The University of Louisiana at Lafayette set a record with $144 million in research and development expenditures last year.
Dr. Joseph Savoie, UL Lafayette president, announced the milestone during his State of the University address. The annual presentation to faculty and staff members marks the start of the fall semester and the new academic year. Classes at UL Lafayette began Monday.
The address typically draws nearly a thousand members of the University community to the Angelle Hall auditorium on campus but was presented virtually this year as a result of state restrictions on large indoor gatherings.
Last year was the third in row that UL Lafayette expended more than $100 million on R&D, according to the Higher Education Research and Development Survey. The HERD Survey is the National Science Foundation’s annual index of research spending at U.S. colleges and universities.
UL Lafayette competes against other universities for federal and state government grants, and private sector contracts. The University acts as a steward for the funds awarded to faculty and staff researchers.
Savoie called the $144 million total “astonishing.”
“As a public university, in good times and in trying moments, the work we do should benefit the public,” he said before describing projects UL Lafayette researchers launched this spring in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The research being done here does not stay here,” Savoie continued. “It is consequential and valuable to our society.”
In 2013, the University set a goal of $100 million in R&D expenditures by 2020. It reached the threshold in 2017. The following year, it spent $124.7 million.
That 2018 figure placed UL Lafayette among the top 23 percent of the 647 research universities the HERD survey included.
The University’s ranking for 2019, based on the $144 million figure, has not yet been released by the NSF.
During the presentation, Savoie also reaffirmed UL Lafayette’s commitment to building a more diverse campus community and meeting the goals established in the Strategic Plan for Inclusive Excellence.
The plan is a framework for enhancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in course offerings, hiring, student services and recruitment, and community outreach. “It is our obligation as a University to help build a society where the intolerance experienced by one generation is not the inheritance of the next,” Savoie said.
He noted that the University’s increased efforts in the past decade to recruit and retain women and students of color are paying off.
The University awarded a record 3,610 degrees in the 2019-2020 academic year. Among the recipients were an historic number of women, Black, Hispanic and Asian graduates. The Spring 2020 graduating class was the largest and most diverse in University history.
“Our diversity strengthens our University,” Savoie said.
Savoie lauded faculty and staff members for their response to COVID-19 when it forced the University to switch to remote course delivery and operational functions this past spring.
“This pandemic has changed many things. But it has not derailed our determination to fulfill the promises we’ve made to our students, to our community and to the future itself. It has not disrupted our success, and that’s because of all of you,” Savoie said.
In a presentation following Savoie’s, Dr. Jaimie Hebert, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, reiterated the president’s sentiments.
Hebert noted that faculty members moved more than 2,100 in-person courses to remote delivery in five days midway through the spring semester.
“What may get overshadowed by the enormity of that number and the speed in which this Herculean task was completed is that most faculty had never taught remotely before,” he said.
Most then took advantage of training opportunities or became certified to teach online “so they could deliver the best possible instruction to their students.”
“That’s both laudable and inspiring, and it’s that kind of agility and dedication on the part of our faculty that fills me with confidence for the semester ahead,” Hebert said.
Hebert co-chaired the Ragin’ Cajun Resiliency Plan Task Force. The panel of administrators, students, faculty and staff members established guidelines for the safe resumption of on-campus courses, residential life and activities “in a way that prioritizes the health, safety and success of every member of our University family.”
The task force issued its “Roadmap to Resiliency” plan in June. It “outlines a journey we’re taking together as a University community, and if we continue to work together, as we’ve done throughout this pandemic, we will reach our destination. I’m sure of it,” Hebert said.