Mar 24, 2010 5:03 PM by Melissa Canone
The University of Louisiana at Lafayette is one of the top 100 public research universities in the nation, a new report by The Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government shows.
The institute conducts analyses of how state and local governments implement major policy directions. It is the public policy research arm of the State University of New York.
"A New Paradigm for Economic Development," released Wednesday by the Rockefeller Institute, describes the growing role that colleges and universities play in economic development and community revitalization. "In states across America, higher education systems, universities and community colleges are working to help their regions and states advance in the new knowledge economy. They are marshalling each of their core responsibilities - education, innovation, knowledge transfer, and community engagement - in ways designed to spur economic development," wrote David F. Shaffer and David J. Wright, authors of the report.
Their study ranks public research universities. It also ranks statewide public systems.
UL Lafayette ranks third in Louisiana and 99th in the country. Louisiana State University Health Science Center (New Orleans and Shreveport) is 95th in the nation.
LSU, including the main campus, Pennington Biomedical Research Center and LSU AgCenter, is first in Louisiana and 45th in the nation.
According to the report, in 2006 UL Lafayette attracted $47.3 million in research funding, while LSU Health Science Center (New Orleans and Shreveport) received $79.9 million and the LSU campus obtained $246 million.
Only UL Lafayette, LSU in Baton Rouge and LSU Health Science Center are cited in the Rockefeller Institute study as top public research universities in Louisiana.
The total research dollars of all three institutions - $373.3 million - earned Louisiana a ranking of 27th in the country.
An analysis of National Science Foundation research and development expenditures by public universities in Louisiana in 2008 also ranks UL Lafayette as the third highest, with a total of $58.6 million. LSU Baton Rouge is first, with $136 million in total expenditures. LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans is second with $59.5 million. Pennington Biomedical Research Center is fourth, with $40.5 million.
The University of New Orleans is ranked sixth, with $24.8 million in total expenditures, while Louisiana Tech is seventh, with $19.4 million.
The Carnegie Foundation has designated UL Lafayette as a "Research University - High Research Activity. Other institutions in that category include Baylor, Clemson and Auburn.
Dr. Joseph Savoie, president of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, noted that UL Lafayette has a long history of using research as an economic development tool.
Its University Research Park, for instance, was established after Louisiana's oil-dependent economy faltered in the mid-1980s. Today, University Research Park has more than 575 employees and an annual payroll of more than $36 million.
One of its tenants, the Louisiana Immersive Technologies Enterprise, was created specifically as an economic development tool through a partnership formed by the university, State of Louisiana and the Lafayette Economic Development Authority.
Dr. Steve Landry, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs at UL Lafayette, said the university's commitment to research is evident in the caliber of faculty it hires and its reputation for including students in research projects. "Our goal is always to hire faculty members who excel at research and
teaching. We want our students to benefit directly from the research our faculty is conducting," he said.
Landry noted that UL Lafayette is also dedicated to using research to help solve real-world problems. He cited the BeauSoleil Louisiana Solar Home as an example. Last year, UL Lafayette was one of only 20 universities in the world chosen to compete in the U.S. Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon in Washington, D.C.
The BeauSoleil Louisiana Solar Home, designed and built by UL Lafayette architecture, engineering and business administration students and advisors, earned the People's Choice Award and the first place Market Viability Award at the Solar Decathlon. Its design incorporates elements that were common in homes built by Acadians who settled in south Louisiana more than 250 years ago after they were expelled from Nova Scotia. The BeauSoleil Home was also built to withstand hurricane force winds.
The Rockefeller Institute report notes that many states rely on a "traditional mix of business attraction and retention incentives" to promote economic development. "Perhaps there is now an opportunity to flip the old model around - adopting a new 'knowledge first' paradigm in which higher education systems explicitly take a leading role," it states.
According to the report, universities that are spurring economic development have some common traits. They include:
• advancing innovation;
• pursuing "strategies to help employers prosper and grow";
• vigorously participating in community revitalization; and
• continuing to create an educated population.