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Living Up to Our Values

AU launches Plan for Inclusive Excellence


Illustra­tion by
James Steinberg

Illustration of AU's Plan for Inclusive Excellence

American University cannot be excellent without being truly inclusive.

Diversity across the institution has grown incrementally, but inequities and gaps still exist. Only 33 percent of African American students say they feel included on campus, compared to 71 percent of white students and less than 60 percent of Hispanic, Asian, and international students. More students of color experience bias and feel alienated and unsafe, compared to their white peers-and university policies and practices intended to address those experiences are considered, at best, inconsistent and opaque and, at worst, biased.

Change takes time and change requires many hands. With the January 30 launch of the Plan for Inclusive Excellence, which catalyzes the university's efforts to build a truly diverse and equitable community, it's all hands on deck at AU.

The university "can thrive only when we affirm the dignity of everyone, when we demonstrate cultural competence, and when everyone-especially students, faculty, and staff of color-feels included," says President Sylvia Mathews Burwell. "For this plan to be successful, every single member of the AU community needs to read the plan and determine how they can personally contribute to its success."

Thoughtful Action

The plan is grounded in survey data and input from more than 1,000 students, faculty, staff, and alumni. It's based on Inclusive Excellence, a widely used framework for organizational culture change introduced in 2005 by the Association of American Colleges and Universities.

The plan details AU's commitment to accountability and transparency and includes metrics to assess progress towards five goals: 

  • training, learning, and development to equip members of our community to lead change in a complex world
  • a focus on campus climate, culture, and community, so that everyone feels safe, satisfied, and a sense of belonging
  • changes to our systems, policies, and procedures to promote diversity, inclusion, transparency, and accountability
  • access and equity in the way we recruit, hire, train, develop, evaluate, and recognize faculty, staff, and administrators
  • a focus on curriculum and instruction to ensure that our core curriculum demonstrates critical inquiry, intellectual engagement, and respectful discourse

AU is investing $121 million over two years to support these initiatives. In 2018 the university committed $53 million to scholarships for underrepresented students and veterans and $7 million for academic initiatives.