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President's Message | Reports & Announcements


July 19, 2013

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


In one month we will be in full swing for fall semester with new and returning students back on campus and faculty and staff back from vacation. Until then, here’s a mid-summer update of campus events and ongoing progress.

Fall Entering Class
In mid-August, we will welcome some 1,600 new freshmen to AU, selected from an applicant pool of more than 17,500, along with more than 260 new transfer students. The new class hails from 46 states and the District; from 54 countries; has an average GPA of 3.74 and an average SAT of 1256; almost 30 percent are from the South and West and for the first time ever, AU will enroll more new students from California and Texas than from Virginia and Maryland. More than 10 percent are first generation students and almost 30 percent are minority, with nearly 8 percent of the class identifying as African American, 9 percent Asian, and 11 percent Hispanic.

Two New Residence Halls
Students will return to campus with two new residence halls to open—Cassell Hall, adjacent to the President’s Building on north campus, and the Nebraska Hall addition, adjacent to the Katzen Arts Center. These contemporary rooms (apartment style suites in Nebraska and suites and a fitness center in Cassell) will significantly augment AU’s housing. Both projects were key parts of the approved Campus Plan.

AU Comes to Connecticut Avenue
AU’s new and significant presence at 4401 Connecticut Avenue is headed toward completion this fall when WAMU 88.5 begins broadcast operations in mid-September. The station’s non-broadcast staff has already moved in, as has University Communications and Marketing; Development and Alumni Relations begins moving in next week. The site (at the Van Ness Metro) will offer a “street peek” at the WAMU newsroom in operation.

Other New Construction and Campus Improvements
Next in the construction queue is the School of Communication, whose move into the totally renovated McKinley Building is slated for spring semester. This will provide tremendous new academic capabilities for SOC and a home in one of AU’s most historic buildings on the Quad. Work also began this summer to transform the Tenley Campus into the future home for the Washington College of Law for academic year 2015. Other work headed for completion for when classes start include a total renovation of the athletics locker rooms in Bender Arena; an upgrade to the Letts Hall lobby and south side; and numerous other repairs, upgrades, and renovations across campus. More information is online.

New Student Trustee and Student Trustee-Elect
At its May meeting, the Board of Trustees approved two student appointments for the new academic year. Randall Warnas, a master’s student in the School of International Service, was approved as the new student trustee; and for the new position of student trustee-elect, Joe Ste.Marie, a junior in the School of Public Affairs pursuing a double major in political science and law and society, was approved as the student appointee. The student trustee-elect will become familiar with board service and trustee responsibilities for the year preceding his actually assuming the rule. Both students will work with the board and university leadership to enhance student communication with the trustees. AU is still one of a small number of universities with a student trustee, and we seek to fully utilize this distinction in ways that benefit AU students, trustees, and the campus community.

Website Refresh
Four years ago, we unveiled a bright new coordinated web presence, functionality ease, and a contemporary look that made an award winning impression among higher education sites. Overall, AU’s site continues to perform well, with visits increasing by 35 percent last year and reaching the milestone of five million unique users per year, largely on the strength of our mobile and social media strategies. One result is our users access our web content more directly and use the home page less frequently. After four years, it is time for a refresh and UCM is working on some short term adjustments and longer term changes to ensure that AU’s website remains in sync with trends and best practices. A full redesign is scheduled for next year. In the meantime, the Web Steering Committee will introduce some changes in content and navigation for top-level pages beginning next week. UCM Vice President Terry Flannery and Chief Information Officer David Swartz will describe the changes in more detail next week in a separate memo.

Career Recognition
Two long-serving AU colleagues have been honored for their significant career achievements. Chief Financial Officer, Vice President and Treasurer Don Myers earned a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Washington Business Journal as part of its 2013 CFO of the Year Awards. School of Public Affairs professor Robert Durant will receive the 2013 John Gaus Award from the American Political Science Association. The Gaus Award recognizes a lifetime of exemplary scholarship in the joint traditions of political science and public administration and is among the most prestigious career awards in the field of public administration. We are proud of both honorees for their contributions to the AU community and their lasting impact.

Great Places to Work
AU recently earned two accolades as a “great place to work”: one as one of the best employers for workers over 50 from the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), and the other as one of only four higher education institutions lauded among the nation’s best 100 places to work in IT from Computerworld magazine. Both touch our strategic goals of “Encouraging Innovation and High Performance” and “Winning Recognition and Distinction.”

AU Goes Tobacco- and Smoke-Free
On August 15, AU will go tobacco- and smoke-free and join more than 1,100 colleges and universities that have taken similar measures. This resulted from almost two years of data review and campus discussion. Our strong and increasing commitments to wellness, public health, and sustainability were key to our decision, and LEED building certifications also lend support along with standards for campus cleanliness and less litter. A website has been created to assist in campus-wide implementation, and additional communications will be forthcoming. We appreciate your cooperation as our campus community takes this significant step.

Socially Responsible Business Practices
After completing its first full year of work this past spring, the Business Practices, Social Responsibility and Service project team forwarded to the AU administration a procurement policy recommendation on conflict minerals that has been adopted. Into the future, AU will offer preference to suppliers who have made a commitment to conflict-free supply chains when such information (as required by Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act) is available and when quality and cost performance are equal or superior. We appreciate the work of the project team which is co-chaired by SPA professor Jim Thurber and assistant vice president Linda Argo, and look forward to future socially responsible initiatives coming from this group of students, staff, faculty, and alumni.

WAMU #1 In the Market (Again)
The spring Arbitron ratings again showed WAMU 88.5 to be the most-listened-to station in the DC region with 31,000 weekly listeners tuning in on each “average quarter hour” and claiming an 8.5 percent share of the market. Morning drive time had on average 53,100 listeners each quarter hour and an 11.4 percent market share. WAMU’s total audience on all delivery platforms is now close to 800,000 each week.

Opening Convocation

On Friday, August 23, all first-year and incoming transfer students will gather on the Quad and follow the bagpiper into Bender Arena for the 11 a.m. Opening Convocation ceremony, which signals the official start of the new school year. The event will feature an address by 2013 Scholar-Teacher of the Year Robert Dinerstein of the Washington College of Law, comments from Student Confederation president Patrick Kelly, and welcome remarks from AU’s senior leadership.

Celebrate AU” and “AU Night at Nationals Park”
On Monday, August 26, we “Celebrate AU” with our annual event on the quad to welcome everyone back to campus, and on Friday, August 30, we mark AU’s two-year partnership with the Washington Nationals during AU Night at Nationals Park when the Nats play the New York Mets. The first 20,000 fans will get free Nats WONK t-shirts. AU renewed its successful partnership for the 2013 season, which includes ballpark signage, scoreboard commercials, and in-game WONK challenges. Be sure to remain for the postgame fireworks and AU video. All alumni, students, faculty, and staff can also take advantage of discounted tickets for this game and through the rest of the season as the Nats pursue a playoff spot.


I look forward to seeing you on campus soon.

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