On June 1, 2023, the University of California, Riverside’s Chancellor, Kim A. Wilcox announced that the school was invited to the Association of American Universities (AAU). According to the AAU’s website, they were founded in 1900, and are “composed of America’s leading research universities.” These universities “transform lives through education, research, and innovation… [and] earn the majority of competitively awarded federal funding for research that improves public health, seeks to address national challenges, and contributes significantly to our economic strength, while educating and training tomorrow’s visionary leaders and innovators.” UCR is one of six new members of the AAU since 2019, bringing their number of total members up to 71.

According to Wilcox in a statement he delivered to the UCR community, “Achieving the profile of an AAU member institution was first articulated as a goal in 2010, as part of the UCR 2020: Path to Preeminence strategic plan. In working towards this aspiration, we systematically focused our campus efforts in three key areas.” These areas being: research prominence and faculty excellence, student success and strategy in communication.

There were various thresholds UCR had to meet to be considered for AAU status. To bolster graduation rates, the school created a task force that was charged with producing recommendations to improve those rates. From 2013, “six-year graduation rates at UCR have improved 10 percentage points to almost 76%. The four year graduation rate has surged by almost 18 percentage points.” There was also a significant increase in research and funding. “Federal research dollars increased from $132 million at the start of Chancellor Kim Wilcox’s tenure in 2013 to almost $200 million today.”

Now that UCR is considered a part of the AAU, it receives a variety of benefits. One of them being guidance on compliance and funding issues for research security requirements. Another being collaborations in AAU only meetings to discuss topics such as “federal bureaucracy, industry, and foundation funding.” Within the AAU itself, members of their organization come together to tackle issues on campus in committees.

AAU benefits for institutions also include economic boosts, higher education, financial aid and research. Once again on the AAU site, it mentions that “In 2020 alone, AAU paid $100.4 billion in salaries to 794,947 employees, produced 5,583 patents, and fostered the creation of 676 start-ups.” AAU institutions also award 48% of the PHDs and 20% of undergrad degrees in STEM and social sciences.

Rodolfo Torres, UCR’s vice chancellor of Research and Economic Development in a statement expressed that “There is no doubt that [AAU recognition] is a seal of excellence, and it does play a role emphasizing our level in research.”