President Burwell moves forward the national conversation about mental health of college students with an essay in the November/December 2018 Foreign Affairs. In “Generation Stress: The Mental Health Crisis in Schools,” Burwell covers the rising trend of student mental health challenges and how universities can play a positive role in making change. The piece is the result of Burwell’s extensive conversations with students and a thorough analysis of the higher education landscape by Campus Life’s Traci Callandrillo and Psychology Professor Kate Gunthert. Thrive Global, the health and wellness platform founded by Ariana Huffington, syndicated it in August 2019.
At AU, how we learn is as important as what. Our scholar-teachers lead by example, and our students learn through dynamic experiences. We adapt to the shifting landscape and teach our students to do the same. As we prepare for tomorrow’s opportunities, our mission to advance knowledge and foster intellectual curiosity remains our constant guide.
We embrace the highest-quality teaching through experiential programs that transform good managers into extraordinary leaders, summer service trips abroad for our scholar-athletes, and investigative reporting workshops run by award-winning reporters and editors. When students come to AU, they grow not just as global-minded citizens but as changemakers in a changing world.
The game-changing strategy to expand AU’s research enterprise, maximize undergraduate success, and serve the broader community through partnerships and lifelong learning opportunities is taking shape under the leadership of new Provost Dan Myers, a veteran administrator who helped expand the research mission during his 18-year tenure at Notre Dame.
“We have some really great research going on at this university, and a fantastic undergraduate experience, and we want to make sure we do those two things together in a way that’s going to complement each other,” Myers says.
The interdisciplinary emphasis of the university’s new strategic plan is among factors that drew Myers here. Steps to increase the number of endowed chairs, secure more research funding, and open new centers that bring together multiple disciplines reflect much of the excitement in higher education right now, Myers says.
SOE’s new partnership with DC Public Schools is one example of how AU wants to be a “different kind of partner,” he explains.
“We have strong aspirations to become a unique university partner to the public-school system in this city and really change the game in terms of how we recruit potential teachers, support them as they become teachers, get them back into the DC public schools, and then support them and the system while they’re there.”
An SOC-housed nonprofit trains the next generation of investigative journalists and builds partnerships with top media outlets. The Investigative Reporting Workshop (IRW), which celebrated its 10th anniversary in April, has employed 160 student interns and fellows, produced 80 in-depth investigations, won 26 journalism awards, and raised $16 million in funding.
Since 2013, about 40 SOC grad students have worked in the Washington Post newsroom as part of IRW senior editor John Sullivan’s practicum course. Over the last two years, eight students, most of them IRW interns, contributed to the Post’s “Murder with Impunity” series, a Pulitzer Prize finalist. AU students have contributed to 20 other Post investigations and produced 100 of their own bylines.
“I am very proud of what we’ve done for the last decade,” says IRW founder and executive editor Chuck Lewis. “We think it’s worthwhile for the students, for the public, and for democracy.”
Seventeen student athletes and three staff spent nine days in Tercera Línea, Paraguay, building a multipurpose sports court with members of the rural community.
Funded in part by Board of Trustees member Stephanie Bennett-Smith, Courts for Kids partnered with AU on the inaugural Eagles in Service project.
“Finishing the court was almost as rewarding as watching all of our new friends play basketball on it for the first time,” wrote runner Kaitlyn McTernan, CAS/BS ’20, and field hockey player Caroline Miller, SPA/BA ’20, during the trip. “We will surely miss the friendships we made here but look forward to hearing from them about the court and how they grew up with it.”
Eagles in Service is one of four components of the new AU Eagles Leadership Academy. The curriculum also includes workshops on core values in leadership for new student-athletes, in-depth leadership development seminars, and life-skills programming geared toward seniors.
A two-time Academy Award-winning professor and a student with bilingual cinema career aspirations have forged a mentoring relationship that extends beyond campus.
Frederick Douglass Distinguished Scholars (FDDS) faculty supporter, SOC distinguished artist in residence Russell Williams, SOC/BA ’74, is sharing his considerable knowledge of the art and business of moviemaking with film and media major and FDDS scholar Fernando Rocha, SOC/BA ’21.
Rocha first stopped by Williams’s office to seek career guidance. That led to Rocha’s taking a University of Southern California directing and producing class, networking in Hollywood, and meeting Williams’s cinematographer friend who has film connections in Cuba and Mexico City.
“Professor Williams is a great example of why it’s really important for students to get to know faculty. Especially if it’s not a faculty member you have class with,” Rocha says.
AU has received $10 million in leadership gifts from two couples whose ties to the university run deep.
Jack Cassell and his wife, Denise, committed $3 million towards a new Center for Athletic Performance (CAP), a modern facility to serve AU’s varsity programs and open new recreational opportunities for the entire university community. Cassell, SOC/BA ’77, who has served AU for decades from student-athlete to trustee, is the son of beloved AU coach, athletic director, and vice president Stafford “Pop” Cassell, CAS/BA ’36.
Alan Meltzer and his wife, Amy, pledged $7 million to AU, joining the Cassells with a $5 million gift for CAP and $2 million to create the Alan L. Meltzer and Amy Meltzer Fellowship in the Center for Israel Studies, now celebrating its 20th anniversary. Meltzer, an AU trustee since 2007, was an AU wrestler while a student at SPA, and remains one of the Eagles’ most dedicated fans.
To meet the growing demand for lifelong learning, SPExS offered the first summer session of its Leadership Coaching for Organizational Performance certificate program. Accredited by the International Coach Federation, the executive coaching program maximizes skills with 12 days of in-person instruction and coaching opportunities. Carole Dickert-Scherr, vice president of human resources at PBS, credits the program with giving her “ways to really engage deeply with other people and to listen.”
The $2 million gift that creates and endows the Karin A. Akerson Memorial Scholarship Fund will reduce financial barriers to higher education and empower more students to pursue academic careers at AU. After Akerson, CAS/BGS ’96, passed away in March 2018, her husband, Daniel F. Akerson, honored her memory and high regard for AU by advancing their shared estate plan to endow the transformational scholarship fund. Generations of students will benefit from the family’s vision and generosity.
Irena Volkov, CAS/BS ’19 excelled as a neuroscience student, designed her minor in bio-entrepreneurship, launched a medical technology company through the AU Incubator, led the neuroscience club, and captained the equestrian team. Next for the Harvard-Amgen Scholar is MIT and Harvard Medical School’s prestigious medical engineering and medical physics PhD program. Her advisors, professors, and classmates “continuously encouraged me to push my boundaries and be the best version of myself, no matter how outlandish my goals seemed at the time,” she says.
As co-president and editor-in-chief of the Blackprint, Jenna Caldwell, BA/SIS ’19, found her purpose. The international studies major says she decided she wanted to be a journalist “to elevate the voices of people who may not otherwise be heard.” She interned for NBC’s Meet the Press and is attending Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. “I also hope to have the opportunity to write about and document the experiences of the black diaspora,” Caldwell says.
Experiencing the nation’s capital while studying at AU as Fulbright Scholars is “a dream come true” for Argentinian twins Sabina and Candela Blanco Vecchi. They are earning master’s degrees in public policy from SPA with Sabina focusing on environmental issues and Candela on international development. “I’m really happy here. I always wanted to study here and be in contact with other people of other cultures,” Candela says. “As a city, Washington, DC, is amazing. And, of course, American University is an amazing place.”
Field hockey alumna Rafaela Rubas, Kogod/BSBA ’19, earned a Patriot League nomination for the NCAA Woman of the Year Award, placing her in an elite group of 64 out of more than 85,000 female Division I student-athletes. A four-time first-team all-Patriot League selection and a two-time all-conference academic honoree, Rubas graduated with a 3.70 GPA and significant teaching and mentorship experience through the Grassroots Project, which provides high school students with lessons in health education.
Othniel Harris, BA/SPA ’19, is organizing communities of color to make their voices heard in the 2020 election, and someday he hopes to govern his home state of New Jersey. Harris came to AU because he wanted to “intern on the Hill, work on campaigns, and be challenged by students who were just as passionate about politics as I am.” He did just that with two Congressional internships, two political advocacy agency internships, a New Jersey gubernatorial campaign internship, and several campus leadership positions.