You are here: American University President Announcements May 4, 2020

AU Memo Letterhead

Dear AU Community, 

Congratulations! You are about to finish a most unique and challenging semester. Whether you are a student wrapping up your first year at AU, a faculty member completing online instruction, a team member moving key priorities forward via telework, or one of our more than 3,000 amazing graduates, you have accomplished so much under the most daunting of circumstances.

To our graduates, I’m looking forward to sharing our online celebration with you on Saturday. I know you are disappointed that we cannot be together in Bender Arena. I am too. You have worked so hard and nothing can take away from your achievements. Saturday’s online program is for you, but it is not the end of our celebration of you. The December commencement dedicated to you will provide additional recognition you so richly deserve.

The end of the semester also brings important new beginnings. We are now in the recovery and renewal phase of our COVID-19 operations with a comprehensive effort to chart our path for the fall semester and beyond.

First and foremost, American University will be open this fall and providing the high-quality, dynamic educational experience that is the foundation of our mission while taking all necessary steps to safeguard our community. We all want to return to our beloved campus, and we are exploring many scenarios involving in-person, online, and hybrid models. We will make a decision for the fall that is at the intersection of the best available information about health and safety and our ability to implement our work and educational pursuits at the highest level.

Our approach is designed to yield the right structures for our current undergraduate and graduate students and our incoming first-year students. The upheaval of the past several months demands an educational experience and community that is supportive, flexible, and presents a wide range of options that meet individual needs. And that is what we are working to provide.

To that end, we are not simply focused on a short-term solution for one semester, but rather we are thinking about a longer horizon, so that our students can experience the full measure of American University now and into the future. We are on a journey that will unfold over years and our decisions will reflect that.

We have learned so much in the past months. Our faculty did amazing work to transition to online learning, building on our previous experience and our strategic focus on lifelong learning. Now, as we explore options for the fall, we can expand on these lessons and train for even better online learning if that format is necessary to ensure the continued health and safety of our community. We will have orientation for our incoming students that runs throughout the summer to ensure they are ready for the fall. Engagement with our returning students will keep them closely knit with our faculty and staff as we all adapt to a new world.

This summary one-pager captures our actions to date, our ongoing planning processes and key task forces, and important upcoming dates. The task forces, comprised of our academic and administration leaders and key experts, are actively crafting options for fall that will ultimately yield a fully developed plan to offer the highest possible educational experience with the highest possible level of safety. Their work–in conjunction with the ongoing efforts of the cross-functional COVID-19 Working Group, the modeling and analysis of our financial office, and academic planning across the university–encompasses health and safety, workforce planning, and educational operations for our students and faculty. The task forces will report their recommendations to the executive leadership team and me by mid-May, which will lead to an announcement of our fall plans no later than mid-June.
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As we transition to the summer and advance our fall planning, we will also be modifying this weekly message. Following next Monday’s (May 11) communication, we will move to more episodic updates through the summer. We will always communicate important news and developments as quickly as possible, but our regular updates will be less frequent. I’m sure fewer emails in your inbox will be a welcome change. You can also always check our COVID-19 Resources page, which will be updated regularly throughout the summer.

Though much uncertainty remains, we are driving forward to ensure the recovery and renewal of American University and our community is safe and comprehensive. While fall will likely be anything but typical, I promise you that, no matter its format, it will reflect the American University experience that means so much to us all.

Be safe and be well.


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