Burwell Announces New Strategic Five-Year Plan

Courtesy of the Office of the President

Courtesy of the Office of the President

On Tuesday, January 15, President Sylvia Burwell announced a new Strategic Plan for American University. The plan is intended to be a road map that will guide the university over the next five years. The Strategic Plan focuses on three themes: scholarship, learning and community. Within those themes are nine more specific improvements the university wants to make, such as increasing faculty-student research collaborations and getting more involved in the D.C. community, that will be carried out by several subcommittees.

The idea behind the title “Change Makers for a Changing World” “directly relates to AU’s values,” Burwell said. “American University’s DNA is about the importance of making a positive impact on the world,” she continued.  Burwell finds it incredibly important to “take the core of who we are and attach that to a world that is changing.”

Although the plan was announced today, Burwell doesn’t think of it as a big reveal since, according to her, “so much of the community has been involved in the shaping of this strategy.” The president spoke with over 1000 faculty, staff, students and other community members during 2017 to get input on goals for AU’s future.

Burwell describes the strategic plan as important because it makes our priorities as a university clear: “It helps guide our resources, it helps guide our communication and it helps guide our day-to-day work.” As the previous 10 year plan had come to an end and President Burwell’s tenure as university president had just begun, this was a good opportunity to readjust.

The plan aims to improve many areas of AU, but the major issues of the last semester have been the student experience and student wellness. It will build on the work started with AUx and move towards working on other issues like retention and support beyond the first year. “One of the most important things students will see is both a continued and increasing focus on the student experience,” said Burwell.

President Burwell meets with students to discuss the new strategic plan in development. -  american.edu

President Burwell meets with students to discuss the new strategic plan in development. - american.edu

In terms of wellness, there is an approach that is already being implemented. According to Burwell, the number of counselors available on campus has increased every year over the last several years. There are plans to add more preventative measures for reducing stress and anxiety, as well as making sure there are effective tools and resources in place when students experience a serious issue.   

“Our goal is to be very transparent about the measures we’re going to use,” said Seth Grossman, Burwell’s Chief of Staff who also worked on the strategic plan. He said one of the core strategies is to create an environment where faculty, staff and students can all thrive. “We hope, by the end of the semester,” Grossman said, “to see some progress in improving things with respect to how AU works.”