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AAU President to Discuss Role of Research Universities

Hunter Rawlings, president of the Association of American Universities, will share his views about research universities this week as part of the University’s yearlong conversation about the future of U.S. public higher education.

Hunter Rawlings.

Hunter Rawlings

Rawlings will give a free, public lecture at noon Thursday in Gerrard Hall. The campus community is invited to attend.

Rawlings, who became AAU president in 2011, previously served as president of Cornell University and of the University of Iowa.

As AAU president, Rawlings directs an organization of 61 leading public and private research universities in the U.S. and Canada. Founded in 1900, AAU focuses on issues that are important to research-intensive universities, such as funding for research, research policy issues and graduate and undergraduate education. The 59 U.S. members award more than half of all U.S. doctoral degrees and 55 percent of those in the sciences and engineering. AAU membership is by invitation; UNC joined in 1922.

In recent national opinion-editorial columns, Rawlings has articulated the need for the nation’s research universities to improve undergraduate education as public campuses receive less state support and more students struggle to keep up with mounting college debt and fewer job opportunities after graduating.

Those themes overlap with the launch of a campuswide conversation this fall focusing on a “21st Century Vision of the Public University,” an initiative undertaken by Chancellor Holden Thorp ’86 and the Board of Trustees. The resulting report, due next May, is expected to help shape the University’s future and provide a foundation for the next fundraising campaign.

Thorp invited Rawlings to give the campus lecture and meet with trustees.

“As the nation’s first public university, it’s fitting that we look at important issues facing our peers: college access and completion, undergraduate education and how faculty research can help solve the world’s most pressing problems,” Thorp said. “Hunter Rawlings is one of American higher education’s most articulate spokespersons. His insights will be invaluable in helping guide our conversations about Carolina’s future aspirations.”

In August, Thorp asked Rawlings to help UNC examine the future relationship between academics and athletics on campus. Bringing in outside experts to provide an independent, comprehensive analysis of that relationship was a key recommendation in a Faculty Executive Committee report about academics and athletics.

Rawlings holds degrees in classics, including a doctorate; and was a star men’s basketball player and baseball pitcher in college. Rawlings’ wife, Elizabeth Trapnell Rawlings ’67, is a professional translator with both undergraduate and master’s degrees in French from UNC.


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