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American University’s Board of Trustees reflects on current mission and plans

American University’s Board of Trustees reflects on current mission and plans

American University's Board of Trustees' winter meetings 3discussed ongoing work to improve AU and engage with the AU community, according to a March 2 email to the AU community. 

On Feb. 23, the board explored 10 examples of AU scholarship, which included faculty-student research collaborations. Diana Burley, the vice provost for research, provided an update on the 48 percent increase in external research funding. 

On Feb. 24, the Board gathered with 50 students, hearing their stories of experiential learning at AU, in D.C. and around the world. According to the email, the Board heard stories of students studying gravitational waves in black holes, creating startup businesses to help improve access to food and providing legal services through the Washington College of Law’s clinical law programs. 

President Sylvia Burwell reported on the University’s progress in pursuit of its current mission, its ongoing work in supporting students, faculty and staff, and potential challenges that could arise in the near future. 

Progress discussed in the meeting includes the University’s recent Kogod Gamechangers in Sustainability speaker series and the Changemakers for a Changing World Year 4 report, which details the University’s advances in scholarship, learning and community. 

Focusing on safety

Chief Financial Officer and Vice President Bronté Burleigh-Jones and Vice President of People and External Affairs Seth Grossman updated trustees on campus safety following a mass shooting at Michigan State University. Grossman also detailed the ongoing 120 Initiative of the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area to reduce gun violence.

“AU considers the safety and security of our entire AU community – including students, staff, faculty, and visitors – to be our highest priority and regularly reviews safety protocols to ensure community preparedness,” Elizabeth Deal, the assistant vice president for community & internal communication wrote in a statement to The Eagle. “In an emergency, the AU Alerts system sends information via text, email, social media, and Four Winds. These messages provide updates on a situation, instructions, and links for additional information.”

The University also details “Run, Hide, Fight” training in its Emergency Procedures Guide, as well as a preparedness video from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. 

Risk management and University priorities 

Burleigh-Jones led a discussion regarding the University’s enterprise risk management process. The Board identified risk areas in four primary categories — student retention, resource management, human capital and technology. 

The Board also reviewed ongoing retention, graduation and student thriving efforts by Provost Peter Starr and former Vice President for Undergraduate Enrollment Fanta Aw. Ashlie Prioleau, the new assistant vice president for student success & retention shared data that identifies factors influencing students’ decision to leave the University prior to graduating.

“American University is committed to ensuring that students persist, thrive and graduate to pursue their ambitions as changemakers,” Deal wrote. “We are actively analyzing factors that make students more likely to persist and actions we can take as a university to help students thrive at AU.”

Changes to the Board

The Board unanimously elected Gina Adams, current senior vice president of government and regulatory affairs for FedEx, as the next Board chair and Charles Lydecker, current chairman and CEO of foundation risk partners, as the next Board vice chair. The AU alumni will begin their two-year terms at the May 2023 meeting. 

The trustees elected Sally Amoruso to the board, and trustees Hani Farsi, Fernando Lewis Navarro, Lydecker and David Trone were reelected for three-year terms. Thomas Merrill, an associate professor in the School of Public Affairs was elected as the 2023-2025 faculty trustee. Jehane Djedjro, a junior in the School of International Service, was confirmed to complete her 2022-2023 student trustee term and re-elected as the 2023-2024 student trustee. 

The Board also approved changes to the bylaws, establishing a new Investment Committee which is now responsible for overseeing the endowment and investment of University funds. 

The Board meets again May 18 and 19 of this year. 

This article was edited by Abigail Pritchard, Jordan Young and Nina Heller. Copy editing done by Isabelle Kravis, Leta Lattin, Luna Jinks and Sarah Clayton.

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