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University of Minnesota Board of Regents considers measures to advance research enterprise, and hears report highlighting best graduation rates in U's history

December 14, 2012

Following a six-year portfolio growth rate that was 14 percent better than the national average, the University of Minnesota ranked eighth among all public research institutions by topping $847 million in research and development expenditures for FY11. U of M faculty competed successfully for grants worth $749.1 million in FY12.

The U of M’s Board of Regents today reviewed these results, which highlight sustained success of the university’s research enterprise and nationally lauded tech transfer operation, before advancing policies aimed at fostering continued growth. Vice President for Research Tim Mulcahy, who will retire Dec. 31, reported on the successful evolution of the university’s research enterprise since FY05. Among other highlights were:

  • The U’s R&D is highest ever and a national leader: FY11 research expenditures of $847 million were up 8 percent from the previous high-water mark of $786 million in FY10. (R&D expenditure data and rankings are compiled by the National Science Foundation and released with a year’s delay.)
  • R&D surge ahead of national growth: University research expenditures increased 59 percent from FY05 to FY11, the fourth-best among public research universities and sixth overall. The national average of portfolio growth among top 20 universities during this time was 45 percent.
  • Have research, will reward: University faculty and staff competed successfully for $749.1 million in FY12 sponsored research awards. This is despite the as-expected drop in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds. If ARRA funds are excluded from the totals, university research awards rose by 7.4% from FY11 to FY12.
  • OTC continues robust production: The Office for Technology Commercialization continued to move university research into the marketplace by launching a record 12 startup companies in FY12. The university has launched 38 startups since 2006 and has become a nationally recognized leader in tech transfer innovations.

“The continued success of our research enterprise positions the University of Minnesota as one of the state’s most important economic and intellectual engines,” said U of M President Eric Kaler. “Our MnDRIVE proposal to the 2013 legislature commits resources to enhance existing research in areas where the university is poised to become a global leader. We are focused on expanding partnerships where the university’s strengths and Minnesota industry opportunities come together.”

MnDRIVE aims to increase research to secure the global food supply, advance discoveries and treatments for brain conditions, develop robotics, sensors and advanced manufacturing and solve environmental challenges.

To further business relationships and tech commercialization, regents approved a revised faculty entrepreneurial leave policy. Under the new guidelines, which were approved recently by the university’s Faculty Senate, faculty may temporarily leave their university position to participate in startup companies, or otherwise engage with for or non-profit organizations. The leave can last up to one year without salary, but with a taxable lump sum used to help offset benefit costs.

Regents also addressed the following research-related items:

Graduation and retention rates reach all-time high

U students at the Twin Cities campus are graduating at rates higher than ever before, according to Robert McMaster, vice provost and dean of undergraduate education. Only 15.2 percent of students who entered the Twin Cities campus as freshmen in 1992 graduated within four years compared to 58.1 percent of students who entered in 2008. The rate at which the U retained first-year students into a second year on campus — one indicator of the likelihood that students will persist and succeed at graduating from the U – also reached an all-time high of 91 percent in 2011, compared to 78.6 percent in 1992.

“We are pleased to see four-year graduation and first-year retention rates reach all-time highs because it shows that our commitment to access, and our efforts to improve the student experience are working,” McMaster said. “Investments in programs such as the Center for Academic Planning and Exploration and the President’s Emerging Scholars program give our students tools to succeed in earning their degrees in a timely manner, and to move on to make a difference to their community and state sooner than they might have otherwise. The university has also significantly enhanced its Office for First-Year Programs in recent years.”

McMaster outlined the plan to expand the President’s Emerging Scholars program, a four-year program that provides undergraduate students professional advising, peer mentoring and engagement opportunities. The program will be expanded from three to all seven freshman-admitting colleges on the Twin Cities campus during the next two years. 

Other board news included:

  • Recognitions of leaders — The board thanked Senior Vice President for Academic Administration, University of Minnesota System, Robert Jones, who will assume the presidency of the University at Albany on Jan. 2. The board also thanked Mulcahy, who will retire Dec. 31, and University of Minnesota Foundation President and Chief Executive Officer L. Steven Goldstein, who will retire at the end of January.
  • Equity and Diversity — The board confirmed the appointment of Dr. Katrice Albert as the university’s next vice president of equity and diversity beginning June 28.
  • Capital budget request — The board approved the capital budget request for the 2013 legislative session, which is built around the U’s previously expressed priorities and will be submitted in response to a request from Gov. Mark Dayton. The $196.5 million request ($172.7 million from the state and $23.8 million from the U) includes $125 million in Higher Education Asset Prevention & Replacement (HEAPR) funds, as well as renovation of Eddy Hall in Minneapolis and other projects to benefit the Twin Cities and Crookston campuses and the overall university system.
  • Amundson Hall, Gore Annex addition — The Facilities Committee and full board approved schematic plans for the 40,000 square foot expansion on the Twin Cities campus, which is expected to begin construction in early 2013.
  • Faculty and staff compensation — The Faculty, Staff & Student Affairs Committee reviewed the compensation philosophy outlined in the board’s Employee Compensation and Recognition policy, current steps underway to achieve the objectives set forth in this policy for all university employees and trends related to faculty and staff compensation.

Twin Cities Campus: