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Commitment to Diversity & Inclusion

Since making a pledge in February 2016, American University has taken numerous steps toward improving both the diversity and inclusiveness of our community. President Burwell has continued the efforts begun by then-president Kerwin to make AU a more diverse and inclusive community. These milestones show the ongoing commitment the university has to making AU welcoming for all.

Summer 2018

Advisory Boards and Affinity Groups

In August, students were invited to apply to serve on the new Student Advisory Council to the President’s Council on Diversity and Inclusion. The committee received 193 applications from graduate and undergraduate students from diverse backgrounds, and selected 15 students who will begin leadership work for inclusive excellence in the fall.

In August, two new faculty-staff affinity groups focused on the Latino and Hispanic community and the LGBTQ+ community launched with the support of the Office of Human Resources. These two new affinity groups join the Black Faculty and Staff Affinity Group organized by engaged staff and faculty earlier in the year. These groups aim to cultivate fellowship, foster a sense of belonging, do advocacy, develop leadership, and foster a campus climate and culture of unity, equity, and respect.

In August, applications were solicited for a new faculty-staff advisory board to support the ongoing curricular development of AUx2. The advisory board will begin work in the fall. After a pilot semester with 300 students in spring 2018, the new AUx2 course focusing on building students’ ability to engage in dialogue across difference will roll out to about 1,800 freshmen in spring 2019.

Continuing Education in Intercultural Competence and Unconscious Bias

In July, 43 faculty, staff, and administrators from across campus units participated in a pilot e-learning module about intercultural competence and unconscious bias. Plans are to continue to roll out the pilot to a broader group of 100 more campus stakeholders by end of fall, to evaluate, then scale up in spring.

In July, the full AU Cabinet participated in professional development around intercultural competence and received group and individual debriefings. All of the deans received the training in September, and the process will continue with other groups of campus leaders in the fall.

Inclusive Excellence Mini Grants Impact

In June, the President’s Council on Diversity and Inclusion received reports documenting the results from the Inclusive Excellence Mini Grants pilot program. These grants were designed to establish a culture of collaboration and innovation across campus around diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. Six grants were awarded for exciting collaborations across campus for a total of $8,450.

Spring 2018

Inclusive Excellence

In April, President Burwell signs on to Excelencia's Presidents for Latino Student Success Initiative. Presidents enrolled in the Excelencia in Action (E-Action) network collaborate with Excelencia in Education to leverage collective expertise and resources, foster partnerships, and amplify current efforts at the national level. Joining the network follows President Burwell's September 2017 public support for undocumented students in light of the US attorney general's announcement to rescind the executive order which established the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

In March, President Burwell names Dr. Fanta Aw as the Vice President of Campus Life and Inclusive Excellence to more accurately reflect the addition of important responsibilities to her existing portfolio of leadership in Campus Life.

In January, a new Plan for Inclusive Excellence is unveiled to address critical diversity and inclusion issues. The Inclusive Excellence Plan is funded with a $121 million investment over the next two years for a number of programs that promote equality, including training programs for faculty, staff and administrators, grants for community projects that promote inclusion and more scholarships for underrepresented groups and veterans. Following the release of the plan, President Burwell hosts Julián Castro and Alma Clayton-Pedersen in a panel discussion focusing on approaches for meeting the goals of the plan.

Fall 2017

Diversity & Inclusion in the Classroom and on Campus

American University Experience (AUx), a set of two required transition courses, is rolled out to all first-year students in academic year 2018-2019. The first pilot of AUx1, which launched last year, had a retention rate of 98%. University-wide discussions on implementing additional courses related to diversity and inclusion into the AU Core begin.

The Office of Human Resources announces a slate of new training programs for staff, and Dean of Academic Affairs and Senior Vice Provost Mary Clark launch a train-the-trainers program-called the "Faculty Development Leadership Cohort on Diversity and Inclusion"-that will expand our capacity to foster more inclusive classrooms. Our discrimination policy is revised, and plans are announced for opening new spaces for students to interact and support each other.

New African American History Major (Aug 2017)

A new African-American and African Diaspora Studies (AADS) major launches within the College of Arts and Sciences. The program examines African American history and culture in the U.S. in the context of contemporary and historical African cultures, theories of racial ideology and race politics, and the distinctive artistic, literary, and cultural practices of African people worldwide. The program is offered by the Critical Race, Gender, and Culture Collaborative, a vibrant and inclusive community that explores diverse voices, histories, and experiences through socially-engaged scholarship.

Summer 2017

Diversity Website (Jun 2017)

President Burwell announces launch of this Diversity website as the primary source for American University diversity and inclusion resources. Its purpose is to facilitate greater awareness and engagement of the entire community. The site also houses information related to American University's Inclusive Excellence Plan and provides links to assist with confronting bias, reporting discrimination, and keeping us accountable for our commitments.

New Era of Leadership

In her first six months, President Burwell embarks on a listening tour, meeting with more than 1,000 faculty, staff, administrators, students, and alumni to learn more about AU's opportunities and challenges. She taps Makeba Clay as expert consultant to help American sharpen its diversity and inclusion strategy and create accountability.

Spring 2017

Anti-Racist Research & Policy Center (May 2017)

Ibram X. Kendi, best-selling author and award-winning historian, is announced as the founding director of AU's new Antiracist Research and Policy Center. The Center will bring together teams of faculty and student researchers to conduct cutting-edge, intersectional, and interdisciplinary research of racial inequality and discrimination of a national and international scope. AU believes the Center will serve as a global leader for antiracist research and policymaking.

Climate Survey Revisions (Jan 2017)

President's Council on Diversity and Inclusion (PCDI) provides input on the Undergraduate Campus Climate Survey to the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment. Revisions to the survey are made to gather more comprehensive data from current undergraduate students regarding diversity and inclusion on campus.

Fall 2016

Initiative to Diversify Faculty & Staff Hiring (Oct 2016)

A plan for diversifying and retaining diverse faculty, Target of Opportunity Program (TOP), is developed by Mary Clark, Dean of Academic Affairs and Senior Vice Provost and Dr. Cheryl Holcomb-McCoy, Dean of the School of Education. Human Resources examines every phase of staff hiring process with the goal of increasing diversity and inclusion. HR leaders meet with 60 staff members of color to identify changes the university could make to improve racial climate and establish a new staff and faculty people of color affinity group.

President's Charge

February 29, 2016

To make lasting improvements in both the diversity and inclusiveness of our community, AU is committed to the following actions:

  • Establish a presidential council to oversee these plans, monitor institutional progress, recommend new objectives, and plan necessary resources
  • Introduce a mandatory course on diversity and inclusion for all first year and transfer students
  • Revise and elevate awareness of discrimination policies, channels for complaint, and avenues for support
  • Reallocate five tenure or tenure track positions to recruit diverse candidates to AU's faculty
  • Develop programs to cultivate inclusive classrooms, including an entry program for newly appointed tenure track faculty and dialogue sessions for current faculty