Creating Pathways to Purpose

AU launches the Elevate Scholarship Initiative to support Eagles who experience changes in their financial circumstances 


Photo­graphy by
Jeff Watts

Ishita Jamar

American University has launched a new philanthropic effort to create more pathways for students to pursue their purpose by removing unanticipated financial barriers. The Elevate Scholarship Initiative will raise $25 million in unrestricted scholarship funds for enrolled students. The university is matching donors’ investments with an additional $25 million—doubling down on the impact of this important endeavor, part of AU’s Change Can’t Wait campaign.

Every student comes to AU eager for new academic and personal experiences and with a plan to fund their studies, graduate, and go on to live a life of purpose. However, unexpected changes to students’ financial need challenge the university’s ability to provide enough aid to ensure their well-being. Through the Elevate Scholarship Initiative, AU is making the financial and philosophical commitment to anticipate and respond to these situations. 

Each year, as many as 500 undergraduates may experience changes in their financial circumstances that prompt them to seek additional resources to remain at AU. Financial stressors such as parental job loss, illness, death, or strains caused by sibling college enrollments, can severely impact a student’s ability to thrive and might cause them to pass up experiential learning opportunities, pause their studies, take on additional loans, or drop out altogether. 

Unrestricted scholarships—funds the university can award to any enrolled student demonstrating financial need—provide the flexibility to accommodate any Eagle in need.

“It was unbelievable timing to have received the award at such a critical time in my family’s life,” says Brandi Roach, SIS/MA ’22, recipient of the Mehdi Heravi Scholarship. “I had to make the tough decision to resign from my full-time job to manage new probate responsibilities following two family tragedies. The award not only allowed me to study without the additional stress of tuition, but it also gave me a much-needed boost of motivation and confidence to continue with my programs.” 

By alleviating financial stress and helping undergraduate students remain at AU, Elevate scholarships give recipients the opportunity to focus on their studies, foster relationships, engage in campus life, and participate in valuable experiential learning—including research and career development activities, study abroad, and internships that are frequently unpaid. 

AU is committed to ensuring Eagles thrive—personally and academically—recognizing that when students are supported holistically, they can more easily reach their full potential. Through the Change Can’t Wait campaign, AU has now raised almost $5 million for the Elevate Scholarship Initiative, including a recent $2 million gift that catalyzed its launch. This lead gift from an anonymous donor is among the university’s most significant philanthropic investments in unrestricted scholarship support. With 20 percent of the goal secured, the Elevate Scholarship Initiative is well on its way to transforming the lives of AU students for years to come. By joining this effort, alumni, parents, and friends can help reach the goal and realize the full impact of this critical initiative. 

American University students are bold learners who transform ideas into meaningful actions—individuals who want to make a difference. And they should not be limited by their ability to afford an AU education. 

The Elevate Scholarship Initiative will address the needs of undergraduate students, ensuring they can remain and thrive at AU—where their achievements and promise are nurtured, honed, and celebrated so they may share their contributions with the world as changemaking alumni.

The Elevate Scholarship Initiative fortifies AU’s commitment to ensuring a more equitable, affordable, and empowering AU education through Change Can’t Wait. Individuals interested in supporting this initiative should contact the vice president of university advancement at

Scholarship Paves the Way 

Karin Akerson, CAS/BSG ’96, believed in the transformative power of education. A scholarship named in her memory has done just that for its latest recipient: Ishita Jamar, SOC/BA ’23. 

The Karin A. Akerson Memorial Scholarship—an unrestricted endowed scholarship fund established at AU in 2018—has given the public relations and strategic communication major the freedom to take advantage of all an AU education offers. 

Jamar, who has a near-perfect 3.98 GPA, is advancing her studies and laying the groundwork for her future through myriad experiences beyond the classroom. She participated in AU Student Government as a senator and senate speaker, leading a commission on sexual assault prevention that culminated in a seven-page report with recommendations to improve campus culture. She has served as both president and recruitment chair for the Chi Omega sorority’s Eta Lambda chapter and cofounded Valley for Change, a grassroots organization that raises awareness around racial biases and privilege in her native New Jersey.   

She has also held six internships, which have provided her with invaluable professional experience and positioned her for a career in public relations. Two of Jamar’s internships, which she landed with support from AU’s Career Center, alumni network, and SOC faculty, were unpaid. 

“The privilege of holding unpaid internships was only attainable for me because of this scholarship,” she says. “This support has given me and my family more financial stability and has made it easier for me to build upon my academic interests outside of the classroom.”

Jamar’s academic and experiential learning experiences, made possible with support from the Akerson scholarship, have allowed her to forge a path at AU that paves the way to making an impact as a changemaking alumna.

Jamar intends to give back to the AU community, mentoring students and creating opportunities for them beyond the classroom. “Awards like the Akerson scholarship help alleviate tuition stress and added loans. They enable students to focus on their studies and themselves, rather than taking on an added shift at work—or even an extra part-time job,” she says. “I hope to one day be in a place to offer financial stability to AU students in the way the Akerson family has done for me.”

Your Impact 

The AU Fund for Student Support is fueled by gifts of any size and directly impacts current students. A gift to the AU Fund for Student Support counts toward the Elevate Scholarship Initiative’s goal and helps ensure that all Eagles experience the full scope of an AU education by augmenting financial aid with flexible funds that are available when and where they are needed most. Through Change Can’t Wait, you can equip students with the means to thrive on campus and beyond. Make a gift to the AU Fund for Student Support at