University-Wide Alignment Key in Baylor’s R1 Recognition

January 31, 2022
Going back to the early 2000s, Baylor University has pursued research growth through the adoption of practices that enhanced faculty hiring, encouraged greater research focus and grew additional degree plans and courses of study. That growth gathered momentum in recent years with the 2018 adoption of Illuminate and a stated goal of pursuing R1 research status, all of which culminated in the attainment of R1 research recognition at the end of 2021.

While R1 attainment is measured in metrics set forth by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, the interplay of a number of campus factors led to Baylor reaching those metrics. Kevin Chambliss, Ph.D., Baylor University’s Vice Provost for Research, paints a picture of university-wide alignment when asked how Baylor achieved R1 so quickly after announcing its pursuit of R1 in 2019.

“Unlike any other time I’ve seen at Baylor, everybody is aligned behind this objective and is rowing the boat in the same direction,” Chambliss says. “Even when there’s been 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. And without alignment, that’s incredibly difficult to do.”

Baylor University President Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D., prioritized Baylor becoming a preeminent Christian research university in her 2017 Inaugural Address. In the past, the University’s adoption of visions and plans like Baylor 2012 and Pro Futuris helped grow the research enterprise, but that growth increased exponentially from that moment and with the adoption of Illuminate. Chambliss, who assumed the role of Vice Provost for Research in 2019 after many years on the Chemistry and Biochemistry faculty, said buy-in from colleagues and leaders across campus made this possible.


Over the last year, Baylor faculty members have foreshadowed R1 attainment through record-setting research that advances understanding in cancer research, public health, human flourishing, data science, advanced materials and much more. Months before R1 recognition, Provost Nancy Brickhouse, Ph.D., said Baylor faculty “knocked it out of the park” when it came to demonstrating research excellence amidst the headwinds of COVID-19, and the progress never wavered in the months since.

“Going back two years now, we have seen record numbers of research proposals for external funding from faculty. And that’s not simply a product of new people coming in, even as we’ve added great new faculty hires,” Chambliss says. “There has been a concerted effort to submit more proposals, to target larger proposals. That means more effort, more work by everyone involved. Our faculty are competing on a high-level playing field and have been very successful, and that speaks to their dedication to their work and to our research vision.”

Over the last few years, among a variety of superlatives, Baylor faculty have helped drive:

    Increased research doctorates from 110 in 2016-2017 to 167 in 2020-2021, mentoring increasing numbers of new Ph.D. students, and graduate students as well

    Increased awarded research dollars from around $11 million in 2017 to more than $49 million so far in fiscal year 2022

    Support for new postdocs and research staff, growing from 47 in fall 2016 to 68 in fall 2020. The University’s goal is to reach 100 research staff by fall 2022.

    A record number of NSF CAREER Awards in a single year

    The largest single funded research project in Baylor history

The pacesetting achievements of Baylor faculty, both those here now and more than 100 planned future hires, are poised to continue and and to grow as we move forward.


To ensure the University keeps pace with exponential growth, Baylor has invested in strategic expansion and enhanced resources within the Office of the Vice Provost for Research (OVPR). Chambliss’s office works with faculty members from all academic units in their research and scholarship, providing support, guidance and administration of research projects. Services offered include the identification of funding opportunities, grant writing support, pre- and post-award financial support, compliance, and more. OVPR has added new positions, enhanced divisions and services, and prioritized communications with faculty as they navigate the changes necessary to sustain an R1 research enterprise.

Additionally, Baylor OVPR adopted new procedures to better facilitate a growing research enterprise, including new proposal submission deadlines to meet the growing demand for pre-award services. University Research Administrators (URA) support faculty throughout the submission process, providing services that help faculty navigate deadlines, budget and compliance issues, administrative burdens and more to facilitate the highest level of award submissions.

“It takes a great research infrastructure to support research at the level we desire,” Chambliss says. “Without it, the grant game can be time-consuming and labor-intensive, even beyond the intellect that goes into the project. It takes a lot to manage and administer the grant. Much of our role is behind the scenes, and we have built a great team who, much like our faculty, bring increasing levels of experience and aptitude to doing this. So, this is really a collective effort from our faculty and our administrative support team to do this successfully.”


When Baylor attained R1 recognition in December, President Livingstone said in an email to campus:

“Our R1 aspirations have represented an incredible opportunity – one given to us by God – to do what very few, if any, universities have achieved: maintaining our foundational Christian mission while reaching R1 status as a top-tier research university. Through the dedicated work of our faculty and staff and our academic and research leadership, we have made remarkable progress since 2018 on our Illuminate strategic plan, which provided the framework to build on Baylor’s historic strengths and strategically invest in new areas of research and service.”

Chambliss further credits the consistency of messaging and the demonstration of Baylor administration’s commitment to that vision—through actions taken, both big and small—to guide Baylor to this point.

“There has been a doubling down in the last three years, not only from the top, but definitely from the top, in demonstrating that this is our priority,” Chambliss says. “We’ve seen a concerted effort across the University and consistent messaging from President Livingstone and Dr. Brickhouse that others have adopted. 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 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 conversation across our nation and around the world. R1 designation is confirmation that we’re headed there, and as we continue to work together, it’s exciting to think about what we’ll do in the years ahead.”
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