American University is located in Washington, D.C., at the top of Embassy Row. Chartered by Congress in 1893 to serve the public interest and build the nation, the university educates active citizens who apply knowledge to the most pressing concerns facing the nation and world. Students engage with leading faculty experts and world leaders, learning how to create change and address issues including the global economic crisis, health care, human rights and justice, diversity, the environment and sustainability, immigration, journalism’s transformation, corporate governance, and governmental reform.
play Monika Smidova has the height, strength, and agility that many big-time collegiate volleyball players are blessed with. But her best physical attribute, the weapons that make her exceptional, may be her big brown eyes. “I look at everyone’s face before I set and see if they look back at me,” says the Patriot League Setter of the Year and Scholar-Athlete of the Year. “We don’t even have to talk. It’s just that look that gives me the impression that one person has the confidence to put the ball down. I have to be empathetic and know if someone is injured or hurting that day, or if they really want the ball.” It’s a decidedly analytical approach to volleyball that can’t easily be taught. AU coach Barry Goldberg knew the Czech native possessed it when he first saw her play as a teenager at an event in the Netherlands. “Monika is one of those rare players in sports who can often see things that others can’t,” he says. “She can gain insight into what’s coming. She is one step ahead of the game.” Growing up in the city of Plzen, Smidova, Kogod/BSBA ’15, had the foresight to know that tennis and swimming weren’t for her. “I need to interact with other people,” says the six-footer. “I like the connection that I have with other people on the court.” That bond didn’t come easily. Smidova’s first trip to the United States was in summer 2011, when she arrived at AU. Her language skills were decent, she says, but she didn’t feel fully comfortable until she started dreaming in English and adjusted to American food and sensibilities. After a stellar freshman year, she tore her ACL in spring practice and missed all of the 2012 season. Smidova returned feeling “stronger and more confident” and led the Patriot League with 10.80 assists per set last year in helping the team to its first-ever NCAA Tournament wins. A business administration major with a 3.8 GPA, Smidova, 22, plans to play two more seasons at AU before taking a crack at a professional career in Europe. “I feel like if we just stay determined, focused, and keep practicing hard, we can do even better than this year,” she says. Call it a vision. AWARDS SEASON A dream season that culminated with a trip to the NCAA Tournament also saw several members of the men’s basketball team earn individual honors. First-year head coach Mike Brennan was named Patriot League Coach of the Year, senior center Tony Wroblicky was picked as the Defensive Player of the Year, and sophomore guard Jesse Reed was named Men’s Basketball Scholar-Athlete of the Year. DOBBS WINS AGAIN Alexis Dobbs has become a one-woman dynasty. The senior became only the second women’s basketball player in Patriot League history to earn three consecutive Patriot League Scholar-Athlete of the Year honors. The three-time team captain carries a 3.81 cumulative GPA as a public health major, and led AU in scoring, assists, and steals this season. 10 AMERICAN MAGAZINE APRIL 2014
news PHOTO COURTESY OF THE FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT LIBRARY Franklin Delano Roosevelt is a towering and often revered figure, yet what he did—or didn’t do—to save Europe’s Jews from Hitler’s gas chambers has always sparked contentious debate among historians. Scholarly writing on the question has tended toward the extremes: FDR as staunchly principled and righteous, or FDR as the passive realist. In FDR and the Jews, history professors Richard Breitman and Allan Lichtman argue that the truth lies in between. “If you’re looking for a man who made key decisions for moral reasons, Roosevelt doesn’t always meet the test,” Breitman says. “He often made decisions for political reasons. But some of the decisions that he made resulted in saving large numbers of Jews. We had a war in Asia as well as a war in Europe. Roosevelt gave priority to the war in Europe. Had he not done so, the war in Asia might have ended earlier, the war in Europe gone on longer, and lots more Jews might have been slaughtered.” The book, which won the American Jewish Studies Celebrate 350 Award from the Jewish Book Council, has received glowing critical acclaim and made a splash in popular culture as well as academia. Breitman and Lichtman have spoken across the country, in media outlets such as NPR, and received positive Secretary of the treasury Henry Morgenthau Jr., left, was FDR's only Jewish cabinet officer and persuaded the president to form the War Refugee Board in 1944. “Roosevelt did not do everything possible to aid the Jews, but he was far better for the Jews than his isolationist political opponents at home. Had they been in power, things would have been much worse.”— Allan Lichtman reviews in newspapers around the world. “Breitman and Lichtman have combed the archives of the leading players . . . and the result is quite impressive,” raved the New York Times. “Even those who disagree with the book’s conclusions must acknowledge the mountain of research on which they rest.” Lichtman attributes the project’s crossover appeal in part to the basic components of the story: good versus evil. “How did a humane but pragmatic president weave his way through all of these competing priorities, including the persecution and slaughter of the Jews during the worst depression in the history of the world and the worst war in the history of the world?” Hopefully it’s a question no leader will ever again have to confront. The power of the purse strings are an important catalyst for social change— but they’re not easily wielded. AU isn’t afraid to act when confronted with human rights issues, such as apartheid in South Africa. In that case and others, AU and dozens of other universities divested themselves of investments in companies that did business there. Now, the Board of Trustees has created the Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) to look at “ethical investing”—a strategy that considers both financial return and social good—and to investigate ways in which AU could engage in such practices. AU is among 300 universities looking at SRI. But divesting is not simple. Because the majority of AU’s funds are invested in commingled funds, it cannot dictate how those funds are invested. Divestment would require restructuring all of those investments into separately managed accounts, which would result in much higher fees. “AU’s endowment is comprised of funds given by thousands of donors over more than 100 years,” says Doug Kudravetz, interim CFO, vice president and treasurer. “Those donors rely on the university’s fiduciary stewardship in order to generate the maximum risk adjusted return available that will help support the scholarships, fellowships, professorships, and other purposes for which the funds were given.” The committee is chaired by SIS professor Paul Wapner and Kate Brunette, SIS/BA ’14. MAKING THE GRADE Public administration and policy professor Seth Gershenson landed a $20,000 grant from the American Educational Research Association to tease out the relationship between teacher quality, student attendance, and academic achievement. SILVIA’S SEMINAL WORK Lauded as the best book on German trade unions and industrial relations ever written, SIS professor Stephen Silvia’s Holding the Shop Together explores the oscillations of Deutschland’s economy in the postwar era. The book was released in fall 2013. TAX PRO Kogod Tax Center director Don Williamson is Tax Notes’s 2013 person of the year. The KPMG veteran and director of AU’s topranked master’s in taxation led the charge to finalize new IRS repair regulations. LET’S TALK #AMERICANMAG 11