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Dear AUP Students and Parents,  
 
As spring begins to peek through the clouds here in Paris, our students have begun leaving their jackets at home, sitting out in sidewalk cafés, and taking advantage of the decidedly later sunsets. The most beautiful time of the year in this city of delights is about to unfold. We are celebrating new beginnings with a brand new AUP website, one that has been designed to tell the world about the uniqueness of an AUP education, calling to us the student who best fits here. We call that student our global explorer: a college-bound student who is more mature and adventurous than her peers, who seeks to be challenged both academically and personally, who feels at home in the world and is ready to become a cultural translator, who yearns to travel and cross boundaries of all sorts, from national borders to linguistic and cultural ones. Our new site captures the excitement of our shared vision, and is rich with verbal and video accounts of our students’ and faculty’s experience inside and outside the classroom. Take a look at it here, and be sure to scroll down through its many articulations of the AUP journey, paying special attention to the ways in which prospective students can explore our academic programs by interest or career, and to our new mission-driven, 21st-century centers for innovative, faculty-mentored student research. Please let us know what you think by sending comments to president@aup.edu.

I’m also delighted to announce our 2017 honorary degree recipients whom we will hold up as exemplars at Graduation in May. Because this is an anniversary year—AUP’s 55th—we will honor our own: friends, alumni, and parents in our extended AUP community. Our theme this year is diplomacy in its many forms, from the linguistic and artistic to the more traditional political sort. Sultan Al Qassemi ’89, is an internationally recognized cultural translator, art curator and journalist, who has broken down barriers wherever he meets them—social, political, cultural, educational, artistic. He has been a witness of our times, and is widely credited for tweeting to a world audience, in a feat of simultaneous translation from Arabic to English, the entire Egyptian revolution. As a journalist, he has published in The Financial Times, The Independent, The Guardian, The Huffington Post, The New York Times, and Foreign Policy. He has been a watchful, forthright commentator on international political and social issues, always upholding international and universal human freedoms, condemning damaging stereotypes and the bigotry they promote, calling for tolerance of cultural differences, and championing democratic processes and institutions such as freedom of speech, all with respect for the cultural traditions within which he himself works and lives. He is also the founder of the Barjeel Art Foundation, which, by means of its collection of modern and contemporary art of the MENA region, has not only had an impact within the region, but outside, bringing him renown as a cultural emissary. 

Her Excellency Hoda Al-Khamis Kanoo (former student, 1981-83) is the founder of the Abu Dhabi Music and Art Foundation, as well as its world-renowned annual Festival. She has not only served her country as an ambassador for the arts, but she has embedded the work of the Foundation in arts education and community building. The Foundation reaches 40, 000 children annually, in addition to thousands of university students, high schools students, and musicians and artists of the region, via school programs, workshops, scholarships and multiple forms of outreach. The aim of the annual festival is to broaden cultural understanding via the arts; it was recently awarded The Aspen Institute Emerging Voice Award for Cultural Stewardship in recognition of the Foundation’s role in fostering the arts in the Middle East. Hoda is herself a tireless advocate for women’s leadership and women in the arts, committed to recognizing the vital roles women play in the UAE. She is a recipient of numerous awards and commendations including the 2009 Women Together Award (a UN-affiliated NGO), and the 2010 Puccini Festival Foundation Award. She is a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres  (France), Commendatore dell’Ordine della Stella della Solidarietà Italiana (Italy) and Officer of the Order of the Crown (Belgium). She holds the Abu Dhabi Award and Abu Dhabi Medal,  the Orden del Mérito Civil of Spain, the Bundesverdienstkreuz of Germany, the Gloria Artis Award of Poland and the Order of the British Empire


Our third and final honorary degree recipient and graduation speaker will be Ambassador R. Nicholas Burns (father of Sarah Burns ’05), a renowned American statesman and diplomat who served in the United States government for twenty-seven years. He currently directs the Future of Diplomacy Project at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Ambassador Burns was a member of Secretary of State John Kerry’s Foreign Affairs Policy Board at the U.S. Department of State, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs from 2005 to 2008; the State Department’s third-ranking official when he led negotiations on the U.S.–India Civil Nuclear Agreement; and the lead U.S. negotiator on Iran’s nuclear program. He was an Ambassador to NATO (2001–2005), Ambassador to Greece (1997–2001) and State Department Spokesman (1995–1997). He worked for five years (1990–1995) on the National Security Council at the White House where he was Senior Director for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia Affairs and Special Assistant to President Clinton and Director for Soviet Affairs in the Administration of President George H.W. Bush. Burns also served in the American Consulate General in Jerusalem (1985–1987) where he coordinated U.S. economic assistance to the Palestinian people in the West Bank and before that, at the American embassies in Egypt (1983-1985) and Mauritania (1980 as an intern). Professor Burns has received twelve honorary degrees, the Presidential Distinguished Service Award, the Secretary of State’s Distinguished Service Award, the Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service from the Johns Hopkins University, the Boston College Alumni Achievement Award, and the Jean Mayer Global Citizenship Award from Tufts University. Each of our honorary degree recipients has played an ambassadorial role in his or her field—translating across cultures, languages, artistic genres, and political systems. 
Quai d'orsay
One major pillar of our strategic vision is the complete the renovation of our campus, with its reorientation of our campus on the banks of the Seine and its consolidation (from 10 scattered buildings down to 5 or 6 clustered ones). We have only one building to go and so I’m thrilled to tell you that after seemingly years of work, we have received the Minister of Finance’s signature on our offer to purchase from the French State a beautiful building at 69, Quai d’Orsay on the Seine. We own the building just behind it and will join the two in our boldest renovation yet, creating a glass-roofed learning commons in between them. Having secured, as well, the building permit, we are planning for a May purchase and early summer launch of the work, with fall 2018 occupancy of our new conjoined Student Life and Learning Center very much on the horizon. The middle block on the verdant Seine in the picture above will house the core of our new campus.  
 
Next steps in our strategic vision for the University will include a vast revision of our curriculum in alignment with our global explorers’ needs and aspirations. At AUP we believe that a college education such as ours should both make you a better person (by engaging you in the deep learning of liberal arts study) and deliver you to the door of a meaningful career (by supporting your career and graduate study interests from the first year you are on campus). We’re currently engaged in a search for a new Provost who will shepherd a review of general education (the signature, shared part of the curriculum for all students), as well as the majors, minors, programs, and research centers. We will be looking at how all of our programs issue from our mission and connect with each other. We will be using assessment of student learning to engage in a cycle of continuous improvement of our academic programs. And we will be scanning the horizon of higher education, as well as the needs of employers, to determine which new programs we need to add to our offering. I’ll be writing about curricular developments often in my future newsletters to you.  
 
Two weeks ago on campus, we hosted two very different, but equally compelling events amounting to a public debate on Brexit. The first was a passionate speech by British commentator, author, and political activist Owen Jones. This articulate, 29-year-old journalist from The Guardian, sponsored by the Center for Critical Democracy Studies and the Student Government Association, presented to a large gathering of faculty and students his own arguments against Brexit, and for a new politics of hope and a stronger, better, more functional European Union. Three nights later, our community had another exceptional opportunity, that of hearing directly from Sir William Cash—longtime member of Parliament, constitutional lawyer, and Father of Brexit—the reasons why a majority of the British population voted to leave the European Union, based on the legal, economic, political and structural analyses that have been his life’s work. Both events were very well attended, and at both conversation was forthright and intense. Let me share with you the reflections of an AUP student named Anna Goodson, who wrote to me the following morning:  
 
“I just want to express my gratitude and tell you that I very much enjoyed tonight's event with Sir William Cash. It was incredibly interesting to hear first-hand from someone with such a profound background in the field. Putting my own political beliefs aside, it is events such as these that allow students to gain insight on a topic from someone whose views instigate such a hearty debate. It is events such as these that remind me why I fell in love with politics in the first place: for the powerful conversations it creates and the challenges it poses to my own preconceived notions on important political perspectives and theories. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing the arguments from both sides, and I can certainly say that the conversation did not stop after I left Combes, as a few of my classmates and I continued to discuss our thoughts on the matter during our walk home. It is events such as these that make me feel extremely lucky to attend AUP and hear the perspectives on such a controversial topic from students and professors of many different nationalities.” 
 
Brexit, which was our topic last week, remains one of the issues around which polarizing conversations have been held both before and after the referendum, much as those that have issued in the wake of the American elections. The same kinds of debates are heating up in tone in France as we proceed toward the two rounds of the French elections. Nonetheless, I believe we must hold—as educated human beings and citizens both of our countries and the world—open, sometimes contentious, but always civil conversations about our differences. In a university where students from 110 nationalities, speaking nearly 80 languages and dialects, come together, we will inevitably experience clashes in values, in dreams for the future, in political and religious beliefs. But we must never lose our capacity to talk about these differences, to hold fierce conversations, to stand up for what we believe in, and to perform the even more difficult task of being permeable to influence, of taking on with curiosity and genuine intellectual openness the ideas of another. This is what a University can be at its best and this is what we are always aiming to be at AUP.    
 
I want to close by honoring the too-brief, but very important life of our AUP student, Nutsa Makhviladze, whom we lost a few weeks ago. I have communicated much about the very sad circumstances of her loss, and in this newsletter I want to speak about her life and its impact on those who loved her. You can learn a great deal about a person from knowing her friends, and Nutsa’s aliveness, her kindness, care and concern for others, her capacity for friendship, her love for AUP, her ready intelligence, the regard and respect in which she was held by her teachers, her roommates, and her friends, were exceptional. I was particularly touched by something one of her friends wrote in a letter to her, pasted into the condolence book: “We are better people for having known you.”  
Communities come together at moments such as these to seek consolation and healing and to celebrate the life of the person they have lost. AUP’s community came together powerfully over those weeks, and we found our way together: Keti Archaia, all of our Georgian students, members of the Georgian Embassy who offered such support and comfort to Nutsa’s parents, the priest from the Georgian Orthodox Church in Paris who brought us a Georgian painting of a bridge signifying cultural understanding, Randy Vener, our beloved financial aid officer and deputy director of admissions who recruited Nutsa, Dean of Students Kevin Fore and VP for Student Affairs Marc Montheard, the long line of students, faculty and staff who came to Passage Landrieu to pay respects and to write in our books for Nutsa, and the roommates who knew and loved her. We are also grateful to Scott Herr, Senior Pastor of the American Church and an AUP father, for offering us the Sanctuary for Nutsa’s memorial service, and for joining us in grieving our loss. Afterwards we gathered in Combes to share videos and photos and to share in a beautiful Georgian tradition. Those in attendance tied colorful ribbons on the tree. We chose to plant this beautiful Japanese maple at the entrance to our Grenelle Building because its leaves will be a vivid red each fall in memory of our fiery and unforgettable redheaded student. We have also established a scholarship fund in Nutsa’s name to which everyone in the AUP community is invited to donate. The fund will support Georgian students attending AUP. 
Our mailing address is:
The American University of Paris
5 Boulevard de la Tour-Maubourg
75007, Paris, France

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