Fall is approaching, and so is the upcoming Louisiana football season.
The University of Louisiana at Lafayette has taken its place in the top level of the nation’s research institutions and is planning a celebration to mark this historic achievement.
The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Learning has designated UL Lafayette as R1, or a university with “very high research activity.”
Just 3% of public and private universities in the United States have achieved this status, Dr. Joseph Savoie, UL Lafayette president, noted in a congratulatory message to the campus community on Monday.
“Like us, each are leaders in teaching and learning, innovation and research, scholarship and service. I’m very proud, and you should be, too,” Savoie said.
The Center for Postdoctoral Research at Indiana University produces the Carnegie Classification. It has been the leading framework for describing U.S. colleges and universities for nearly a half century.
The latest update includes 3,900 institutions. Only 137 are in Carnegie’s highest level.
UL Lafayette is among them.
“Reaching R1 enhances the University’s prestige and that of our region,” Savoie said, adding that the designation “helps us attract and retain high-quality students who seek an institution of academic and research excellence as they choose where to go to college.”
He continued: “It makes our current faculty members more competitive. Potential faculty, external funding agencies and policymakers also look for this mark of quality when making determinations. And the designation adds value to the degrees pursued by current students and earned by alumni.”
The University’s top-level designation is also a selling point for investors and “is a boon for workforce creation and economic development. It’s attractive for businesses that need an established, trusted source of intellectual capital that an R1 University like ours provides,” Savoie said.
Carnegie uses a set of weighted values to determine whether a university has achieved R1 status. These include research and development expenditures, how many doctoral degrees it awards each year, and the number and quality of research staff.
Dr. Ramesh Kolluru, vice president for Research, Innovation and Economic Development, noted that, over the past decade, UL Lafayette consistently has excelled at each measure.
For example, the University’s research and development expenditures in 2020 were a record $164 million, a 165% increase in seven years. The number of doctoral degrees awarded grew by nearly 18% during the same period.
“This growth is not accidental,” Kolluru said. “Rather, it reflects the foresight and intentionality embodied by the deans and faculty of our academic colleges, the Graduate School, and by our University leadership, all of whom have demonstrated a sustained commitment to excellence in research, and to the development of intellectual capacity and human capital to address the challenges we face as a global society.”
He continued: “Earning R1 is a statement: if you want to collaborate with faculty, staff and student researchers who pursue scholarly excellence and whose work is truly changing the world, look no further than UL Lafayette. If you want to work at a University that is world-class, look no further than UL Lafayette. If you want to go to school at a University where you get world-class education from world-class researchers, look no further than UL Lafayette.”
Kolluru pointed to the University’s role in the creation of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for COVID-19. It was the world’s first widely available coronavirus vaccination and the first to win full approval by the Food and Drug Administration.
“The road to this life-saving medical breakthrough ran through our New Iberia Research Center,” Kolluru said.
Computing, data science and artificial intelligence; energy transition and clean energy; coastal, water management and climate adaptation; advanced materials and manufacturing; and the development of socio-economic and human capital are among other areas where the “groundbreaking work being done by researchers at UL Lafayette is having a broad, global effect,” Kolluru added.
“The Carnegie R1 designation acknowledges the strength of what is already here and provides incredible momentum for our continued ability to confront – and overcome – the great questions of our time through scholarship, innovation and public impact research.”
Like Savoie and Kolluru, Dr. Jaimie Hebert, UL Lafayette’s provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, paid tribute to the University’s faculty, staff and students “who each contributed to making this prestigious designation possible.”
“This is so significant for the University, and this achievement is a testament to them and their work,” Hebert said.
“UL Lafayette has always provided access to an exceptional educational experience, and this top-tier status elevates what we can offer students at every level. Our researchers are leaders in their respective disciplines, and as the R1 designation attracts more national and global attention to the incredible work that they are doing, our students will be learning from and working alongside them.”
“We’re really at an incredible moment in our history,” Hebert said.
UL Lafayette will mark reaching R1 status at a celebration on Wednesday, Feb. 23, followed by a forum showcasing cutting-edge research the University produces.
Details on these events will be released when they are available.