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Learning Beyond Graduation Through Alumni Audit Program

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Tom Oakley

Even as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army Reserve assisting with government affairs and overseeing a battalion, Thomas “Tom” Oakley, Kogod/MBA ’98, continues to find ways to further his education. One way is through the Alumni Audit program, a benefit offered to American University alumni, which provides them with the opportunity to take one course on campus each semester. Tom describes the program as “a great way to have your cake and eat it too” because you can continue your education in the classroom, listening to the lectures and participating in discussions, without the pressure of taking tests or writing papers.

Tom’s interest in economics is what led him to the Alumni Audit program. Economics was not a focus of his during his graduate education, but he became motivated to learn more about the subject after a tour in Iraq, during which he focused on the country’s economic development. After he returned from the tour, he says, “I wanted to learn more about economics, but didn’t want to go for a PhD. The Alumni Audit program provided a great option for me.” Now, he has participated in the program nearly every semester since fall 2012.

The Alumni Audit program has allowed Tom to gain interdisciplinary knowledge in economics. He explains that he has been able to take economics courses within different schools on campus, including Kogod School of Business and the School of International Service, providing him with opportunities to learn the subject from different perspectives. He says that this has helped him develop a greater mastery of the subject, one that carries over to his work with the National Economists Club.

Alumni Audit has also helped Tom reconnect with the university. The program not only allows him to learn more about economics, but it also helps him develop relationships with faculty members, including Dr. Bernhard Gunter, Dr. Arturo Porzecanski, and Mark Vaughan. He says that these and other faculty members have gone above and beyond by providing career advice outside of the classroom, and Dr. Porzecanski has even been a guest speaker at meetings hosted by the National Economists Club.

Tom’s professional network has grown since participating in the program as well. “Auditing has put me in touch with lots of folks who I have continued connecting with on and off campus,” Tom says. It has connected him to people including Myron Brilliant, executive vice president and head of International Affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Justin Antonipillanai, counselor to the secretary with the delegated duties of under secretary for economic affairs, both alumni of AU’s Washington College of Law and well-established members of their respective fields.

Finally, he adds that he has never felt out of place in the classroom as an auditor because the faculty are welcoming and accommodating to all of the students. He believes that “many more people should take advantage” of the program. If you are interested in taking advantage of the resources provided by the Alumni Audit program, please visit