Dear AUP Students and Parents,

Last fall, in the wake of the November 13 attacks, a distinct silver lining emerged. The letters I wrote to all of you—and to which many of you responded generously during those dark days—elicited a rich conversation amongst all the constituencies of our University, gathering together our community in ways I never anticipated. I think I said in one of my letters that the true grit and grace of a community emerges in its response to a crisis, and that was surely true of ours.  It has inspired me to continue a monthly letter to you, beginning with this missive.  In these letters, I will share my point of view on all aspects of our evolving university, from new developments on the academic front to our rapidly changing campus, from debates and exchanges we’re having in the classroom or the boardroom to short portraits of our brilliant alumni making their way in the world.  As you know, I believe the greatness of a university can be measured, not by the inputs—the number of books in the library, the quantity of buildings or sports facilities, or the average SAT score of entering students, which we did away with years ago as irrelevant to our international student body—but by the outputs:  the impact of our graduates on a world that has need of them.  Expect to learn a lot more about this and other issues coming up on campus in my “View from AUP” newsletter.  

Another thing you already know is that AUP is itself a crucible of diverse ideas and perspectives, with its student body of 108 and its faculty body of 30 nationalities.  As a learning community, it boasts an astonishing campus-wide fluency in the contemporary conversation of global challenges. AUP is a place where students quickly learn to negotiate their position within a multiplicity of worldviews and perspectives; and they learn to translate and communicate their ideas across a variety of linguistic, cultural and disciplinary borders—via an intellectual activity that we call “cultural translation.”  This spring, AUP’s Provost Scott Sprenger is hard at work with our dedicated faculty rethinking and revising our curriculum for the 21st century global explorers who are our students.  One of his new initiatives has been creating research centers where students and faculty will collaborate, finding together creative and empowering solutions to the most pressing problems of our time—the state of our modern democracies, the entwined issues of human rights and conflict prevention, the need to create a sustainable environment, and the issue of crossing borders, or transcending narrow nationalism by means of powerful acts of cultural translation
AUP is an ideal setting for the interdisciplinary and cross-cultural research promoted by our four research centers. While our location in Paris provides convenient access to world-class archives, institutions, and experts, AUP naturally draws to its campus researchers, artists, and writers from around the world for scholarly convocation and collaboration. As a member of two global networks of researchers, the Global Liberal Arts Alliance (GLAA) and the Consortium of American Academic Libraries Overseas (AMICAL) that we founded, AUP has access to funding opportunities promoting student mobility and research collaboration with partner schools in Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia.  We maintain important research collaborations as well with Parisian institutions, such as the Sorbonne, Paris IV, Paris Diderot, the Ecole Normale Supérieure and the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales.   
All four of AUP’s research centers are mission driven, promoting exchange and scholarly research and production on subjects the University community values highly:  translation, democracy, human rights and the environment.  The Center for Writers and Translators, AUP’s oldest and best-known center, has for years welcomed writers and translators for speeches, residencies, readings, and round tables, sometimes in association with the Parisian bookshop Shakespeare & Company; it also publishes the prestigious Cahiers Series.  AUP’s new Center for Critical Democracy Studies houses The Tocqueville Review and attracts scholars and students who study the various crises that afflict new and well established democracies, generating in the process new models of democratic practice. The George and Irina Schaeffer Center for the Study of Genocide, Human Rights and Conflict Prevention—funded by a generous gift from AUP parents—has brought to Paris the Visual History Archive, with its 53 000 hours of survival testimonies of the Shoah and the genocides of Nanjing, Rwanda and Armenia. The Center’s researchers address the causes and effects of mass violence and seek new ways to resolve and prevent human conflict. The Joy and Edward Frieman Center for Environmental Studies—funded by a beloved trustee emeritus and his wife—sponsors important research on climate change through complex computer modeling and laboratory research.  To these we hope to add a Center for Global Leadership in the future.  Watch this space for upcoming news about a new BA in Global Leadership, and a Civic Media Lab that will house a full range of faculty/student collaborations. The Civic Media Lab will become an informal hub at AUP where people of diverse backgrounds, ideas, and theories will collide and criss-cross in productive ways; it will provide multiple disciplinary and technological pathways for designing solutions to social and political problems; it will become yet another platform for innovative and productive student-faculty collaborations on campus. 
On the security front, we have made enormous headway since last November, when we made the decision to rethink and upgrade security across our entire campus, investing a significant budget in the process.  One of our vice presidents, Marc Montheard, working with a consultant, has been charged with the massive task of enhancing every aspect of our security—physical changes to buildings, emergency response plans, communication plans.  As we are renovating our entire campus, this is the perfect moment for us to install card-reading turnstiles in front of our largest buildings, and glassed-in airlocks before the welcome desks of others.  These and many other changes will be instituted over the course of the next two months.  We will also transition over the course of the spring to the use of a University-wide App that will permit students on and off campus to indicate their need for help, accompany them and our faculty on study trips, allow any community member to signal an event on campus, and permit us to mass communicate instantaneously in the event of an emergency.  Because we are adapting software formerly designed for businesses to a university context, and because this does not yet exist on the French market, we will not be able to go live until the fall.  But the App will be provided to every single student and staff member come September. It’s sad that all institutions have to spend vast resources on these new methods of keeping our communities safe, instead of on scholarships or faculty positions, but we take that responsibility seriously at AUP and thus welcome the coming changes. I will continue to update you on our work in future letters.
I look forward to hearing from you on any topic I address in my newsletter, or any other subject that moves you to write.  The very definition of a community is dialogue and exchange.  Kindly address your email to

Celeste Schenck

Our mailing address is:
The American University of Paris
5 Boulevard de la Tour-Maubourg
75007, Paris, France

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