Sylvia Burwell announces last year as American University president

American University President Sylvia Burwell announced Tuesday that she will be stepping down after the 2023-24 academic year.

Burwell has served as the university’s president since June 2017 — the first woman in the role. By the time she leaves her post, she will have held the job for seven years.

In a video emailed to the AU community and posted on the university’s Instagram account, Burwell said there were three reasons behind her decision to step down as president: the “substantial progress” AU has made under her leadership, her feeling that the school has “the people and the infrastructure in place to accelerate our momentum,” and her desire to spend more time with her children and aging parents.

Burwell, who served as Secretary of Health and Human Services under President Barack Obama, will continue to work as a lecturer in AU’s Sine Institute of Policy and Politics.

“This may be my last year as president, but, with your help, I plan to make it our best year yet,” Burwell wrote in an email accompanying her video.

In an email sent to the AU community, the university’s Board of Trustees Chair Gina Adams announced the Board’s partnership with leadership advisory firm Russell Reynolds to “conduct a thorough search process that features extensive engagement and input” as it looks for a new president.

Trustee Gaurdie Banister serves as an independent board chair for Russell Reynolds. According to Adams’ email, Banister was not involved in selecting the search firm.

Kate Corliss

Kate Corliss is a Digital Writer/Editor for She is a senior studying journalism at American University and serves as the Campus Life Editor for the student newspaper, The Eagle.

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