UT-Austin President Bill Powers will chair the Association of American Universities, the organization of the nation’s elite research universities.
America’s best universities understand: what starts here, changes the world. This week, President Powers was elected vice-chair of the Association of American Universities, a consortium of 61 major public and private research universities across the country. He will chair the group next year.
The nominating committee that recommended Powers is made of his fellow university presidents, a strong endorsement of his leadership at a flagship state university. The AAU was founded in 1900 as a partnership of leading colleges.
“It’s important that America’s top research universities speak with a united voice in matters of national higher education policy, and the AAU provides that voice in Washington and across the country,” Powers writes in his Tower Talk blog. “I hope my two years as vice-chair and chair of this, our nation’s most prestigious group of universities, continues to raise the profile of UT Austin on the national and world stage.”
UT-Austin joined AAU in 1929, followed by Texas’ Rice University in 1985 and Texas A&M University in 2001. The process of university membership is “long and complex,” according to Barry Toiv, vice president of public affairs for AAU.
“It doesn’t happen often,” Toiv says. After Texas A&M and Long Island’s Stony Brook University joined the Union in 2001, it was nine years before another public university, Georgia Tech, was admitted.
AAU officials point to Powers’ leadership at UT-Austin as inspiration for his appointment.
“AAU is most fortunate that Bill Powers, a strong and effective advocate for public research universities, has agreed to serve as vice chair of the association,” writes AAU president Hunter Rawlings. “A major focus of our activities this coming year will be making the case for increased public support of these vital institutions, and I look forward to working with Bill in these efforts.”
Toiv emphasizes Powers’ expected leadership across a “broad range of issues,” including advocating on behalf of public research universities, something he says both public and private AAU members are focused on.
“Private universities are very concerned about this,” says Toiv. “They recognize that public universities play a vital role in both research infrastructure and higher education more broadly.”
He says Powers has been a strong advocate for public higher education, “particularly at a time when higher education has faced some challenges in Texas.”