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Memorandum February 26, 2018

AU Community
Jack C. Cassell, Chairman, Board of Trustees
Board of Trustees Winter 2018 Meeting Summary

The Board of Trustees held its winter meeting on Thursday, February 22, and Friday, February 23, on American University’s East Campus. Committee meetings were held Thursday and the full board met on Friday. The following is a summary of business and items of interest from the two days.

After a full day of eight committee meetings, the board viewed interactive, augmented reality posters that will be used by Admissions and had the chance to talk with Sharon Alston, vice provost for undergraduate enrollment, and with student ambassadors. The trustees then heard a dinner presentation by Gihan Fernando, executive director of the Career Center, on the center’s work to prepare students for life after AU. A key aspect of the strategic planning effort now underway is to create a plan that builds on the liberal arts and utilizes experiential education to prepare students with the tools they need for the future job market and lifelong education and the components to help leverage post-graduate success in life.

On Friday morning, trustees met with close to 40 faculty for a breakfast discussion and to hear their perspectives on issues of importance, which was followed by a Q&A session with President Burwell, Provost Bass, and me.

The board’s Friday business meeting followed the faculty breakfast. Of particular note, President Burwell, gave an update on the strategic planning effort to seek board input.

The president updated the board on the formal launch of AU’s Plan for Inclusive Excellence, Building an Inclusive Campus Community, as a lead-in for the 60-minute discussion that followed on the “Experience of African-American Students at AU and the Way Forward.” The discussion featured two student leaders sharing their first-hand experiences of their four years at AU. Shyheim Snead, former student trustee, current director of the Kennedy Political Union, and senior in SPA/CAS; and Lauren Lumpkin, editor-in-chief of The Blackprint and an SOC senior majoring in public relations and strategic communication, gave valuable insights. Bette Dickerson, interim assistant vice president of campus life and associate professor emerita in the department of sociology, discussed the most recent Campus Climate survey and how African American students assess their AU educational experience. This was followed by trustee questions and discussion to increase board understanding.

In other board business, two new degree programs were approved—a master of science in counterterrorism and homeland security in the School of Public Affairs; and a master of philosophy in international relations in the School of International Service.

CFO, Vice President and Treasurer Doug Kudravetz reviewed the emerging list of “Key Performance Indicators” to provide the board with graphical representations of AU’s critical success factors. 

During the winter and spring meetings, the AU board conducts an annual process of trustee review. AU voting trustees serve for three-year renewable terms, and each year, approximately one-third of the class undergoes review. The process for this current class (six members) will conclude at the May meeting.

As part of this review, I want to update the community regarding trustee and alumnus Ross Levinsohn, who as we reported to campus, took a voluntary leave of absence from board service on January 19, following news reports alleging wrongdoing. Recently, an independent investigation commissioned by his employer, Tronc, Inc., and conducted by the law firm of Sidley Austin LLP, found “no wrongdoing on the part of Mr. Levinsohn,” according to a Tronc statement. A proud AU alum, Mr. Levinsohn has notified me that, while he cares deeply for American University, at this time, he will not stand for re-election for another term on the board.

Meanwhile, we welcomed our newest trustee to board service—Mr. Gaurdie Banister, parent of a recent Kogod alumnus.

In April, we will formally inaugurate Sylvia Mathews Burwell as AU’s 15th president. The formal inauguration will be held at 11 a.m., Thursday, April 12, in Bender Arena. A variety of campus events are being planned for the two days—Wednesday, April 11, and Thursday, April 12—to celebrate American University’s past, our present, and this historic occasion as a look toward the future.

The next Board of Trustees meetings will be May 17–18 on the AU campus.

As we approach the mid-point of spring semester, I wish success for the entire campus community, and we’ll see you at the inauguration in April.