Memorandum October 11, 2021
- AU Community
- Peter Starr, Provost and Chief Academic Officer
Diana Burley, Vice Provost for Research
- Advancing Sustainability Research and Teaching
We hope that you have had an opportunity to read President Burwell’s recent communication announcing the launch of the largest externally funded research grant in American University’s history—a National Science Foundation award supporting a $15 million, multi-institutional project that addresses the challenge of food waste. The project’s leader, Sauleh Siddiqui, recently joined with collaborators and colleagues for an outstanding panel discussion during AU Family Week’s Faculty Expert Series. If you missed the live event, you can watch the recording to learn more about this remarkable research initiative.
AU’s Changemakers for a Changing World strategic plan outlines four areas of strategic focus—health, data science and analytics, security, and social equity—cross-disciplinary areas of research and study that address some of the most pressing challenges of our time and that serve as “zones of distinction” in an increasingly competitive higher education landscape. Today, we are delighted to announce the official incorporation of sustainability as a fifth area of strategic focus. This action aligns with, and builds upon, AU’s longstanding commitment to combatting climate change and protecting the environment.
Over the past several years, we have advanced our sustainability leadership in a variety of ways, including (among many other faculty, staff, student, and alumni achievements):
- Our status as the first carbon neutral university in the U.S.;
- The founding of the Center for Environment, Community, and Equity (CECE), a home for cross-school work in environmental protection and social justice;
- The work to eliminate fossil fuel investments from our endowment;
- Programming and activities surrounding our designation of 2022 as AU’s Year of Climate Action;
- The Washington College of Law’s stewardship of the Low-Carbon Patent Pledge;
- AU’s adoption of a new sustainability plan;
- The Sierra Club’s recognition of the university as #19 on its 2021 Cool Schools list; and
- Our beautiful arboretum and gardens.
We are especially pleased to report that we have begun development of a suite of homegrown, online, and cross-school master’s curricula in the broad area of sustainability policy and management. This program will build upon the current on-campus MS in sustainability management offered through the Kogod School of Business and, in time, will consist of 3–4 robust tracks to train sustainability changemakers for a variety of emergent jobs and professions.
As we highlight our cross-cutting efforts in sustainability, it is important to recognize the tremendous progress we have made to date in the four original areas of strategic focus. Stay tuned for future updates on our achievements in those areas!