UL Lafayette Achieves Elite Tier of Carnegie Classification for Research

The University of Louisiana at Lafayette is now ranked at the highest level of research institutions in the United States, according to a news release from the university. According to the latest update from the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, UL Lafayette achieved Carnegie’s elite R1 designation, placing the school among the highest tier of public and private research institutions, something that only 3% of the United States’s colleges and universities have achieved.

Achieving the status of being a recognized R-1 institution indicates that a higher learning institution has met high standards in research spending, staff levels, and the number of doctorates awarded annually. Being classified as a Research-1 or R-1 institution not only elevated UL Lafayette and its profile, allowing the school to draw more prestigious and learned faculty, but it also is likely to attract more research dollars and private support.

Having an R1 status is synonymous with achieving remarkable levels of academic excellence, substantial research, transformative innovation, and lasting global impact. Other R-1 institutions in the country are Duke, Emory, Carnegie-Mellon, Georgia Institute of Technology, Harvard, and Rice. In addition to UL Lafayette, Louisiana’s only other R-1 institutions are Louisiana State University and Tulane University.

UL Lafayette President Dr. Joseph Savoie said of the milestone, “the University of Louisiana at Lafayette is excited to have achieved R-1 status and to take our place among the top tier of the nation’s research universities. The designation by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Learning is a recognition of the strength of our research program. It is a tribute to the faculty, staff and student researchers whose work has pushed the bounds of scholarship and innovation and drawn significant national and international attention to the University and to the region it is proud to serve.”

Carnegie classifications for Doctoral Universities are given to institutions that award at least 20 research/scholarship doctoral degrees during a year and institutions with fewer than 20 research/scholarship doctoral degrees awarded at least 30 professional practice doctoral degrees in at least 2 programs. Both of these categories of institutions must also have had at least $5 million in total research expenditures according to the National Science Foundation Higher Research & Development Survey. The three levels of Carnegie’s designations for such higher learning institutions are:

  • R1: Doctoral Universities- Very high research activity
  • R2: Doctoral Universities- High research activity
  • D/PU: Doctoral/Professional Universities.

At the tail end of 2021, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that UL Lafayette was among nine other universities that were promoted to Carnegie’s highest classification of “Doctoral/Very High Research” institutions.  The other universities elevated were:

University of Louisiana System President and CEO Jim Henderson said, “this tremendous accomplishment is the realization of a purposeful research vision centered on improving life in Louisiana and around the globe. I want to congratulate President Savoie, Vice President (Ramesh) Kolluru, and the faculty of UL Lafayette for achieving this designation, an achievement of nearly unrivaled importance for our state and her people.”

Since 1970, the Carnegie Classification has stood as the leading framework for “describing institutional diversity in U.S. higher education for the past four and a half decades,” as per the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. For four and a half decades, this classification has served as a benchmark of excellence when it comes to institutions of higher learning, and for UL Lafayette to not only join the R1 Doctoral University ranks of LSU and Tulane but also ivy league schools, it’s a momentous achievement that only makes the post-secondary educational experience in Louisiana that much stronger.

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University of Louisiana at Lafayette Announces $500 Million Fundraising Campaign

Oftentimes the spirit of giving accompanies the end of the year, and at UL Lafayette, that spirit is abundant. According to this news release from the university, a $500 million comprehensive fundraising campaign was announced by the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, making it the largest single fundraising initiative in the school’s long history.

The initiative, which was formally started on November 5th is titled Together: The Campaign for the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and according to UL Lafayette President Dr. Joseph Savoie, the half-billion-dollar goal is not only about focusing on the school and its students, but the surrounding community, state, and world they find themselves in.

In his rousing speech announcing the historic milestone fundraising goal, Dr. Savoie stated that in reaching the $500 million goal, ULL will also “enhance the role the University plays in strengthening our community, deepening our wider understanding, and opening the door to a world-class education for those who come here to pursue their aspirations. This campaign is our moment to look upward and see that the only obstacle we face – the only limit we have – is our own capacity to dream. Together, we can – and will – shape the future.”

Four days following its announcement, the fundraising campaign was over halfway towards meeting its target, according to UL Lafayette vice president for University Advancement and CEO of the UL Foundation, John Blohm. Reportedly, alumni and friends of the university had already provided $303 million in pledges and gifts during its initial phase, which began in 2016.

As of today, the campaign has enabled the University to create many opportunities for faculty and students. This is seen in the four endowed chairs, 34 endowed professorships, and 122 endowed student scholarship funds that have been created thanks to the campaign.

In their donation, ULL alumni and friends have chosen to support various construction projects and renovations of teaching and learning spaces found inside several academic colleges over the years. Included in these projects made possible by the generosity of alumni and friends are the Maraist Financial Services Lab, which is located inside of theB.I. Moody III College of Business Administration, the Northwestern Mutual Sales and Research Lab, and the Grant Gibson Interdisciplinary Research Laboratory in the Ray P. Authement College of Sciences.

Additionally, several labs such as the Franks CAD Student Education Laboratory, Nick Pugh Aerospace Electronics Research Lab, and the Solar Energy Program of Excellence were created in a similar manner, and all three of the aforementioned labs are located inside ULL’s College of Engineering. Not to mention, the fundraising campaign has also helped to renovate the Roy House, which turned it into the new home for the Center for Louisiana Studies and the creation of the Kathleen Babineaux Blanco Public Policy Center.

Included in the $303 million that has already been raised in the campaign are the two single largest gift committees in university history. These are the $20 million from LHC Group that was for the College of Nursing and Allied Health Professions and the $15 million from Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center for the renovation of Cajun Field. Both of these pledges were received by ULL in 2021.

According to UL Lafayette’s provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, Dr. Jaime Hebert, of the approximately 25,000 individuals who have made an effort to give to the campaign to date, 62% were identified as being ULL alumni, 30% friends, and 8% organizations.

Dr. Hebert reelected on the funds raised so far in the campaign by remarking, “this campaign has provided more opportunities for student success, world-class facilities for our student-athletes, a deeper connection to this community and its culture, and a stronger, better prepared and more agile workforce. None of this would have been possible without donors and friends working with the University to empower our students and change their destinies.”

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UL Lafayette Among the Nation’s “Best Colleges & Universities”

Many of Louisiana’s colleges and universities received some national recognition recently as the U.S. News & World Report’s 2022 edition of “Best Colleges” was released and awarded numerous top rankings to the state’s institutions of higher learning. UL Lafayette was listed amongst the top 391 colleges and universities in the nation, making its student body, faculty, and staff quite proud– according to a press release from the school.

In total, 1,466 four-year colleges and universities were assessed by U.S. News & World Report, where they considered the academic reputation of an institution, retention and graduation rates, social mobility, facility resources, student and faculty ratio, ACT and SAT scores of admitted students, and alumni giving. This particular ranking is of “national universities,” which is defined as being a post-secondary learning institution that emphasizes research and offers bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees.

In addition to this, the U.S. News & World Report’s Best National Universities are founded on the basis of considering the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. With that being said, in addition to UL Lafayette, the Louisiana colleges and universities below made the following placements on the list for Best National Universities:

#42                  Tulane University | New Orleans, LA

# 172               Louisiana State University–Baton Rouge | Baton Rouge, LA

#202                Loyola University New Orleans | New Orleans, LA

# 277               Louisiana Tech University | Ruston, LA

# 299-#391     University of Louisiana at Lafayette | Lafayette, LA

# 299-#391     University of Louisiana–Monroe | Monroe, LA

# 299-#391     University of New Orleans | New Orleans, LA

When news of UL Lafayette’s placement was made public, many of the university’s various programs received additional acclaim such as the school’s undergraduate business program, undergraduate nursing program, undergraduate computer science program, and their undergraduate engineering programs at schools that grant doctoral degrees.

When UL Lafayette’s vice president for enrollment management, Dr. DeWayne Bowie, was interviewed about the school’s placement, he commented, “the rankings underscore the University’s success in many areas, including its quality, academically challenging degree programs, dedicated faculty members who deliver those programs, and ongoing commitment to providing a campus and learning environment that attracts high-caliber students.”

In addition to the annual guidebook, US News also recently released their list for the “Best Value School,” which ranks universities on the quality of the program vs the cost of attendance, and they’ve also ranked the nation’s Liberal Arts Colleges.  These rankings are paired with several other resources from the news publication such as articles on how to “make college cheaper,” “how to apply to college,” and many other much-sought-after articles and guides. These resources and lists are ultimately put together in the 2022 edition of the U.S. News Best Colleges Guidebook, an invaluable guide to all things postsecondary from prospective students and families.

Outside of Louisiana’s most notable National Colleges, the state’s “best colleges,” as indicated by U.S. News & World Report are:

The publication made a distinction of the state’s mixture of research universities, mid-sized colleges, and small liberal arts colleges not only being located in various areas state-wide but also within its larger cities. For instance, New Orleans was heralded for being a centerpiece hub of higher education institutions with the city having ten colleges and universities on the list within the Crescent City’s limits.

There’s never quite been a time like the present to be benefiting from an education from the great state of Louisiana, and it’s encouraging to see that sentiment be shared on the national stage.

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UL Lafayette Reveals its Role in the COVID-19 Vaccine Development

The University of Louisiana at Lafayette has had a hand in the development, effectiveness, and success of the world’s first fully tested COVID-19 immunization approved for emergency use, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, according to a press release from the school.

The effectiveness of the vaccine was determined through nonhuman trials that involved primates at UL Lafayette’s New Iberia Research Center. Jane Fontenot, NIRC’s director of Contract Research commented on the opportunity saying, “We are so privileged to have been on the front lines of the fight against the pandemic. It’s very rewarding.”

Studies have shown that the vaccine is 95 percent effective at preventing COVID-19 after the administration of two doses. The United Kingdom was the first nation to issue an emergency authorization for the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in December, with the United States, the European Union, and other countries following suit soon after.

Up until now, UL Lafayette has been unable to discuss their historic role in the vaccine’s development due to confidentiality agreements with Pfzier. A publication in the peer-reviewed journal Nature is the first public confirmation of the University’s participation in this astounding effort. Fontenot co-authored the publication announcing the involvement.

Rhesus Macaques at NIRC were immunized as early as last spring as part of nonhuman primate clinical trials of the vaccine. The process involved staff administering vaccines, collecting samples, and observing the animals “for any signs of problems,” Fontenot noted. “That included evidence of pain, elevated temperatures, loss of appetite – any symptoms that may have raised concern about tolerability.”

Afterwards, the NIRC staff helped to facilitate the transfer of the vaccinated animals to the Southwest National Primate Center, which is affiliated with the Texas Biomedical Research Institute. The San Antonio-located center includes abiosafety level 3 facility, meaning that it can securely handle love, airborne infectious august such as COVID-19. The New Iberia Research Center is a biosafety level 2 facility, though UL Lafayette is seeking funding to raise it up to level 3 status.

A month after first receiving the vaccinations at NIRA, the rhesus macaques underwent the challenge phase of the trial which involved them being exposed to COVID-19, and results showed that the vaccine offered protection from the virus. Then, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was authorized by the federal Food and Drug Administration for emergency use in mid-December 2020, about one year after COVID-19 first emerged in the world.

The rapid pace with which the vaccine was developed had depended on pre-existing relationships that the biopharmaceutical giant had with research facilities such as NIRC. This was said by Dr. Ramesh Kolluru, UL Lafayette’s vice-president for Research, Innovation, and Economic development. 

Dr. Kolluru reportedly said, ““We were instrumental in Pfizer being able to work as quickly as they did.” He went on to cite both the vaccine’s development and the role that the University played as an “example of the power of public-private partnerships. NIRC’s long history of collaborations with biomedical research companies and others provided a baseline of expertise on which the center could rely on its role in the vaccine’s development. The relationships we’ve nurtured over the decades enabled us to be a part of this historic answer to a global challenge.”

UL Lafayette’s president, Dr. Joseph Savoie said that both the University and its researchers “were prepared to meet this moment. Few areas of life have escaped the pandemic’s effects, so to contribute to something that brings hope to the world is truly extraordinary.”

The New Iberia Research Center is the nation’s largest academically-affiliated, nonhuman primate research center, and it’s home to over 8,500 nonhuman primates.

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UL Lafayette Business Majors to Lead NASCAR Driver’s U.S. Sales Team

Soon, professional driver Michel Disdier will be adding students from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette to his NASCAR racing team, according to a press release from the school.

Disdier will be adding the brainpower of select members from the B.I. Moody III College of Business Administration’s sales program to his team to lead his 2021 efforts in U.S. sales, marketing, and corporate sponsorship management.

Professional driver Michel Disdier, who is originally from France, has established himself as a top, formidable competitor on several NASCAR racing circuits. This includes notable racing events such as the Camping World Truck Series and the NASCAR Pinty’s Series’ Canadian Tire Series. Disdier will be starting his 2021 season on February 12 when he races in NASCAR’s NextEra Energy 250 event at the notorious Daytona International Speedway.

Bizarrely enough, the name of Disdier’s racing business, which originated in France, is “Lafayette Racing,” so the partnership between his racing team and UL Lafayette’s Business students is seemingly preordained by fate itself. While speaking to ULL Press, Disdier said of the coincidence, “maybe this is just our destiny to work together.”

A Marketing instructor and interim director of the Moody College of Business’ Northwestern Mutual Sales and Research Lab, Dr. Valerie McGehee, will be mentoring the team of UL Lafayette students coordinating with Disdier’s racing team. On the monumental partnership, McGehee said, “I am so proud of these students. They never hesitated or questioned their ability to take on this work, and they continue to impress me. We have weekly Zoom meetings with Michel to update him on our progress and he has been wonderful to collaborate with.”

Members of Disdier’s sales team from UL Lafayette are Allison Gaubert, a management major with a concentration in professional sales, and Morgan Boggs, Megan DeJean, and Mackenzie Marze, who each are marketing majors minoring in professional sales. As the UL Lafayette Sales Team is still in their degree program, they see the lending of their sales and marketing efforts for the race car drivers as invaluable real world experience. Not to mention, they are also anxious and motivated to do whatever they can to ensure Disdier succeeds.

One student in particular, Mackenzie Marze, who loves sports, particularly NASCAR, will be overseeing the corporate sponsorships Disdier takes on for his 2021 racing season. Marze said of the unique chance, “I have an opportunity to learn how to market, strategize, present, and adapt to a whole new culture and brand.”

Team member Megan DeJean, who will direct sales and social media efforts, is reportedly looking forward to “taking everything we have been learning throughout college and putting it into practice for a real client.” Similarly, Allison Gaubert, who will be directing logistics and media is elated by the idea of collaborating with her academic cohorts and fellow sales team members to assist Disdier however they can. She remarked on the collaborative nature of the team by saying, “we all work so well together and are dedicated to this project.”

Lastly, Morgan Boggs’s role will be directing the promotional marketing efforts and managing the branding of Disdier and his total racing team. Boggs reportedly won’t allow things to be “all business,” as she is “ most excited to get the chance to see him race. I’ve never been to NASCAR but I always watch it on TV with my dad.”

Real-world application, experiences, and internships are cornerstones of every business major’s education, making this rare opportunity of UL Lafayette undergraduates managing the U.S. Sales and Marketing efforts of a professional NASCAR driver a once in a lifetime opportunity.

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UL Lafayette President Announces Record R&D Milestone

A remarkable milestone was announced this year by UL Lafayette President Joseph Savoie during his annual State of the University address; the milestone being that the university had broken records with $144 million spent towards expenditures in research and development last year, as reported by KATC.

As reported, 2019 was the third year in a row in which UL Lafayette spent more than $100 million on Research and Development (R&D), according to the conducted Higher Education Research and Development (HERD) Survey. This survey is the National Science Foundation’s annual indexing of United States colleges and university’s research spending.

Each year the University of Louisiana at Lafayette competes against other universities for both federal and state government grants as well as private sector contracts with the university acting as steward or the funds awarded to faculty and staff researchers.

The goal of increasing UL Lafayette R&D expenditures was set back seven years prior in 2013 with the accredited learning institution setting the goal of attaining $100 million in expenditures by 2020, though this might have been an undersight as the school had surpassed that expectation, achieving the goals three years sooner than expected- in 2017.

The record was broken yet again in the following year, 2018 with spending increasing to 124.7 million in the matter of a single year. This remarkable figure increase had placed UL Lafayette among the top 23 percent of the total 647 research universities included in the HERD survey.

Though this most recently announced $144 million figure has not yet been released by the National Science Foundation, the amount is the highest attained by ULL R&D to date, and it signifies an astounding achievement of the goal set in 2013.

President Savoie aptly referred to this achievement as “astonishing” when the milestone was communicated to faculty, staff, and students at the annual beginning of the semester address, which in previous years is delivered to nearly a thousand members of the University’s community in the Angelle Hall auditorium, but this year it was presented virtually as a result on the state of Louisiana’s restrictions on larger indoor gatherings.

As KATC reported from Savoie’s address, he had stated being that UL Lafayette is a public university, “in good times and in trying moments, the work we do should benefit the public. The research being done here does not stay here,” Savoie continued to say, “it is consequential and valuable to our society.”

The annual address serves as a way for the university president to set a tone for the start of the fall semester and new academic year, as classes at the four-year university officially began Thursday, August 17th. During the presentation, Savoie also reaffirmed UL Lafayette’s commitment to building a more diverse community on its campus, meeting the goals established in the Strategic Plan for Inclusive Excellence, a national framework adopted by multiple higher education learning institutions.

The Strategic Plan for Inclusive Excellence serves as a framework for enhancing equity, diversity, and inclusion across the school’s course offerings, hiring practices, student services and recruitment, and broader community outreach. Savoie also noted that the university’s increased efforts over the past decade to recruit and retain women and students of color are paying off.

In the 2019-2020 academic school year alone, the University awarded a record 3,610 degrees, and among those recipients receiving awards, there was a historic number of women, Black, Hispanic, and Asian graduates with the Spring 2020 graduation class being the largest and most diverse in the University’s 122-year legacy.

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