Association of American Universities names Powers vice-chair

Alexa Ura

UT President William Powers Jr. was elected vice-chair of the Association of American Universities, a nonprofit organization that advocates on behalf of higher education institutions.

Powers will serve for a year on the association’s executive committee, which oversees policies the association supports, and will serve as the association’s chair next year. The Association of American Universities is a group of 61 public and private research universities that focuses on issues important to research-intensive universities, including funding and policy.

Powers was appointed to the position last week during the association’s semiannual meeting.

“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 wrote in a post on 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.”

The association’s 59 U.S. universities confer 17 percent of the nation’s undergraduate degrees and more than half of all doctoral degrees. Two of the member universities are in Canada.

The University joined the invitation-only association in 1929, making it Texas’ longest-serving member. Two other Texas colleges, Rice University and Texas A&M University, are also members of the association and were admitted in 1985 and 2001, respectively.

In a statement released Friday, the association’s president, Hunter Rawlings, said Powers is a strong advocate for public research universities and will help push increased public support for these institutions this year.

Members of the association and university representatives regularly meet with members of U.S. Congress and members of the executive branch to discuss the effects of federal policies on higher education.

Barry Toiv, the association’s vice president for public affairs, said national and state politicians look to the organization as one of government’s main resources for issues affecting research institutions, including research regulations. Powers will also continue to advocate on behalf of UT at the local level.

“We seek to explain the impacts of legislation could have on our institutions,” Toiv said. “President Powers will work with members of the Texas congressional delegation to explain the impact of research at the University and on the local economy.”

UT spokesperson Gary Susswein said the association is invaluable in its efforts to work with the federal government on issues of higher education and research.

“Many universities are facing diminished funding and a vigorous debate over the role of higher ed and research universities,” Susswein said. “In that environment, we constantly try to demonstrate our innovation and efficiency on the one hand and our excellence on the other.”

Tulane University president Scott Cowen will serve as the association’s chair this year.

Printed on Tuesday, October 30, 2012 as: Powers to chair organization next year

Updated: Nov. 4, 11:04 p.m.