Texas State reached emerging research instituation status in 2011, and has since been striving for national research status.. Eugene Bourgeois, provost and vice president of Academic Affairs, discussed Texas State’s progress toward becoming a Tier One university and his expectations for the upcoming year with The University Star.
RB: Explain the importance of the university becoming recognized as an emerging research institution.
EB: I think it represents the culmination of a number of developments in terms of academic programming, our entire academic profile and our outreach to recruit better students in 20 years or so. Becoming an emerging research university represents a culmination of all those initiatives. I think it means a great deal to Texas State because it now puts us in the same grouping with other universities such as Texas Tech and the University of Houston.
How was the progress this year at the university?
We have wrapped up one year now basically in the category of emerging research university, and to date we now have about $21 million in restricted research expenditures. The goal for us is to become eligible for national research university funding, which is $45 million. So we have made progress towards that goal, and we are establishing a new strategic plan for research that will help get us to a $45 million mark. If you go back only six or seven years ago, we were actually in the single digit figures in millions for restricted research expenditures. In terms of recruiting new students, in this fall 2013 freshman class about 49 percent had graduated in the top 25 percent of their high school class. We have to hit 50 percent of our incoming freshman having graduated in the top quartile of their high schools, and we expect to reach that in the next year or two. We were actually above 50 percent a couple of years ago, and we’ve hovered around the 50 percent mark for the last five years.
What are the future research plans for the university?
We have a number of ongoing initiatives and new initiatives that are tied into our materials, science, engineering and commercialization doctoral program. They represent faculty in the departments of physics, engineering, chemistry and biochemistry. The initiatives they are embarking on represent that new pathway for discovering nano materials that will wind up in your next generation of cell phones, in solar panels and in heat transfer devices. Possibly (they could be used) even in ways in which the medical professionals can deliver drugs to your body using nano particles. We’ve opened up a strategic research park that is also a business incubator. It’s called S.T.A.R. Park at Texas State. We now have four companies that are in S.T.A.R. Park, and those companies are working with our students, our faculty and research staff to develop some of these new devices and materials at the nano material level.
What are your expectations next year as the university continues to grow?
I expect and I hope that we have more restricted research expenditures on our campus. I expect and I hope that we have more faculty earn designations that represent either national or international accolades or awards such as NSF (National Science Foundation) Career Award recipients. I expect we will have a freshman class that is at least 50 percent having graduated in the top 25 percent of their high school class next year. I hope and expect that we will have grown our endowments beyond $150 million by next year. Just a few of the things that are tied to the criteria we have to meet to become eligible for national research university funding.