I hope this message finds you across (or at least close to) the finish line for the semester.
I hope you take a moment to enjoy springtime on campus. (Finally!) After all, it's not every day you get to work and live in an arboretum.
As I wrap up my first year as your president, I'm reflecting - and that could break my "keep it short" rule, so I'll just highlight a few items.
These are things like our recent announcement of carbon neutrality - where our community came together, set an ambitious goal, and through some innovative ideas, a little friendly competition, and relentless hard work, marked AU as a national leader in sustainability. (And keep reading for what you can do to keep up our progress!)
As a community, we have taken a hard look at how well we're living out our values of inclusion, equity, access, and diversity. The journey to inclusive excellence is a difficult and a long one. It is a journey that AU must take, and one that is important to me, personally. I'm fully committed to doing the work we need to do, and I hope that each of you will stay committed to doing your part on the path to inclusive excellence. We have the chance to go far, together.
Most of all, though, I'm so thankful for the time that I've been able to spend engaging with the campus community. I've met with quite a few students, faculty, staff, alumni, AU parents, and our neighbors. There were a lot of things I expected in this first year, but one of the things that surprised me was how energized I am after every conversation with you. Whether we're diving into the details around the strategic plan and the direction that together we'll take this university in the next five years, or chatting about Wonk Cat while walking through the quad, every opportunity to engage with you shows me a campus filled with people committed to doing good work, to having some fun along the way, and making our university stronger for the many new Eagles to come.
I was so honored and humbled to join with the AU community for inauguration. If you weren't able to join us, I hope you'll watch the video of the event - for appearances by AU leaders past and present, my good friends Davis Guggenheim and Atul Gawande, a fantastic performance by students with the assistance of Professor Calleen Jennings, and of course wonderful singing by the AU Gospel Choir and AU Chamber Singers. I hope you'll also take a moment to read my remarks. They show what makes AU special to me, and why I think our university is poised to meet the challenges of the future.
American University has a proud history of firsts, and just a couple of weeks ago, we had the chance to add another first to that legacy. AU is the first university in the United States to achieve carbon neutrality! We're also the first urban university, and the first research university to do so. This means the carbon footprint - our impact on the environment - is net zero, through more sustainable practices as well as finding ways to offset our impact on the environment. Check out our video on this accomplishment, spread the word, and keep following our Office of Sustainability to find out what exciting next steps we can take!
In just a few short days, many of our AU community will be taking their next step right across the graduation stage in Bender Arena. This will be my first spring commencement, and I'm looking forward to welcoming our graduates, their families, and our inspiring set of commencement speakers. Find out more about those speakers and keep up-to-date on the schedule of events on the commencement website.
One of the things that makes this community so unique is the setting we're in. Our campus is a special place - it's an arboretum, with its green roofs and sustainable buildings it's been a part of us reaching carbon neutrality, and we recently opened a new feature that speaks to our values as a community. Between Hughes Hall and Butler Pavilion, just next to the amphitheater, we have recently refurbished and modernized the Ilene Zatkin-Butler Garden to include a new unity garden. It's meant to represent our commitment to inclusion. It's a space for discussion, for contemplation, for sitting down with a coworker or a fellow student or a friend, and finding common ground. In the center of the garden, there's a circle that represents the globe in all its rich diversity. When you go back to visit your family, or travel abroad to somewhere new, bring back a small stone to mark your travels and place it in the center of that circle. Our hope is that as the conversations and the connections between us grow out of this garden, so too will that pile of stones in the center - showing that we are all interconnected and that there's a power in our diversity and our community.
Our Eagles are delivering impact everywhere. Recently, I had the chance to meet two such Eagles, both of whom will be joining our alumni community this weekend. Lexi Ivers, a Truman Scholar and soon-to-be graduate of SPA, exemplifies our calling to be a part of our Washington, DC, community. She helped start and lead the curriculum development for Junior Youth Action, DC - a nonprofit program for foster children in middle-school. The program teaches them conflict resolution skills to help them resolve challenges in their lives, whether bullying on the playground or unhealthy family dynamics at home. To date, the program has helped nearly 400 students, through a network of more than 80 college mentors.
Angela Pupino's a first-generation college student and soon-to-be graduate of SIS. She represents that we're a campus of "and" not "or" - performing exceptionally well in her academics, while getting involved in the campus community and speaking her voice beyond our campus, writing for outlets like the Nation and CNN.
Our campus community is filled with changemakers, leaders, and brilliant minds, doing incredible work every day. People who make me proud to be part of this AU family.
Congratulations on an academic year well done!