Academic journal article Journal of Research Administration

Growing an Emerging Research University

Academic journal article Journal of Research Administration

Growing an Emerging Research University

Article excerpt


When the first author was at New Mexico State University (NMSU), the president often stated that three types of universities would exist in the future: 1) those that have the resources to do everything and be great at everything, 2) those that are leaders in selected areas of teaching and research (often leveraging regional resources), and 3) those that focus solely on teaching. Given the need for economic development and revitalization and increasing global competitiveness, the authors believe that, contrary to prevailing thinking, many more universities and colleges across the country can, and should be of the second type; such universities should pursue increased involvement in research and development with their local communities. Through such outreach, they will become engines of economic opportunity and innovation in a way that enlivens the educational process and builds entrepreneurial leaders. Employers expect that graduates, no matter what their discipline, will have the experience and skill sets to function on the cutting edge of technology. This, then, is a set of papers that explores some of the most efficient and rewarding processes to achieve the goal of becoming a partnered research university or college. The authors will explore challenge- or theme-based interdisciplinary research cluster development, strategic hiring, open laboratories, and technology transfer--issues that are of most value to emerging research universities that want to become great research and educational partners; furthermore, the authors describe methods of implementing this change efficiently and in a timely manner.

The cluster-based approaches detailed in this paper are for those who have the desire to focus on developing points of excellence that raise the stature of their campuses and increase the capabilities of the surrounding community. Although this strategy can and should be highly inclusive, it involves a decision to emphasize some areas and not others. This approach is based on the experience that investing where the greatest synergistic strength exists within the surrounding community will best increase the support, funding, stature, and economic competitiveness of all partners. University leadership (i.e., board and president) must share the vision and show the determination and support necessary to pursue this strategy, culminating in the targeted dedication of resources. The potential results are remarkable if leadership is willing to take the risk. The authors of this article contend that emerging research universities are vital to developing partnerships with industry that not only enhance the discovery process, but also help to translate those discoveries quickly and efficiently (with real job creation) into creating and making things again (Grove, 2010).


Rationale for Research Clusters and Becoming an Emerging Research University

A research cluster is a flexible and inclusive, team-based, multidisciplinary research structure that encompasses faculty, centers and departments, as well as outside partners in the community (including other universities) and is defined by a common theme or broad focus area inspired by a major 21st century challenge. These groups span across multiple academic departments and colleges within a university in a way that builds strategic areas of excellence around core competencies in research. In 2007, the National Academies released Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future, a report that describes a "disturbing mosaic" of negative indicators spanning the nation's education, research, and economic sectors that, together, demonstrate the United States' lack of preparedness to compete effectively in the emerging global marketplace (p. 25). The U.S. has enjoyed a position of global economic leadership since World War II, but as Vest (2009), president of the National Academy of Engineering, noted, "[t]he time really has come to slay the dragon of complacency. …

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