This June, Fairleigh Dickinson University president J. Michael Adams will add another leadership role to his already expansive resume.
After serving as president-elect for the past three years, Adams will serve as president of the International Association of University Presidents until 2014.
The IAUP was created in 1964 by FDU founder Peter Sammartino, who called 250 rectors, vice chancellors and university presidents from around the world to the newly-purchased campus in Wroxton, England. It was Sammartino’s vision to use the power of presidency to better the world, Adams said.
More than four decades later, Adams sees his IAUP presidency as a chance to continue and build upon that vision.
“This is a unique time in history,” said Adams. “The world has changed in the last decade, and to many people it’s a fearful future. The world seeks trusted leadership, and IAUP can provide that. Now we have the opportunity to answer the question, ‘where are we going?’”
In his years as president-elect, Adams began progress on a work agenda, under the theme “building bridges through higher education.”
Some of the changes Adams hopes to orchestrate during his term are the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, Academic Chairs for Africa, and the UN/IAUP Universities for Africa and Countries in Special Need. Adams noted that many of the projects would involve pairing universities in the developed world with universities in the developing world.
“We have to understand each other,” Adams said. “We’re creating our agenda under three sub-themes: human development, peace and sustainable economic development.”
It is clear in Adams’ blueprints for these “bridges” that the institution of higher education is the strong support system.
“We’ve allied ourselves with the Scholar Rescue Fund, the group that brought Einstein out of Nazi Germany. Terrorists around the world have figured this out – if you want to destroy a culture, close the universities and shoot the professors. We’ve brought 260 professors out of areas like Ecuador, Iraq and Pakistan who were under death threat for teaching logic and rational ideas,” Adams said.
The IAUP is strongly reminiscent of the Fairleigh Dickinson University mantra of global education.
“The global vision of FDU is exactly aligned with what IAUP is doing,” said Adams. “This is transformational – it’s going to the change the world.”
IAUP, together with the United Nations, created the “Day of Peace,” which is celebrated annually on Sept. 21.
In addition to this, IAUP has recently helped to create “Academic Impact,” which, according to its website, “is a global initiative that aligns institutions of higher education with the United Nations in actively supporting ten universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, literacy, sustainability and conflict resolution.”
Academic Impact was announced on the College at Florham campus by the Secretary General, who received an honorary doctorate degree from the university.
Adams believes that involvement in the IAUP is the reason that FDU works so closely with the United Nations.
“People often ask me if I’m really on a first name basis with the Secretary General, and I respond that that’s true: he calls me Michael, and I call him sir,” said Adams. “I do have a personal relationship with him though. He views me [when we meet] as the FDU president, but IAUP allows me to get in the door.”
Maintaining a first-name-basis with the Secretary General is not the only thing that involvement in the IAUP has allowed Adams to do. Through the IAUP, Adams has met with key figures at worldwide companies such as Microsoft and Pearson Publishing. The organization has proven to be a gateway for Adams to gain access to people, companies and organizations that he would not have been able to connect with otherwise.
While it is doubtful that the everyday lives of FDU students will be affected by Adams’ newest title, the effects of his presidency will likely have a profound impact on their futures.
“Building these professional relationships with worldwide companies means that our students will have more access, and more ambassadors will come here as a result of this organization,” Adams said.
One of founder Peter Sammartino’s great accomplishments was not only mentoring a soon-to-be president at Bangkok University, but also accepting and covering tuition for four Thai professors at a time as they studied for graduate degrees, Adams said. In addition, he issued FDU undergraduate degrees to professors abroad so that they would be able to pursue their graduate work. What began as a one-time deal turned into a yearly commitment, and as a result, there is an entire university in Thailand where professors hold degrees from Fairleigh Dickinson.
“Because of this initiative, within the next five years, your Fairleigh Dickinson University degree will be more valuable worldwide,” said Adams.