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

AU in the Neighborhood

September, 2020

AU Releases Draft 2021 Campus Plan

Maria Barry

Dear Neighbors,  

We are pleased to release the 2021 Campus Plan Draft. American University spent the past two-plus years working with stakeholders, including the AU Neighborhood Partnership and the Community Liaison Committee, to create a consensus-based campus plan draft and we look forward to your continued participation throughout the planning process. 

The 2021 Campus Plan is a predictable yet flexible proposal that allows AU to meet the changing needs and demands of the educational marketplace of the 21st century, reinforces the university’s positive role as a leading educational institution in the nation’s capital, and underscores AU’s commitment to meaningful collaboration with the community to ensure the university remains an important contributor to enhancing the quality of life in the neighborhoods surrounding campus. 

The fundamental components of the plan have been envisioned and developed – and will be collaboratively implemented over the next decade – in partnership between university and community stakeholders to ensure that the campus will adapt to and meet the changing needs of AU students, faculty, and staff while at the same time respecting and enhancing the quality of life of those who live within the neighborhoods surrounding campus.  It is AU’s fundamental goal that the 2021 Campus Plan successfully accomplish both of these objectives. 

We encourage you to review the plan and comment using the Community Input Portal. In addition, please do not hesitate to reach out directly to me at or 202-885-2146 if you would like American University to present to your community group and apartment or condo association. We would love to be on your upcoming virtual meeting agenda to answer any questions about the 2021 Campus Plan. 

As always, please feel free to reach out to me directly if you have any additional questions.  

Stay well, 

Maria Barry signatureMaria Barry
Director of Community Relations
American University

Notice to Neighbors Regarding AU Campus

A view of the president's office on campus

To help reduce the spread of the Coronavirus, we ask neighbors and guests to not visit the campus, including the track and tennis courts until further notice. However, if you must visit the campus, please wear a mask and practice social distancing. Effective August 24, all campus buildings can only be accessed with an AU ID card.

Community Liaison Committee Meets September 15

Person working at a computer

American University’s Community Liaison Committee (CLC) will hold a quarterly meeting on Tuesday, September 15. The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. via RingCentral, a video-conferencing service powered by Zoom.

To register for either or both meetings, visit the registration page.  Prior to the meeting, each registrant will receive an email and a calendar invite from Justice & Sustainability Associates with information on how to access the meetings.

The CLC was established to foster positive relations and to maintain regular communication between the university and its neighbors. As specified in the D.C. Zoning Commission Order for AU’s 10-year Campus Plan, the CLC comprises individuals from neighboring community organizations and representatives from the university.

Additional information on the CLC, including meeting agendas and minutes can be found at the CLC website.

Attend Panel Discussion About Environmental Impact of Plastics

Plastic Wars flyer

The School of Communication presents a timely panel discussion this month about the environmental impact of plastics. The event is free and open to the public. 

PBS FRONTLINE Presents: Plastic Wars

September 15, 6 p.m.

Join us for a live panel discussion with the producers of Plastic Wars, a FRONTLINE and NPR investigation, co-produced with the Investigative Reporting Workshop at AU’s School of Communication. The film asks: Did the plastic industry use recycling to sell more plastic? With the industry expanding like never before and the crisis of ocean pollution growing, the film examines the fight over the future of plastics. Executive Director of SOC’s Center for Environmental Filmmaking Maggie Burnette Stogner will moderate. The event co-sponsored by: Investigative Reporting Workshop, Office of Sustainability, Center for Environmental Filmmaking and the School of Communication. RSVP via Eventbrite,

Engaging DC Students in the Age of Online Learning

Keana Brooks (SOC '22) working with a student before tutoring moved online

When DC public schools shut down due to COVID-19 this spring and sent students home, American University students who tutored them knew they needed to keep going. And summer didn’t bring an end to the students’ need to learn — or the tutors’ commitment to teaching.

AU students Aileen Pradhan and Ricardo Vergel Negron were two of the 20 summer volunteers in the DC Reads and Federal Work Study (FWS) programs who tutored students from the DC community during the summer — the largest summer DC Reads group to date since the program's implementation at AU in 1997 — despite the challenges of moving entirely to remote tutoring.

"They stepped up and responded when students needed it the most," said Jacob Ortiz, Associate Director for Education and Equity at the Center for Community Engagement and Service (CCES.)

DC Reads is a District-wide collaborative tutoring program that brings together universities, their students, DCPS, and community-based organizations to provide tutoring for students in need. For more than 20 years, AU students have been engaged with DC Reads through CCES, with more than 3,300 students deployed as tutors.

When Pradhan and other AU students went home this spring due to COVID-19, so did the students they tutored. However, it was vital for these young students to keep up with their studies, and AU students were up for the challenge. Pradhan kept tutoring virtually from New Jersey for those who could join. Vergel Negron, who had gone home to Puerto Rico, was interested in joining DC Reads as a summer position.

"After being sent home, I missed the students I was working with and wanted to stay connected," recalled Sofia Dean, another AU student involved in DC Reads. She continued to juggle her work with DC Reads with the challenges of being a full-time student during the spring while caring for an elderly grandparent at home. She stayed connected to her students by phone — often their parents’ mobile phones — when there was no access to a personal computer.

"The school system is facing a lot of challenges and learning on a computer is not the same as learning in the classroom," noted Marcy Campos, Director of CCES. "DCPS is thankful to have mentors online."

Pradhan and Vergel Negron also decided to join forces to provide a one-of-a-kind experience for DCPS students being tutored over the summer. The duo created and led a virtual "College Day" on July 27 with the DC-based nonprofit Latin American Youth Center, presenting on a day in the life of an AU college student, complete with career guidance. By explaining how to prepare for college, campus activities, career paths and more, they helped students visualize a future as a college student and beyond.

Pradhan made sure her students felt comfortable on a new online platform. "Something so valuable I learned this summer was the importance of doing fun icebreakers to model vulnerability and openness with them," she says. "It’s a two-way street to have them open up virtually. If I showed them my pets on camera, for example, they became more open to learning."

The students, as Vergel Negron noticed, returned the enthusiasm. "I was impressed by their almost perfect attendance and strong engagement," he says.

DCPS, too, was enthusiastic. Ortiz and Campus met virtually with DCPS and other university representatives to address youth education needs while converting to a virtual program. A proud moment came at one of those meetings when members of the DCPS core leadership team –  Thomasin Franken, Manager of Partner Engagement, and Bren Elliot, Chief of School Improvement and Support – gave a personal shout-out and thank you to Pradhan and Vergel Negron, highlighting their leadership and the ways they demonstrated creativity and quality tutoring.

For Pradhan, Dean, Vergel Negron and the other DC Reads tutors, it was all in a day’s work — and it’s all about the kids. "They brought so much positivity and inspiration," says Pradhan, "it’s important to be there for them."