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Office of the Provost | Communications

February 6, 2012

 TO:  American University Faculty
 FROM:  Scott A. Bass, Provost
 SUBJECT:  AU Project 2030


I am pleased to announce the launch of AU Project 2030. This project encourages faculty to envision the future of the university and calls for proposals to strategically invest in future faculty and subject areas in which AU can gain national recognition. Faculty across the university are invited to submit proposals AND comment on submissions.

The history of rising research universities reveals that anticipating and investing in subject areas and fields long before they move to the forefront is important. For example, when Carnegie-Mellon University was developing its technical reputation many years ago, its faculty realized that they could not compete with MIT in computer science and engineering. They decided instead to invest in an allied field, robotics, and eventually became a world leader in that area. In this case, the faculty anticipated the future and used their resources to build recognition in an area in which they could be among the very best. As a result, the institution’s reputation as a leading academic center grew within the academic community.

The academic investments of today, including faculty hires, provide the foundation for the academy of tomorrow. It is the faculty who ultimately builds the academy and fosters an institution’s accomplishments through teaching students, conducting research, or addressing the great issues of our time. Our Strategic Plan acknowledges the importance of achieving the scholar-teacher ideal, for it serves as a prerequisite for providing an unsurpassed education to our students, demonstrating distinction in our programs, engaging in the great issues of our time, achieving recognition and distinction, and accomplishing many of our other Strategic Plan goals. For these reasons, resources have been made available to strategically invest in hiring the faculty of the future.

It is incumbent upon us to make present-day decisions that will have long-range impact on the identity and success of AU and its future faculty. Therefore, in examining hiring priorities, we need to think not just to the next few years, but in what fields AU should be recognized 15-20 years from now. Our vision of the future necessitates a long-term view as today’s outstanding assistant professor is tomorrow’s full professor, hopefully providing intellectual leadership world-wide. As a mid-sized university, our investments in different fields, subjects, disciplines, and professions must be carefully considered. Our goal should be to identify and build a few groundbreaking areas at AU that go beyond being very good and are considered by our colleagues nationally and internationally as the very best. The opportunity to make those investments in defining our future is now.

My discussions with the deans and faculty affirm the great value of each existing or new faculty line. There is a shared belief that each position and hire should build on the existing academy’s faculty strengths and enhance their impact. Over the past three years, the deans have engaged in an unprecedented level of planning across the academic units. Every position advertised has been fully vetted by all of the deans in an effort to avoid redundancy and to foster increased cross-unit collaboration.

As a result of this planning, several subjects or themes have emerged that cut across disciplinary or professional divisions. Hiring in allied areas has taken on its own momentum and has provided some new associations across campus. Below is a sample of cross disciplinary themes that have recently emerged:

  • behavioral and cognitive neuroscience
  • environmental studies/science and sustainability
  • public health
  • urban and metropolitan studies
  • human rights
  • Latin American and Latino studies

Resources have been and will continue to be invested in these and other areas. The university we enjoy today—its faculty and programs—was influenced by hiring and resource decisions made in decades past. As we consider our resources, how do we want to influence the direction of the university 15 to 20 years from now? In what fields should we invest to propel AU to new levels of distinction in 2020, 2030 and beyond?

AU Project 2030
In considering new positions that extend beyond the annual process for submitting department and division requests, I seek your input regarding fields and subjects that align across the academy. As part of AU Project 2030, I welcome proposals for such new faculty lines and strategic investments in areas in which we can be nationally recognized.

Proposals should follow the process outlined below and are due by March 1, 2012.

  1. Proposal Development: Develop a one-page description of a subject or field in which AU has promise for development and can excel well into the future. The following items should be addressed within proposals:
    1. the competition that AU will face and why it is a promising area of inquiry despite or because of this competition, and
    2. an estimation of the faculty lines and additional resources that will be needed over time for AU to be a major research player.
  2. Proposal Submission for Faculty Dialogue: Go to the AU Project 2030 proposal page at, accessible via the AU Portal (your AU user ID and password is required for log in), and upload your proposal.
  3. Faculty Dialogue: Once uploaded, interested AU faculty will have the opportunity to read and respond with constructive commentary on all uploaded proposals. Proposal authors may subsequently revise their proposal based on feedback received.
  4. Final Proposal Submission: By March 1, 2012, final proposals should be submitted to me at by the original author. The names of faculty who provided feedback should be attached to the proposal.
  5. Proposal Consideration: Final proposals will be considered for funding by the deans and me. The community will be notified of the selected proposal(s) later in the semester. Support for ideas may extend beyond a single fiscal year.
    The AU Project 2030 page is active and ready for proposals submissions. I look forward to your suggestions and ideas as we begin the immediate process of allocating and authorizing faculty searches for next year and we strategically plan.