A year into my tenure at American University, we are putting the finishing touches on a strategic plan that embraces our strengths and helps us move confidently toward new opportunities in the future of work, learning, and citizenship, and the development of economic models for higher education that are both sustainable and accountable.
As we began preparing for the plan, I listened to our AU family, friends, donors, business partners, and government leaders. I heard some dominant themes. At American University, there is no indifference. We are passionate about applying our knowledge and experience to effect meaningful change on the most pressing problems facing our nation and world. And we are not waiting for a finished plan to move forward.
Despite record demand for admission to AU, we maintained our commitment to access by fully supporting the 18 percent of our students who are eligible for Pell Grants. We celebrated when their first-year retention rate exceeded that of the overall student body for the second consecutive year. We launched our Plan for Inclusive Excellence, because no institution can be excellent if it is not inclusive. And we were proud to be the first university to achieve carbon neutrality, two years ahead of schedule.
American established new momentum for philanthropy through two significant gifts—one for our Hall of Science building, now under construction, and one for an institute that builds on our historic strengths in public policy, political science, and international relations, takes advantage of our Washington location, and combines learning with practice to deepen the impact of practitioners: the Sine Institute of Policy and Politics.
American represents a distinctive balance of excellence in research, teaching, and experiential learning. Our strategy will grow from this firm foundation as we reach for the future and the change we know we can make.