By Pranay Malempati | Reporter
Baylor announced its plans to pursue the status of becoming a Tier 1 research university in August, which is defined as having a very high level of both research activity and per capita in such research activity.
Currently, Baylor is considered a Tier 2 research university, which is defined as having a very high level of one of those two metrics.
Provost Nancy Brickhouse said that while this is definitely a long-term goal, there has already been an increase in research expenditures as well as tremendous growth in research activity since the announcement in August. In fact, Brickhouse said that Baylor is already hitting R1 metrics in some humanities departments.
“We have seen incredible acceleration from about 10 percent growth a year to about 30 percent this year,” Brickhouse said. “So that’s a very good signal that our activity has increased.”
While Baylor’s research has been growing over the last year, the current COVID-19 situation presents a unique challenge to this research. University President Dr. Linda Livingstone said that the COVID-19 pandemic has provided both challenges and opportunities.
Specifically, Livingstone and Brickhouse said the pandemic has provided opportunity for the Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty. The Collaborative recently received a 35 million dollar grant from the USDA to address the shortage of food resulting from this particular crisis.
“There will be a delivery of food as part of this project,” Brickhouse said. “But the reason why they are visible is because they are also doing research on the delivery of food to understand how to most effectively get the food where the needs really are. That is a good example of living out a Christian witness because of the knowledge that we have developed.”
Livingstone said another reason for pursuing R1 status is that many prospective students want to attend a university where they can conduct research as undergraduates.
“When you talk to our admissions counselors who are recruiting students to come to Baylor,” Livingstone said. “They get a lot of questions from prospective students about the opportunities to do research … So we really need to expand those opportunities for our undergraduates to make sure that we’re really providing the transformational undergraduate education that they need and that they want.”
Livingstone said that some people have questioned why Baylor has made it a goal to reach Tier 1 research status and how it fits in with the university’s Christian mission.
Livingstone said growing Baylor’s research does fit in with the university’s mission because it will allow the Baylor community to be good stewards of God. She said she feels there needs to be a “stronger voice in higher education from a Christian perspective.”
Brickhouse echoed this sentiment.
“I see the greater emphasis on research as a way of us more completely fulfilling our mission as a Christian research university,” Brickhouse said. “We have a great reputation for providing a transformational undergraduate education, but we also want to contribute to the world by creating knowledge that is in service of the common good.”