American University Names Sylvia Mathews Burwell as Its Next President

Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services under President Barack Obama did not wait long to find a new job. Six days after President Obama left office, Burwell was named the 15th president of American University in Washington, D.C. When she takes office on June 1, she will be the first woman to lead American University.

American University enrolls nearly 8,000 undergraduate students and more than 5,000 graduate students. Women make up 62 percent of the undergraduate student body.

Kiho Kim, professor of environmental science at American University and a member of the presidential search committee, said “Secretary Burwell’s success at HHS reflects three key abilities that will make her an excellent president for our university. She fosters research and scholarship, and turns them into action. She embraces and leverages the strengths of a large, diverse institution to advance its goals, and she is able to convey complex ideas to a wide range of audiences, from members of congress to the public, in pushing for evidence-based actions and outcomes.”

Before becoming Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services in 2014, Burwell was director of the Office of Management and Budget. In the Clinton administration, she served as deputy chief of staff to the president and as chief of staff for the Secretary of the Treasury. In between her terms in public service, Burwell was president of the Walmart Foundation and chief operating officer of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Burrell is a graduate of Harvard University. She earned a degree in philosophy, policy, and economics as a Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford in England.


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