University officials finalize strategic research plan to reach Tier One status

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Special to the Star

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Jennifer Gandy, anthropology graduate student, works with samples collected through the Gault Archaeological Project. The research team aims to learn more about early inhabitants of the Western Hemisphere.

Administrators have completed and finalized a strategic plan outlining the future of research at Texas State that will help the university achieve Tier One status.

Michael Blanda, assistant vice president for Research and Federal Relations, said the strategic research plan involves improving undergraduate curriculum, increasing research funding and productivity, creating more doctorate programs and building infrastructure. Blanda said the plan will ultimately help raise Texas State’s research profile and ability to recruit and retain high quality faculty and students.

Provost Eugene Bourgeois said development of the plan began after the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) named the university an Emerging Research Institution (ERI) in January 2012.

To achieve Tier One status, the university must fulfill two required criteria and may fulfill six optional criteria. The criteria include overall value of endowments, reaching $45 million in research expenditures annually and ensuring a high quality freshman class, Bourgeois said.

Restricted research expenditures were just under $21 million in the past fiscal year, Bourgeois said. He said the expenditures should soon increase to reach the requirement of $45 million a year.

“All of this effort (on the plan), first and foremost, validates the effort of faculty, students and staff at Texas State,” Blanda said. “This is recognition and validation of those past efforts, ongoing efforts and future efforts. We look forward to see where it ultimately takes us, not just as a research enterprise, but as a whole.”

Administrators hope around 55 percent of future incoming freshmen will come from the top 25 percent of their high schools to meet the criteria regarding freshman class quality. That will likely create a need for more scholarships and fellowships to attract them, Bourgeois said.

When creating the strategic research plan, the Executive Research Plan Committee looked at how peer institutions created developed their respective plans and achieved the goals they outlined.

Blanda said there were 13 variables to compare with the universities, including full time enrollment, total operating revenue and research expenditures per faculty.

“We wouldn’t compare ourselves to a university with a medical school,” Blanda said. “We compare ourselves to institutions that have similar research expenditures, undergraduate and graduate programs, endowment, admission standards and rate. It’s not just about research dollars when you’re choosing peer institutions.”

The research strategic plan is geared toward all disciplines and students, Blanda said.

“To me, it doesn’t matter the discipline,” Bourgeois said. “If you are active in your research or creative field, you are much more likely to be still involved in the cutting edge discovery of new knowledge in your area. That, in my opinion, directly benefits the students in your undergraduate and graduate classes.”

Paige Haber-Curran, assistant professor of Counseling, Leadership, Adult Education and School Psychology, said Texas State has been “very supportive” of her research on college student development and leadership.  

Haber-Curran received an internal research grant, which was used to conduct a research study to look at the experiences of Latino, Latina and Hispanic student leaders at six universities in California, Texas and Florida.

“Good research requires substantial funding and support,” Haber-Curran said. “I could see (the strategic plan) being beneficial in bringing in more graduate students who have an interest in research and more opportunities to partner and work directly with students to help develop their research.”