Middle Tennessee State University joins an elite group of universities across the country with its advancement to doctoral university: high research activity, or R2, status at the end of the month as designated by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education.
MTSU Provost Mark Byrnes announced the achievement, fittingly, at the closing ceremony of the 16th annual Scholars Week research and creative activity exposition Friday, March 25, in the Student Union Ballroom.
The ceremony capped a week filled with campuswide student research project presentations, keynote talks, student-created performances and more.
“This new designation reflects the hard work of our university community in our doctoral programs and research efforts,” Byrnes said. “Many of our metrics improved in 2020–21 that led to this achievement, including 156 proposals and 64 new awards to principal investigators across campus.
“These awards exceeded $13.2 million in extramural funding for our total portfolio, while new research funding reached $5.1 million.”
The Carnegie Classification is a framework that recognizes and describes institutional diversity in U.S. higher education, such as types of degrees awarded with a focus on research.
Only around 3% of other universities earned the R2 distinction as of the 2021 update.
To move up from the status of a “moderate research,” or R3, doctoral university, MTSU demonstrated an awarding of at least 20 research or scholarship doctorates with at least $5 million in research expenditures three years in a row.
Raising the university profile
Dr. Ryan Otter, biology professor and director of MTSU’s Data Science Institute, was one of the faculty featured on signage at the event for his contribution to the university’s research efforts.
He said the R2 elevation is a significant milestone for the university.
“It shows sustained success by the research-active faculty on campus, which includes the acquisition of externally funded projects and the development of Ph.D. students,” Otter said.
“These successes clearly show that in addition to providing an excellent classroom experience for students, MTSU also has a thriving research community. It’s my hope that this status change will attract more grant funding and top scholars to the university.”
University President Sidney A. McPhee said he was delighted to recognize the incredible level of research, scholarship and creativity on display at the Scholars Week event and at the university overall with this new distinction.
“This significant development was several years in the making,” McPhee said to the crowd of students, staff and faculty in attendance, including faculty members who were instrumental in the university’s research efforts.
“This news raises the profile of the university, but, importantly, it also enhances the value of this university for students who are provided opportunities to work alongside our faculty researchers on important projects that hold tremendous transformational potential.”
McPhee also revealed a new $2 graduate application fee for the fall 2022 semester to coincide with the university’s R2 status.
The discount will serve as one of many features that attract new students to MTSU’s graduate school, with enrollment hitting record numbers in recent years.
Commitment to research
“This (R2) advancement confirms our faculty, administration and student commitment to research and creative activities, especially in sponsored research,” said Dr. David Butler, vice provost for research and the College of Graduate Studies dean.
Butler invited McPhee to join him in unveiling the replica of a future commemorative R2 plaque to mark the occasion.
The silver, rectangular plaque will feature a bold engraving of “R2 Doctoral University High Research Activity” topped with the Carnegie logo.
Butler concluded the announcement by emphasizing that research is important not only for the university community but for the larger community it serves.
“The more research centers and institutes we create, the more extremely precious gems of knowledge we can produce to improve the quality of life for the citizens of Tennessee,” Butler said. “We strive towards a sustained effort of research productivity and growth as a public university serving middle Tennessee.”
To learn more about the opportunities available for further education, research and scholarship at MTSU, visit the College of Graduate Studies webpage at www.mtsu.edu/graduate or the university’s website at www.mtsu.edu.
— Stephanie Barrette (Stephanie.Barrette@mtsu.edu)
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