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Memorandum November 27, 2018

To:
AU Community
From:
Jack C. Cassell, Chairman, Board of Trustees
Subject:
Board of Trustees Late Fall 2018 Meeting Summary

The American University Board of Trustees met on November 15-16 on the AU campus for its fall meeting. It was an active two days with a number of significant actions to report.

Following a full day of committee meetings on November 15, former board vice chairman and U.S. Ambassador to Denmark Stuart Bernstein and Wilma Bernstein (both AU alums) hosted an evening reception for current and former trustees and the university leadership. It was a wonderful and significant occasion to gather trustees from different periods of AU history to celebrate the university’s past success and bright future under president Sylvia Burwell—especially as we prepare to launch the new strategic plan and build the foundation for a comprehensive campaign.

The full board meeting took place on November 16 on the East Campus. The day began with a breakfast with close to 40 students meeting with trustees, sharing their experiences, and making suggestions on how to make AU even better. The full meeting followed, and a number of actions were taken.

Of highest significance and by unanimous vote, the Board of Trustees approved the new strategic plan, Changemakers for a Changing World: A Five-Year Strategic Plan for American University. The document is a culmination of more than a year of rigorous campus-wide discussion and reflections on AU’s strengths and opportunities within the 21st century higher education landscape. The result is a plan that captures a set of strategic themes, strategic imperatives, initial actions, metrics, and proposed investments. The plan will be launched in January 2019.

The Academic Affairs Committee business included a discussion of retention and graduation as a high priority that will receive utmost attention by all campus units and divisions in the years to come. Also, following a review and recommendation by the committee, the board approved two new graduate degree programs—an MA in International Affairs Policy and Analysis in the School of International Service; and an online MS in Marketing Analytics in the Kogod School of Business.

The Alumni Affairs and Development Committee continues its important work to structure a comprehensive campaign; create a draft case for support; establish goals and funding priorities; and identify campaign leadership. The board approved two resolutions as key precedents for that work; the first was to adopt an updated, revised and comprehensive set of policies as the Gift Policy Manual for American University. This document was based on months of discussion with campus academic and executive leadership and addresses the needs of a best-practice driven fundraising program. The second approved resolution was to modify the Statement of Commitment and Responsibilities of Trustees and substantially increase the annual giving level for individual trustees; while individual circumstances may differ, each trustee is asked to design an individual philanthropic plan with AU’s chief advancement officer.

Through the Finance and Investment Committee, the two-year (FY 2020-21) budget development guidelines were endorsed, based on the cross-campus work done by the University Budget Committee. The objective is to present a proposed FY 2020-21 budget to the board at the March 1, 2019 meeting, which also will reflect the first phase of the strategic plan. A communication from University Budget Committee co-chairs Doug Kudravetz, CFO, vice president and treasurer, and Mary Clark, interim provost, will be forthcoming to campus and provide greater context.

Through the Communication Committee, vice president Terry Flannery previewed preliminary findings from the stakeholder study and brand refresh work; a more detailed presentation is planned for the winter meeting in March.

In other action, the board approved the awarding of an honorary degree for thefall commencement speaker—Dr. Helene D. Gayle, president and CEO of The Chicago Community Trust. Dr. Gayle has had a distinguished career in global development, humanitarian issues, and health care in a range of leadership positions as CEO of the McKinsey Social Initiative; CEO of CARE; and with the Centers for Disease Control and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Commencement will be at 10 a.m., Sunday, December 16, in Bender Arena.

Following updates from campus representatives, the board meeting adjourned. A brief separate meeting followed with me, vice chair Marc Duber, CFO Kudravetz, and representatives from Fossil Free AU to discuss board investment policy.

The next Board of Trustees meeting will be February 28-March 1, 2019 on the AU campus. I wish everyone a successful close to the semester as we approach the end of the calendar year.