From the Dean

Lee Nordt

I hope that by now you have heard the good news — in December 2021, Baylor University was informed, unexpectedly, that we achieved R1 (Research 1) status by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. This means that in the Carnegie ranking evaluating the 280 research universities nationally, Baylor is now in the top half of this group as a doctoral university with “very high research activity.“ As a result, we are in great company with all of the institutions you are accustomed to hearing about nationally — from the Ivy League schools and Notre Dame to the research universities on the West Coast and all the great state universities in between.

I say that we were informed “unexpectedly” because, while we were optimistic about achieving R1 status during the next evaluation period (three years from now), we were not sure if it was possible now. On the other hand, Baylor has been on a steady upward research trajectory for the past 20 years, even though we never called that aspiration “R1” in the beginning. There has been a lot of hard work done by a lot of people to get us to this point, and in that sense, I guess our good news is not entirely unexpected.

“Our success has come not only from contributions of research from the sciences, but from the humanities and social sciences as well, which collectively contributed significantly to this achievement.”

To that end, I want to congratulate the faculty and staff of the College of Arts & Sciences, because it is on their shoulders that Baylor stands at this unique moment in its storied history. Our success has come not only from contributions of research from the sciences, but from the humanities and social sciences as well, which collectively contributed significantly to this achievement. The metrics used for R1 rankings are based primarily on research funding, technical staffing (weighted toward postdoctoral researchers) and doctoral student production, and every department in Arts & Sciences has contributed at some level. And, they did so while at the same time serving an ever-growing undergraduate student population. 

During the next Carnegie evaluation period three years from now, we will undoubtedly move even higher up in the R1 stratosphere among our national colleagues for three reasons: (1) Arts & Sciences will continue to produce more research expenditures and graduate more doctoral students as we hire more faculty in strategic areas; (2) University support for research will continue to grow at a rapid pace; and (3) other Baylor academic units will begin to contribute more to our overall R1 record. 

So, at the end of the day, why is there all of this fuss about achieving R1 status? This achievement alone elevates our standing among the upper echelons of institutions nationally. Further, if faculty research is funded by federal agencies and foundations, it’s because these researchers are tackling the grand challenges of our day, and Baylor should be part of those conversations to help find solutions to important problems. We want the national media contacting our faculty (even students) for interviews and quotes on critical issues that in some instances are tempered by our unique mission as a Christian institution. 

The doctoral graduates we produce fling their green and gold afar, as do our undergraduate students, but in ways that are often more immediately impactful as they join the workforce in academia, industry and public service. More than ever, we need scholars to mentor our undergraduate students as they seek entry into graduate programs or professions that require research experiences (when I was an undergraduate this would have never crossed our minds, but it has changed). And, bringing cutting-edge knowledge directly into the classroom is a benefit to our students — not only in terms of the knowledge itself, but because they will gain a better understanding how new knowledge is acquired, vetted, challenged and accepted or rejected.

Moving further up the R1 ranks in the coming years will only strengthen our standing in the academy nationally. Because that high academic standing is combined with our continued commitment to transformational education and our strong Christian mission, it makes Baylor truly unique.

So, please join me in thanking our incredible faculty and staff for this achievement, as they have helped catapult Baylor University into the upper echelons of higher education. Rest assured that we will continue to work very hard on Baylor’s behalf, and on your behalf as alumni, to use the resources we are given to advance the reputation of Baylor University.

Dr. Lee Nordt
Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences