WMU News

Drive for 'Research II' designation is on target

February 4, 1999

KALAMAZOO -- WMU is already a research intensive institution and is making steady progress in its quest for a formal Carnegie Research II classification that recognizes its status.

That's the message delivered by Donald E. Thompson, WMU vice president for research, to a meeting of the Board of Trustees Jan. 22. Thompson made a special presentation to trustees to give them an in-depth look at the University's reclassification prospects as well as detailed background information on the Carnegie classification system.

"We are a research intensive university that is trying to become one of the 3 percent of colleges and universities in the country with a research classification," Thompson said. "It is enormously important that we achieve that, but it is also quite clear that we are already an institution doing superb research comparable to that done by institutions that already have secured that classification."

Thompson told trustees that if the next set of Carnegie classifications are made using the same criteria the organization used last time, WMU clearly meets the Research II criteria. However, he said, no clear picture has emerged as to what criteria Carnegie will use in its next round of rankings.

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching periodically releases a highly regarded classification of more than 3,000 U.S. colleges and universities. The classification system, which was created in 1970, groups institutions according to the highest level of degree awarded, the number of degrees conferred and the amount of federal research support received.

The highest level of the Carnegie classification is Research I. In Michigan, only Michigan State University, Wayne State University and the University of Michigan are in that category. WMU has been actively seeking a move to the next highest rung, Research II, from its current status as Michigan's only public Doctoral I institution and one of only 36 Doctoral I schools nationwide. Only 126 schools in the country have a research classification, with 90 of them at the Research I level and 36 at Research II.

The last set of Carnegie classification rankings were released in 1994. The next release date is unknown, but could come in 2000. Carnegie has been described as being ready to completely revamp its system for a 2005 ranking.

Thompson noted that total federal support to WMU over the past five years, including research grants and student financial aid, has ranged from $11 million to $19 million per year with an annual average of more than $15.6 million. That's just above the $15.5 million Research II threshold used by Carnegie during its last ranking when it counted total federal dollars coming into each institution.

Thompson pointed out that in federal research dollars alone, WMU does as much or more than some current Research II institutions such as Kent State University, which does about $10 million per year in federal research. Thompson's office projects federal research dollars this year at WMU will reach $10 to $11 million.

"If Carnegie uses the current model," he said, "we clearly meet the measure. We are fourth in terms of research in Michigan and we continue to have organizations come to us for research because they recognize our prowess in a number of areas."

In his presentation, Thompson also outlined for trustees the steps the University has taken to boost its success in attracting federal research grants. Those include:

An increased federal presence in Washington, D.C., with research staff and faculty frequently visiting funding agencies and a new legislative relations specialist lobbying on WMU's behalf.

The Jumpstart Initiative, which has pumped University funds into such promising areas of research as blind rehabilitation, biological sciences and mathematics education.

The completion of Haenicke Hall, a state-of-the-art science research facility that will help attract and keep talented faculty researchers.

Collaborative research activities with industry and other universities, particularly in engineering and health and human services.

"The future is extremely bright," Thompson said. "I think growth will be exponential.

"There are really two questions," Thompson concluded. "'Will Carnegie recognize us for what we have become?' and 'How do we define ourselves?' We clearly must continue to define ourselves as an institution that does excellent research at both the basic and applied levels."

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, 616 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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