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President's Message | Reports & Announcements


April 3, 2013

 TO: Campus Community
 FROM: Neil Kerwin, President
 SUBJECT: Mid-Semester Update


Condition of the University
The condition of American University is sound. There have been a number of important developments since I last wrote to the community, and some of the more prominent ones are summarized below.

Strategic Plan and University Budget
At the Board of Trustees meeting in late February, a number of actions were taken that will strongly influence AU’s course over the next two years. The board reviewed the objectives for years 5 and 6 of our strategic plan, American University in the Next Decade: Leadership for a Changing World. These objectives, along with a recap of how they were developed over the course of this academic year, can be found on the strategic plan website. They summarize what we seek to achieve in every significant area of our university’s mission and work. As in the past, we have developed objectives that lend themselves to monitoring and measurement and I will report periodically to the entire community on our progress.

There is no question that concerted effort, collaboration, and ample resources are needed to accomplish these ambitious objectives. The budget for the next two fiscal years, also approved by the board at its February meeting, provides essential support to accomplish the tasks before us.

It is important to note that the timing of creating the strategic plan objectives was such that they were sufficiently developed to provide important guidance to those who formulated a proposed budget for the board’s consideration and action. Consequently, the university budgets for fiscal years 2014 and 2015, the period that coincides with years 5 and 6 of our strategic plan, reflects the board’s commitment to accomplishing the objectives we’ve set. The details of that budget will soon be available to the community on the Office of Finance and Treasurer and University Budget Resource Center websites, and it will be evident that the resource allocation decisions made by the Board are fully consistent with the strategic plan objectives.

In his statement on the budget following the board meeting, chair Jeff Sine noted that developing this budget was especially challenging. It required considerable effort to achieve an appropriate balance between the concerns for cost and student indebtedness; external economic and public policy considerations; our highly competitive higher education environment; and the importance of continuing the progress of American University in its academic work. The budgets for the next two years call for the lowest tuition increase in at least the last 40 years; enhancement of financial aid; additional hiring in critical areas of need and opportunity; merit salary and benefit increases for faculty and staff; and funding to meet the obligations related to expansion and enhancements of our facilities. Please review the budget and supporting materials when they are made available. When you do, I hope you agree our resources will be allocated in a manner that has effectively balanced the various interests that are central to our university’s future.

JFK’s AU Speech
Fifty years ago, American University hosted a watershed moment for world peace as President John F. Kennedy gave one of the most inspiring commencement speeches ever delivered. In extending an olive branch to the Soviet Union, President Kennedy vowed to work collaboratively for world peace with tangible efforts to make that happen. To mark the 50th anniversary of the speech he gave at AU and the profound impact it had on the wider world, we are hosting a series of events to enable us to reflect on the ongoing need for reasoned diplomacy. Please explore our special website focused on the anniversary to learn about the speech’s importance then and relevance today, and I urge you to participate in the upcoming events.

Regarding this year’s commencement, if you are participating in this spring’s events, please check the commencement website for details; we plan to announce our full lineup of speakers next week.

Freshman Admissions
The Office of Enrollment released its admissions decisions for fall semester on Thursday, March 21. Offers were made to 43 percent of more than 17,500 applicants, with the expectation that we will enroll a class of 1,600 freshmen. The average admitted student profile is a 3.82 GPA and 1284 SAT. Admission offers also were released for the spring 2014 semester, with the expectation that 175 students will enroll in the Washington Mentorship Program. The admitted class reflects diversity in its broadest sense, with particular attention having been paid to the inclusion of underrepresented domestic minority students.

Board of Trustees Forum

The Board of Trustees and I will host a public forum at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, April 4, in Ward 1. As is our practice, the floor is open for any and all questions posed to board chair Jeff Sine, the trustees, and senior university leadership in attendance.

An unprecedented amount of construction and renovation is occurring on campus and will continue into the near future. Some projects will require temporary adjustments to daily habits; others will prompt a permanent reworking of pedestrian or vehicular traffic. All help emphasize the significant physical transformation of American University now underway. A few updates and examples include:

  • Cassell Residence Hall—Progress continues at a rapid rate to ensure the residence hall opens for fall semester 2013. The exterior walls are complete, windows installed, and interior construction work (plumbing, wiring, elevators, utilities, etc.) underway.

  • Nebraska Residence Hall Addition—Work continues on a fast track with the exterior walls heading toward completion; the windows will be finished in May; the roofing is almost done; and interior construction is moving apace for a fall semester 2013 opening.

  • McKinley/School of Communication—The exterior framing of the new part (addition) will be finished in April with interior work to commence in mid-spring. In late May (after commencement) and stretching through summer, the walkway between McKinley and the library will be closed to pedestrian traffic. The goal is to have the building ready for occupancy by the end of fall semester.

  • 4401 Connecticut/WAMU 88.5 and AU Programs—The renovation is on track for a two phase move-in for WAMU 88.5 in late spring and early summer with broadcasting expected to commence from the new home in late July. AU Communications and Marketing will move in the early summer, and the design of the upper floors for AU Development and Alumni Affairs continues at pace, with move-in for those units expected during summer 2013.

  • Tenley Campus/Washington College of Law—A contractor and construction manager have been chosen and the construction schedule is getting finalized. Current Tenley Campus residents will be moving out during summer 2013.

  • Locker Room/Athletics and Recreation—When commencement concludes, the locker rooms will go offline and a total renovation will begin for AU Athletics and Recreation. The goal is to have all work done by late August for full use by all intercollegiate teams and recreation sports for fall semester. All spaces are being reconfigured with each sport getting its own dedicated place along with new tile, flooring, finishes, and a coordinated “Go Eagles” look. The contractor has been chosen.

  • Letts Hall Renovation—Letts Hall South will undergo a major renovation lasting from mid-May until mid-August. Most of the heating and air conditioning equipment will be new. The resident rooms will receive new carpet, paint and space conditioning units. The furniture will be refinished. The bathrooms will be renovated as well.

Tobacco- and Smoke-Free
The tobacco- and smoke-free project team, consisting of students, staff, faculty, alumni, and neighbors has made considerable progress in its work to provide guidance for our AU community on this issue. Team members have been working on issues involving policy, enforcement, health and wellness, facilities and grounds, and communications. The team will be updating campus groups on the progress to date; a website has been created to outline issues, questions, and answers. The team’s final report and recommendations will be coming to me in late April.

For those who do smoke, we know this transition may be challenging; but AU will offer smoking cessation programs and will work with university health plan providers on additional resources.

Social Responsibility
I appointed the social responsibility, business practices and service project team last year to assist in the implementation of the principles embedded in our Statement of Social Responsibility and in goal seven of our strategic plan. I am pleased to report that the team of faculty, staff, and students has met regularly and as part of its work is actively considering recommendations from Empower Congo concerning the purchase of electronic products that are conflict mineral-free and from Take Back The Tap regarding the availability and sales of bottled water on campus.

These are the types of issues that will surface periodically in the life of the university, and we want to assess them in a prudent and considered way with student, faculty, staff, and alumni involvement.

Development and Alumni News
It has been an extraordinary year for alumni engagement. In the last quarter, AU alumni have gathered for events in Harrisburg, Manhattan Beach, Seattle, Minneapolis, Shanghai, Beijing, Florence, and Brussels. I hosted an alumni reception in Philadelphia in March and will greet alumni, parents, and friends at reception at the Masonic Temple in Alexandria on April 24.

Our Office of Development and Alumni Relations is focused on finishing the fiscal year on April 30 and is enlisting support of the entire university community to participate in this year’s efforts. If you have not done so already, please consider making a gift.

Army Corps of Engineers
Work has begun at the university-owned site (4825 Glenbrook Road) for what is hoped will be the final phase of the effort to find and safely remove any remaining World War I debris from that property. Following removal of the house last December, the Army Corps has been doing low probability work and to date, no war debris, nor contamination, has been found, nor was there any air monitoring detection of chemicals or other hazards. In May, the work will shift into a new phase and a containment structure will be built over the excavation site; air filtration and monitoring equipment installed; and additional safety instruction will be provided for areas of the university within a defined zone adjacent to the site. This would include the Watkins and Kreeger buildings, the Jacobs athletics field, and the President’s House. When the specific work timeline is known, those working in the affected areas will be informed of safety measures and protocols, which will be posted on the AU website dedicated to the project. On a final note, it is not known if the sequestration will have any effect on the project timeline; but it will have no impact on safety measures.

WAMU 88.5
WAMU 88.5 continues its trajectory as the top station in the D.C. region, based on audience ratings and number of listeners. From 2012 to 2013 (February to February), the station saw a 30 percent audience increase in morning drive; a 30 percent increase in afternoon drive; a 43 percent increase in mid-day; and 21 percent increase in weekend listening. In addition, National Public Radio’s fall 2012 audience ratings for the Diane Rehm Show showed a 10 percent audience increase (from fall 2011 to fall 2012) and an all-time high of 2.48 million listeners. The program is now heard on 184 stations nationwide.


I will write again before commencement with another update. That letter will include some of the notable achievements of our faculty, students, and staff during the spring term.

Strategic Plan

AU's strategic plan, Leadership for a Changing World, outlines goals and objectives for the next decade at American University. Visit for more information. ( login required for some documents)

Read the Strategic Plan

view objectives, years 7 & 8

Building a Better AU

Visit the Building AU website to read about facilities projects that support AU’s academic aspirations and enhance campus ambiance. You can also learn more about AU's Campus Plan.

Building AU

watch video