Dear AU Community,
Congratulations! You completed one of the most of challenging semesters on record. Through all the upheaval, you kept your focus, you cared for one another, and you continued to make a difference in our constantly changing world.
To our students, great job finishing strong in your classes and continuing to push boundaries in and out of the classroom. No matter the location, you fostered the spirit of community that is at the heart of AU.
To our faculty, your dedication and creativity delivered an outstanding academic experience. There is a reason American University is ranked 25th in undergraduate teaching and 35th for innovation.
To our staff, your steadfast leadership as we reinvented our work made sure our students were supported in countless new ways. Our operations evolved to meet the moment and we learned valuable new lessons for the future.
Thank you to each and every one of you. I hope you all enjoy a restful break—you certainly earned it!
Celebrating Graduates with Our 140th Commencement
Yesterday, we honored approximately 1,500 summer and fall 2020 graduates at our virtual fall 2020 commencement ceremony. While I wish we could have been together in Bender Arena with high-fives and hugs, the outpouring of support for our graduates from family, friends, alumni, and so many in our community is inspiring and well-deserved.
Our honorary degree recipient Andrea Mitchell, chief foreign affairs correspondent for NBC News, charged the 2020 graduates with learning how to be resilient in these times and to find new ways to support our communities as we emerge from the pandemic. I think Andrea did some excellent reporting for her remarks because that is exactly what AU students and alumni do every day.
On behalf of the entire AU community, congratulations to the Class of 2020! I look forward to celebrating with you in person when we can safety gather together again.
Applauding Good News in Our Community
As we conclude the semester, I am heartened by so much good news across our community. Our students, faculty, and staff continue to make enormous impact in so many ways. In a year where challenges seemingly arose at every turn, celebrating the achievements of AU community members fills me with hope. Here are just a few notable developments from recent days:
- Ambassador Susan Rice, distinguished visiting research fellow in the School of International Service, was named the director of the Domestic Policy Council by President-elect Joe Biden.
- Laura DeNardis, interim dean of the School of Communication, was named one of the world’s 32 innovators who are building a better future by Wired UK.
- Michael Brenner, the Seymour and Lillian Abensohn Chair in Israel Studies and director of AU’s Center for Israel Studies, received the inaugural Baron Award for Scholarly Excellence in Research on the Jewish Experience from the Knapp Family Foundation and the University of Vienna.
Charting the University’s Future
Alongside all that has been accomplished by our community this semester, we have reached an important milestone in a critical effort to plan for AU’s future. The 2021 Campus Plan is being filed today with the DC Zoning Commission, with review and public hearings expected in the first part of next year. The Campus Plan is an integral part of implementing our Changemakers strategic vision. It outlines a flexible yet predictable approach for the growth and development of our campus over the next 10 years that supports our AU community, meets the changing needs of higher education, advances our mission, reinforces our commitment to meaningful collaboration with DC, and respects our important relationships with our neighbors.
This consensus document represents years of work among our staff, neighbors, students, faculty, and additional stakeholders. AU began seeking input from the neighbors as early as 2016 to develop a planning process that would address our changing needs and respect and enhance the quality of life in neighborhoods surrounding our campus. I especially want to thank Seth Grossman, Doug Kudravetz, Ed Fisher, Maria Barry, and the many AU team members who worked on the plan, and I am so grateful to the members of the AU Neighborhood Partnership, whose collaborative engagement contributed to a plan that will help all of us thrive in the coming years.
As 2020 comes to close, I am so thankful to be a part of this community. While we have all faced challenges unlike ever before, and it can feel like the burdens are overwhelming, I hope you remember everything you accomplished this year. Know that you made a difference, for your family and friends, your community, and for yourself. Take the best lessons of this year and look toward the brighter days ahead.
Be safe, be well, and may you find some joy and peace this holiday season.