Committed to Positive Impact

AU’s Plan for Inclusive Excellence is guiding efforts across campus and our community to build a culture where everyone feels included; collectively contributes to a positive climate and inclusive practices; and advances equitable educational outcomes for all.

Inclusive excellence requires all of us to recognize that change takes many hands and ongoing, intentional, systemic actions. On this page, you will find updates on our progress, stories of community action, and institutional learning as we travel this journey.

Goal 1: Training, Learning, & Development

Learning Inclusive Teaching Practices

Fourteen professors developed their competence, expertise, and understanding of inclusive teaching practices, then widened their best practice circle to 500 in a matter of months. They learned how to engage students from different backgrounds and identities and ensure that students see themselves in the class syllabus and curriculum. "When faculty ignore an issue that comes up in the classroom, students from vulnerable groups often read that silence as agreement with what was said,” said Cynthia Miller-Idriss, professor of sociology and education. “Addressing those hot moments are a really important first step in having our students feel a little bit more heard and understood in the classroom.”

AnchorBuilding an Inclusive Campus Culture, Year One Update

Learning to Listen, Learning to Act

The first year of our journey toward inclusive excellence has taught us a great deal. We have learned how to listen more deeply to members of our community.

In this one-year update, we share some of the actions we’ve taken, while acknowledging the challenges we still face. We share stories of early progress, including faculty training on inclusive teaching practices and exciting creative collaborations, with the understanding that we are not yet where we aim to be. We share promising data and areas we intend to improve.

We’ve learned that for change to happen, all of us need to redouble our commitment to this important work. To ensure lasting impact, we must recognize that this work is necessary for all of us, not just some of us. That we must continue to seek out the ideas and perspectives of people who haven’t always been invited to the table—and keep working hard when good intentions don’t always have positive results.

We have made some notable strides in this rededication of ourselves to strengthening the best in our community at American University—an institution that values free and honest inquiry, integrity, and the affirmation of human dignity for all. We strive to foster a community where individuals of all identities and experiences—regardless of perspective, gender identity and expression, religion, race, sexual orientation, age, disability, ethnicity, nationality, or political affiliation—are understood, appreciated, and fully included.

We hope you will see a part of yourself, and for yourself, in these stories. This is only the beginning of our journey, and we hope you will be inspired to lend your voice and continue to push and challenge us as we walk this path together.

Next Steps

  • Develop a holistic evaluation tool for measuring success of the plan
  • Deepen the focus on research
  • Administer a staff and faculty campus climate survey
  • Engage the community in mapping action items for years 3 to 5 of the plan
  • Deepen work with faculty on inclusive pedagogy
  • Broaden student engagement with the plan
  • Enhance accessibility campus wide
  • Increase recruitment and retention of students, staff, faculty
  • Invest $61 million toward student scholarship principally, along with academic centers, faculty research and teaching, student services, and staff professional development
  • Continue the focus on sense of belonging
Goal 1
Goal 2
Goal 3
Goal 4
Goal 5

Training, Learning, & Development

Objective: Members of the AU community will demonstrate cultural competency by learning key concepts that will reduce bias and foster diversity, equity, and inclusion, and equip them to lead change in a complex world.

AU Facutly take an active role in Inclusive Excellence. 27 faculty trainers yielded more than 500 trained faculty members in inclusive teaching practices.

40+ Well-trained facilitators

41 AUx2 instructors engaged in 30+ hours of faculty-led learning communities focused on teaching about structures of power, privilege, and inequality.

AU first-year students take an active role in inclusive excellence. 89% of incoming first-year students at eagle summit participated in an intercultural engagement session in Summer 2018.

30 conversation leaders

19 staff members and 11 graduate students led dialogues about inclusivity with 265 colleagues in student services and program roles through AU Connects.

AU Leaders take an active role in Inclusive Excellence. 100% of the President's Cabinet has completed an intercultural competence assessment and is engaged in ongoing learning.

450+ faculty & staff

454 faculty and staff participated in 32 inclusive excellence trainings in fall 2018; 77% indicated that they learned something they will use to make their teaching or work more inclusive.

Campus Climate, Culture, & Community

Objective: We will develop a campus climate and culture where all community members feel safe, experience a sense of belonging and satisfaction—and their overall well-being is supported through respectful, authentic, and engaged relationships with each other.

69% of first-year students

indicate an initial sense of belonging at AU in fall 2018, up 6% from fall 2017. There is little variation by race/ethnicity, but data shows incoming first-year students with disabilities are slightly more concerned than their peers that they will not be welcomed at AU.

102 Staff Participants in Mentoring Matters

51 mentor/mentees pairs matched from across 11 campus units for professional enrichment and improved workplace culture.

PCDI Listens

To understand campus culture and climate, PCDI held 20 PCDI Listens sessions with a range of campus constituents to build community, including veterans and military-affiliated students, politically conservative students, and LGBTQ+ students. A Student Advisory Council has joined PCDI to represent the students' perspective as of this year.

The AU community collaborates and innovates for Inclusive Excellence. 17 mini-grant projects by faculty, staff, and students collaborated on creative projects to advance Inclusive Excellence. Number of applications almost tripled from Spring to Fall.

2 new spaces on campus

Two new spaces for students to interact and support each other opened on campus. The Bridge Cafe and the Hub for Organizing, Multiculturalism and Equity (HOME) provide spaces for support and positive interactions among multicultural communities and allies.


AU is committed to Inclusive Excellence. 2 new surveys for faculty and staff will launch in Febraury 2019 to  build campus-wide baseline data to gauge campus climate in addition to the ongoing student survey.

Celebrating Graduates

Several special graduation celebrations recognized underrepresented communities as they prepared to join the AU alumni ranks. The third annual Black Graduation, the second annual Latinx Graduation and the inaugural Student-Veteran Graduation were celebrations of the hard work and dedication of students from these communities.

AU staff tale am actove role in Inclusive Excellence. 3 faculty-staff initiated affinity groups launched for black, LGBTQ+, and Latino and Hispanic

Systems, Policies, & Procedures

Objective: AU's systems, policies, and procedures will facilitate diversity, inclusion, transparency, and accountability. We will evaluate, revise, and communicate changes in policies and protocols that will facilitate reports of bias and discrimination, improve clarity, provide transparency, promote fairness, and enhance accountability.

Policy Impacts

Title IX and disability grievance policies have been updated to increase clarity and transparency.

Increased awareness & Action

  • After implementing and raising awareness of a bias reporting system, the number of bias reports submitted to the CARE Network increased from 14 in spring 2018 to 26 in fall 2018.
  • The new Bias Response Working Group launched in Spring 2019 will recommend enhancements to communication and systematic responses to student-reported bias incidents university-wide.

Strategic Communications

AU’s website now includes details on AU’s Plan for Inclusive Excellence. Curated news stories related to issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion are shared on the web, in social media, and in AU’s weekly newsletter. Additionally, the Mosaic newsletter regularly highlights relevant stories to the campus community.

AU is committed to inclusive excellence. HR developed a new inclusive hiring initiative to assist campus units in increasing equitable practices and increased the number of places where we advertise position vacancies from 7 to more than 20.

Access & Equity

Objective: We will transform the way we recruit, hire, train, develop, evaluate, and recognize AU faculty, staff, and administrators to encourage the achievement of our diversity, equity, and inclusion goals.

Demographic Data

For detailed faculty and student demographic, retention, and graduation data, please see AU's Academic Data Reference Book.

New Faculty Hires

Overall, 21% of AU’s full-time faculty self-identify as faculty of color and 50% as women. Over the past two years, 39% of new tenure-line and 35% of new term faculty hires self-identify as faculty of color; 43% of new tenure-line and 55% of new term faculty hires identify as women. Over this two year period, 56 new tenure-line and 103 new term faculty have been appointed.

39% of new tenure-line faculty, 35% of new term faculty, and 21% of the overall faculty identify as people of color over the past two years

New faculty hires identifying as people of color over the past two years compared to the overall faculty

43% of new tenure-line faculty, 55% of new term faculty, and 50% of the overall faculty identify as women over the past two years

New faculty hires identifying as women over the past two years compared to the overall faculty

AU is committed to Inclusive Excellence. 56% of newly-hired AUx instructor-advisors identify as staff of color, compared to 41% of staff of color overall. 100% of the new instructor-advisors have terminal or master's degrees.


AU is committed to inclusive excellence. More than 4600 exams are given each year by the Academic Support and access center in response to accommodation needs.

AU leads on Inclusive Excellence. Led by AU's School of Public Affairs, 6 partner universities launched the Diversity Alliance to build pipelines of diverse public affiairs scholars and practitioners.

Partnering for Success

In April 2018, President Burwell signed 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.

Opening Doors for Future Teachers

The new partnership between AU's School of Education and DC Public Schools is aimed at establishing a diverse pipeline of teachers for the city's schools. 9 dual enrollment DCPS students successfully completed their first semester at AU through the new partnership.

Comparing Retention Rates

The latest one-year retention rates of historically underrepresented groups, including first generation, Pell-eligible, African American, and Latinx students, are comparable to or exceed the university average.

Focusing on Web Accessibility

Content across AU’s public websites is scanned to monitor ongoing accessibility, and content publishers are trained regularly on aspects of web accessibility.

Reducing Food insecurity

In response to student-conducted surveys indicating food insecurities on campus, the Market, a student-operated food pantry, opened in spring 2018 on the lower level of Letts Hall. 197 students accessed the pantry in 2018.

Curriculum & Instruction

Objective: We will offer an inclusive core curriculum that advances a holistic learning experience and demonstrates AU's values of critical inquiry, intellectual engagement, and respectful discourse across diverse perspectives.

AU students take an active role in inclusive excellence. 100% of students from the class of 2022 enrolled in AUx2. The course focuses on structures of power, privilege, and inequality. 95 students have co-facilitated AUx courses since it began.

New Language Course

CAS’s Department of World Languages and Cultures is offering a new course for Spanish-heritage speakers.

Promoting civil Discourse

The AU Project on Civil Discourse trained 10 students to support their peers in understanding speech as a matter of rights, responsibilities, values, and opportunities.

Highlights from Year 1

Men and women in military uniform holding the American flag.

On Campus ·

Stories Worth Telling: Honoring Military Service at AU

Read More


Research ·

Who Is Taking Care of the Caregivers?

Read More

Negeen Sadeghi Movahed

2L Iranian-American Student Elected ABA Law Student Division Chair

Full Story

AnchorInclusive Excellence: The First Six Months

Fall 2018 Update

In January, we began our journey toward inclusive excellence. The beginning of a new semester is a good time to take stock of progress and challenges. It's also an ideal time to restate our commitment, as an institution and as individuals, to creating a culture of inclusion and equity at AU. Learn how AU is taking first steps toward our goals for inclusive excellence, and look for ways you can get involved.

We still have much work to do to achieve our vision, and we continue to learn along the way. In some areas, we've moved forward incrementally but know more work is needed. While there are numerous improvements to facilities to make them more accessible, many more are needed, and we know the construction on campus is making it difficult to get around. As a result of PCDI Listens, AU Dining has expanded some of its offerings, but others are needed to address more of our community's needs. We're still actively working to clarify our bias response process. Early efforts are underway to establish diversity resources for faculty and staff hiring committees.

Our initial steps have been a result of our collective efforts. Continued progress will require all of us to collaborate and remain committed to this challenging and crucial work.

First Steps Toward Inclusive Excellence


Faculty, students, and staff, including President Sylvia Burwell, share how AU is beginning to move forward together toward achieving inclusive excellence goals.

Highlights from the First Six Months of the Plan

Leadership for the President's Council on Diversity and Inclusion and its Student Advisory Council: Ximena Varela,Sabrina-Yvette D'Almeida, Jeff Rutenbeck, Eric Brock, and Rafael Cistero

Leading Collaboration

Meet the leaders from across campus who are facilitating the collaborative efforts of Inclusive Excellence.


New Connections for Hispanic Journalism Students

The first student chapter in Washington, DC, of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) launched at AU in 2018.

Learn More

Lara Schwartz, director of the new Project on Civil Discourse, wants to move beyond predictable debates about campus speech.

The Power of Words

The new Project on Civil Discourse will discuss how to accomplish diversity, inclusion, and free speech on campus.

Learn More

AnchorPresident Burwell Introduces AU's Plan for Inclusive Excellence

Check out the plan details


AU's Plan for Inclusive Excellence Builds on a Legacy of Promising Practices

Our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion pre-dates the inclusive excellence plan, which builds on those efforts and promising practices.

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 & AFRICAN DIASPORA STUDIES 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 Studies Collaborative, a vibrant and inclusive community that explores diverse voices, histories, and experiences through socially-engaged scholarship.

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.

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.

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.

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-line positions to recruit diverse candidates to AU's faculty
  • Develop programs to cultivate inclusive classrooms, including an entry program for newly appointed tenure-line faculty and dialogue sessions for current faculty