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Focus on Innovation & Improve the Student Experience

Inclusive excellence takes off, first-year retention rises, the entrepreneurial spirit shines, and substantial gifts open a new era of philanthropy at AU.

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On Campus

Inclusive Excellence Initiative Launches


Nothing can be excellent unless it is also inclusive. That’s why we invested more than $121 million in a sweeping two-year Inclusive Excellence Plan to advance the cause of equity, inclusion, and diversity throughout American University.

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Student Retention UP with AUx, New Academic Advisors

In 2016–2017, the one-year retention rate for students enrolled in AUx was 94.7 percent versus 89.1 percent for those not enrolled. In 2017–2018, preliminary results show that AUx students are again retaining at higher rates overall, with the strongest returns coming from those benefitting from both AUx and a newly created first-year academic advisor position. Students with both interventions are currently retaining at rates 2 to 4 percentage points higher than their non-AUx counterparts.

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Entrepreneurship Expert Is First Kogod Innovation Chair

Brett Gilbert

Brett Gilbert knows what new businesses need to thrive. An accomplished entrepreneurship researcher, she joined the Kogod School of Business management faculty as inaugural Kogod Regional Innovation Chair.

Robert Kogod, KSB/BSBA ’62—celebrated philanthropist, renowned member of the DC business community, and AU trustee emeritus—and his wife, Arlene, established the Kogod Regional Innovation Fund to connect business scholars with the area’s business community and to support research on the increasing importance of regional economic centers.

“Holding the Kogod Chair is very important to me,” Gilbert says. “It gives me the license and resources to develop my research—not just internationally but domestically—and to focus on the Washington, DC, area to better understand capital cities.”

Gilbert studies technology clusters to understand how geographic regions foster startups and how to create dynamic ventures in cities where they do not exist. She and her AU colleagues hope to collaborate with British university researchers to compare DC and London as hubs for innovation.

Documenting Island Life After Maria

Students in School of Communication professor Terry Bryant’s advanced television production class covered the story of a lifetime when they journeyed to post-hurricane Puerto Rico in April 2018.

Each of the eight documentarians produced their own news project related to the impact of Maria. Topics included the only operational dialysis unit on the island, life in areas still without electricity, and protests against a US Department of Education order closing 283 schools due to reported low enrollment.

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AU Raises Bar for Civil Discourse

The School of Public Affairs and Office of Campus Life have launched a civil discourse program that encourages students to have tough conversations and listen to differing points of view.

“There is a difference between robust debate and unkindness, between challenging ideas and unproductive attacks,” says Lara Schwartz, program director and SPA professorial lecturer. “The idea of civil discourse is to help students develop the will and the capacity to engage in conversations that are intellectually rigorous and enriching.”

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Alum Promotes Flavors of DC

Sixty-five small food businesses are part of TasteLab, a DC culinary incubator and commercial kitchen founded by Ryan Hansan, Kogod/BSBA ‘08, in 2015. Hansan opened TasteLab Marketplace in 2018—the only outlet in Union Market that exclusively sells DC-made food and beverages. “Not only will this marketplace allow us to introduce all of these incredible products and entrepreneurs to the thousands of people who visit Union Market on a daily basis, but we will be creating a new revenue stream for our members and in some cases, putting them on their first shelves,” Hansan says.
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A New Era of Momentum in Philanthropy

Gifts from two committed AU alumni trustees and their spouses totaling $15 million signal the beginning of a new era of momentum in philanthropy to reach AU’s ambitious goals.

A $10 million gift from Jeff Sine, SIS/BA ’76, and Samira Sine will establish the Sine Institute of Policy and Politics in the nation’s capital. A laboratory for university-wide collaboration and an incubator for bipartisan policy innovations, the Sine Institute will bring together leaders from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors and journalism with top scholars and students to foster an exchange of ideas around the complex drivers shaping policy and political discourse.

“Through this gift we wanted to empower American University to make an immediate and lasting impact at the intersection of politics and policy, increasing AU’s national and international visibility,” say Jeff and Samira Sine.

A $5 million gift from Gary Abramson, SPA/BA ’68, and Pennie Abramson to begin construction of the new science building will advance the sciences at AU.


Gifts and Pledges in FY2018, with 51% = $1M or more

number 2

Most Successful Fundraising Year in AU's Recorded History

Choices Grow for Places to Go

Students study on laptops at tables in the hip Bridge Cafe

Two new gathering places offer students spaces to study, engage with friends or peers, or simply take a break. The Hub for Organizing, Multiculturalism and Equity (HOME) in Mary Graydon Center is a place for support and positive interactions among multicultural communities. It is an Office of Campus Life, University Center, and AU Student Government collaboration. University Center’s Bridge Café in Bender Arena offers space to gather and hosts concerts, open mic nights, and other events throughout the semester.

More Light, Space at Library

Students study in comfortable chairs in a light-filled library

The Bender Library renovation maximized natural light and created spaces more conducive to learning, studying, research, and productivity. It increased seating on the library’s first floor by 31 percent, including additional tables, and expanded study-room space by 17 percent, which means more options for groups and those seeking minimal distraction. The library also streamlined its desk services on the first and second floors for easier access for patrons.

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