You are here: American University Community Relations Newsletter May 2020 Neighborhood Newsletter

AU in the Neighborhood

May 2020

Class of 2020 Celebrate Commencement Virtually

Graduate photos shared to #2020AUGrad on social media.

Under normal circumstance, Sunday, May 9 would have seen the American University campus filled with students, parents, friends, and relatives all present to witness commencement ceremonies and celebrate the college graduation of a loved one. However, this year, although the AU campuses were limited to only essential operations, the milestone moment was celebrated nevertheless, albeit virtually.

Henry Louis Gates, Jr.’s commencement address delivered inspiring words that not only captured this unique moment but can serve as a guiding light for AU students for years to come. Deans, faculty, alumni, and friends shared well wishes and heartfelt congratulations. While everyone would have preferred to be together in Bender Arena, the AU community’s pride and excitement for the Class of 2020 was evident.

Conditions permitting, plans are underway currently for a special commencement ceremony scheduled to take place on campus in December.   

Help AU Support Sibley’s COVID-19 Virtual Community Drive Effort

Welcome Wall at Sibley Memorial Hospital

American University, in partnership with Sibley Memorial Hospital, the Palisades Citizens' Association, and Palisades Village, encourages our neighbors to support Sibley's COVID-19 Virtual Community Drive effort, running May 25 through June 1. 

While the coronavirus pandemic is having an impact all over the world, in the United States a disproportionate number of people of color – particularly African Americans – are experiencing more serious illness and death due to COVID-19 than other demographics. To help address this emerging statistic, the community drive will focus on providing aid to communities of color across the District. 

Please visit their drive’s Amazon wish list, comprising specific items ranging from cloth masks to essential household items that are in great demand in the District’s underserved neighborhoods.  Items purchased from the wish list will be delivered to Sibley and distributed to various community partners who will, in turn, ensure that the much-needed items are received promptly by under-resourced residents and families. When making a purchase, be sure to select “Sibley Memorial Hospital Community Drive” during the check-out process to have the items delivered directly to the hospital.

“During this unprecedented time of need, helping our underserved neighbors is especially important. Your contributions will have a direct impact on the well-being of people right here in the DC community,” said Maria Barry, AU’s Director of Community Relations. 

“We also urge you help spread the word about Sibley’s COVID-19 Virtual Community Drive effort to your friends, family, and neighborhood networks and listservs.”

For more information, contact Maria Barry.  Thank you in advance for your support and willingness to join in this important effort.

Continue to Support AU Farmers’ Market Vendors

The farmers' market at AU

Missing American University’s weekly Farmers’ Market? We do! However, here’s some good news: The vendors are still selling their food and products at various Farmers’ Markets throughout the DC area and/or taking online orders for pick-up or delivery. Visit the vendors’ websites for schedules, market locations, and pick-up and delivery details.

American University Celebrates the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day

50 Actions for 50 Years: Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day

The unique and challenging circumstances that surrounded the 50th anniversary of Earth Day did not dampen the spirit of the milestone at American University. While local stay-at-home orders made it necessary to move the celebration online, the university’s commitment to sustainability remained unabated. This year’s Earth Day marked the second anniversary of AU becoming the first carbon neutral university in the United States and a new milestone in the form of fossil fuel divestment.

“For more than a decade, AU has been on a campus-wide sustainability journey – something that’s not just part of our mission, but our DNA as changemakers,” said President Sylvia M. Burwell. “Our actions, from reaching carbon neutrality to the board’s commitment to evolving our investments, will continue to serve as a model for sustainability, further demonstrating our leadership on the issue and how our community can make an impact in the global fight against climate change.”

Coinciding with the celebration of Earth Day, American University announced that it had divested all of its public fossil fuel investments from its endowment. While the university has had no direct investments in fossil fuel funds for several years, in a series of transactions over the last few months, the Board of Trustees eliminated the remaining fossil fuel exposure within the public endowment portfolio.

"This action underscores our leadership on sustainability while exercising our fiduciary responsibility for ensuring the financial health of a great university that has served our nation for more than a century," said Jeff Sine, chair of AU’s Finance and Investment Committee and Partner, The Raine Group LLC. “Our board wants to acknowledge the important work happening throughout the campus to protect the environment and those in our AU community who are taking action on climate change.”

The Office of Sustainability also unveiled 50 Actions for 50 Yearsa webpage that offers green suggestions and initiatives that individuals and families could take from the comfort and safety of their homes to commemorate Earth Day and throughout the year. The webpage was cobranded with several other DC universities who also are signatories of the DC College and University Sustainability Pledge (CUSP).

Using #50Actions50Years, the Sustainability team posted about the website resource on social media, and highlighted examples of AU’s sustainability-related efforts throughout the month. As of now, the page has received more than 3,000 views.

Additionally, the first-ever Earth Day Art Contest was held for the children of faculty, staff, and students. The Sustainability team showed the contest submission during a webinar for Take Your Child to Work Day and announced the winners of the various submission categories.

For more information, visit the Sustainability website and learn about the university’s various sustainability milestones.

Take Part in “The Dean’s List:  Lessons from Leaders Webinars” Series

Vicky Wilkins and Peter Starr

A new interactive webinar series, The Dean’s List: Lessons from Leaders, will feature illuminating conversations with each of American University’s deans. Join AU’s academic deans throughout the summer as they share their expertise about relevant and timely topics bi-weekly.

Is The World Just? Notions Of Deservingness And Public Policy

May 26, 7 p.m.
Host: Vicky Wilkins, Dean of the School of Public Affairs

 We each regularly judge the deservingness of others – Who deserves health care? Who deserves a stimulus check? Who deserves to go to college? These notions of deservingness are reflected in our beliefs about justice and influence the design and implementation of social policies in fundamental ways. Discussion is encouraged during the webinar about how your own beliefs about justice shape your attitudes toward public policy. Registration deadline for this event is 12 p.m., Tuesday, May 26. Student Registration; Guest Registration.

Wisdom In The Age Of COVID-19

June 9, 7 p.m.
Host: Peter Starr, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences

The mission of higher education is to cultivate wisdom in an age that tends to devalue it. This webinar explores wisdom in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic with answers to questions like: Why does today’s quest for wisdom feel untimely? How does AU’s new Core Curriculum serve the mandate to cultivate wisdom? How has that mandate been both reinforced and transformed by our experience of the pandemic? Registration deadline for this event is 12 p.m., Tuesday, June 9. Student Registration; Guest Registration

Enjoy the Katzen’s Museum@Home Offerings

Closeup of Jennifer Frank's installation art, Rodified, made of birch dowels and twine.

The doors at the Katzen Museum may be closed for the moment, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy the art within. The Katzen now offers its Museum@Home initiative which brings you #artwhereyouare featuring exhibition highlights and selections from their permanent collection on digital platforms.

Be sure also to enjoy e-book catalogs, artist-inspired children’s art activities, playlists inspired by exhibiting artists, information on virtual events, and more.

Upcoming online events include:

Gallery Talk: Gods & Monsters

May 21, 7 p.m.

The mythic artworks of Viola Frey take center stage at the Katzen’s first virtual gallery talk. This multifaceted Bay Area artist cracked the barrier between craft and fine art.  The talk will feature a panel including Squeak Carnwath, Exhibition Curator; Cynthia de Bos, Director of Collections and Archives, Artists’ Legacy Foundation; Jack Rasmussen, AU Museum Director & Curator; and Mark Van Proyen, Associate Professor of Painting at the San Francisco Art Institute, and exhibition catalog essayist. Register online: For more information about the exhibition and to read the e-book catalog, visit the Katzen website.

Pent Up Pin-Up

May 30 & 31, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. 

Join online for a Guise & Dolls Figurative Sculpture Class, Pent-Up Pin Up with artist Melissa Ichiuji for seasoned artists and beginners. Get inspired through movement, journaling, and visualization. Learn basic techniques for building armatures, stitching, and joining soft materials to create a unique art doll that reflects the naked truth of your inner beauty. Express your secret self, share ideas, offer peer support. All are welcome. Cost: $150 (Materials are included and will be shipped directly to students. U.S. only) Registration and payment must be completed by May 20 to ensure timely delivery of materials:

Also be sure to participate in two online public dialogues this summer, co-hosted by the Third Space Network and the American University Museum. The series Raw Hope of Humanity Rising brings together artists, activists, media critics, cultural and government officials in interdisciplinary panels to discuss the political impact of Covid-19 during the run-up to the 2020 presidential election. 

Information vs. Propaganda

June 17, 6 –7:30 p.m.

The distortion of truth and information through techniques of propaganda and disinformation that falsely attempt to persuade public opinion.  The dialogue will feature Randall Packer, Moderator (Creative Director, Third Space Network); Hasan Elahi (Artist, Director, School of Art, George Mason University); Will Stevens (U.S. Dept. of State Foreign Service Officer, Former Spokesperson, U.S. Embassy in Moscow); Siva Vaidhyanathan (Professor, Modern Media Studies, University of Virginia). Register for Information vs Propaganda

Idealism vs Cynicism

July 22, 6 – 7:30 p.m.

The disruption of idealism essential to the core principles of democracy though cynical disdain for the rule of law, wisdom, truth, and logic. The dialogue will feature Randall Packer, Moderator; Zoë Charlton (Artist, Associate Professor, American University); Lee McIntyre (Research Fellow, Center for Philosophy and History of Science, Boston University); Monica Montgomery (Executive Director, Prince George’s African American Museum and Cultural Center). Register for Idealism vs. Cynicism.

Raw Hope of Humanity Rising 

June 17, 6 p.m.

This talk addresses critical arguments emerging in the political climate of Covid-19, in which hope is raw, as our democratic and economic well being are faltering. These arguments concern core principles of democracy that are impacting the global struggle to defeat the virus, in which freedom of the press is threatened, information is tainted, elections are undermined, and constitutional guardrails are pushed to the limit. In this climate of fear, tribalism, disinformation, cynicism, abuse of power, and economic collapse, we are witnessing an epic struggle to preserve the fundamental qualities of humanism and embrace of the common good that binds us all. We ask: how can we transcend the boundaries between the arts, media, and government to illuminate the complex social, political, economic and health crisis we face today? Visit the website for more information and to register: .