 (11:00 a.m., Friedheim Quadrangle) that features Scholar-Teacher of the Year Pamela Nadell, and the first day of classes on Monday, August 27. I invite you to the Celebrate AU festivities that afternoon (2:00 p.m., Friedheim Quadrangle; raindate: Friday, August 31, 2:00 p.m., Friedheim Quadrangle).