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Memorandum October 13, 2016

American University Community
Neil Kerwin, President
Call for Objectives, Final Two Years of AU's Strategic Plan

This is a formal call for objectives for the final two years of our ten-year strategic plan. Events on our campus, across the nation, and around the world provide the impetus to focus on several goals that are as relevant today to the challenges we face as they were when we first shaped this plan-probably more so.

When the Board of Trustees met recently for their annual retreat, I provided an update on progress (myAU login required) made on objectives set last year. We reviewed expectations for the current year and identified several goals that will need a sharper focus as we establish priorities for the next two-year university budget.

In particular, the need has never been greater to "Reflect and Value Diversity" through measurable progress toward a more inclusive community. Related, the work we have done through RiSE has helped us recognize the work necessary to deliver on a truly "Unsurpassed Undergraduate Education and Experience" and to make AU great place to work, because a great student experience is closely related to a great employee experience. Also, we must sustain the momentum of our recent improvement in AU's Carnegie Classification by reinforcing our commitments to the "Scholar-Teacher Ideal" and to "Engage in the Great Issues of Our Time" through research, centers, and institutes. As the deadline nears on our commitment to carbon neutrality by 2020, our "Commitment to Social Responsibility" must hold our attention. In addition, to reach our aspirations and prepare the next president to set our sights on even bolder ambitions, we'll have to prepare to "Engage our Alumni" and other friends and partners in the life of the institution, as we lay the groundwork for AU's next fundraising campaign.

The University Budget Committee has begun to develop estimates of revenue in preparation for expenditures recommendations in our next two-year budget. It is too early in that process to make projections about prospects for revenue in our next two-year budget, although if the past is prologue, we will certainly generate plenty of ideas about how to use any new resources which might be available in the next cycle.

During the last two budget cycles, we were able to hold increases in tuition and fees to some of the lowest levels in our history and well below those of most of our peer institutions, while increasing financial aid, committing to meet full need, and lowering average student debt. Given that we are a tuition-dependent institution, whose resources come primarily from tuition and fees, funding for any new priorities will have to be balanced against effects on affordability, or be offset by reallocation of other expenditures. Therefore, I ask you recommend changes in policy, practice, and the provision of support services that are preventing us from gaining all we can from the investments in people and initiatives that we have already made.

In examining both the goals of the strategic plan and the challenges calling us to action, I ask that you consider the following priorities as examples of the types of objectives we will consider, though they should not constrain those wishing to suggest other ideas:

  • Progress on all aspects of the plan to advance diversity and inclusion
  • Continued focus on debt reduction for students
  • Implementation the RiSE initiative with a focus on enhanced student services
  • Maintenance and further strengthening of the university's Carnegie R2 research status
  • Steps to ensure competitive compensation for faculty, staff, and student employees
  • Integration of new and renovated facilities into our academic programming and student life
  • Further strengthening of fundraising as we prepare for a new campaign

Please give this call for strategic plan objectives your serious attention. I would appreciate your input by November 11 (email recommendations to As in the past, each recommendation will be given full consideration. I will circulate a draft of proposed objectives for years 9 and 10 of the plan shortly after the start of the spring semester, in ample time to receive comments and finalize them for consideration in the final two-year budget proposal that will go the Board of Trustees in February.