American University (AU or American) is a private research university in Washington, D.C., United States, affiliated with the United Methodist Church, although the university's curriculum is secular. The university was chartered by an Act of Congress on February 24, 1893 as "The American University," when the bill was approved by President Benjamin Harrison.
AU was named the most politically active school in the nation in The Princeton Review's annual survey of college students in 2008, 2010, and 2012. The university has six schools, including the School of International Service (SIS), currently ranked 8th in the world for its graduate programs and 9th in the world for its undergraduate program in International Affairs by Foreign Policy, and the Washington College of Law. As of 2016, roughly 7,710 undergraduate students and 5,230 graduate students are currently enrolled. The school has grown increasingly competitive in recent years, with a 25% acceptance rate for the Class of 2020 versus a 46% acceptance rate for the class of 2018. A member of the Division I Patriot League, its sports teams compete as the American University Eagles.
The American University was established in the District of Columbia by an Act of Congress on December 5, 1892, primarily due to the efforts of Methodist bishop John Fletcher Hurst.
After more than three decades devoted principally to securing financial support, the university was officially dedicated on May 15, 1914. The first instruction began on October 6 of that year, when 28 students were enrolled (19 of them graduate students, nine of them special students who were not candidates for a degree). The First Commencement, at which no degrees were awarded, was held on June 2, 1915. The Second Annual Commencement was held on June 2, 1916 where the first degrees (one master's degree and two doctor's degrees) were awarded.
Shortly after these early commencement ceremonies, classes were interrupted by war. During World War I, the university allowed the U.S. military to use some of its grounds for testing. In 1917, the U.S. military divided American University into two segments, Camp American University and Camp Leach. Camp American University became the birthplace of the United States' chemical weapons program, and chemical weapons were tested on the grounds; this required a major cleanup effort in the 1990s. Camp Leach was home to advanced research, development and testing of modern camouflage techniques. As of 2014, the Army Corps of Engineers is still removing ordnance including mustard gas and mortar shells.
During the next ten years, instruction was offered at the graduate level only, in accordance with the original plan of the founders. In the fall of 1925, the College of Liberal Arts (subsequently named the College of Arts and Sciences) was established. Since that date, the University has offered both undergraduate and graduate degrees and programs. In 1934, the School of Public Affairs was founded.
During World War II, the campus again offered its services to the U.S. government and became home to the U.S. Navy Bomb Disposal School and a WAVE barracks. For AU's role in these wartime efforts, the Victory ship SS American Victory was named in honor of the university.
The present structure of the university began to emerge in 1949. The Washington College of Law became part of the University in that year, having begun in 1896 as the first coeducational institution for the professional study of law in the District of Columbia. Shortly thereafter, three departments were reorganized as schools: the School of Business Administration in 1955 (subsequently named the Robert P. and Arlene R. Kogod College of Business Administration and in 1999 renamed the Kogod School of Business); the School of Government and Public Administration in 1957; and the School of International Service in 1958.
In the early 1960s, the Department of Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency operated a think tank under the guise of Operation Camelot at American University. The government abandoned the think tank after the operation came to public attention. AU's political intertwinement was furthered by President John F. Kennedy's Spring 1963 commencement address. In the speech, Kennedy called on the Soviet Union to work with the United States to achieve a nuclear test ban treaty and to reduce the considerable international tensions and the specter of nuclear war during that juncture of the Cold War.
From 1965 to 1977, the College of Continuing Education existed as a degree-granting college with responsibility for on- and off-campus adult education programs. The Lucy Webb Hayes School of Nursing provided undergraduate study in Nursing from 1965 until 1988. In 1972, the School of Government and Public Administration, the School of International Service, the Center for Technology and Administration, and the Center for the Administration of Justice (subsequently named the School of Justice) were incorporated into the College of Public and International Affairs.
The University bought the Immaculata Campus in 1986 to alleviate space problems. This would later become Tenley Campus.
In 1986, construction on the Adnan Khashoggi Sports and Convocation Center began. Financed with $5 million from and named for Saudi Arabian Trustee Adnan Khashoggi, the building was intended to update athletics facilities and provide a new arena, as well as a parking garage and office space for administrative services. Costing an estimated $19 million, the building represented the largest construction project to date, but met protest by both faculty and students to the University's use of Khashoggi's name on the building due to his involvement in international arms trade.
In 1988, the College of Public and International Affairs was reorganized to create two free-standing schools: the School of International Service and the School of Public Affairs, incorporating the School of Government and Public Administration and the School of Justice. That same year, construction on the Adnan Khashoggi Sports Center completed while the Iran-Contra Affair controversy was at its height although his name remained on the building until after Khashoggi defaulted on his donation obligation in the mid to late 1990s.
In 1997, American University of Sharjah, the only coeducational, liberal arts university in the United Arab Emirates, signed a two-year contract with AU to provide academic management, a contract which has since been extended multiple times through August 2009. A team of senior AU administrators relocated to Sharjah to assist in the establishment of the university and guide it through the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools accreditation process.
In 2003, American launched the largest fund raising campaign in its history. The program, ANewAU, has a goal of raising $200 million. As of October 2009, the University had raised $189.6 million. When the campaign is completed, the University's website stated that it would "help to attract and retain the finest faculty, increase scholarship support, create and endow research and policy centers, ensure state-of-the-art resources in all of our schools and colleges, expand global programs, and secure the long-term financial health of the university by boosting the endowment."
In the fall of 2005, the new Katzen Arts Center opened.
Benjamin Ladner was suspended from his position as president of the university on August 24, 2005, pending an investigation into possible misuse of university funds for his personal expenses. University faculty passed votes of no confidence in President Ladner on September 26. On October 10, 2005, the Board of Trustees of American University decided that Ladner would not return to American University as its president. Dr. Cornelius M. Kerwin, a long-time AU administrator, served as interim president and was appointed to the position permanently on September 1, 2007, after two outsiders declined an offer from the Board of Trustees. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, Ladner received a total compensation of $4,270,665 in his final year of service, the second highest of any university president in the United States.
Dr. Neil Kerwin announced he would retire as AU's president when his current contract expired in May 2017. During his tenure, the school's endowment reached $500 million.
American University has two non-contiguous campuses used for academics and student housing: the main campus on Massachusetts Avenue, and the Tenley Campus on Nebraska Avenue. An additional facility houses the Washington College of Law, located half a mile northwest of the main campus on Massachusetts Avenue. Additionally, AU owns several other buildings in the Tenleytown and Spring Valley, and American University Park areas.
The first design for campus was done by Frederick Law Olmsted but was significantly modified over time due to financial constraints. The campus occupies 84 acres (340,000 m²) adjacent to Ward Circle, the intersection of Nebraska and Massachusetts Avenues. AU's campus is predominantly surrounded by the affluent residential neighborhoods characteristic of the Northwest Quadrant of Washington, D.C. The campus includes a main quadrangle surrounded by academic buildings, nine residential halls, a 5,000-seat arena, and an outdoor amphitheatre. The campus has been designated a public garden and arboretum by the American Public Garden Association, with many foreign and exotic plants and trees dotting the landscape.
- Abbey Joel Butler Pavilion, holds the campus store, the Office of Campus Life, the Career Center, and meeting spaces.
- Battelle-Tompkins Building, the university library until 1977 and now home to the College of Arts and Sciences.
- Hurst Hall, first building of the university, ground broken in 1896 for what was to be the College of History. The architects were Van Brunt & Howe. Now home to departments of Biology and Environmental Science, the School of Public Affairs, the University Honors Program, and the Center for Teaching Excellence.
- Katzen Arts Center, Provided for by a monetary gift from Cyrus and Myrtle Katzen, opened in 2005 and is now home to the Departments of Performing Arts (such as dance), Studio Arts, Graphic Design, and Art History, the American University Museum, and other Academic Departments.
- Kay Spiritual Life Center, built in 1963, a multi-denominational place of worship, home to the University Chaplains and is used for speeches and performances.
- Kogod School of Business, formerly known as the Myers-Hutchins Building, and previous home to the Washington College of Law. Construction finished in January 2009 to annex it to the now empty Experimental Theater and Butler Instructional Center.
- Mary Graydon Center, home to student organization offices, the main dining facilities, and the School of Communication.
- McKinley Hall, cornerstone laid by President Theodore Roosevelt. Was previously the home of the departments of Computer Science, Audio Technology, and Physics. Has recently become the new home to the School of Communication.
- School of International Service, ground broken by President Dwight Eisenhower. The new building opened for the 2010–2011 school year, with classes continuing to be held also in the original building, which has since been renamed the "East Quad Building," next door. The School of International Service has an enrollment of over 2,000 undergraduate students and an enrollment of over 900 graduate students.
- Sports Center: Bender Arena, Reeves Aquatic Center, Jacobs Fitness Center (see Athletics below)
- University (Bender) Library, which holds over a million books
- Ward Circle Building, the largest classroom building on campus, built in 1968 as a home for the School of Government and Public Administration (now the School of Public Affairs).
Housing is guaranteed for two years. Most freshman and sophomore students choose to live on campus. Freshmen are not required to live on campus.
The University recently added 1000 beds in 2013.
Residence halls on the main campus are grouped into two "campuses".
- North Campus, commonly referred to as "North Side":
- Hughes Hall
- Leonard Hall
- McDowell Hall
- Nebraska Hall, located across Massachusetts Avenue from main campus. It features apartment-style residences and opened in August 2007.
- Cassell Hall, opened for the Fall 2013 semester. This residence hall is equipped with a state of the art 8,000 square foot fitness facility.
- South Campus, commonly referred to as "South Side":
- Anderson Hall
- Centennial Hall
- Clark Hall
- Letts Hall, named after John C. Letts, university Trustee and President of the Board 1921–1931.
- Roper Hall
Formerly the Immaculata School, Tenley Campus is located half a mile east of the main campus, and was purchased by American University in 1987 specifically for the Washington Semester program. Tenley Campus is currently under construction to become the new law school. Tenley Campus used to be home to the Washington Semester and Washington Mentorship Program students, which featured housing primarily for international and transfer students. During the summer, the residence halls are used to house students in the Washington Semester - Summer Internship Program. Administratively, Tenley Campus is home to the main offices of: the School of Professional & Extended Studies, including the Washington Semester Program; University Marketing and Publications; and the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.
- Capital Hall: housing 170 students, Capital Hall is the oldest and most ornate of the Tenley Campus buildings. It also contains a fitness center and the stained glass chapel that is used for dance and music recitals.
- Congressional Hall: houses 156 students and contains the central reception desk for the Tenley Campus.
- Federal Hall: houses 107 students and contains the Mail Room and Tenley Cafe, the Tenley Campus cafeteria
Administrative Buildings and Other Facilities:
- Dunblane House: a small administrative and classroom building.
- Constitution Building: an administrative building.
- A sports field used for intramural sport matches.
Recent building expansions
Summer 2014-Summer 2016
- Construction of new East Campus development, to be composed of three residence halls and two connected academic buildings.
Admission to American University is rated "most selective", by the Princeton Review, with an admissions selectivity rating of 94 (on a scale of 60–99). American University's acceptance rate in 2015 was 35% (5,864 of the 16,689 that applied), and 25% in 2016 (with an Early Decision acceptance rate of 89% and a Regular Decision acceptance rate of 23%). American University enrolls about 1,500 freshmen each year, with a middle 50% GPA of 3.6–4.1 and middle 50% SAT score of 1220–1390 (critical reading and mathematics only). The average class size is 23 and the student-faculty ratio is 14:1. AU is ranked 71st among "national universities" by the US News & World Report a college and university rankings guide, and is one of the 283 universities that house a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the nation's oldest honor society.
In 2008, 2010 and 2012, American University was named the most politically active school in the nation in The Princeton Review's annual survey of college students. In 2006, the Fiske Guide to Colleges ranked AU as a "Best Buy" college for the quality of academic offerings in relation to the cost of attendance. However, in 2013, the Daily Beast listed the school in their list of "20 Least Affordable Colleges." For two years in a row, American University has had more students chosen to receive Presidential Management Fellowships than any other college or university in the country. In spring 2006, 34 graduate and law students were chosen for the honor.
The Kogod School of Business, the first school of business in Washington, was named by The Wall Street Journal and Business Week magazine as one of the top business schools in the country. "Kogod is positioning itself squarely in the upper echelons of America's finest business schools," according to the Princeton Review. The Wall Street Journal ranked the Kogod School of Business in its 2004 “Top 50 MBA Programs.” "On September 16, 2007 the Wall Street Journal announced their 2007 graduate rankings, and the Kogod School of Business was ranked 36 out of the top 51."
The School of International Service (SIS) is recognized as the largest of its kind in the U.S. Among The Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs (APSIA) schools, AU's School of International Service has the largest number of minority students and female students and is ranked 6th among APSIA schools in numbers of international students. A review in Foreign Policy Magazine ranked the school 8th in the country for preparing future foreign policy professionals and 25th for academic careers. SIS's undergraduate programs earned a spot at number 11, and its graduate programs were ranked number 8. Because the field of international relations is not evaluated by U.S. News & World Report, the College of William and Mary recently published the results of their survey, which ranked the AU international relations master's degree in the top 10 in the United States and the doctoral degree in the top 25. The School of Communication is among the top 25 in the nation, and it graduates the third largest number of communication professionals among U.S. colleges and universities. The School of Public Affairs is ranked among the top 15 programs in the country by U.S. News and World Report.
American University is especially known for promoting international understanding. This is reflected in the diverse student body who is from more than 150 countries, the university’s course offerings, the faculty's research, and from the regular presence of world leaders on its campus. American University has the 12th largest number of graduates in current Peace Corps service (34), and ranks fourth in the number of Peace Corps volunteers as a percentage of the total undergraduate population.
The University takes its responsibility to the community very seriously. In 2001, AU's economic impact on the District of Columbia totaled more than $600 million. WAMU, American's National Public Radio Station, is one of the top 5 NPR stations in the country. "Over 80% of AU undergraduate students and 60% of graduate students complete an internship or other experiential education experience by graduation. Fifty-seven percent of AU’s undergraduate and 40% of graduate students participate in significant community service in the local community by graduation," according to their website.
Since 1990, the Cyrus Ansary Medal has been awarded annually, one of the highest volunteer awards given by the university. Recipients include alums, "trustees, volunteers, and community leaders who set high standards for achievement and serve as role models to American University's students and alumni". Recent recipients include J. Willard Marriott Jr., Alan L. Meltzer, Kermit A. Washington and Hani M. S. Farsi. The university also recognizes "outstanding commitment ... through leadership and philanthropic support" with the President's Award, given annually since 1982, and givers in a series of levels in the President's Circle which "honor five U.S. presidents who were friends of American University".
The university is composed of seven divisions, referred to as colleges or schools, which house its academic programs: College of Arts and Sciences (CAS), Kogod School of Business (KSB), School of Communication (SOC), School of International Service (SIS), School of Public Affairs (SPA), School of Professional & Extended Studies (SPExS) and Washington College of Law (WCL). With the exception of WCL, undergraduate and graduate courses are housed within the same division, although organized into different programs.
American University is also home to a unique program known as the Washington Semester Program. This program partners with institutions around the world to bring students to AU for a semester. The program operates as part of the School of Professional & Extended Studies. The program combines two seminar courses on three days a week with a two-day-per-week internship that gives students a unique look at Washington, D.C. The program is unique in that the courses are not typical lecture courses; instead, speakers from various sectors of a particular field are invited to address the class, often from different perspectives.
In the Chronicle of Higher Education survey of college presidents' salaries for 2007–08, President Cornelius M. Kerwin was fifth highest in the nation with a compensation of $1.4 million.
The Jack I. and Dorothy G. Bender Library and Learning Resources Center is the main library facility for the campus. A branch Music Library is located in the Katzen Art Center. The Pence Law Library, part of AU's Washington College of Law, operates separately from the main library system. The University Library is part of the Washington Research Library Consortium (WRLC), which includes seven other libraries. The WRLC operates a consortium loan service between member institutions and has a shared collections site in Upper Marlboro, Maryland.
The Bender Library provides a variety of individual and group study spaces and includes a Curriculum Materials Center, a New Media Center, Graduate Research Center, classrooms, and a café. About 160 public computer workstations are available throughout the Bender building and researchers also may borrow laptops, chargers, tablets, and other electronic devices. In October 2012, the library acquired a large poster printer which researchers may use for presentations and other academic purposes.
The Library's Archives and Special Collections houses unique and rare materials and information on the history of the institution. The University Archives is the repository for papers and other documents, including sound recordings and photographs, spanning more than a century of the University's history. Special Collections houses rare materials. Among the more important holdings are the Artemas Martin collection of mathematical texts, the Charles Nelson Spinks collection of artistic and historical works of Japan, the Irwin M. Heine collection of literary works, and Christopher Johnson collection of William Faulkner books. Playbills form a significant set of the collections with the James Carroll and Iris Lipkowitz collections most notable among them. Other significant collections include the Barlett & Steele Archive, the John R. Hickman Collection, the Friends of Colombia Archives, the Records of the National Peace Corps Association, the Records of the National Commission on the Public Service, the Sally L. Smith Papers, and the Records of Women Strike for Peace.
AU has over 240 recognized organizations on campus, ranging from political and social . The Student Union Board (SUB), a part of the Student Government, is AU's oldest student-run organization. Since 1963, the SUB has arranged big name concerts and live entertainment for AU. Acts have ranged from the Grateful Dead to Ben Folds. Past acts include Bob Dylan, Andrew WK, Phantom Planet, Everclear, Ben Kweller, Jimmy Eat World, Paramore, Stephen Lynch, Jim Gaffigan, Snow Patrol, Ghostface Killah, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, and Blackalicious. SUB also screens free second-run movies for the AU community, known as SUB Cinema.
AU has eight student-run university-recognized media organizations. These media organizations are governed by a Student Media Board and are funded through the university's undergraduate student activity fee:
While American University is affiliated with the United Methodist Church, it also has many organizations that serve students of other religions. In addition to the AU United Methodist Community, American University has a variety of religious life groups including Chabad Lubavitch of the AU Community, American University Hillel, the Jewish Student Association, and many others.
- North American Interfraternity Conference
- Multicultural Greek Council
- Interfraternity Council Unrecognized organization
- Epsilon Iota Fraternity
American University has an Environmental Issues Project Team to recommend steps about how to fulfill the University's responsibility to protect the environment to the administration. The Team also works to increase environmental awareness on campus. Student environmental activism has grown into a major presence on American's campus. The student environmental group, EcoSense, works with regional and national organizations such as the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, The Campus Climate Challenge, Energy Action Network, Step It Up 2007, DC Woodlands, Power Shift, and the DC Youth Environmental Alliance. An environmental science class at American conducted a study from February to April 2009 to measure the amount of food waste avoided by eliminating trays from one of the college's dining halls. The class found that trayless dinners resulted in 47.1% less solid waste than dinners during which trays were used, spurring a student-driven campaign to go trayless across campus. The University's overall grade on the College Sustainability Report Card improved dramatically between 2008 and 2009 from a "D+" to a "B-", demonstrating the University's commitment to environmental responsibility.
In 2011, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) awarded American University a gold rating, the highest possible, on their STARS scale for sustainability. In the same year American University's School of International Service building received the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification for its 70,000 square foot building that is renowned for sustainable design and "cradle-to-cradle" philosophy.
A member of the Patriot League, AU is home to a wide variety of athletics, including men's and women’s basketball, soccer, cross-country, swimming & diving, track, women's volleyball, field hockey, and lacrosse, along with men's wrestling, not to mention several club sports such as rugby, rowing, ice hockey, field hockey, and ultimate frisbee. AU at one time had a football team; their last season was in 1941.
Bender Arena, a state-of-the-art multi-purpose facility, hosts many of American’s athletic competitions. Bender Arena officially opened its doors on January 23, 1988, when AU's women's basketball team hosted James Madison University.
Reeves Field, home to AU's soccer team, is one of the premier soccer fields in Washington. Reeves Field earned the 2002 College Soccer Field of the Year by the Sports Turf Managers Association, hosted its fifth NCAA Tournament game, and served as the training site for the Uruguayan national football team. Barcelona and Blackburn Rovers used Reeves Field as a training facility. In the summer of 2000, AU served as the practice site for Newcastle United, one of England's premier professional soccer clubs. Major League Soccer's D.C. United, Miami Fusion and San Jose Earthquakes have also practiced at AU. National teams from the U.S., Bolivia, and Portugal trained at Reeves in 1996 in preparation for Summer Olympic games held at RFK Stadium.
Reeves Field also features a six-lane track to accommodate the track and field programs at AU and functions as a multi-purpose event site. During his term as Vice President, George H. W. Bush regularly traveled in the morning from his home at the U.S. Naval Observatory, located about two miles (3 km) from American University, to run the track at Reeves Field.
AU's nationally ranked field hockey and women's lacrosse teams play on the field at the Jacobs Recreational Complex, which also features a softball diamond and two outdoor sand volleyball courts. AU's field hockey team earned the right to host the 2005 Patriot League Tournament, where American defeated Lehigh University 7–0 in the semifinals before capturing the league crown for the third straight year by downing Holy Cross 4–2 in the Championship Game.
American University features seven outdoor tennis courts for the use of the intercollegiate tennis teams as well as the University community. Two outdoor basketball courts complete the outdoor recreational facility located next to Reeves Field and behind Bender Arena. AU has hosted three of the last four tennis team championships since joining the Patriot League, with the men's team winning back-to-back titles on the AU hardcourts and setting Patriot League Championship attendance records each year. The women's team last captured the Patriot League title in 2002. Both tennis teams have since been cut from the athletics program.
In 2007, AU Junior Josh Glenn won the NCAA Division I National Wrestling Title for 197 lb (89 kg). This was the first time since 1966 that an AU athlete won a national championship.
On March 14, 2008, AU earned its first NCAA Tournament berth in men's basketball by defeating Colgate University in the Patriot League Championship Game. However, AU lost its first-round NCAA tournament game against the University of Tennessee. On March 13, 2009 AU's men's basketball team repeated as Patriot League Champion by defeating Holy Cross 73–57, earning an automatic bid to the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship. They ultimately lost to Villanova University in the first round on March 19, 2009 with a final score of 80–67.
For the spring semester of 2009, AU men's swimming and diving team posted a 3.54 GPA, the highest team grade-point average of all Division I swimming and diving programs according to the Collegiate Swim Coaches Association of American (CSCAA).
In 2011, AU's wrestling team placed 5th at the 2011 NCAA Division 1 Wrestling Championship, the highest AU Wrestling have ever placed in school history. In addition, HWT Wrestler Ryan Flores made it to the NCAA Finals, the 2nd time in school history to ever make it to the NCAA Finals. American University's wrestling program is a member of the EIWA, as the Patriot League is a non-wrestling conference.
Notable alumni of American University include former US Senator Robert Byrd, CNN anchor Alisyn Camerota, Fox News TV anchor and journalist Neil Cavuto, President and COO of Goldman Sachs Gary Cohn, White House Director of Communications Jennifer Palmieri, NBC anchor of Meet the Press David Gregory, American actress Goldie Hawn, broadcaster David Aldridge, Blackboard Inc. co-founders Matthew Pittinsky and Michael Chasen, Iraqi Kurdistan intelligence/security director Masrour Barzani, authors Ann Beattie and Max Brooks, filmmaker Nancy Meyers, CEO of the Democratic National Committee Amy Dacey, TV personality Star Jones, suffragist leader Alice Paul, Bahraini Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, aviation expert Stephen Latchford, American screenwriter Barry Levinson, Prime Minister of Grenada Keith Mitchell, human rights activist John Prendergast, cryptographer Bruce Schneier, C-SPAN journalist Steve Scully, TV personality Judith Sheindlin ("Judge Judy"), former NBA player Kermit Washington, Fox News senior correspondent, Rick Leventhal, and YouTube personality Jack Douglass.
Since 1947, American University has also operated a Washington Semester Program, which allows students to learn about public policy and experience the nation's capital from its campus. Program alumni include US House Speaker Paul Ryan, 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis, former US Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala, former US Senator Max Cleland, former US congressmen Jim Nussle and Paul McHale, and 2012 Obama for America deputy campaign director Stephanie Cutter.