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BU Joins Association of American Universities

Invitation recognizes research excellence


Boston University has joined the Association of American Universities (AAU), an elite organization of 61 leading research universities in the United States and Canada. BU, one of only 4 universities invited to join the group since 2000, becomes the 62nd member. In the Boston area, only Harvard, MIT, and Brandeis are also members.

Hunter R. Rawlings III, president of the AAU, announced Monday morning that President Robert A. Brown had accepted the association’s invitation. Rawlings says the decision to extend the invitation was based on an in-depth review of the University’s research and academic programs.

“Boston University is an outstanding institution,” says Rawlings. “It belongs in the AAU by virtue of the strength of its research and academic programs. AAU universities play an essential role in America’s research enterprise and in educating the nation’s young scientists, engineers, and scholars. Boston University is a welcome addition to the ranks of these leading research universities.”

Brown says he is very pleased to have the University join the AAU. “It’s gratifying for Boston University to receive this recognition for the quality of our education and research programs,” he says. “We look forward to participating with the AAU membership in helping guide the future of research universities in the United States as a critical resource for American leadership in higher education, knowledge creation, and innovation.”

Membership in the organization is by invitation only, and is based on several criteria: the quality of programs of academic research and scholarship; undergraduate, graduate, and professional education in a number of fields; and general recognition that a university is outstanding by reason of the excellence of its research and education programs. A membership committee of AAU presidents and chancellors periodically reviews universities for AAU membership; institutions recommended for membership must be approved by a three-fourths vote of the membership.

“Boston University’s admission to the AAU is first and foremost an acknowledgment of the quality and productivity of our outstanding faculty,” says Jean Morrison, University provost and chief academic officer. “They are making fundamentally important contributions in disciplines ranging from the humanities and social sciences to the natural sciences, engineering, and medicine. But in addition to the strength of our faculty, this recognition is a testament to the exceptional leadership of our president, Bob Brown. The results of his transformative leadership are coming to fruition, and the University’s admission into the AAU is one of the very significant tangible results.”

Luca Dal Negro and students in lab, Associate Professor Electrical and Computer Engineering, Boston University BU College of Engineering ENG

Photo by Vernon Doucette

Since his arrival at BU in 2005, Brown has made research a priority, recruiting and developing faculty in the sciences, engineering, social sciences, and humanities. In the past year alone, the University hired 53 new faculty members on the Charles River Campus, including 15 for newly created positions, and 48 new faculty on the Medical Campus. In fiscal 2012, BU received $348.4 million in research awards, one of several criteria considered in the AAU admissions process.

Recent research awards include $10 million from the National Institutes of Health to establish an Autism Center of Excellence under the leadership of Helen Tager-Flusberg, a College of Arts & Sciences professor of psychology, and $2 million from the same agency to help graduate students and postdoctoral fellows develop diagnostic and therapeutic tools for various types of cancer.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has also recognized the promise of BU research. In 2009, it awarded $8.5 million to the Center for Global Health & Development, operating under the umbrella of the School of Public Health and the leadership of Jonathon Simon, Robert A. Knox Professor and chair of international health, to explore inexpensive ways to decrease neonatal mortality in Zambia. The foundation also funded an effort by James Collins, a William Fairfield Warren Distinguished Professor and College of Engineering professor of biomedical engineering, to explore a novel approach to cholera prevention, and research by Muhammad Zaman, an ENG associate professor of biomedical engineering, to find better ways to detect counterfeit drugs in Africa and Asia.

The depth and breadth of research at BU has also enhanced the undergraduate experience, enabling students to participate in cutting-edge projects. In April, Morrison doubled the annual funding, to more than $1 million, for the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, which has supported the work of more than 1,500 students since 1997.

“Joining the AAU is a recognition of the national prominence of our faculty and our research,” says Brown. “A major impact is that this allows us to participate in all kinds of endeavors with like-minded institutions. It gives us a seat at the table, and that will help this institution enormously.”

Art Jahnke

Art Jahnke can be reached at jahnke@bu.edu.

21 Comments on BU Joins Association of American Universities

  • James on 11.05.2012 at 5:17 pm

    Congratulations to BU! It’s pretty amazing that there are 4 of top 62 research universities in the world right there in Boston.

    • an on 11.05.2012 at 6:54 pm

      my understanding is that this “ranking” concerns US and Canada only (not the whole world)

      • James on 12.04.2012 at 12:03 pm

        Typical American oversight on my part. Still, it’s pretty impressive.

    • Heleni Thayre on 11.18.2012 at 8:12 pm

      As a graduate of Brandeis this corroborates my growing sense that BU’s academic programs are of high quality.

  • Henry on 11.05.2012 at 6:36 pm

    Way to go BU! You’re steadily rising into the ranks of the country’s greatest universities. Congratulations to Bob Brown, faculty, students and alumni.

  • Andrew Smith on 11.05.2012 at 7:38 pm

    That’s awesome! Huge accomplishment. Well done.

  • Grace on 11.06.2012 at 8:35 am

    It makes me so proud to be a part of it. I’m from Africa, believe me I couldn’t get any prouder. Go BU!

  • Steve Schuit on 11.06.2012 at 9:40 am

    The next generation of challenges for BU will be how to be great without walls. How to develop and build a sustainable world-class university that relies on the web, more than buildings, that assesses itself not on concrete and glass but on learning innovation.

    • Irene on 11.06.2012 at 10:47 am

      Can I politely disagree with your comment? I’ve taken online classes, hybrid classes, and traditional in-person classes, and without a doubt, the traditional classes are where I’ve learned the most – by a wide margin. The same learning experience cannot be replicated through an online class for a host of reasons. Additionally, there is no way to control cheating in an online class, which of course, makes the degree worth less. Anyway, just my two cents!

      • Davidson on 11.06.2012 at 10:06 pm

        I am a graduate of an online program at BU and I can tell you that it was tougher than a face to face program! The learning I found in my online experience was more robust. It all depends on how aggressive you are as a student to learn! I found it rigorous! I considered the information presented to me as the minimum requirement, and I received encouragement to deepen my research. The online sources I used a lot! I must also admit I was comfortable with the technology required for the courses I took which made my learning fascinating.

      • Jon on 11.30.2012 at 10:45 am

        I agree that BU’s next step is to focus on its academic programs and teaching methods. While research is important, BU has a responsibility to its students as an institute of higher education to serve their academic needs.

        That isn’t to say BU is a doing anything worse than most other schools – lack of innovation in teaching styles is an epidemic in public and private schools at the preparatory and collegiate levels. Different teaching styles work better for different students, which is why the “one size fits all” format of big lectures doesn’t match up to reality.

        On a personal note, I don’t feel that I’ve had a single professor yet who has come close to several of the best teachers I had in high school. I’ve still got a couple of years of school left, so that could change, but public high school also doesn’t charge $50,000 a year. I don’t know what the solution to this is. However, I strongly feel that for the price of tuition, students are owed competent teachers and mentors – just because someone is an expert in their field does not mean they are good at teaching.

  • Ahmed Alsherif on 11.06.2012 at 10:59 am

    Congratulations everyone!!!

  • Roger on 11.06.2012 at 2:42 pm

    Not sure of the value of this except for the snob factor in higher education. My local state university is a member and frankly I would not encourage an undergraduate education there as some freshman classes are taught in huge lecture halls by TA’s with hundreds of students. The case that great research budgets trickles down to help the quality of undergraduate education is iffy at best.

    • Oz on 11.06.2012 at 4:08 pm

      I agree completely, Roger. It’s a feather in an outlandish and pointless cap.

      • James Brown on 11.06.2012 at 7:41 pm

        At the very least, membership into the AAU recognizes a high level of quality research. This point ignores benefits that membership brings, such as research collaboration opportunities that benefit a wide audience.

        Are you arguing that accolades are pointless? Should we get rid of olympic meadles? Perhaps we should banish the Medal of Honor for military heroes? Maybe honor students shouldn’t get an honor because it would only be given for the snob factor?

        I have a different opinion. I believe that honors and accolades should be given because it encourages everyone to do their best. To BU, Bob Brown, and the many professors that conduct research, I say congratulations. Your hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed.

    • BU Alum on 11.12.2012 at 9:30 am

      It never fails. No matter what good happens at BU, some members of the BU community have to belittle it. I have never seen a university with so many negative people.

  • George Zhang on 11.06.2012 at 6:51 pm


  • Hengdong Cui on 11.06.2012 at 7:49 pm

    I am so pround of BU, and it’s great that I am part of it! Thanks for all the support to BU. Go BU!!!

  • Ram S Puranam on 11.14.2012 at 10:12 am

    Congratulations to the vision of the leaders at BU, the facility and the students. As a parent of BU student, I am excited to hear about the progress BU is making. Until recently, BU was a well kept secret. It was always good, it is getting better.

  • carteles on 01.28.2013 at 5:21 am

    Congratulations to all managers and students.As a parent I am proud of my son to study here.

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