In October I was honored to be elected chair of the board of directors of the Association of American Universities, a group of 62 top public and private research universities in North America (AAU). It’s a yearlong opportunity to help lead one of the world’s most prestigious higher education associations and to help ensure research solutions for the future.
The AAU was founded in 1900 to advance the international standing of American research universities. Today it focuses on issues that are important to those universities—and to you—including research funding, research policy issues, and graduate and undergraduate education. You can learn more at aau.edu
My new position provides a platform from which to communicate the impact of research universities on individuals, but also on Michigan, the nation, and the world. In an era when so much of the value of higher education is associated with personal gain, it’s important to remember the public good that research-intensive universities represent.
Research conducted at our universities helps enable advancements in areas critical to each of us—from health and environment to economic competitiveness and national security.
In addition, research universities are vital in preparing the next generation of scientists and innovators. The 60 AAU universities in the United States award nearly half of America’s doctoral degrees, with 55 percent of those in the sciences and engineering. In addition, high-quality graduate education is underpinned by university research and opportunities for advanced scholarship.
The development of human capital is a top priority for the AAU. The group currently is undertaking a five-year initiative to improve the quality of undergraduate teaching in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) using leading-edge research and sharing best practices. This initiative complements learning-focused programs already underway at Michigan State.
Our university is positioned to be a game changer. The areas in which MSU excels align perfectly with the biggest challenges of our time. Our expertise allows us to push the boundaries of discovery in areas that need the most urgent attention, including food, water, energy, education, and health. And Michigan State’s long-established global network enables us to partner in ways that make a difference today and for decades to come.
To help accelerate discovery that meets the world’s “grand challenges,” MSU has launched a Global Impact Initiative to recruit more than 100 new researchers in specific high-impact STEM areas. I invite you to learn more about this important effort and the myriad ways Spartans are making an impact at go.msu.edu/global-impact.
Michigan State and our research university peers are helping shape the future for our students and our nation. But state and federal budget pressures, together with escalating governmental compliance burdens and rising costs, threaten to dull the edge of America’s global innovation competitiveness as represented by public research universities.
We must work together to encourage investment in university research. I thank you for your support in the coming year and for all you do to strengthen MSU and its work to advance the common good with uncommon will.
Lou Anna K. Simon PhD
President, Michigan State University