CHAMPAIGN — The former president of the American Association of Universities and head of several nationally renowned universities will be the next speaker in a University of Illinois series on "The Research University in the World of the Future."
Robert Berdahl, who was also provost at the UI's Urbana campus from 1987 to 1993, will speak from 4 to 5 p.m. Tuesday at the Alice Campbell Alumni Center, 601 S. Lincoln Ave., U. His talk is part of a chancellor's speaker series and is free and open to the public.
Berdahl, a retired history professor who earned a master's degree from the UI, said America's economic strength and stability are proportional to the country's investment in education, and that investment is inadequate.
"There's been a change of attitude in investing in the public good, and it's not just public universities," he said in a news release. "That's a tragic development and the long-term consequences are pretty serious."
The trend is affecting student debt and access and could ultimately hurt opportunities for upward mobility, which used to be a hallmark of the United States, he said.
"We have to rediscover the value of investing in ourselves. I think this era will be seen ultimately as a time not unlike the 1920s in which we pulled back from public investment. I don't think this is going to be seen as the golden age for the U.S.," he said.
Berdahl was the president of the AAU for five years, beginning in 2006, and is the former head of the University of Texas at Austin, the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Oregon.
At the UI he was vice chancellor for academic affairs, a job that now carries the title of provost.
"Compared with the present, it was not a bad budget time; but it seemed like it at the time," he said in the release.
As vice chancellor, Berdahl oversaw the beginnings of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications and the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology.