The key to SMU’s future is its investment in research today, said Provost Paul Ludden at the 2008 Spring General Faculty Meeting Jan. 16. “The real business of a university is the creation of new knowledge,” he said. “When our students graduate, what they will remember is the opportunities they had to participate in that creation.” Three outstanding professors were honored with special awards during the meeting.
Ludden named three new initiatives that will position the University among institutions “that are answering the big questions of our time”:
- the Environmental Initiative, headed by Bonnie Jacobs, Earth Sciences
- the Healthcare in the U.S. Initiative, headed by Tom Mayo, Law, director of SMU’s Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility
- Big iDeas @ SMU, a grant program to help undergraduate researchers address pressing quality-of-life issues in North Texas
In addition, Ludden emphasized the importance of increasing investment in research to both the academic and fiscal health of the University, as well as its centrality to SMU’s Strategic Plan.
Research also will be key to reaching the University’s goal of becoming a top-tier institution, Ludden said. In the current U.S. News & World Report rankings, “no institution ranked above SMU brings in less than SMU in research dollars,” he said – yet, he noted, some institutions with more research dollars were ranked lower. With rising SAT scores for entering students and enrollment figures that are keeping pace with several top-ranked institutions, the University is well positioned to break into the next level, he added.
He also noted the number of honors received by faculty members during the academic year to date. “It’s become a competition among the deans to see who can send me the most good news,” Ludden said with a laugh.
In his report, Faculty Senate President Gary Evans cited SMU’s $3.6 million C. Vincent Prothro Biological Sciences Initiative as a “direct response” to recommendations for improving infrastructure and increasing funding for research.
Ludden also presented awards to three outstanding faculty members:
- Dinesh Rajan, Electrical Engineering, received the 2006-07 Golden Mustang Award, which honors junior faculty members who sustain high achievement as both teachers and scholars.
- Tom Mayo, Law, and Serge Frolov, Religious Studies, received 2006-07 President’s Associates Outstanding Faculty Awards, which honor tenured faculty who have sustained high achievement as both teachers and scholars in their professions.