President Bill Powers has been selected as chair of the Association of American Universities, in recognition of his role as a national leader in addressing the key challenges facing higher education. Powers has served as vice chair for the past year and was selected Tuesday to become chair by the presidents of the AAU member schools.
Founded in 1900, the AAU is a nonprofit association of North America's preeminent public and private research universities. It focuses on national and institutional issues important to research-intensive universities, including funding for research, research and education policy, and graduate and undergraduate education. Its membership includes 59 U.S. and two Canadian universities.
"Bill Powers is already a national spokesman for our great research universities, particularly our public flagship universities," said AAU President Hunter Rawlings. "He has been explaining to his state and the country the vital role these extraordinary institutions play in solving the nation's most serious problems. As AAU chair, he will be a leading advocate for the nation's investments in research and higher education, and in explaining the value of America's research universities."
Under Powers' leadership since 2006, the university has been on the cutting edge of the most pressing issues facing American higher education and has undertaken several groundbreaking initiatives:
- Graduation rates/cost savings: The university has launched efforts to increase its four-year graduation rates to 70 percent, allowing students to spend less on tuition and enter the workforce or graduate school more quickly.
- World-changing research: Since 2011, UT Austin has secured federal funding to develop a nanosystems engineering research center and build Stampede, one of the world's most powerful supercomputers that is open to scientists from around the country.
- Online learning: President Powers this year issued the first-ever set of guiding principles for using online technology to help students learn more effectively at major research universities.
- Promoting efficiency: A presidential-appointed committee identified $490 million in costs savings and new revenue that can be used to support teaching, student success and research in an era of decreased public funding,
- Student success: The university established a School of Undergraduate Studies that more effectively allows freshmen who are undecided in their majors to transition into college and achieve academic success.
- Medical school: UT Austin is preparing to open Dell Medical School, the first new medical school at a major university in 50 years.
"It's a great honor and opportunity to lead the AAU at a time when higher education is confronting tremendous transformation in everything from funding to technology," Powers said. "AAU schools are working to embrace changes while always remaining true to their core values of providing a world-class education and cultivating world-class research."
"I am very pleased that President Powers will serve as chairman of the AAU, an organization that represents our nation's most distinguished research universities," said Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D., chancellor of the University of Texas System, which includes nine universities and six health institutions. "It is fitting for the president of UT Austin, one of the world's great research-intensive universities, to be at the helm of AAU."