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

The University of Richmond (UR), established in 1830, is one of America’s premier private, highly selective, independent liberal arts universities, with a rising national and international profile. The University is situated on a 350-acre, suburban campus six miles from the city, with an additional building in downtown Richmond hosting major community engagement programs in the heart of the city. UR has a total enrollment of approximately 4,002 (fall 2018) in five schools: arts and sciences, leadership studies, business, law, and professional and continuing studies. This total includes 3,194 full-time undergraduates; additional students are in masters and law programs.

The University of Richmond is placed annually on lists of best institutions of higher education. In August of 2018 The Princeton Review ranked UR as the No. 3 “Best-Run College” in the country and named Richmond among the nation’s best institutions for undergraduate education. In early 2018, the University of Richmond ranked #39 on the Top 50 “Colleges that Pay You Back” list published by The Princeton Review. The education services publication also ranked Richmond #3 on the Top 25 “Best Schools for Internships” list, #5 on the “Best Classroom Experience” 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 “Best Colleges 2019” guide ranked the University of Richmond #25 overall and #22 for “Best Value” among national liberal arts colleges. New for 2018-19, UR was ranked #28 among national liberal arts colleges, on the “Most Innovative Schools” list. This category highlights colleges that are making the most innovative improvements in terms of curriculum, faculty, students, campus life, technology, or facilities. The University of Richmond consistently is ranked as a top-tier liberal arts university and a “best value” by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, Smart Money magazine, and other leading college guides.


The full-time undergraduate population is 53% women, 47% men, with outstanding students from nearly every state (16% are from Virginia) and about 75 countries. In addition, 25% of the students are American students of color; and 9% are international.

Out of 11,881 applications for fall 2018 semester, 3,585 were accepted and 832 enrolled. Of those enrolled, 28% of freshman students are students of color, 13% are first-generation college students, and 15% speak English as a second language. The six-year graduation rate is 87% (2012 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. The University offers 75 programs in more than 30 countries for study abroad programs and 60% of students participate. In addition, 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 enrolled student. The University offers nearly $74 million in institutional grants and scholarships; 68% of our students receive some amount of assistance. The average need-based award is $49,420. 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. Twenty-five significant scholarships for full tuition, room, and board are awarded annually under the Richmond Scholars program and one-third tuition scholarships are awarded to approximately 75 Presidential Scholars annually.  Richmond students have been recipients of nationally-competitive Rhodes, Marshall, Goldwater, NSF Graduate Research, 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 just100 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 402 full-time faculty members at all ranks, of whom 95% hold the Ph.D. or the equivalent terminal degree in their field. About 44% of the full-time faculty is female and 14% 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 $17.3 million in grant funding over the past five years. 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 therapeutic potential of carbon nanodots in bone mineralization diseases, the impact of climate change on invasive species, the ecology of tick-borne rickettsial pathogens, development of an open source software library to allow for analysis of time-based media, 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’ Integrated Quantitative Science (IQS), which integrates all five science majors, includes faculty from all five disciplines, and incorporates topics from biology, chemistry, physics, math, and computer science. This course better prepares students for upper-level classes in each major. Our most recent HHMI grant of $1.4 million funds the 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. Our Science, Math, and Research Training (SMART) course, also a product of HHMI funding, is a course designed for first-year students that combines biology, chemistry, and math to study the topics of HIV and antibiotic resistance.  This Biology-Chemistry course which spans the fall and spring semesters and introduces topics in a thematic fashion is taught by faculty from each discipline and concludes with a paid summer research experience with a faculty member. In addition, UR offers post-baccalaureate and post-doctoral fellowships to 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 (2016).  An NSF-RUI grant in 2018 supports research toward producing the first comprehensive map of the signaling networks coordinating hindbrain-spinal cord specification, an important roadmap for the analysis of nervous system development and evolution. At any given time, about ten faculty members have active NSF research grants, nearly all of which support students for several summers. Several faculty members 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 CIES-Fulbright; National Endowment for the Humanities (Fellowships and Summer Stipends); Library of Congress; The Spencer Foundation; The Jeffress Trust; 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

The Richmond Promise (2009-14), enabled our community to embrace greater diversity, deepen our commitment to educational opportunity, expand our faculty so all students have a small-class experience, extend a Richmond education into the city of Richmond and beyond, and increase our alumni engagement.

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.

Our new strategic plan, Forging our Future, Building from Strength, builds upon that foundation and incorporates our shared values (pursuit of knowledge, inclusivity and equity, diversity and educational opportunity, ethical engagement, and responsible stewardship), to provide an academic program that educates students to develop the insights they need to navigate and lead in a rapidly changing world and that promotes and supports the production of high-quality scholarly and creative work; to recruit, retain, and inspire academically talented students from all backgrounds; to model a thriving and inclusive university community; to ensure that the University of Richmond is central to the lives of its students and alumni; and to develop innovative practices to sustain our environmental, human, and financial resources.

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 2018 Summer Fellowships program, more than 550 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, 15% first-generation college students, 13% international students, and 6% 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 supported by a very strong Career Development Center, which assists students (and alumni) with contacts and preparation for post-university working life.  Students seeking careers in medicine have access to a Pre-Health Advisor, who helps them achieve acceptance at graduate or medical schools. 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

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 2018, more than $625,000 was awarded for peer-reviewed faculty grants and just over $154,000 was provided to students for academic year research, travel and summer supplies (in addition to the aforementioned $2 million for summer experiences). In addition, the University promotes faculty research in the following ways:
•    Substantial startup packages;
•    One-semester paid research leave after successful midcourse review;
•    One-semester sabbatical after seven years;
•    Topping-off and internal fellowships for full-year sabbaticals;

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 2019.

(last updated 3/28/2019)