You are here: American University Board of Trustees September 20, 2018 Memo

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Memorandum September 20, 2018

AU Community
Jack C. Cassell, Chairman, Board of Trustees
Board of Trustees Fall 2018 Retreat Summary

The American University Board of Trustees met on September 13 for its annual retreat, which was held in Grossman Hall on the campus of the Washington College of Law, where we were accommodated and welcomed by WCL dean Camille Nelson.

On the day preceding (September 12) orientation for trustee service was held for our two newest voting trustees, Maril MacDonald and Dr. Mehdi Heravi; our new faculty trustee, Elizabeth Worden; and new student trustee, Saira Grewal. This is an opportunity for these trustees to learn about university operations and issues from the senior university administrative and academic team.

We began the retreat with a fall semester update from both me and President Burwell. Among the newsworthy items were two significant gifts—$5 million from board chairman emeritus Gary Abramson and Pennie Abramson for the Hall of Science, now under construction, and another significant gift from another trustee to be announced in the very near future. You will be hearing more about the impact of these leadership gifts and the important efforts from our AU trustees in support of university academic objectives.

Board retreats are organized for broad based trustee review and discussion of significant institutional topics; key among those the board discussed were an update on the strategic plan; planning for the comprehensive campaign; a progress report on AU’s inclusive excellence initiatives; an AU financial review as we begin the two-year budget process and work on prioritizing strategic plan objectives; conversations on national issues affecting higher education; and efforts to help support the board with enhanced technology. Vice President for Communication Terry Flannery also reviewed the recently released U.S. News and World Report (2019) rankings and the new methodologies used that altered this years’ rankings for a number of schools. 

For the strategic plan discussion, President Burwell reviewed what we have done to get to this stage in the process, including extensive consultation with campus stakeholders; the current economics and sector trends that inform the proposed strategy; the overarching principles and narrative guiding the proposed strategy; and the proposed strategic imperatives and top priorities within those imperatives. Following further development of the strategic plan that will include additional consultation with faculty, students, staff, alumni, and other members of the campus community, the board will continue to review the plan at its November meeting, following further campus discussion of the plan throughout fall semester.

Among board actions, the trustees elected sophomore Madison Dalton as the new student trustee-elect. Madison is a CLEG (Communications, Law, Economics, Government) major from Pittsburgh who has worked with the Kennedy Political Union and is an AU ambassador. She will serve as the “student trustee in training” for the coming year, will learn about the board’s workings, and will be in line to become the student trustee after the May 2019 meeting.

There being no further business, the board adjourned. The next meeting will be November 15-16 when the board holds its late fall meeting on campus.