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American University Launches Plan for Inclusive Excellence

Gate at front of AU

American University President Sylvia M. Burwell today launched AU’s Plan for Inclusive Excellence, a far-reaching effort to build a truly inclusive community at the University.

The plan is based on a comprehensive model, known as Inclusive Excellence, that instills diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts across the university’s structure, systems, and practices as a catalyst for achieving educational and institutional excellence.

“American University can thrive only when we affirm the dignity of everyone, when we demonstrate cultural competence, and when all members of our community – especially students, faculty, and staff of color— feel included,” President Burwell said. “To help us get there, we’ve launched a new Plan for Inclusive Excellence, grounded in the extensive input we received from across AU.”

With the release of the plan, AU is making a strong commitment to accountability and transparency. It has developed metrics to assess progress on the plan’s goals and committed to releasing an annual, public report tracking its progress. And, President Burwell has called upon each member of the AU community to review the plan and identify the ways they can individually and collectively advance the plan’s goals.

“Change takes time, and change takes many hands. 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,” Burwell said.

AU’s Plan Covers All Aspects of the University Experience

The AU Plan for Inclusive Excellence touches all parts of, and all people at, the University. It will address the student experience inside and outside the classroom; faculty and staff recruitment, hiring, promotion, and retention; how incidents of bias and discrimination claims are handled; how AU communicates about diversity, equity, and inclusion issues; and much more. The plan is centered around five goals:

  • Training, learning, and development to equip members of our community to lead change in a complex world. As part of this goal, AU will implement institution-wide training for all community members, tailored to the needs of AU constituencies, designed to focus on cultural competence as a critical aspect of orientation, learning, onboarding, and professional development.
  • A focus on campus climate, culture, and community, so that all community members feel that they belong here. As part of this goal, AU will provide grant incentives to encourage collaboration across departments and student organizations to develop innovative diversity and inclusion programs, build a sense of community, and positively impact climate for faculty, staff, administrators, and students.
  • Changes to our systems, policies, and procedures to promote diversity, inclusion, transparency, and accountability. As part of this goal, AU will adopt consistent hiring committee policies and practices across the university to further equitable outcomes.
  • Access and equity in the way we recruit, hire, train, develop, evaluate, and recognize faculty, staff, and administrators. As part of this goal, AU will pilot a training program for faculty hiring, reappointment and promotion review committees focused on recognizing and eliminating bias in recruitment and promotion processes.
  • A focus on curriculum and instruction to ensure that our core curriculum demonstrates critical inquiry, intellectual engagement, and respectful discourse. As part of this goal, AU will require each school to participate in professional development and learning programs to enhance classroom climate.

AU is investing $121 million over two years to support its diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives over two years. In 2018, AU has committed $60 million, including $53 million to support access through scholarships for underrepresented students and veterans, and $7 million in academic initiatives such as the American Experience (AUx) courses, academic centers, faculty development, curricular enhancement, and support services and programs specifically designed to advance access, equity, and inclusion. The University expects to invest $61 million in 2019.

Plan Sets Forth Clear Metrics for Measuring Success

Accountability and transparency are at the heart of AU’s Plan for Inclusive Excellence. University leadership has worked with AU’s Office of Institutional Research and Assessment to develop a set of metrics to both drive and assess the progress on the Plan’s goals. The University will release an annual report on progress made on the plan so that the community can hold itself accountable.

There are metrics associated with each of the plan’s five goals. The key measures that will be used to measure progress include, but are not limited to:

  • Improved campus climate that provides a sense of belonging and community for all its members as evidenced in surveys/focus groups;
  • An increase in the compositional diversity (based on benchmarks) found among faculty, students, staff, and administrators;
  • Student success as measured by indicators such as retention and graduation rates of underrepresented populations at AU;
  • Evidence of successful completion of training or coursework by members of the AU community.

The Plan Builds on Important Work Done at AU Over the Last Year

AU has not waited for the plan’s release to take steps to address diversity, equity, and inclusion issues, and the plan builds on this important work. Over the last year, AU launched the new Antiracist Research and Policy Center and a new major in African American and African Diaspora Studies. It also significantly enhanced faculty diversity among its news hires—44 percent of the new faculty hired in fall 2017 self-identify as people of color. And the University has improved bias incident reporting and changed its approach to communication around diversity, equity, and inclusion issues to make it clearer and quicker.

Crucial Conversations About Inclusive Excellence

As part of AU’s efforts to engage all parts of the campus community in implementing the plan, the University will host former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro and Dr. Alma Clayton-Pedersen, who established Association of American Colleges & Universities’ national initiative on inclusive excellence, in conversation with President Burwell about the AU Plan for Inclusive Excellence. The event, part of AU’s Crucial Conversation series, will be held on Thursday, Feb. 8, from 2:30-4:00 p.m. in the School of International Service, Founders Room.

Our Plan for Inclusive Excellence

President Sylvia M. Burwell announces American University's Plan for Inclusive Excellence and discusses the opportunities and challenges the university faces with respect to diversity, equity, and inclusion.