Skyline of New York City

Change Can’t Wait New York

Thank You, New York

On June 15, 2022, American University hosted an evening of connection and conversation with President Sylvia M. Burwell for our community of changemakers in New York to experience Change Can't Wait: The Campaign for American University.

Note: This event was held in accordance with The Times Center’s COVID-related protocols for events. 

About the Speakers

Learn more about our distinguished guests below.

Susan Zirinsky is one of the preeminent journalists, newsroom executives, and program producers of our time. She has covered everything from the Watergate break-in, wars in the Middle East, Tiananmen Square massacre, 9/11 terrorist attacks to now, the 50th anniversary of the Watergate break-in.     

Today, Susan runs See It Now Studios, a stand-alone unit that develops and produces original documentaries and docuseries for Paramount+, CBS, Paramount Global networks, and third-party platforms. Previously, she was president of CBS News. And earlier, she spent more than two decades as the senior executive producer of the true-crime series 48 HOURS.   

Under Susan’s leadership, See It Now Studios has produced such projects as Indivisible—Healing Hate, Ghislaine—Partner In Crime, The 26th Street Garage: The FBI’s Untold Story of 9/11, CIA & 9/ll, The Race Against Time, Never Seen Again, and the upcoming Watergate: High Crimes In The White House. 

Her work has earned virtually every top journalism honor, including Emmys, the Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University Award, and the George Foster Peabody Award. 

President, American University 

Sylvia M. Burwell is American University’s 15th president and the first woman to serve as president. A visionary leader with experience in the public and private sectors, President Burwell brings to American University a commitment to education and research, the ability to manage large and complex organizations, and experience helping to advance solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges. 

Burwell has held two cabinet positions in the United States government—serving as the 22nd secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services and as the director of the Office of Management and Budget. Her additional government experience is extensive and includes roles at the Treasury and the National Economic Council. Burwell has also held leadership positions at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Walmart Foundation. Her private sector experience includes service on the Board of Directors of MetLife. 

She earned a bachelor’s degree in Government from Harvard University and a BA in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. 

Read her full biography here.  

Member, Board of Trustees 
Co-Chair, University Campaign Committee

Jeff is the co-founder and partner of the Raine Group. Before founding Raine, Jeff was vice chairman and global head of technology, media & telecom investment banking at UBS Investment Bank. He joined UBS in April 2001 and was named a board member in 2003. Prior to that, Jeff was global head of media investment banking at Morgan Stanley. Jeff’s clients have included many leading global media, technology, and communications companies. Prior to Morgan Stanley, Jeff was an attorney at Sullivan & Cromwell in New York and London. Jeff is a current or past board member of The Manhattan Theatre Club, The International Radio and Television Society, The Museum of Television and Radio Media Center, National Public Radio (Vice-Chair), The USC Annenberg School of Communication/Law Center Joint Venture, ITHAKA, Educational Testing Service (Chair), Univision, WeWork, and American University. He has also produced many plays and musicals over the past two decades on Broadway and in London’s West End and is a three-time Tony Award Winner. 

Jeff also serves on the boards of many Raine portfolio companies and subsidiaries. Jeff holds a BA from American University and a JD from the University of Southern California. 

Professor, Kogod School of Business 

Valentina Bruno is Professor of Finance and Kogod Research Professor in American University’s Kogod School of Business. She holds a master’s degree in finance and economics and a PhD in finance from the London School of Economics. Before joining American University, she worked at the World Bank in the Financial Sector Strategy and Policy Group and on the international finance team. Professor Bruno is a research fellow at the Center for Economic Policy Research, a faculty research member at the European Corporate Governance Institute, and associate editor at the Journal of Banking and Finance. She has been a visiting scholar at the Federal Reserve Board and a Council on Foreign Relations fellow in International Economics.  

Professor Bruno studies topics at the intersection of macroeconomics and finance and opened new lines of inquiry into how global financial markets interact with the real economy. Her recent work focuses on the role of the US dollar in the transmission of global financial conditions. Professor Bruno’s scholarship has been widely cited in the media and within policy circles, combining economic theory and empirical evidence to inform policymaking and regulatory work. Amongst others, Professor Bruno’s work has appeared in the Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, and, notably, on the cover page of The Economist. Her research has been published in several leading academic journals, such as the Review of Economic Studies and Review of Financial Studies

Gary D. Cohn is an American business leader, investor, and the former director of the US National Economic Council. He is an internationally recognized expert on the financial markets, global economy, US politics, and economic policy.  

Mr. Cohn is vice chairman of IBM, working in partnership with IBM’s executive leadership team on a wide range of business initiatives and external engagement in areas including business development, public advocacy, and client relationship management. He is also co-chairman of Cohn Robbins Holding Corp., which recently announced an agreement to merge with leading multinational lottery operator Allwyn Entertainment. 

Mr. Cohn served as assistant to the President for economic policy and director of the National Economic Council from 2017 to 2018. As chief economic advisor to the President of the United States, Mr. Cohn managed the administration’s economic policy agenda and led the successful effort to grow the US economy, create jobs, and increase wages through tax and regulatory reform.  

Before serving in the White House, Mr. Cohn was president and chief operating officer of The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. from 2006 to 2016. He joined Goldman Sachs in 1990 and held several other leadership positions, including global co-head of the equities and fixed income, currency, and commodities division. He was a member of the firm’s board of directors and chairman of the firmwide client and business standards committee.  

Mr. Cohn began his career at US Steel before moving to New York to trade on the New York Commodities Exchange from 1982 to 1990. 

Mr. Cohn invests across the cybersecurity, blockchain infrastructure, regulatory technology, and medical technology sectors. He serves on the corporate boards of Abyrx, Gro Intelligence, Lazurite, and Nanopay and is the chairman of the board of Pallas Advisors. Additionally, Mr. Cohn serves on advisory boards for Spring Labs and Starling. He is a member of the systemic resolution advisory committee of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. 

Mr. Cohn has long been dedicated to advancing healthcare and education. He is a member of the board of trustees of NYU Langone Health and serves as chairman of the advisory board for the NYU Langone Orthopedic Hospital. He is also on the board of overseers of the NYU Tandon School of Engineering. In 2019 Mr. Cohn was a visiting fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics.  

Mr. Cohn lives in New York with his wife and three daughters. He grew up in Shaker Heights, Ohio, and received his undergraduate degree from American University in 1982.

Member, Board of Trustees 
Co-Chair, University Campaign Committee  

Peter L. Scher is vice chairman of JPMorgan Chase & Co. and a member of the firm’s operating committee. Scher is the firm’s senior business executive for the Mid-Atlantic region—one of the largest economic regions in the United States—and oversees the firm’s global corporate responsibility department, including its public policy efforts, the J.P. Morgan International Council and Morgan Health, a new business unit focused on improving the quality of healthcare for the firm’s employees and creating new models for employer-based healthcare. Previously, he was the managing partner of the Washington, DC, office of law firm Mayer Brown LLP and earlier served as the chairman of their government and global trade practice. He also spent nearly a decade in public service, serving as the US special trade ambassador under President Clinton. 

President, American University Alumni Board 

The pursuit of excellence—in academia, within the community, through organizational leadership, and otherwise—is core to the professional identity of Dr. Jonathan Mathis. His work spans both secondary and postsecondary educational institutions, with a focus on college access and success. He currently serves senior vice president of education policy and systems change at City Year. Previously, he served as executive director of the Next Step Public Charter School and as the director of the National Honor Societies at the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP). There, he provided vision, leadership, and evaluation for efforts reaching nearly 2 million students, advisers, and leaders annually. Prior to joining NASSP, Dr. Mathis was the director of education and training at the National Association for College Admission Counseling, where he was responsible for the professional learning and leadership preparation for more than 14,000 college admission professionals. 

Dr. Mathis has contributed to college access efforts nationally. He completed his PhD in urban education policy at the University of Southern California. While in Los Angeles, he served as the regional director for the Collegiate Identity and Participation Model with Partnerships to Uplift Communities Schools in Los Angeles. He also served as an adjunct assistant professor in USC’s Rossier School of Education. Dr. Mathis has also earned a Bachelor of Science in business administration from American University, and a Master of Science in administration for educational administration (K-12) from Trinity Washington University.  

On behalf of the American University Alumni Association and its recognized affiliated regional chapters, alliances, and networks, Dr. Mathis was selected as a 2016 Congressional Black Caucus Week Honoree as recognized by the American University Black Alumni Alliance. This special recognition is awarded to a select group of AU alumni who demonstrate a high commitment to advancing the global black community in one of four ways: assuring quality healthcare, advancing through education, increasing equity in foreign policy, and ensuring justice for all.