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Categories:  Campus

Broaden research to increase AAU appeal, consultant says

Robert Berdahl visit

Robert Berdahl (center) visits with U of I President Robert Easter and UIC Chancellor Paula Allen-Meares. — Photo: Joshua Clark

 

To improve its chances for membership in the elite Association of American Universities, UIC should broaden its research profile and expand the College of Engineering.

That was the focus of advice from former AAU president Robert Berdahl, who came to campus Oct. 1 to consult with UIC leadership about membership in the nonprofit association of 60 U.S. and two Canadian universities. AAU membership is by invitation only. The last university invited to join was Boston University in 2012; Georgia Tech was invited in 2010.

Criteria for AAU membership emphasizes federal research funding, Berdahl said. “The AAU looks for a comprehensive, balanced portfolio of research enterprise.”

The membership roster has few universities less than 50 years old, said Berdahl, AAU president from 2006 to 2011 and former interim president of the University of Oregon, chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley, and president of the University of Texas at Austin. “It takes a long time for universities to build a strong research profile.”

There are few “genuine urban universities” in AAU, he said, which could be in UIC’s favor. “Urban universities like UIC are very important to this country.”

“Being in the AAU is not the be all and end all,” Berdahl said. “There are a large number of very fine research universities that are not part of AAU.”