Sylvia Burwell American University

Sylvia Mathews Burwell, President, American University

Sylvia Burwell is a broad-ranging, effective leader who has served at the highest levels of government, philanthropy, and academia. In 2018, she was inaugurated as the 15th president of American University, and the first woman president.  Burwell previously held two positions in the President’s Cabinet – serving as Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for President Barack Obama. As HHS Secretary, she managed a trillion-dollar department with 12 operating divisions – including NIH, FDA, and the Medicaid and Medicare programs. As OMB Director, she worked with Congress to negotiate a two-year budget deal following the 2013 government shutdown. Burwell also held leadership positions at two of the largest foundations in the world – the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Walmart Foundation.  Burwell is originally from Hinton, West Virginia. She lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband Stephen and their two children.

“It’s an honor to be recognized with the Women Business Collaborative’s 2023 Trailblazer in Gender Equity and Diversity Award. Together with my incredible team at American University, we have put inclusive excellence at the center of everything we do, because you can’t achieve excellence without being inclusive. While we’ve made progress, we still have much more to do. As women business leaders, it’s incumbent on all of us to join together to continue to lead the effort to achieve equal position, pay, and power for all.” – Sylvia Mathews Burwell