You are here: American University President Announcements May 9, 2019 - Thank You, Class of 2019

Dear AU Family,

It’s almost commencement! To those of you who have left campus for the summer, congratulations on making it through finals. To those of you gearing up for graduation, I can’t wait to shake your hand and congratulate you this weekend (or next weekend, for our WCL grads).

Two years into my time at AU, commencement is my favorite time of the year. It is a time when the learning part of our mission is front and center. It is a time when we see what happens when the knowledge created from our research, scholarship, and creative endeavors is passed on. It is a time to celebrate the accomplishments of our community of students.

The year hasn’t always been easy, and there have been challenges and moments that have given us opportunities to reflect, learn, and grow. Even with challenges, you can feel AU’s momentum, and it comes from our community.

New Strategy Guiding Our Work

In January, we launched our new strategic plan for the university to harness and build on that momentum and energy. We’ve gotten to work bringing together the team to help implement this strategy. We’re finding new ways to improve How AU Works and how we organize and support our community’s Research. We even changed our fiscal year, which I know sounds wonky, but it helps align us with other institutions and responds to feedback we heard across campus.

A key part of our new strategy is continuing to make progress around our Plan for Inclusive Excellence. You might have seen us release our one-year summary of the plan’s progress, or the conversations we hosted with Dr. Beverly Tatum, as well as Susan Rice, Eric Liu, Ibram Kendi, and Maria Elena Salinas or the symposium last month on "Disability, Access, and Teaching" to broaden the conversation around what an accessible learning environment at AU should look like.

Beverly Tatum and Sylvia BurwellBeverly Tatum, PhD, at left, author and president emerita of Spelman College, came to campus March 27 to discuss how to create space to talk about race on campuses and in classroom settings with the AU community and President Sylvia M. Burwell, at right.

New Centers and Institutes

Centers and institutes are an important part of momentum in our scholarship, learning, and reputation. Our new Sine Institute of Policy and Politics just wrapped up its inaugural class of Spring Fellows. This impressive group of experts in politics, policy, and the arts—Abdul El-Sayed, Bill Haslam, William Kristol, Ruth Marcus, Karen Zacarias, and Wes Bush (as a distinguished lecturer)—came together throughout the spring to host lectures, conversations, and discussions about the future of progressivism, conservatism, and how art can help us understand the narratives in our public discourse. Stay tuned for more Sine Institute updates in the fall!

New Construction

We’re building spaces for new ideas, collaborations, and the future. Including a new heating system that will cut our campus carbon emissions by 50 percent (saving nearly 5,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide each year!) This will support our historic, standard-setting milestone of being the first university in the United States to achieve carbon neutrality.

Construction on the hall of scienceA banner on the Hall of Science, currently under construction, heralds that it's coming soon. It is a place where we will break new ground in STEM, the AU way.

We’re also breaking new ground in STEM, and doing it our way. That means scientific research and scholarship that breaks through old siloes and divisions, gathered together in a single, shared space—our new Hall of Science. Over the past five years, our College of Arts and Sciences faculty have grown their research funding by 116 percent—including 48 unique awards from places like the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.


As I close, I want to focus on the members of our community that we will celebrate over the next four days: our students! Check out some of our student award winners.

Our students make an impact as individuals, and collectively. For the second year in a row, we’re fourth in the number of Presidential Management Fellowship finalists and second in Peace Corps volunteers among schools our size.

There are so many graduates who have found their own distinct ways to make an impact, and give back.

Student award winners pose in a groupSome of the most high-achieving of AU’s graduating students will be honored with coveted awards for leadership, scholarship, and service to the community at a reception with President Burwell on Friday and at their individual graduations this weekend.

As we take a step closer to American University’s 137th Commencement, this community makes us proud in so many ways.

You all have accomplished so much, and we all have such exciting horizons ahead.

I’m so proud to call myself your fellow Eagle.

Go Eagles, and congratulations to the Class of 2019!

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