When it comes to influencing higher education, University President Mary Sue Coleman is among the leaders and best.

In speeches at universities and conferences across the nation, Coleman has touted the University of Michigan’s achievements as well as addressed higher education’s most pressing challenges, ranging from entrepreneurship to student engagement and financial aid.

Lou Anna Simon, president of Michigan State University and a close colleague of Coleman’s, praised Coleman’s leadership among educators in a statement to The Michigan Daily.

“Mary Sue Coleman is the kind of leader who can turn her vision into action, not just for the University of Michigan, but for all of us in higher education,” she said. “I know I’ll be seeking her advice in the years ahead.”

It is this understanding of higher education that earned Coleman her role as chair of the American Association of Universities, a nonprofit organization of leading research universities from the United States and Canada. She was elected by the AAU to serve a one-year term in October 2011 after previously serving as vice chair.

AAU president Hunter Rawlings said Coleman was selected in part due to her reputation as a strong supporter of federal funding for research.

Institutions gain membership by invitation only, as determined by an AAU committee. The University was one of the 14 founding members of the AAU in 1900, only three of which were public institutions. At the time of Coleman’s leadership, the association boasted 59 members.

As chair, Coleman headed the AAU executive committee, serving as spokesperson for the association. Additionally, she represented the AAU at meetings with national policymakers focused on the role of research in undergraduate, professional and graduate education.

Rawlings said Coleman also focused on issues related to her support for affirmative action in college admissions and increasing college affordability.

Coleman’s widespread influence on higher education also garnered recognition from the federal government and some of the nation’s highest officials.

In 2010, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke appointed Coleman co-chair of the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Coleman served on the council with fellow university administrators and entrepreneurs. The council advises President Obama on how to foster entrepreneurial growth and ways to stimulate the job market.

Additionally, President Barack Obama chose Coleman to help lead the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, which launched in 2011. AMP focuses on investing in technology that will result in the creation of manufacturing jobs. Coleman represented one of six universities that worked alongside industry executives and federal government agencies in the partnership.

And in March 2014, Coleman received the American Council on Education’s Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of her contributions to higher education.

Time magazine named Coleman one of the “The 10 Best College Presidents” in 2009, citing the record-breaking Michigan Difference campaign as one of Coleman’s outstanding achievements.

Coleman has also received numerous honorary degrees from other institutions. Most recently, she was the commencement speaker for the winter graduation ceremonies at Indiana University and Michigan State University, where she promoted collaboration between Big10 schools.

Though the campaign started with a goal of raising $2.5 billion from 2000 to 2008, over the course of the campaign from 2000 to 2008, it exceeded this expectation with a total of $3.2 billion raised.

In October, Coleman announced the next fundraising campaign, Victors for Michigan, with a goal of $4 billion — the largest public university campaign goal in history.

When Coleman travels to other institutions, she frequently emphasizes the importance of fundraising at public universities to offset pervasive declines in state funding.

“It’s not the most important lesson – but it’s one most of the public institutions that I would compare with Michigan are doing as well because they understand they will have to do it if they’re going to garner the resources they need,” she said.

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