You are here: American University President Announcements June 6, 2023

AU Memo Letterhead

Dear AU Community,

I am writing today in appreciation for our friend and colleague, Peter Starr. Peter recently shared with me his intention to step down as provost and return to the faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS). When Peter first became acting provost in 2020, we discussed his goal of serving in the role for approximately 2 to 3 years. More immediately, as many of you know, Peter is supporting his family through an ongoing health matter and is eager to concentrate his time and energy with them. Peter has been a strong partner through eventful times, helping to further American University’s momentum, advance our core mission of teaching, learning, and scholarship, and support the community spirit that is such an important part of all that we do. I am grateful that Vicky Wilkins, the dean of the School of Public Affairs (SPA), will serve as acting provost. Peter’s last day in the provost’s office will be June 30 and Vicky will begin her new role on July 1. This seamless transition–aided by the talent, dedication, and collaboration of our colleagues across AU–will help us to continue our focused work on student thriving, faculty research, and supporting our people. Over the past three years as provost, Peter has skillfully led our academic affairs enterprise through the disruption of the pandemic, the return to in-person learning, and the continued growth, evolution, and impact of our unique approach to experiential teaching and learning.  Working with the expert teams in academic affairs and our schools and colleges, he advanced key university priorities such as expanding our research portfolio, which has set records each of the last three years and now features double the amount of external funding from three years ago.  A core focus of Peter’s has been enhancing faculty hiring and retention. He led the creation of the new continuing appointment framework that will support our term faculty and their vital contributions to our community. He advanced our commitment to inclusive excellence, with increased diversity among new faculty hires each of the last three years. To support our students, Peter collaborated with teams across academic affairs to realign first-year advising to best support our students throughout their academic careers; reimagine our lifelong learning programs for more efficiency and student engagement; and launch the Office of Global and Immersive Studies to consolidate AU’s efforts in study abroad and international recruitment. A respected scholar of French and Comparative Literature, Peter previously served as dean of CAS and professor of literature from 2009 to 2020. He was instrumental in the development and launch of the Hall of Science and the growth of the AU Museum into a leading home for the arts in the District of Columbia, including the acquisition of the $30 million Corcoran Legacy Collection. During his time leading the College, Peter worked with faculty experts to launch groundbreaking research entities, including the Antiracist Research and Policy Center, the Center for Neuroscience and Behavior, and the Center on Health, Risk, and Society. Peter’s impact at American University over more than 14 years is broad and deep. I am pleased he will continue to be an active part of our AU community while attending to the health needs of his family. He will take a sabbatical before returning to teaching. I will host a celebration in Peter’s honor later this summer. I am excited for the continued excellence of our academic and research pursuits under Vicky Wilkins’ leadership. Vicky has served as dean of SPA since January 2018, after joining SPA as a faculty member and associate dean for academic affairs in 2014. She is a professor of public administration and policy, teaching classes such as Human Resource Management, Human Capital Management, and Women & Politics. Before coming to AU, Vicky was an associate professor and director of the MPA program at the University of Georgia. A fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration and a distinguished scholar of representative bureaucracy, gender and race issues, and political institutions and human resource management, her research appears in the American Political Science ReviewPublic Administration Review, and the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, among other noted publications and journals. Under Vicky’s leadership, SPA rose significantly in US News and World Report's graduate school rankings, moving from 16 to 10 (for 2024). She reimagined SPA’s approach to supporting faculty research, resulting in a 58 percent growth in the school’s externally funded portfolio between 2019 and 2023. Vicky is a tireless advocate for our students, establishing the SPA Student Emergency Fund; engaging the community through the “SPA Traditions” program with events like the Late-Night Breakfasts during finals; and implementing co-curricular programs like the SPA book club and the Policy Hackathon. I am looking forward to working with Vicky in her new role and supporting her in the ongoing work of providing an outstanding educational experience and producing impactful research at AU. I am also pleased to share that Alison Jacknowitz will serve as interim dean of SPA. Alison is currently the senior associate dean for academic affairs in SPA and a professor in the Department of Public Administration and Policy. Having a strong bench of leaders like Vicky and Alison throughout our community supports the continued focus on our work and our people as transitions occur. Looking forward, we will share information about the provost search process in the fall when all AU community members are back together again on campus. The process will be an opportunity for engagement across the AU community, and the discussions and input will help us collaboratively shape the future of academic affairs at AU. Please join me in thanking Peter for his dedicated service to American University and wishing him and his family the best. Please also thank Vicky and Alison for taking on these new roles in support of our students, our faculty and staff, and our mission.