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American University Launches Unique Student-Advised Impact Investment Fund

The experiential learning program focused on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investments will be funded with 1 percent of the university’s endowment

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Beginning in fall 2022, American University is launching an interdisciplinary program that will provide students with real-world experience in sustainable investing within the university’s endowment portfolio. Led by AU’s Kogod School of Business, a new course offering will engage students in the university’s financial future by featuring student-faculty collaboration to research and recommend investment opportunities to the Board of Trustees. Investments from the program will be funded with a 1 percent allocation of the endowment, or approximately $9 million based on current market levels, making it one of the largest student-advised investment funds in the country. Committing this level of university endowment resources makes this program unique in the nation.

"At American University, we take experiential learning and sustainability to the next level. After being the first carbon neutral university, our new ESG investing program exemplifies how AU’s experiential learning is at the core of how our students engage their purpose and take on today’s pressing challenges," said AU President Sylvia Burwell. "By connecting our students to the university’s endowment investment process, we are combining our students’ passions with our expert faculty to support our educational and financial goals.”

The new full credit course, Environmental, Social, and Governance Funds, will feature approximately 35 undergraduate and graduate students researching and evaluating investment opportunities with strong ESG practices. Taught by Kogod faculty members Timothy Timura and Randolph Nordby, the class is open to all majors to engage students of different backgrounds and disciplines. The class will make investment recommendations to the Finance Committee of AU’s Board of Trustees. Once the recommendations are approved by the committee, the investments will be funded within AU’s endowment. Students in the program will also gain valuable knowledge, guidance, and career preparation from the university’s financial advisors at Cliffwater. Morningstar, a leading provider of independent investment research, will be providing class materials to support the program.

"Creating ongoing engagement with our students and providing hands-on opportunities to help shape the university's future is a hallmark of the AU experience,” said Jeff Sine (SIS/BA ’76), chair of the Finance Committee of the AU Board of Trustees. "Using endowment resources not only supports the program but also furthers our overall commitment to sustainable investing."

With this new program, American University aims to develop the next generation of impact investment leaders, further experiential learning offerings, and continue to build upon its overall commitment to sustainability across the AU community. In addition to its carbon neutral achievement, American University divested from fossil fuel investments in its endowment in 2020. The Kogod School of Business is ranked as the 8th Best Green MBA program by Princeton Review. At the heart of AU’s experiential learning, more than 91 percent of students have at least one internship and more than 60 percent participate in study abroad programs.

“We strive to provide our students with hands-on opportunities at Kogod,” said Ayman Omar, Associate Dean for Graduate Programs and Student Services of the Kogod School of Business. “This new ESG course will prepare students with real-world experience in impact investing to create more sustainable businesses and organizations in the future.”  

Students interested in registering for the class can learn more from their advisors. For more information and to learn more about the ESG program, please visit: