Dear AU Community,
With all classes now underway and our updated health and safety procedures in place, I wanted to turn to maintaining the momentum in our mission and strategy that was building as the crises began. It is important to continue our parallel focus on the impactful work and achievements of our students, faculty, and staff. A uniting force in the work across the AU community is our Changemakers strategic plan. Implementation of the plan has moved forward with purpose throughout the pandemic, and we’ll have more information on our progress during the semester. This week, I wanted to highlight a few stories of impact that advance our “Working with Washington” strategic imperative and some upcoming events that showcase the ramp up of activity and our commitment to community.
Living through the events of the past weeks–from the darkness of January 6 to the hope of last week’s inauguration–we are constantly reminded of the central role that Washington, DC plays in both our lives and on the global stage. What we don’t always see, but is so critical to the neighborhoods and communities that form the foundation of this city, is the everyday work of AU Eagles that serves our fellow Washingtonians and makes an impact in our changing world.
For example, growing numbers of AU Eagles are assuming key roles in the Biden Administration, from Susan Rice (distinguished visiting research fellow in SIS) leading the White House Domestic Policy Council to Betsy Klein (WCL, ’06) who was nominated as Deputy Secretary of the Interior.
The Humanities Truck Project, which typically curates the stories of communities across the city, received a $100,000 COVID-19 grant from the Henry Luce Foundation to expand its food distribution initiative. Through the grant and partnership with organizations including DC Central Kitchen, Food for All, and Trabajadores Unidos de Washington DC, the Humanities Truck will bring needed support to DC neighborhoods struggling in the pandemic.
Shannon Clark and Aaron Howe, co-organizers of the homeless outreach group Remora House and PhD students in our anthropology program, aided unhoused people in the city as security tightened in advance of the inauguration. They distributed Metro cards, hand warmers, masks, and other essentials that help with the twin challenges of a city in lockdown and COVID-19.
As part of our commitment to enhancing public education in the District, the School of Education is a key partner in a new Research Practice Partnership for the city. The partnership will provide actionable research to the education sector, stakeholders, and the public. The goal is to contribute to student achievement and educational equity.
Serving the Washington, DC, community is at the heart of the AU experience and our strategy. We enjoy so many opportunities in our nation’s capital, and we are proud partners with the city we call home. This sense of connection, inclusion, and service is embodied in our larger strategic pillar of the community and can be seen in the many ways we come together across our AU ecosystem. As virtual events get underway and we ramp up activity for the semester, this week brings several occasions that reflect our commitment to fostering a community of learning and opportunity:
- Tuesday, January 26 will feature the Summer STEM Opportunities Job Fair and a discussion with Karen Pierce, UK ambassador to the United States, hosted by SIS.
- On Wednesday, January 28 the Antiracist Policy and Research Center will welcome Dr. Earl Lewis of the University of Michigan, who will speak on the role of higher education in the debate about reparations. The Women in Politics Institute will host CNN White House Correspondent MJ Lee to discuss Women in the Biden Administration.
- On Thursday, January 29, SPA will host the James A. Thurber Dialogues on American Democracy with Senator Cory Booker.
I hope you will participate in these and other engagement opportunities throughout the semester.
While I am excited that so much important work proceeds undaunted by the pandemic, we continue to focus on maintaining the health and safety of our community. COVID-19 testing is underway, and you can view the schedule and related information on the website. We will soon launch the newest iteration of our COVID case tracker as part of our ongoing commitment to transparency and timely communications. In addition to the weekly number of confirmed cases, we will also report more granular data about the number of confirmed cases among students living on/off-campus; cases among faculty, staff, and contractors; and the total number of tests performed.
Even though the pandemic and recent events make these days anything but normal, you can feel the energy and impact across our community. The unwavering commitment of our changemakers to continue their important work, build connections wherever they go, and deliver the progress our world needs is inspiring. I know we’ll see this spirit throughout the semester, and it will carry us forward to more activities and opportunities that we can share together.
Be safe and be well.