You are here: American University Board of Trustees May 25, 2021 Memo

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Memorandum May 25, 2021

AU Community
Marc N. Duber, Chair, Board of Trustees
Board of Trustees May 2021 Meeting Summary

The May 2021 meeting of the American University Board of Trustees took place amid many events that both recognize the achievements of our difficult past year and help chart our exciting path forward. We met during exciting commencement activities, including 12 in-person processionals for 2020 and 2021 graduates, and we recently launched major initiatives that are key to our Changemakers strategy and our future. Change Can’t Wait, our bold comprehensive fundraising campaign, was unveiled on May 12 and continued the momentum of the new Challenge Accepted narrative.

While there are many promising signs for the fall and beyond, there are still a number of uncertainties that require our flexibility, continued effort, and preparation for any adjustments that may be needed as the situation continues to evolve. This approach will continue to position the university for success. In her report, President Sylvia Burwell discussed the university’s continued response to COVID-19, our efforts within the ongoing reckoning of structural racism, and the global economic challenges that continue to affect our community. We have worked through a hard year, but one where AU persevered and thrived thanks to our nimbleness and commitment to community. Now is a time of transition, both within the pandemic and for the future, as we continue to build with Changemakers strategy. We are accelerating transformations in technology, how AU works, lifelong learning, and inclusive excellence.

Looking to the fall, we are excited about the return to face-to-face instruction, in-person residential experiences, and other opportunities that are vital to our community. There is also important work to advance our enrollment and retention efforts, address COVID-related uncertainties for international students, deliver value to our students and families, and support our faculty and staff.

A highlight of the meeting was a panel discussion of leading AU scholars in technology and cyber security. Vice provost for research and SPA professor Diana Burley, SIS professor Audrey Cronin, SOC professor Laura DiNardis, and Kogod professor Heng XU demonstrated their groundbreaking work and the unique ability of AU experts to collaborate on impactful scholarship that addresses today’s most pressing challenges. They outlined cyber-related priorities for businesses, higher education, and consumers; provided examples of engagement with policymakers and global leaders to shape solutions; and offered a look ahead on how future investments can enhance their research.

In business matters, the Trustees approved two new academic programs—the bachelor of arts program in Chinese Studies and master of science program in Neuroscience. We also heard an update on Methodist Church matters from Bishop Easterling and Reverend Bergquist, including the ongoing debate about the institution’s position on matters of sexual orientation. The Baltimore-Washington Conference of the Methodist Church, which Bishop Easterling leads and where AU is a member, remains committed to inclusivity, marriage equality, supporting LGBTQIA clergy.

On Thursday, May 13, we continued our valued engagement with the AU community through a Zoom luncheon discussion with staff from across the university. We heard stories of creativity and problem-solving that supported our students and advanced our mission, as well as important perspectives about the effects of the pandemic on our staff, such as the challenges of the hiring freeze and the need to continue fostering community. The trustees and the university leadership will continue to work on these matters in partnership with our valued staff members.

During the meeting, we welcomed two new Trustees and the 2021-2022 student government representatives. Korey Neal, Sr. (SOC/MA ‘15) is President of K. Neal Truck and Bus Center in Hyattsville, MD, one of only two minority-owned, full-service commercial truck and bus dealerships in the country. Michael Balmuth (CAS/BA ’72) is Chairman of the Board and Senior Advisor of Ross Stores, Inc. He previously served as CEO of Ross for nearly eighteen years. We look forward to working with AU Student Government president Chyna Brodie, Graduate Leadership Council president Olivia Tarpley, and Student Bar Association president Lola Abdulai. As always, the campus representatives shared invaluable perspectives and helped inform our work on key issues.

We marked transitions and honors for several of our members. After 15 years of service on the AU Board of Trustees, Arthur Rothkopf is completing his tenure. His contributions to the AU community and higher education are extensive and we will miss his leadership. We also offered our gratitude to outgoing Faculty Trustee Lizzie Worden and Student Trustee Ben Holtzman.

This was also the last board meeting for retiring CFO Doug Kudravetz. Doug’s thoughtful stewardship of American University’s finances are the foundation for so many of our achievements. His accomplishments include the construction of East Campus and the Hall of Science and the successful achievement of carbon neutrality two years ahead of schedule, among many others.

Finally, on behalf of the trustees and the entire AU community, I want to extend our congratulations to Trustee Alan Meltzer. Alan returned to AU to complete the last requirements for his bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies, right before his 70th birthday. He is an inspiration to all of us, demonstrating perseverance and a true commitment to lifelong learning.  

As we hopefully continue to see the resolution of the pandemic, I wish everyone good health and please stay safe. The Board of Trustees will host its annual retreat, on September 9-10, 2021.