May 9

2023 AURA Annual Meeting

Meeting participants sit in a large meeting room.
AURA Member Representatives, HQ staff and Board members gather at the AURA 2023 Annual Meeting in Tucson, Arizona. Credit: AURA/Lifson

Each year the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) holds an Annual Meeting of representatives from its member institutions. The 2023 meeting, held April 17-19 in Tucson, Arizona, was a hybrid gathering, with in-person attendance for the first time in four years in addition to virtual participation. The meeting featured updates on AURA’s facilities, elections for AURA governance positions, and discussions about current issues facing the astronomical profession.

AURA President Matt Mountain led off the meeting with a presentation about AURA’s current activities and focus areas. AURA’s management of federally funded facilities, with open access to all researchers, is vital to support institutions without access to private telescopes. Dr. Mountain also discussed the status of the Astro 2020 Decadal Survey recommendations.

The member representatives heard short updates about AURA’s three Centers from the Interim Director of the Space Telescope Science Institute, Nancy Levenson, NOIRLab Director Pat McCarthy, National Solar Observatory Director Valentin Martinez-Pillet and a construction update by the Director of the Vera C. Rubin Observatory, Zeljko Ivezic.

Ameerah McBride, AURA’s Chief Diversity Officer, presented findings from AURA’s Equity and Inclusion Committee (EIC). The EIC recommended that AURA modify its bylaws to increase the size of its Nominating Committee from five to seven members, with the goal of increasing the number of historically underrepresented groups on AURA’s management and oversight Councils and Committees. This recommendation was voted on by the Member Representatives and was approved.

Open Houses, discussions and presentations in smaller groups, were held over both days of the meeting. Topics included science news and updates from Space Telescope Science Institute, NOIRLab/Rubin Observatory, the National Solar Observatory, and an informational session, “A View from Two Capitals” (Washington DC and Santiago, Chile). All the Open Houses featured time for questions and in-depth information presented by the Centers and AURA Headquarters staff.

In the general session, Member Representatives discussed strategies to increase diversity on AURA’s Board and Councils, including switching to a weighted ranked voting system. Representatives also examined how to best support the Astro 2020 Decadal Survey recommendations.

At every Annual Meeting, Member Representatives elect new members to AURA’s governing bodies. At the recent meeting, Member Representatives elected new members to the AURA Board of Directors, Board Chair, Council Chairs and the Nominating Committee, and selected a list of ranked nominees for the Management Councils which were then ratified by the AURA Board. (See results below).

Member Representatives also voted on applications for two new AURA Member Institutions, University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) and the University of Utah. Both applications were voted on by the Members Representatives and both UCLA and the University of Utah will send Member Representatives to next year’s Annual Meeting.

Many Member Representatives stated the benefits of in-person attendance at the meeting. They expressed the value of networking and face-to face interaction that was missing from the completely virtual meetings of the last 4 years. Virtual participation was also praised for those unable to travel and was supported by a robust audio-visual team.

The 2023 AURA Annual Meeting was a success and brought together AURA’s member representatives to meet, discuss and contribute to AURA governance and its Centers. AURA thanks all who attended for their time and support of AURA.

Election results (* indicates new members, positions starting July 1, 2023):

Board of Directors

Andrew Baker, Elizabeth Barton, Karen Bjorkman, Jim Crocker (Vice-Chair), Roger Davies, Megan Donahue, Maura Hagan (Chair), Jeff Hall (Chair of the SOC), Todd Hoeksema, Dan Jaffe*, Sally Oey, Jerome Oglesby*, David Reitze (Chair of the NMOC), Willie Rockward* (Chair of the STIC), Maria Teresa Ruiz, Jim Yeck (Chair of the AMCR), Ex-officio Member: Matt Mountain

AURA Management Council for the Rubin Observatory (AMCR)

Tulika Bose (AURA), Brenna Flaugher (Common), Matthew Graham (LSSTC), Allison Lung (Appointed)*, David MacFarlane (LSSTC), Rachel Mandelbaum (LSSTC), Joe McMullin (AURA)* (Vice-Chair), Connie Rockosi (AURA)*, Michael Wood-Vasey (LSSTC)*, James Yeck (AURA) (Chair), Ex-officio Members: Paulina Lira, Matt Mountain, Pat McCarthy

NOIRLab Management Oversight Council (NMOC)

Kelle Cruz, Sean Dougherty*, Francisco Forster, Jeff Kern*, Jennifer Marshall*, Patricia McBride (Appointed), Jim Oschmann(Appointed), David Reitze (Chair), Elizabeth Sexton-Kennedy*, Lisa Storrie-Lombardi*, John Troeltzsch (Appointed), Doug Welch*, Ex-officio Member: Matt Mountain

Solar Observatory Council (SOC)

Doug Biesecker (Appointed), Emily CoBabe-Ammann, Jeff Hall (Chair), Feng-Chuan Liu (Appointed), Dale Gary, James Mason, Sarah Matthews*, Kathy Reeves, Alan Tokunaga, Saku Tsuneta, Christine Wiedinmyer (Vice-Chair), Ex-officio Member: Matt Mountain

Space Telescope Institute Council (STIC)

Scott Altman*, James Bullock, Joan Higginbotham, Bruce Macintosh, David Mongeau*, Willie Rockward (Chair), Ed Schlesinger (Appointed), Linda Tacconi*, Jessica Werk, Michael Wise*, Ex-officio Member: Matt Mountain

2023- 2024 Nominating Committee

Felipe Barrientos*, Joan Burkepile*, John Cartwright*, Joe Shields*, Sarah Tuttle*, Nicolle Zellner*, Michael Zwick