MU observes AAU membership century mark

The AAU is a group of top research institutions.

MU celebrated the 100th anniversary of its membership in a group of prestigious research universities Thursday with speeches, poems and a state Senate proclamation in a ceremony at the Bond Life Sciences Center.

The gathering commemorated MU's membership in the American Association of Universities, an organization of 62 American and Canadian colleges that formed in 1900 to improve standards for graduate education. The AAU invited MU to become a member in 1908, as part of an effort to balance the group between public and private institutions.

Sen. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, began the ceremony by reading a state resolution he introduced that congratulates MU on the length of its AAU membership. Graham also presented Chancellor Brady Deaton with a framed copy of the resolution. 

AAU president Robert Berdahl gave the centennial address, discussing the current societal issues that research universities face in a declining economy, a time where education is seen as more of a private than public good and a global economy with other nations improving their education systems.

Berdahl talked about the improvement of American colleges relative to those in other countries since the inception of AAU.

But Berdahl also cautioned that efforts to build equally prestigious institutions in China and Saudi Arabia and throughout Europe signal the need for state university systems to concentrate their education dollars in a few flagship universities instead of distributing them among undergraduate programs at regional colleges.

"We've come a long way in the last century," Bardahl said. "But America's lead may not be as secure as Zakaria suggests."

Berdahl said concentration of resources in flagship institutions like MU is especially important in the Midwest because most private research institutions with equal resources are located on the two coasts.

"The flagship public research universities have been the sources of scientific and technological innovation in the Midwest," Berdahl said. "If we are to sustain the economic vitality of this important heartland, we must sustain the quality of its great institutions."

Graduate Professional Council president Alaine Arnott then gave a "student call to action" with a speech about her own experiences in the Crosby MBA program at the Trulaske College of Business. Arnott talked about her internship at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and opportunities she had to be involved in student government and philanthropy as examples of the different tools MU provided her that enhanced her learning.

She said she was initially nervous about pursing an MBA with an emphasis in arts administration, but found that MU had many resources for her field of study. 

"I was sure people would think I had made up this field of study," Arnott said. "But I soon realized that the University of Missouri recognizes and encourages this interdisciplinary approach to scholarship and professional development." 

The celebration featured the readings of two poems about importance of colleges. Theatre department chairman Clyde Ruffin read "The University," a poem by John Mansfield that discusses the place of a university in a rapidly changing society. Missouri Poet Laureate Walter Bargen read "University of Fields," a poem he wrote encouraging students to use their education to take advantage of the world around them.

Deaton predicted the gathering was the start of further MU success in the AAU.  

"It marks the beginning of another seminary period, the next hundred years of excellence that we are all dedicated to here," Deaton said.

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