Penn President Amy Gutmann was elected vice chair of the Association of American Universities on Tuesday, a position that gives her a national platform to discuss and lobby for higher-education issues.
Gutmann’s one-year term as vice chair of the AAU, a nonprofit organization made up of 62 leading United States and Canadian research universities, begins on Tuesday, the final day of the association’s semiannual meeting in Washington, D.C.
Gutmann, along with Cornell University President David Skorton, is one of two Ivy League presidents currently serving on the AAU’s executive committee. After her term as vice chair, Gutmann will likely be elected chair of the AAU next year at the association’s fall 2014 meeting.
Gutmann, who was in attendance at Tuesday’s AAU meeting, was elected alongside University of Texas at Austin President William Powers, who was named the next chair of the association. Powers had previously served as vice chair.
As vice chair, Gutmann will play a significant role in setting the AAU’s agenda over the next year. Already a national spokesperson for higher education — particularly on financial aid and access issues — her appointment on Tuesday places her among the leading voices for research universities nationwide.
Gutmann has been a vocal member of the AAU over the past year. In January, following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Gutmann urged the federal government to do more to promote gun control, signing an AAU executive committee statement that called the problem of gun violence a “scourge of American life.”
She also joined other presidents of AAU institutions over the summer in signing a letter on the nation’s growing “innovation deficit. The letter, sent to President Barack Obama and Congress, decried the “widening gap between needed and actual investments” in higher education and research.
In addition to her responsibilities at Penn, Gutmann also chairs Obama’s Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues and serves on the boards for the Carnegie Corporation of New York, The Vanguard Group and the National Constitution Center.
“By the discoveries they make, the new knowledge they generate and the students they educate, America’s leading research and teaching universities are vital to our nation’s future,” Gutmann said in a statement on Tuesday. “There is no more exciting place to be than on the cusp of discovery, and the AAU has a proud history of supporting and advancing vitally important work that benefits all Americans.”