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Research in Undergraduate Institutions (RUI) Impact Statement University of Richmond

The University of Richmond, established in 1830, is one of America’s premier private, highly selective, independent liberal arts universities, with a rising national and international profile. Richmond is situated on a 350-acre suburban campus six miles from downtown Richmond, plus a building in downtown Richmond houses major community engagement programs in the heart of the city. It has a total enrollment of approximately 4,131 (fall 2016) in five schools: arts and sciences, leadership studies, business, law, and professional and continuing studies. This total includes 3,013 full-time undergraduates; additional students are in masters and law programs.


Richmond is placed annually on lists of best institutions of higher education. In early 2017, the University of Richmond ranked #48 on the Top 50 “Colleges that Pay You Back” list published by The Princeton Review. The education services publication also ranked Richmond #18 on the Top 25 “Best Schools for Internships” list and said Richmond is among 200 schools cited as the nation’s best colleges for students seeking a superb education with great preparation and at an affordable price. In addition, the US News and World Report’s “America’s Best Colleges” issue has listed Richmond in the top tier of national liberal arts universities for many years in a row and recognizes Richmond as one that has made the “most promising and innovative changes in the areas of academics, faculty, student life, campus, or facilities.” Newsweek has listed Richmond as one of the “25 Hottest Schools in America,” especially for international studies.  A Princeton Review publication, “The Best 301 Business Schools,” chose Richmond’s Robins School MBA program for inclusion, and the Business School is ranked in the top 20 by BusinessWeek and was ranked number one in 2011 for international business education in Bloomberg Businessweek’s specialty rankings.  

Students

The full-time undergraduate population is approximately 53% women, 47% men, with outstanding students from nearly every state, including 18% from Virginia, and about 75 foreign countries. About 26% of the students are American students of color; about 10% are international.

Out of 10,422 applications for fall 2016, 30% were accepted and 818 enrolled. About 28% of the first year class students are domestic students of color (about 35% all students of color, U.S. and international), 12% are first-generation college students, and 15% speak English as a second language. The six-year graduation rate is 88% (2009 cohort); we consistently have one of the highest graduation rates for student athletes. More than 90% of the full-time undergraduates live on campus and more than half are involved in internships. About 65% of students participate in study abroad programs, having some 75 programs in more than 30 countries from which to choose. About two-thirds of the student population engages in community service including volunteer internships and community-based learning courses.

The University has need-blind admissions and is committed to meeting 100% of the demonstrated need of every student who enrolls. About 67% of our students receive some amount of assistance; the University offers some $66 million in institutional grants and scholarships. The average need-based award is $44,770. For Virginia students, the University is committed to providing grants for tuition, room and board for families with incomes under $60,000 who qualify for aid. In addition, a number of merit-based scholarships for undergraduates benefit hundreds of students. More than 45 significant scholarships for full tuition are awarded annually under the Richmond Scholars program and an additional 20 under the Presidential Scholars program. Plus there are one-half and partial tuition scholarships, including more than 250 endowed funds. Richmond students have been recipients of nationally-competitive Rhodes, Marshall, Goldwater, Clarendon, Truman, and Fulbright scholarships, among others.

Richmond is a coordinate residential college, providing men and women students separate residences and opportunities for leadership in separate student governments. About 180 student organizations, including six major honorary societies (among them Omicron Delta Kappa since 1921 and Phi Beta Kappa since 1929), offer opportunities for interaction, leadership, and community involvement. The University’s location in the capital of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and just 100 miles from Washington, DC, provides close proximity to local, state and national governments as well as a wealth of financial, cultural, and civic organizations, insuring students a variety of internship, service-learning, and research opportunities.

 

Faculty and Research

The University’s small size and diversity of programs – including more than 60 undergraduate majors - enable and encourage inter-school and interdisciplinary projects with a wealth of opportunities for student-faculty interactions. Undergraduate students conduct research alongside their professors in all disciplines. There are 330 full-time faculty members at all ranks, of whom 94% hold the Ph.D. or the equivalent terminal degree in their field. About 42% of the full time faculty is female and 13% people of color (full- and part-time). The student-faculty ratio is 8 to 1 and the average undergraduate class size is 16. All classes are taught by faculty, not graduate/teaching assistants.

Faculty members routinely integrate their research into teaching and engage students as lab assistants, collaborators, co-authors, and co-presenters at national conferences. Each year, Richmond faculty members make invaluable contributions to society through their research, and have attracted more than $14.5 million in research grants over the past five years, in addition to about $10 million in grants for other non-research projects. Among the topics studied by faculty are tumor growth and cancer treatment, nuclear physics, biologically enhanced metallic nanoparticles, ecology of the Peruvian Amazon, the return on investment for vocational rehabilitation, the Constitution and the moral foundations of Originalism, musical composition based on light and atmosphere, the history of the Great War in the Ottoman Empire, environmental markets in India, Buddhist goddesses, digital mapping, and a wide array of other subjects.

In the sciences, Richmond was a recipient of 2004, 2008, and 2012 Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Undergraduate Science Education grants. These awards have enabled the University to expand faculty and course offerings at the cutting edge of biology and related sciences, especially in bioinformatics and mathematics. In addition, we have an option for students to enroll in a two-semester ‘supercourse’ which integrates all five science majors, Integrated Quantitative Science (IQS), which incorporates topics from biology, chemistry, physics, math, and computer science and includes instructors from all five disciplines. This course better prepares students for upper-level courses in each major. Our most recent HHMI grant of $1.4 million funds the four-year URISE program (UR Integrated Science Experience), designed to promote diversity in math and science by engaging pre-college students currently underrepresented in the sciences through interdisciplinary math/science summer courses. In addition, post-baccalaureate and post-doctoral fellowships support students’ transition from college and graduate school into careers in science and math fields.

Science research and instrumentation grants have been provided by the National Science Foundation; National Institutes of Health; National Park Service; NASA; U.S. Department of Energy; American Chemical Society-Petroleum Research Fund; Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation; Jeffress Memorial Trust; Kresge Foundation; Research Corporation, and others.  The Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation has awarded four consecutive three-year Beckman Scholars grants in 2006, 2010, 2013 and 2016, each providing scientific research funding for four or five undergraduates over multiple years. The NSF Major Research Instrumentation program has awarded UR several significant grants: $300,000 for a cyber-enabled computer cluster for research and teaching in chemistry (2010); $161,912 for a computer cluster for astrophysics and nuclear physics (2009); $309,737 for creation of a regional undergraduate Biophysical Chemistry Research Center (2007); and $920,000 for instrumentation for neuroscience (2006 & 2011).  A $1.4 million NSF grant supported Long-Term Undergraduate Research (LURE) in Mathematics for UR and four other partner institutions (2006-2011).  NSF awarded UR a collaborative  IUSE grant in psychology to prepare undergraduates for STEM research using electrophysiology.  An NSF-RAPID grant in 2016 supports research on changing characteristics in Atlantic Ocean sponges that may reflect significant changes in the environment. At any given time, about ten faculty members have active NSF research grants, nearly all of which support students for several summers. Several faculty have received the NSF-CAREER grants. The NIH has supported projects at UR for research on memory in the elderly, explorations in anti-tumor processes, lipid modulation of potassium channels, and pregnancy and maternal behavior, among other topics.  

The U.S. Department of Education funded a $1.1 million grant for “Learning the Visual Structure of Algebra through Dynamic Interactions with Notation” (2011), and a National Institute for Disability Rehabilitation Research grant to economists in the Business School (2010) to analyze the benefits of vocational rehabilitation, was followed by a $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for studying return on investment for vocational rehabilitation programs in several states. A $750,000 USAID grant supported a collaboration in Peru to build conservation capacity in Amazonia.

Other noteworthy research grants outside of the sciences have been provided by the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, CIES-Fulbright; National Endowment for the Humanities (Fellowships and Summer Stipends); Library of Congress; Association for Public Policy Analysis & Management; Jessie Ball duPont Fund; Institute for Advanced Study-Princeton; Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; Associated Colleges of the South; Virginia Foundation for the Humanities; and other local and national foundations, corporations and government agencies.

Strategic Plan and the Sciences

A new strategic plan for 2017-2022 is currently being developed, with working groups discussing goals and initiatives in the areas of academic excellence, intellectual community, access and affordability, and thriving and inclusive community.

The 2009-2014 strategic plan, The Richmond Promise, set an ambitious agenda for integrated academics, inclusive diversity, accessibility and affordability, community engagement, and a distinctive living and learning experience for each student. It built up the University’s 2000 strategic plan, which charted for Richmond students the best that higher education has to offer tomorrow’s leaders: a synthesis of teaching and research, knowledge creation and transmission, intellectual growth and character development, liberal arts and professional education. The Science Initiative was the highest priority of that plan, and included curriculum revisions and a comprehensive upgrade of the science facilities: more than $60 million in program enhancements and a $35 million renovation of the Gottwald Science Center, completed in spring 2006. The results provide increased opportunities for faculty-student research; addition of 18 new science faculty; greater emphasis on interdisciplinary studies such as a new major in biochemistry and molecular biology and a 3-2 engineering program; state-of-the-art instrumentation in every laboratory; and the development of innovative science experiences for non-science majors. To provide varied student experiences, we have developed working relationships at local, national, and international institutions, laboratories and commercial sites.


An institutional priority is to assure that each undergraduate student will have a unique summer research or internship experience. In 2009, an anonymous private donor provided a four-year $1 million grant for summer support of undergraduate research in mathematics and the sciences. For the University’s 2016 Summer Fellowships program, more than 600 awards of up to $4,000 each were given to students amounting to over $2 million – supporting both research and internships. The diverse group of awardees from all undergraduate schools included 24% students of color, 17% first-generation college students, 13% international students, and 8% athletes. Students unfailingly report that these experiences are among the best of their college years.

The University encourages women and minority students toward careers in the sciences through active recruiting of high school students interested in the sciences, summer programs for pre-college students, by offering merit scholarships, by nurturing students through peer mentoring for academic progress and socialization, and through faculty advising and guided research experiences.  As UR students advance through their educations, they are assisted by the Pre-Health Advisor, who helps them achieve acceptance at graduate or medical schools, and a very strong Career Development Center, which assists students (and alumni) with contacts and preparation for post-university working life. As an increasing number of female students are electing to major in the sciences, the University is committed to their success. The Women Involved in Living and Learning (WILL) Program is a University program now replicated elsewhere that strengthens and expands the leadership qualities, analytical skills, and self-esteem of undergraduate women through Women and Gender Studies coursework and women/gender-focused programming experiences, often including the sciences. The University has increased the number of female science faculty members; more than one-third of the tenured and tenure-track science faculty are women, as are many of the science lab managers and adjunct professors. The Women in Math & Science campus group has evolved into a living-learning community.

Internal funding from the University of Richmond supports faculty and student research, including faculty summer stipends, research, and travel grants, and undergraduate and graduate student research grants, summer fellowships and travel grants. In 2015-16, more than $528,000 was awarded for peer-reviewed faculty grants and nearly $100,000 in grants to support student research (in addition to the aforementioned $2 million for summer experiences). In addition, the University supports faculty research by offering start-up funds in the range of $80,000-$200,000 for new faculty in the sciences, one-semester paid research leave for faculty in their fourth year, full-year sabbaticals to faculty after seven years, topping-off funds for faculty receiving partial sabbatical support from external grants, and reduced teaching loads when research demands it.

NOTE: Parts of this document have been reproduced from institutional publications and reports.
PLEASE CREDIT: Office of Foundation, Corporate and Government Relations, University of Richmond, February 2017.

(last updated 2/6/2017)