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Academic Affairs Realignment


American University Office of the Provost


AnnouncementFebruary 23, 2021

AU Faculty and Staff
Peter Starr, Acting Provost and Chief Academic Officer
Realignment of Programs in SPExS, Study Abroad, and the International Accelerator

Dear AU Faculty and Staff,

As you know, our Changemakers for a Changing World strategic plan includes among its highest priorities a dramatic increase in AU’s capacity to deliver professional and lifelong learning opportunities to an expanding network of learners, a strong dedication to the undergraduate student experience, and a no less significant commitment to improving “how AU works.” We are writing today to announce a new realignment in furtherance of all three of these important goals.

Effective July 1, 2021, the School of Professional and Extended Studies (SPExS) will be disbanded and its constituent programs—Washington Semester (WSP), Gap, Mentorship, the English Language and Training Academy (ELTA), and Graduate Professional and Non-Credit Studies—realigned within Academic Affairs as follows:

  • SPExS’ professional studies team will staff a new Professional and Lifelong Learning Innovation Lab under the Dean of Graduate Studies, with the mission of jumpstarting and incentivizing post-baccalaureate learning initiatives across AU’s schools and colleges;
  • The Washington Semester Program and ELTA will join the International Accelerator programs and AU Abroad in a new Office for Global and Off-Campus Education, under a new vice provost;
  • Our historic mentorship program will be rebranded as the AU Cornerstone program and moved to the Office of Undergraduate Education and Academic Student Services, to benefit from synergies with existing learning communities and make access to the program more equitable. We will launch a suite of mentored field practicum and study abroad opportunities to help convert our Fall 2021 undergraduate admittees.

Over the next several months, a steering committee of university leaders (listed below) will be working with colleagues from SPExS, AU Abroad, and the International Accelerator programs to iron out important details around faculty and staff appointments, budgets, incentives for new program development, and the like. Our goal is to ensure that these programs thrive in the years to come by building on synergies across them, further leveraging the reputational strength of our schools and colleges, simplifying reporting lines, and keeping overall staffing levels constant. Beyond changes in reporting lines, we aim to minimize the impact on our staff colleagues. While enrollment in two of SPExS’ signature programs—WSP and ELTA—has been severely impacted by COVID-19, their long-term prospects remain bright.

Institutional change on this scale is never easy. The faculty and staff of these programs have worked tirelessly to build and maintain them over many years. After careful study, however, we are convinced that the proposed realignment affords us the best chance of realizing the strong long-term potential of each of the affected programs. We speak for each and every member of our steering committee in pledging to proceed with this realignment as thoughtfully and transparently as possible. Please note that, through June 30th, Monica Jackson will continue to direct AU Abroad and the International Accelerator and Jill Klein will continue to lead SPExS, to ensure that the programs fully meet the needs of our current students and to best prepare for fall 2021.

We will be back in touch with updates about this work as it unfolds. In the meantime, please direct any comments or questions you might have about this realignment to

All the best,

Peter Starr
Acting Provost and Chief Academic Officer

Monica C. Jackson
Interim Deputy Provost and Dean of Faculty


Steering Committee
Peter Starr, Acting Provost and Chief Academic Officer (Chair)
Matthew Bennett, Vice President of Communication
Wendy Boland, Dean, Graduate Studies
Gihan Fernando, Executive Director, Career Center
Geralynn Franceschini, Executive Director of Strategic Implementation
Monica Jackson, Interim Deputy Provost and Dean of Faculty
Jill Klein, Interim Dean, School of Professional and Extended Studies
Beth Muha, Assistant Vice President of Human Resources
Prita Patel, Associate Vice Provost for Academic Administration
Sandra Rodriguez, Senior Public Relations Manager, University Communications and Marketing
Jessica Waters, Dean of Undergraduate Education & Vice Provost for Academic Student Services