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University of Montana achieves top-tier 'R1' research designation

Posted at 4:37 PM, Feb 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-13 18:37:18-05

MISSOULA — Last week the University of Montana announced they were upgraded to top-tier R1 research status.

The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education granted the university the status, marking the milestone.

UM is one of 146 schools in the nation awarded the designation.

“What it really is, is that identifies the most elite research universities in the entire country," said Dave Kuntz, UM spokesperson.

The qualifications to reach R1 status depend on a number of things. A couple being the number of doctorates conferred, research activity, and the number of support staff to generate research.

For University of Montana Assistant Professor of History Claire Arcenas, the R1 designation means not only more funds to support the research in the humanities department, but bringing that research into the community.

“Whatever that research is on whether or not it's in United States history or Native American studies, to a wider public and public across the state of Montana allows us to bring our research and really innovative ways into the classroom,” said Arcenas.

“We also take our research out into the community through our humanities efforts and fighting for racial justice and communicating about history," said Kuntz. "So really, students at the University of Montana have this unique responsibility to take part in this research. It's not something that's just left to faculty or researchers.”

The university has the R-1 designation title for 5 years, where they will then be reevaluated by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. But until then, the university prides itself on the number of students who get hands-on research work.

“So we're really an outlier in the fact that the faculty that are carrying out this discovery base cutting edge research or scholarship are the same ones teaching the classes and the students get to work in their labs. And that's an exceptional opportunity," said Richard Bridges, UM neuroscience department director.

“So right now on our campus, we have students who are developing the next vaccine in the fight against COVID, who are working to measure soil and snowpack moistures and trying to predict drought six, seven months ahead of time," said Kuntz. "We have researchers who are working with firefighters in extreme environments to understand how the body physiologically changes in harsh environments. We have researchers who are designing patents for hearing loss and different sort of infections when it comes to ears.”

And the R1 designation doesn’t just benefit the school by bringing in more money, students, and staff. It helps the City of Missoula grow.

“There's multiple businesses here in the Missoula area that started as research enterprises at the University of Montana, are now thriving private-sector success stories,” said Kuntz.