WASHINGTON, D.C. — Former Georgia State President Mark P. Becker, a lifelong champion of equity and student success who led the university through the most dynamic period of growth in its history, has been appointed president of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, effective Sept. 1.
During Becker’s 12 years as president of Georgia State, he put the institution on the map as a national leader in higher education innovation, driving massive gains in retention and degrees awarded, while eliminating the equity gap. He takes the helm of APLU with a deep knowledge and appreciation of the association, having previously served as a member of its board of directors and as chairman of the board for the Coalition of Urban Serving Universities (USU), which has a permanent partnership with APLU — something for which he was a vocal and leading advocate.
Becker has been affiliated with APLU institutions as a student, post-doctoral fellow, professor, dean, provost, or president for his entire adult life. He has a strong understanding and appreciation for the different types of universities that comprise APLU’s membership, having served in faculty and leadership roles at flagships, land-grants and urban serving institutions.
APLU, made up of 244 public research universities, land-grant institutions, state university systems and affiliated organizations, works to strengthen and advance the work of public universities in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. Its goals are to increase degree completion and academic success, advance scientific research and expand engagement. Its member campuses enroll 5 million undergraduates and 1.3 million graduate students each year.
“We’re thrilled to announce the selection of Mark Becker as the next president of APLU,” said Robert Jones, chancellor of the University of Illinois-Champaign, who led the presidential search committee and previously served as chair of the APLU Board of Directors. “I’ve known Mark for over two decades, since our time together at the University of Minnesota, and I’ve seen firsthand his strong commitment to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion through innovation. Mark is a proven national leader in university transformation with a demonstrated impact on the lives of students and communities. We’re extremely excited for him to step into this role at APLU leading exactly this kind of transformative change across the APLU membership.”
“Mark brings a critical blend of institutional and higher education community experience that makes him uniquely qualified to serve as APLU’s next president,” said Rebecca Blank, chair of the APLU Board of Directors and chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “His longstanding engagement with APLU, including as a member of the board of directors, and a former board chair of both the Coalition of Urban Serving Universities and the American Council on Education, will allow him to hit the ground running. I expect him to further strengthen and advance the work of APLU’s members and advocate for public and land-grant universities’ interests in Washington when he assumes leadership of APLU later this year.”
“It’s an extraordinary honor to be named the next president of APLU,” Becker said. “Public and land-grant universities are the bedrock of American higher education, promoting student success and driving a highly skilled workforce while addressing the needs of their communities and our world through community engagement and cutting-edge research.
“I am a product and a citizen of public higher education, and I have spent my career working tirelessly to use my seat at the table of higher education leaders to create a brighter and better future for society through the vehicle that is public higher education,” Becker continued. “As public universities look to further advance equity and student success, I’m excited to draw on my experiences to convene, support and lead public and land-grant universities as they look to further advance equity and student success, strengthen their research activities and become more deeply engaged in their communities. APLU plays an indispensable role in giving voice to the immense contributions public research universities make to society and advocating on institutions’ behalf in Washington. I am excited to provide leadership for this vibrant community of diverse public and land-grant universities.”
While at Georgia State, Becker undertook a countless array of innovative initiatives that made the institution a national model for driving equitable student success, setting records for its graduation rates and the number of students it graduates, and leading the country in eliminating disparities in student achievement based on race, ethnicity and income. Under his leadership, Georgia State grew its sponsored research at more than twice the national rate. Becker’s deep engagement with civic and business leaders in Atlanta, along with the university’s growing footprint in the city, helped revitalize downtown Atlanta while fostering a deep engagement with the greater region. Throughout his work, Becker prioritized diversity, equity and inclusion to maximize the impact, research and success of the university and to ensure it reflected and served the community in which it is located.
Prior to assuming the presidency of Georgia State, Becker served as executive vice president for academic affairs and provost at the University of South Carolina from 2004 to 2008. He served as dean and later assistant vice president for Public Health Preparedness and Emergency Response at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. He began his career with fellowships, post-doctoral appointments and faculty positions at Cornell University, the University of Washington, University of Florida and University of Michigan. Becker has been a PI or co-PI on research funded by the National Institutes of Health, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Aetna Inc., Quality Care Research Fund and the National Science Foundation.
While at Georgia State, Becker held a number of leadership roles in the higher education community, including as chair of the Coalition of Urban Serving Universities Board of Directors, and was a member of the APLU Board of Directors and chair of the American Council on Education’s Board of Directors. Throughout these leadership roles, Becker has been active in partnering with other individuals and organizations on advocacy activities with policymakers and leaders in Washington, D.C., to advance shared interests.
Becker has earned a wide variety of professional honors and recognitions. This includes being recognized with the Hesburgh Award for Leadership Excellence in Higher Education, the Academic Leadership Award from the Carnegie Corporation and being named one of America’s Ten Most Innovative College Presidents in Washington Monthly.
A Maryland native, he received his bachelor’s degree from Towson State University and his Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University.
Becker will succeed Peter McPherson, who came to APLU in January 2006 after serving as president of Michigan State University.