The Community Impact of R1

March 30, 2022
Sara Dolan, PhD, a nationally-recognized Baylor professor, researcher and psychologist, has established herself as an expert in communities, trauma and resilience since joining the Baylor faculty in 2007.

As a professor of psychology and associate dean for research in the Graduate School at Baylor, Dolan has invested her expertise outside the classroom and throughout the community, assisting with the West fertilizer plant explosion in 2015, serving on the Waco-McLennan County Medical Reserve Corps, aiding in the rehabilitation of veterans with the Waco Veterans Affairs (VA) Center and working with the Texas Psychological Association’s Disaster Response Network, responding to wildfires, tornadoes and mass shootings. In 2018, she was recognized as a Citizen Psychologist by the American Psychological Association.

Dolan’s passion for service-minded research and scholarship has opened doors for first-hand observation of the ways communities can react and evolve when faced with monumental forces of change.

New Pathways for Community Partnerships

She sees Baylor’s recent achievement of R1 status as an opportunity to harness the opportunity that this designation will offer to assist emergency personnel, communities in need and veterans at an increased level.

“Being an R1 institution means that we have access to even more research opportunities,” Dolan said. “We’ve now got credibility to seek and to win more federal funding for research grants. Now that we’re doing more research and are recognized for that, it’s easier for federal funding agencies to give us that investment.”

When Baylor was recognized as an R1 research institution by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education last December, it represented the attainment of a long-pursued goal: to join the nation’s elite research institutions in the top tier of recognition. The heart behind that goal was far more than mere status. Baylor leaders and faculty have long desired to infuse the quest for solutions to the world’s greatest challenges with Christian voices at the table.

“As a Christian university, there are not many among the R1 universities that are not only doing the highest level of research in the country, but also maintaining the integrity of their Christian mission and really thinking about how our faith community, our faith perspective informs the research we're doing and informs how we solve problems,” President Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D., said in December after Baylor joined the R1 ranks.

Dolan’s heart for service runs deeply throughout the local community and achieving R1 status will only allow that care to expand.

“Our local community has always been excited to partner with Baylor, but we now have a lot more to offer local agencies,” Dolan said. “There is often need for research partners to do things like program evaluation and program development, and having R1 status affords us more opportunities to gain funding to do those kinds of tasks for local community partners.”

A Variety of Perspectives

While the R1 designation has tremendous effect on the University’s standing nationally, the local community will benefit from this increased standing.

“R1 has cachet,” Dolan said. “I think that will help our community partners to get their own funding as well when they’re able to say that they’re associated with Baylor.”

“Cross-disciplinary research, interdisciplinary research – that’s the research of the future,” Dolan said. “That allows people to answer the big, important, meaningful questions. The ability to address those questions from multiple perspectives and research methods and backgrounds really allows Baylor to have a seat at the table in major international problems.”

Just like tenure or championship-caliber athletics programs, the pursuit of excellence and preeminence does not have a finish line. It is a never-ending process of building on successes and developing a culture of faculty, staff and students who collectively pursue educational excellence in teaching and scholarship.

“I think as people are having success and seeing that other people in their orbit at Baylor are having success, it’s easier to reach for that success yourself,” Dolan said. “There’s clearly more infrastructural support, but there’s also social support and academic inquiry support to do even more and to reach even higher places in answering these big, important questions. Success breeds success and the more of us that have this kind of success, the easier it is for the rest of us to see it’s possible.”
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