The Meaning of R1
In December 2021, the Baylor Family celebrated the news that the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education had elevated Baylor among the nation’s elite research universities, a doctoral institution with “very high research activity.” From President Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D., to faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends, the Baylor Family came together to amplify the fact that the University had achieved something significant.
Baylor is now an R1 research institution, a significant benchmark on the path to preeminence as a Christian research university. It is an attainment that elevates Baylor’s reputation, student recruitment, grant funding, ability to have a seat at the table to address the world’s most pressing challenges and, significantly, to do so from a Christian perspective.
It was not easy to get to this point, and it is far from a finish line. Early attempts to grow Baylor as a research institution as far back as 2001 represented a new way for the University to see itself, and it would take continuous attention from Baylor faculty, students and administrators to stay on track. They got to work and put Baylor in position — by the time Illuminate was adopted in 2018 — to make R1 a realistic vision.
R1 is far more than an elite club or glossy résumé item. It positions Baylor to have a significant impact in our community, for our students, throughout higher education and around the world.
Baylor faculty explain what the University’s R1 status means to them:
“It Means Everything”
Larry Lyon, Vice Provost and Dean of the Graduate School
If you go back 20 years to when Baylor 2012 was adopted, the odds of us someday being R1 seemed astronomical. Baylor saw itself, quite appropriately, as a regional Baptist teaching university, and we were very good at that. But this radical new vision cast us as a national Christian research university. One could ask, back in 2001, why this radical change when we’re doing well now. That’s why the change was so difficult for Baylor.
Almost 200 years ago, in our charter, the founders talked about a university fully susceptible for enlargement and development to meet the needs of all ages to come. That’s a lot of hubris. Yet, today, that’s what we’re doing. To be here now, among a select group of universities doing the highest level of research, it means our founders were right. We’re producing a Baylor that is growing and responding to the needs of our world.
You can ask, “Does the world need another research university?” It doesn’t hurt, but one more research university isn’t necessarily a game changer. However, if you want to look at Christian research universities — and by Christian, I mean a university proudly proclaiming its faith and its commitment and selectively hiring for people who share our vision — it means everything. For Baylor to show that the highest levels of research can be integrated with — and driven by — unapologetic faith is rare. You can count those on one hand with fingers left over.
“The Definition of a Team Win”
Bryan Brooks, Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies and Biomedical Sciences
We wouldn’t be here right now if it hadn’t been for so many contributions from undergraduates, graduate students, faculty and administrators working together toward enhancing our profile and scholarly impact. In the 20 years I’ve been here, we’ve had consistent leaders who built programs from scratch, elevated us in doctoral research, invested in individual laboratories and more. So many moves were made over a long period of time that helped us stay focused on research growth and set the foundation for R1.
We’ve consistently hired good faculty and helped them become established researchers who are also committed teachers and mentors. That includes incorporating students into research activities, going beyond basic knowledge attainment and building experiential learning.
We’ve done all of this without deviating from our Christian mission and our core curriculum. The things that make Baylor unique: smaller student-to-faculty ratio, class sizes and the factors that allow professors to really connect with undergraduates — are all a part of who we are. With that, our students get to experience what big-league research looks like in practice.
It’s the definition of a team win.
“A Greater Impact in the Community”
Sara Dolan, Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience; Associate Dean for Research in the Graduate School, Faculty Regent
You can help so many people through research, and that’s one of the reasons I came to Baylor — to do research projects where you can really take your expertise and impact the community.
Our local community has always been excited to partner with Baylor, but now we have a lot more to offer. Local agencies, for instance, need research projects to do things like program evaluation and program development to help them provide the best resources to the people they serve. Having R1 status affords us more opportunities to gain funding to do these kinds of tasks. I’ve seen that grow with our infrastructure and focus over the years. We have more credibility to seek and win federal funding for research grants, and that’s going to provide more opportunities to have a greater impact in the community.
R1 designation will also open doors to partner with other institutions to do important work in mental health, coping and resilience with first responders, or veterans and military. These are a few examples in my area. Throughout Baylor, this will facilitate partnerships to answer big, important, meaningful questions together across multiple perspectives. Baylor is in a great position to help our neighbors, and it’s exciting to be a part.
“Incredibly Exciting for Students”
Danielle Parrish, Professor in the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work
This is a benefit to everyone associated with Baylor. I think about my time as a student: I was trained at an R1 university, and it was an amazing experience. It allowed me to work with nationally known faculty engaged in significant innovative research. That type of rigorous work fully prepared me to do the work I care about in an R1 environment. This is as important in social work as it is in STEM. We have the same infrastructure for cutting-edge research and the types of R1 resources that will help students learn to thrive in a high-level environment and contribute and collaborate in an interdisciplinary environment.
It’s incredibly exciting for students as it raises the school’s profile for them as future alumni. For doctoral students, they can say they came from an active research university, which is beneficial for the job market, and this helps them land jobs at other R1 universities, expanding the reach of students trained here.
It’s exciting to see the broad impact that Baylor is going to have as a Christian research university, and for our students and faculty to benefit from working in a place that is very rare — a university intentionally developing an amazing research infrastructure while maintaining a caring Christian community.
“Our Work Will Get More Notice”
Ronald Angelo Johnson, Ralph and Bessie Mae Lynn Chair of History
It was an incredibly proud moment when I heard Baylor had reached R1. This is a huge achievement that everyone had a role in.
Moving forward, I get really excited thinking about the way Baylor is going to be perceived by historians across the country. Other disciplines feel this, too, but I can speak specifically for mine. I can say, without question, R1 matters. When we walk into a room, we’re walking into a research symposium, for example, from an R1 university; there’s a certain level of “street cred” from our colleagues across the history field.
I’m sure scientists or mathematicians can quantify the benefits, but my response is more intangible. My colleagues have been producing world class scholarship long before R1, but there is a perception that comes from being a member of the club of top research universities nationally. There’s going to be a new emphasis that will be put on Baylor scholarship when we put it out there. A lot of the way we move is how we are perceived, and our work — faculty and students both — will gain more notice and more serious consideration because we are R1.
Now that we’re here, we’re not resting. President Livingstone has talked about this, and we’ve said in our department: This is a milestone, and we’re going to build on this to maintain and go further as a Christian research university.
“A Competitive Advantage”
Erica Bruce, Associate Professor of Environmental Science and Graduate Program Director
R1 is a significant boost to our reputation in higher education. In everyone’s industry, there are those that stand out, whether we’re talking about colleges and universities or hospitals or products.
If we’re talking about medicine, and you have a loved one who is diagnosed with cancer, you want to go where the best minds are doing the best work with the newest technology — places like the Mayo Clinic, St. Jude’s or MD Anderson. If we equate that to R1, you’re now putting Baylor in a category like that with other universities. We’re recognized with the names that everyone recognizes, like Harvard or MIT.
There are different analogies you can use, but the point remains: There are very well-known brands that are recognized as the best when you want quality, resources or the best and brightest coming together. That’s what R1 is for Baylor. R1 universities are the ones coming together to address the most complex issues in medicine, global health, the environment and anything that is critical to survival and flourishing — critical to mankind. That’s what this means to me, that we are bridging resources across disciplines to address intricate problems and make strides towards solutions at top-tier level.
“This Alone Communicates So Much”
Zhenrong Zhang, Associate Professor of Physics
When you have the type of support system that it takes to become R1, people across higher education and the grant world automatically accept certain things about you. For example, if I’m filling out a peer review or proposals for research grants, the last question asks you, basically, “Do you have enough resources to be able to accomplish this work?” We’ve always had to dig all of that information out to demonstrate that we have the support system to do what we propose.
Now that we’re R1, this alone communicates so much about us. It’s a leg up for any of us who apply for funding. We have the systems and infrastructure in place that got us to R1, and being R1 makes it easy to show anyone who asks that we have the facilities and the resources to do high-level work.
I’m excited, as well, because there are debates in the science community about whether faith and science go together. I would like to live to my full potential as a scientist, and I feel that’s why God led me here and wants me to work on the research that I do. To now be an R1 university, which demonstrates our strength in research while keeping our identity as a Christian university, it demonstrates that faith and science can coexist and that Baylor is serious in science and serious in our faith.
“Not a Finish Line”
Kevin Chambliss, Vice Provost for Research
Unlike any other time I’ve seen at Baylor, everybody has aligned behind this objective and is rowing the boat in the same direction. Even when there were differences of opinion on how to get there, we all had the same end goal in mind. Over the last three years, we’ve seen an upward change in the slope of our research growth, from something that was increasing incrementally over the years to a point of really taking off. Without alignment, that’s incredibly difficult to do. What we’re seeing now is that, with that commitment at the top and the alignment and buy-in we’ve enjoyed from across the University, we can do great things here.
Going back two years now, we have seen record numbers of research proposals for external funding from faculty. There has been a concerted effort to submit more proposals and to target larger proposals. That means more effort, more work by everyone involved, and they’ve been incredible. Our faculty are competing on a high-level playing field and have been very successful. That speaks to their dedication to their work and to our research vision.
Going forward, we’ll see that R1 is not a finish line but a key step in our aspiration to have a seat at the table as a Christian voice in some of the most important conversations across our nation and around the world. R1 designation is confirmation that we’re headed there. As we continue to work together, it’s exciting to think about what we’ll do in the years ahead.