Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Students react to incoming President Burwell’s appointment

AU’s hiring of its first female president met with excitement

In her first address to the AU community on Thursday, incoming University president and former Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Mathews Burwell expressed her excitement at building on AU’s progress as an institution.

For many students who learned that day that AU would have its first female president, Burwell herself is part of that progress.

“It’s amazing, I think it’s exactly what AU needed right now too,” CAS senior Katie Lu Clougherty said. “We haven’t had a woman, and AU prides itself on being so diverse and inclusive, and we’re progressive, but we weren’t showing it with our leadership. So it was about time.”

Burwell said she was pleased to be able to be the University’s first female president, and to be an example for others both as a woman and a working mother.

“I’m pleased to be able to be a role model in the sense that I think it does make a difference when people see someone who looks like them in positions,” Burwell said in an interview with The Eagle. “. . .Being a mother of young children is also something that I think’s important for people to know and understand. That one can work in jobs that are important and big, and still have a family and make sure that that’s a priority too.”

Beyond being the first woman to lead AU, students said they were excited by Burwell’s background in both the public and private sectors and her commitment to create positive change.

“It’s great to have someone who not only has the academia experience, but also embodies the public service and the giving back to the community that I think we at AU talk about, [but] sometimes don’t always put into practice,” SPA junior Gregory Pratt said. “I think she will really move us forward from only just getting the research, but propelling it and doing it forward, and going out into the community and serving in every way possible.”

Part of that action that Burwell said she will begin with a listening tour during her first 100 days in office, in order to learn more about the issues that students and faculty are concerned about, she told The Eagle.

SOC junior Lauren Lumpkin said she hopes that of these issues, Burwell makes diversity and inclusion a top priority. Lumpkin, who serves as a part of current President Neil Kerwin’s Council on Diversity and Inclusion, wants to see Burwell tackle the issue that came to a “boiling point” this year on campus.

“What kind of things does she want to see on campus in terms of making people feel more included on campus?” Lumpkin said. “People who are in leadership positions at the University have a responsibility to make sure that AU is a safe space, a place where people can thrive and feel comfortable, so that’s what I want to talk to her about.”

kmagill@theeagleonline.com


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