UL Lafayette earns top R1 research university designation
For decades, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette has been on a mission to add value to its academic programs.
This goal has taken different forms. In the 1980s, it was granted a certain designation by the Southern Regional Education Board based on the scope and number of graduate programs. Then it would scale and align programs with industry to help local businesses navigate the 1990s oil and gas meltdown.
More recently, the goal was to be classified as a Research Institution 1 (R1) by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, which the university achieved at the end of 2021.
“We have been looking to improve every day for decades now,” said UL Lafayette President Joseph Savoie.
This is just an extension of this ongoing quest.
“It validates a lot of hard work by a lot of people over a long period of time,” Savoie said. “It is of great value to the reputation of the university and its ability to attract high caliber students and faculty.”
The top-tier designation — earned by about 3% of public and private universities in the United States — makes UL more attractive not only to students and faculty, but also to agencies looking to fund research, said President.
“This designation is an indicator for faculty that quality work is being done there and that it is a priority,” Savoie said.
“Search for a Reason”
UL Lafayette researchers tackle everything from big data to carbon capture, from coastal erosion to solar testing.
“There’s good, solid work on campus,” Savoie said. “For any student, it’s a validation of the quality of education here. For those interested in research, it gives them the opportunity to work with world-class faculty.”
Opportunities for hands-on research experience enhance their learning, Savoie said.
“It’s an age-old education strategy,” he said.
And it can provide solutions to real-world problems, like the pivotal role UL’s research center in New Iberia played in developing Pfizer’s COVID vaccine or engineering students testing the resistance of steel in a “crash lab” to educate industry on how to make bridges safer.
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“We want to deepen our knowledge to solve real-world problems,” Savoie said. “That’s why our motto is ‘Search for a reason’.”
“We didn’t stay there”
The quest for the best does not stop at the R1 ranking. The mission, like university research, continues to evolve as it has over the past few decades.
“(When we got SREB 2 status) we thought we had landed on the moon,” Savoie said. “But we didn’t stay there.”
The president and others at the university are equally excited about this latest achievement and equally motivated to do more.
The university on Thursday opened the Louisiana Solar Energy Lab, a 4,500-square-foot building that will house solar testing equipment, a classroom, interactive learning apps, a seminar room with audio-visual equipment, a conference and visitor center. with visual displays and information kiosks.
“The College of Engineering has taken a holistic approach to energy education that encompasses conventional energy, renewable energy and environmental sustainability,” said Ahmed Khattab, Dean of the College of Engineering. “This approach is critical to meeting today’s energy demands and future consumption needs. The Louisiana Solar Energy Laboratory at UL Lafayette will be an indispensable part of this equation.”
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Coupled with the university’s 6-acre, 4,200-panel solar field — one of the largest outdoor solar testing facilities in the southeastern United States — the new lab will serve as a hub for solar research, the technological development, education, training, awareness and workforce development.
“Now the challenge is to keep improving,” Savoie said.