You are here: American University President Announcements March 23, 2020

AU Memo Letterhead

Dear AU Community,

As we begin another week in the time of COVID-19, our regular Monday update highlights key aspects of our ongoing response and celebrates some good news, even as we face the many difficulties in this unprecedented situation. I also want to talk about the range of emotions we all feel and the importance, now more than ever, of our connections to each other.

These challenging times put us through so many extremes from one moment to the next. Last week, we learned about the passing of someone we knew in Seattle and my heart aches. But these hard stretches are often helped by the moments we share with each other (even from six feet apart) that can brighten our days. A recent one for the Burwell family was during our online Sunday church service where our son Matthew delivered a homemade version of communion.  

As we continue to move forward together, we need to pause, think through these emotions, and take time to share both the difficult moments and the things that give us hope. 

Part of that hope for me comes in how proud I am of all our community has done to rise to this challenge over a very short period of time. Thanks to extraordinary preparation, the first days of online classes went well and our WCL students and faculty are beginning their online learning today. We know there are some individual challenges related to technology and connectivity, and we have a dedicated team focused on solutions for our students and faculty.

On Friday, Dr. Reitman provided an update on additional confirmed cases of COVID-19 among our AU community. We are thinking of our friends who are recovering and wish them well. These new cases are off-campus and the individuals are self-isolating in their personal homes. We launched a page within our COVID-19 Resources site that will track the confirmed cases among the AU community and I encourage you to look there for the latest information. Also, if you receive a confirmed test for COVID-19, please use the following emails to inform us. For students who were not seen or tested at the Student Health Center, please email For faculty and staff, please email Personal information will be kept confidential.

Our on-campus housing move out is nearly complete. Thanks to our students and families, and our Housing and Residence Life teams, and many volunteers from across campus. As we reduce the number of people on campus to mitigate the risk of community spread, services such as dining and shuttle buses are adjusting as well. Please visit our list of services and hours, as we will continue to update this information.

I know many of you have questions about upcoming milestones such as Commencement and academic topics including grades. These are important and personal matters, and I understand your need for information. They are also complex, and our teams are working through all the pieces so we can provide answers and next steps. I appreciate your patience while we do the necessary work, and we will share updates as soon as possible.

In other academic areas, we announced that the registration period for summer and fall classes has been delayed by two weeks. Additionally, while the last day to withdraw from classes was extended to April 27, 2020, students receiving financial or merit-based aid should contact the Office of Financial Aid before withdrawing to determine how a possible change in enrollment could affect their financial aid package.

For our faculty and staff, thank you for a great first week of expanded telework. I know there are still some things to work out, but by all accounts, the teams are collaborating well and making important progress on many of our priorities. We’ve created university-wide Zoom capabilities for video conferences and teams are even having online “water cooler” discussions to keep our connections to each other strong. The Human Resources team will continue to provide tips and guidance to help make our expanded telework successful. We are also monitoring the directives from governments in the DC region and will provide updates if there are impacts on our working arrangements. 

Something that is very important to me is celebrating good news, particularly in our busiest and most challenging times. So, I want to tell you about a development that is both great for today and that can help us be excited for the future. Admissions letters went out last week to our newest group of Eagles. We had a record 20,072 applicants this year and have seen some excited future Eagles on social media, including one of our new AU District Scholars with a full dance number! We can’t wait to bring our class of 2024 together (at the appropriate time). A huge thank you to Sharon Alston and the AU Enrollment team!

Finally, as we follow the guidance from the CDC and practice social distancing to help slow the spread of COVID-19, we must remember to stay connected to each other. Technology like video conferencing helps. But I encourage you to reach out – to your family and friends, your colleagues, or maybe a faculty or staff member or someone in our alumni community who you connected with at AU. In the Burwell household, we’re spending time each day talking to friends and relatives, some whom we haven’t seen in a long time and others who are video chatting for the first time. While campus may be quiet, we can still share the great experiences we have as Eagles through online conversations, photos, and videos, including on social media. Even though we can’t enjoy them in person today, I know these connections can help us look forward to when we are together again on our beloved campus.

I hope you and your family are safe and healthy. Be well and know your AU family is always here for you.