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American Association for Higher Education - Program, Organizational Structure, Membership, History and Development

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The American Association for Higher Education (AAHE) is an independent professional membership organization that promotes change and reform in higher education, fosters quality teaching and learning at the college and university level, and promotes public awareness of the value of higher education in the United States. The AAHE's objectives include identifying and analyzing critical problems, trends, and developments in higher education and seeking constructive solutions; helping to coordinate the efforts of educational institutions and agencies at all levels; encouraging the improvement of professional work in all areas of higher education; and developing a better understanding by the general public of higher education and of college teaching as a profession. In pursuing these goals, the AAHE provides a forum for the expression of ideas relating to higher education and public policy.

Program

The AAHE National Conference on Higher Education is the best-known regular activity of the association. Held annually in March, the conference has established itself as a central forum for addressing the most pressing issues facing postsecondary education in the United States. Other annual AAHE conferences include the Assessment Conference and the Conference on Faculty Roles and Rewards. The first is sponsored by the AAHE's Assessment Forum, which promotes the development of new and effective approaches to faculty, student, and institutional assessment. The second conference is sponsored by the AAHE Forum on Faculty Roles and Rewards, which was inaugurated in 1991 with the mission of reexamining methods of communicating faculty expectations and evaluating faculty rewards and remuneration.

Since 1993 the AAHE Quality Initiatives program has explored the application of continuous quality improvement principles to postsecondary education. In 1996 the Quality Initiatives program began holding an annual Summer Academy at which teams of six to ten people from up to thirty-five institutions gather to discuss and develop programs to enhance the quality of undergraduate education.

In early 2001 the AAHE launched a major diversity initiative aimed at studying and addressing the impact of race and ethnicity on student choice and learning in higher education. One of the goals of the initiative was to develop strategies for increasing the success of minority college students. In particular, the diversity initiative promoted the importance of including diversity issues in college curriculums and the removal of barriers to the success of minority students.

Other AAHE programs include the Service Learning Project, a two-part initiative that promotes the integration of service learning in all disciplines; the project includes the preparation and publication of an eighteen-volume series addressing community-based learning. The AAHE's Teaching Initiatives program helps institutions improve the effectiveness and status of college-level teaching. AAHE members involved in this initiative work to promote the view that postsecondary teaching is important scholarly work and to generate dialogue about the value and effectiveness of teaching in institutions of higher education.

AAHE publications include the bimonthly Journal of Higher Education, a scholarly journal published since 1930, and the bimonthly magazine Change, published in conjunction with the Helen Dwight Reid Education Foundation. Change features articles on new trends in higher education and analyzes the implications of new educational practices. The AAHE Bulletin, published every month from September through June, is a newsletter for members that features interviews, reports, practical articles, and news about AAHE activities.

In 1991 the AAHE's National Teaching and Learning Forum began a major joint venture with the Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC) Clearinghouse on Higher Education to publish and disseminate important research literature on various topics in higher education. The AAHE also publishes numerous books, monographs, and papers on topics of concern to the higher education community, many in collaboration with other publishers and organizations. In addition to these, special publications are produced in conjunction with current AAHE projects or in areas where a need for additional information has been determined. All AAHE publications are available to the association's members free or at a reduced cost. Some are available electronically via the AAHE website.

Special projects consistent with the AAHE's goals are undertaken with funds from outside sources and through partnerships. Notable among these projects is the Urban Universities Portfolio Project: Assuring Quality for Multiple Publics, a three-year effort begun in 2000 in partnership with Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) and the Pew Charitable Trusts. The Portfolio Project aims at helping urban institutions of higher education create institutional portfolios and innovative auditing processes that can be effectively communicated to the public. Such projects underscore the AAHE's concern for the teaching-learning process as the center toward which a major part of its activities are oriented.

Organizational Structure

The AAHE is governed by a twenty-member board of directors, which is headed by a chair and a chairelect. Board members are chosen by AAHE members by mail ballot each year. The board establishes policy, determines programs, and appoints committees as needed. The day-to-day operations of the AAHE are overseen by a staff of approximately twenty-five individuals under the direction of an appointed president.

Membership

The AAHE is the only national higher education organization open to faculty, administrators, and students alike, regardless of rank, discipline, or type or size of institution. Its membership is a cross section of the American academic community, including college and university presidents, deans, faculty, counselors, and registrars, as well as representatives from government, business, the media, educational foundations, accrediting agencies, and other organizations concerned with higher education. In 2001 the AAHE had approximately 10,000 members.

History and Development

Founded in 1870, the AAHE was one of four original departments of the National Education Association (NEA). It was then known as the Department of Higher Education. In 1952 the name was changed to the Association for Higher Education, and in 1967 to the American Association for Higher Education. A major turning point in the history of the AAHE occurred in 1968, when it elected to move from a departmental relationship with the NEA to the status of independent organization.

INTERNET RESOURCE

AMERICAN ASSOCIATION FOR HIGHER EDUCATION. 2002. <www.aahe.org>.

G. KERRY SMITH

Revised by

JUDITH J. CULLIGAN

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