You are here: American University Board of Trustees March 2, 2023 Memo

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Memorandum March 2, 2023

AU Community
Marc N. Duber, Chair, Board of Trustees
Board of Trustees February 2023 Meeting Summary

The meeting of the American University Board of Trustees on February 23-24, 2023 featured substantive discussions of key work across AU. An inspiring and informative component of our gatherings is engagement with the AU community. On Thursday evening, we explored 10 different examples of AU scholarship, including faculty-student research collaborations. Vice Provost for Research Diana Burley updated us on the 48 percent increase in external research funding for our outstanding faculty. On Friday morning, we gathered with 50 students to hear their impactful stories of experiential education at American University, in Washington, DC, and around the world. Hearing how our students are studying gravitational waves in blackholes, creating a start-up business to improve access to food, providing legal services through our WCL clinical law programs, and so many more engagements illustrated the unique opportunities that AU undergraduate, graduate, and law students pursue.

President Sylvia Burwell reported on the university’s overall progress and momentum, including the pursuit of our mission, the ongoing work to support our people, and potential challenges that may arise in the future. Momentum can be seen in engagements such as the new Kogod Gamechangers in Sustainability speaker series and the Changemakers for a Changing World Year 4 report, which chronicles the advances in scholarship, learning, and community made possible by our people. The university’s teams are focused on elevating the value proposition of American University for the entire community and how to best support students, faculty, and staff in their endeavors. President Burwell also marked three years since our first board discussion of COVID-19 and continued our forward-looking engagement on potentially impactful external factors such as a U.S. economic default if the debt limit is not raised and the future of artificial intelligence.  

The Board of Trustees unanimously elected Gina Adams, Senior Vice President of Government and Regulatory Affairs for FedEx, as the next board chair and Charles Lydecker, Chairman and CEO of Foundation Risk Partners, as the next board vice chair. Gina and Charlie, both AU alumni, will begin their two-year terms at the May 2023 meeting. We are excited for their leadership through the conclusion of the Changemakers for a Changing World strategic plan and the Change Can’t Wait campaign and the launch of important campus developments including the Student Thriving Complex.

Vice President Bronte Burleigh-Jones and Vice President Seth Grossman updated the trustees on campus safety in the wake of the tragic shooting at Michigan State University. The university regularly reviews safety protocols to ensure community preparedness and Assistant Vice President for Risk Management Dan Nichols outlined the evolution of university safety programs over the past decade. Vice President Grossman detailed the ongoing 120 Initiative of the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area to reduce gun violence.

Vice President Burleigh-Jones also led a discussion of the university’s enterprise risk management (ERM) process. After engaging with AU constituencies, risks areas were identified and classified in four primary categories–student retention, resource management, human capital, and technology. These findings were benchmarked with external risk experts who work closely with universities. AU teams will use the information to establish priorities for our overall risk management strategy and to guide work going forward.

Provost Peter Starr and Vice President Fanta Aw reviewed the ongoing retention, graduation, and student thriving efforts, which are fundamental to AU’s mission of educating and supporting students. Our new Assistant Vice President for Student Retention and Thriving Ashlie Prioleau shared data that identifies factors influencing students' decisions to leave AU before graduating and illuminates the opportunities for addressing those factors in meaningful ways and furthering our engagement with students to support their journeys at AU.

During our business meeting, there were a number of board actions related to governance. The trustees elected Sally Amoruso as a new member of the board. Sally is Chief Partner Officer at EAB, a leading higher education organization, where she supports EAB’s work on student enrollment and success. She has 30 years of experience working with mission driven organizations in education and health care. Trustees Hani Farsi, Fernando Lewis, Charlie Lydecker, and David Trone were re-elected to new three-year terms. SPA professor Tom Merrill was elected as the 2023-2025 Faculty Trustee and SIS junior Jehane Djedro was confirmed to complete the 2022-2023 Student Trustee term and was elected as the 2023-2024 Student Trustee. Our former Student Trustee Aisha Jallow graduated early last December and thus concluded her board service, but she will return to American University in the fall as a graduate student. We also welcomed our newest campus representative, Alumni Board Chair LaTanya Sothern who assumed her role in January.

The board also approved changes to the bylaws to establish the new Investment Committee which is now responsible for overseeing the University's endowment and the investment of University funds.

Finally, we honored Fanta Aw as she concludes more than 30 years of service to the AU community. The trustees thanked Fanta for her counsel and leadership and passed a resolution praising her many contributions. We wish Fanta all the best in her new endeavor at NAFSA: Association of International Educators.

On behalf of the trustees, our best wishes to all for the successful conclusion of the spring semester. The Board of Trustees will next meet on May 18-19, 2023.