You are here: American University Board of Trustees November 18, 2022 Memo

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Memorandum November 18, 2022

AU Community
Marc N. Duber, Chair, Board of Trustees
Board of Trustees November 2022 Meeting Summary

The November 2022 meeting of the American University Board of Trustees brought us together on the American University Washington College of Law (WCL) campus. With six programs ranked in the top 20 nationally by US News and World Report, WCL is educating our future lawyers in impactful practice areas and providing experiential opportunities where students engage with clients to make change through the law.

On the Thursday evening before the meeting, we hosted the annual President’s Circle Celebration. This was the first in-person version of this event in three years, and it was inspiring to join so many alumni and friends in honor of four outstanding AU alumni. Highlighting the progress and themes of the Change Can’t Wait comprehensive campaign, the inaugural Changemaker Awards were presented to Jennifer Collins, SOC/BA ’94, Kimberly Vogel, SPA/BA ’94, and Ann Friedman, SOE/MAT ’98. We also presented former trustee Gary Cohn, Kogod/BSBA ’82, with the Cyrus A. Ansary Medal, which recognizes outstanding commitment and leadership both within the university and in professional service.

During our business meeting, President Sylvia Burwell reflected on AU’s momentum and broader challenges we face. We have secured more than $31 million in sponsored research to date this year, implemented extensive compensation and financial aid investments in our people, and raised more than $360 million towards the Change Can’t Wait goal of $500 million. Our growth and achievements are intersecting with competing forces including changes in higher education and economic uncertainty. To successfully navigate these challenges and increase our momentum, we are focused on core priorities across our work including student thriving and retention, supporting our people, inclusive excellence, the Change Can’t Wait campaign, and university reputation. The university is expanding our metrics and measurement processes to track our progress and inform our decision-making with the most up-to-date data.

In our engagement throughout the meetings, including the Board’s breakfast with faculty and discussions with community members, we heard about topics of interest and offers to help. I want to note two of the issues that President Burwell addressed under inclusive excellence. First, with incidents of antisemitism increasing dramatically both domestically and globally and with examples within our own community, the university is advancing several important actions. The trustees are committed to supporting this work to increase awareness and education, respond swiftly to hateful acts, and support our Jewish community. Additionally, the focus on preventing and addressing sexual harassment and violence is urgent. We appreciate and support the engagement of the AU community and look forward to the results from the Community Working Group. The trustees will continue our engagement in both areas, including receiving updates on the workstreams and providing our assistance in any way that can be helpful.

Provost Peter Starr and Vice President Fanta Aw presented the university’s ongoing work on student retention. Providing the educational and social experiences that help students thrive throughout their time at American University is fundamental to our mission to prepare our students to prepare for the lives of purpose they want to pursue. The retention of students through graduation has an impact across the university, including on our reputation, rankings, and our economics. The working group led by Provost Starr and Vice President Aw is exploring updates in our academic offerings, our student services, our data and analytics, our communications to students, and our collaboration across offices and services. The trustees discussed the role of the admissions process and focusing on establishing connectivity with students before they arrive at AU. We will continue to build on successful programs, such as our community-based learning cohort models, our experiential learning, and internships, and remain constantly focused on the value proposition of an AU education for our students.

Vice President Steve Munson reported that the university is creating a set of new interactive dashboards that will better organize and formalize core metrics to help inform decision-making and track progress. The work is being led by Erika Ogedegbe, chief data architect, who is coordinating across all division to define the key data points to be included, explore how the data is currently organized, and move into the development phase to produce the new dashboard. The first topic in the project is our Inclusive Excellence (IE) work. Ms. Ogedegbe and Amanda Taylor, assistant vice president of diversity, equity, and inclusion, demonstrated the new IE dashboard, and how the data can be explored at summary and detailed levels. This work will enhance our ability as trustees to engage with university priorities and provide helpful input to the university.

Finally, we passed a resolution honoring Sharon Alston, vice provost for undergraduate enrollment, who will retire from American University in December after 22 years of service to our community. She transformed our undergraduate recruitment, doubling applications to more than 20,000 per year, transitioning to a test-optional approach, and launching our District Scholars program.

On behalf of the trustees, our best wishes to all for the successful conclusion of the semester and a joyous and safe holiday season. The Board of Trustees will next meet on February 23-24, 2023.