3 years ago

American Magazine: August 2014


play ON THE HEELS OF A BANNER YEAR that saw three AU teams capture Patriot League titles and the men’s basketball and women’s volleyball teams captivate the campus, not even the conclusion of on-thefield play could stop the Eagles from picking up victories. In June, Alexis Dobbs was nominated by the Patriot League for the 2014 NCAA Woman of the Year Award, and Darius “Pee Wee” Gardner was named the 2013–14 Patriot League Sportsmanship Award winner. “This year we built some momentum in the fall with field hockey, and then volleyball had a spectacular season,” says Billy Walker, director of athletics and recreation. “The new coaches in both basketball programs got people excited. The way the women started out, and when the men got into league play, everybody got pretty fired up.” That’s an understatement. Throughout the year, more than 3,500 alumni—the most ever— attended athletics-sponsored events held from San Francisco to Milwaukee, where the men’s basketball team played in the NCAA Tournament, to New York. The Blue Crew student group has more than 3,000 members, also its high-water mark. “We want to do whatever we can do to make people feel like they’re part of the family,” says Walker, who came to AU from the U.S. Air Force Academy in February 2013. In November, the field hockey team shut out Boston University to capture its ninth Patriot League crown. A conferencebest 18 players were named to the Patriot League Academic Honor Roll. The volleyball team also won a conference championship, then proceeded to shock Georgia and Duke in the NCAAs. Winter saw the women’s basketball team, under the direction of first-year coach Megan Gebbia, earn a postseason tournament at-large berth for the first time. When the men’s team, led by first-year coach Mike Brennan, beat BU in Beantown to win the Patriot League title, students, faculty, and alumni who didn’t make the trip to Wisconsin were glued to their TVs watching the Eagles in the NCAA’s Big Dance. Throughout the year, more than 3,500 alumni—the most ever—attended athletics-sponsored events held from San Francisco to Milwaukee. “Our diverse campus is a wonderful thing,” says David Bierwirth, associate athletics director. “One thing that can bring everyone together is athletics.” After the seasons, nine women’s basketball players and five men were named to the Patriot League Academic Honor Roll. Men’s swimming and diving and women’s soccer earned NCAA awards for posting perfect academic progress rates in 2012–13. It all made for a sweet rookie season for first-year AD Walker. “I want to make sure our athletes succeed in the classroom, compete on the field, are active in the community, and I want to make sure we’re having fun,” he says. Four out of four ain’t bad. TWITTER CHAMPS VLAD MOST VALUABLE Fans took to Twitter to show their love for AU field hockey, choosing the squad as the Patriot League Women’s Team of the Year. Using designated hashtags, fans cast their votes over 24 hours. The Eagles beat out six other squads to earn the honor. Former men’s basketball standout Vlad Moldoveanu ’11 capped his third professional season overseas by leading his squad, Kalev/Cramo, to a sweep of the Estonia KML Finals, earning most valuable player honors during the playoffs. In the title-clinching game, Moldoveanu registered a double-double, scoring 19 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. 10 AMERICAN MAGAZINE AUGUST 2014

news PHOTO: COURTESY OF ANDREW ST. GEORGE PAPERS, MANUSCRIPTS AND ARCHIVES, YALE UNIVERSITY LIBRARY; DOCUMENT: COURTESY OF CARTER LIBRARY For two countries that officially share no diplomatic relations, the U.S. and Cuba sure like talking to each other. In the forthcoming book, Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana, School of Public Affairs professor William LeoGrande and his co-author, Peter Kornbluh, unveil the successes and failures of these often secretive meetings, and suggest 10 lessons for Americans who will consider how to engage with Cuba in the future. The authors visited Cuba about a dozen times over the course of the 10 years they spent on the project. They combed through declassified documents, obtained others through Freedom of Information requests, and interviewed dozens of key players involved in the talks, including Fidel Castro, former president Jimmy Carter, and his national security advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski. “One of the things that makes this book unique is that we have accounts of these negotiations from the people who sat across the table from one another,” LeoGrande says. “Not surprisingly, they sometimes saw U.S. Ambassador Philip W. Bonsal met Fidel Castro for the first time in 1959 outside Havana. Top: A 1977 presidential directive signed by Jimmy Carter instructs the U.S. to work toward normalization with Cuba. what was happening very differently.” Every presidential administration since Eisenhower has held some form of talks with Cuba. In 1978, when U.S.-Cuban relations were strained because of Cuba’s involvement in conflicts in Angola and Ethiopia, a series of secret negotiations known to only a handful of people in the U.S. government were held in Washington, New York, Atlanta, Mexico, and Havana. The Reagan administration dealt with the Cubans on migration, as did the Clinton administration in 1995. Those talks were so secretive that not even the State Department officials responsible for Cuba knew about them. Among the results of those negotiations was a provision calling for official talks between the two countries twice a year. Both nations now use them to discuss migration and other issues. “The two sides have to listen carefully to one another, because sometimes they talk in code and it’s easy for them to misunderstand each other,” LeoGrande says. “What the Cubans want more than anything is to be treated with respect, as a coequal sovereign country. That’s one of the hardest things for the United States to do, because we’re so much bigger, we’re so much more powerful, and they’ve defied us for so long.” What happens to college graduates after they leave campus? What is the value of their college degree? Is it worth the investment? Thanks to its graduate census data, American University is uniquely positioned to know. In September a new website ( will enable anyone to discover where AU graduates are working and their salary range. No other school of AU’s size (or larger) is accumulating data in such a manner. An impressive 81 percent of graduates from the Class of 2012 responded to the survey, which showed that nine out of 10 undergrads were employed, enrolled in graduate school, or both within six months of graduation. Ninetytwo percent of new undergrads work in a position related to their degree or career objective. About half work for private companies, and more than a quarter work for nonprofits. Eighty-seven percent of master’s graduates were working within six months of earning their diploma, and almost half of those secured jobs prior to graduating. Furthermore, AU is drilling down to degree level, so visitors to the site can see where graduates are working, in what capacity, how much they make, or where they’re going to grad school. The site also will feature videos and stories about graduates and their paths to success. DIVE INTO THE THINK TANK Jennifer Lawless, director of SPA’s Women and Politics Institute, has joined more than 300 policy experts at the Brookings Institution. The Governance Studies fellow will examine gender and youth issues. MADE IN THE USA The Ford F-Series pickup and the Chevrolet Corvette take the checkered flag in Kogod’s 2014 Made in America Auto Index (scoring 87.5 out of 100). Professor Frank DuBois maintains the index, which considers production factors overlooked by other indices. The Buick Enclave, Chevy Traverse, and GMC Acadia round out the top five. BUSY BODIES, SHARP MINDS As physical education minutes increase, so do test scores. Stacey Snelling led a CAS team analyzing the impact of D.C.’s Healthy Schools Act, enacted in 2010 to reduce obesity. They found kids who got more physical activity performed better on the D.C. Comprehensive Assessment System. FOLLOW US @AU_AMERICANMAG 11