American University (AU or American) is a private, coeducational, liberal arts curriculum, doctoral, and research-based 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. Roughly 7,200 undergraduate students and 5,230 graduate students are currently enrolled. AU is a member of the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area. A member of the Division I Patriot League, its sports teams compete as the American University Eagles. AU’s 84-acre campus is designated as a national arboretum and public garden that has a rich botanical history.
American’s main campus is located at the intersection of Nebraska and Massachusetts Avenues at Ward Circle in the Spring Valleyneighborhood of Northwest Washington. The area is served by the Tenleytown-AU station on the Washington Metro subway line in the nearby neighborhood of Tenleytown.
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. American University is especially known for promoting international understanding reflected in the diverse student body 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. The university has six unique schools, including the well-regarded 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.
Hurst Hall, is the oldest building on campus. Originally the history department, it now houses the Department of Biology and Environmental Studies
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.
Birthplace of Army Chemical Corps
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 andCamp 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.
President John F. Kennedy delivers the commencement address at American University, June 10, 1963
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.
The American University flag
The School of Communication became independent from the College of Arts and Sciences in 1993.
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.
Ground was broken for the new School of International Service building on November 14, 2007 and completed in 2010. A speech was given by Senator Daniel K. Inouye (D-HI).
Aerial view of main campus
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. Highlights of the campus include 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.