Op-Ed: Funds for research at UConn pay big dividends

Funds for research at UConn pay big dividends 


Reprinted from CT Mirror Viewpoints & the Stamford Advocate 

Each year, several publications identify the best public research universities in the United States. The U.S. News & World Report, though not without its limitations, has become the “go to” guide for prospective college students and their parents. In the latest rankings, the University of Connecticut is No. 20 of 133 public research universities in the country. UConn is tied at the spot with Purdue University and University of Maryland, and it is ranked ahead of five Big Ten public research universities.

There are several metrics that are used to determine the rankings, which include undergraduate academic reputation, student selectivity, alumni giving, time to graduation, and faculty and financial resources per student (i.e., faculty compensation, percent with terminal degrees, and percent full time; student/faculty ratio and class size). These markers do not come cheap, but the investment in UConn over the past several decades have paid off with a sharp rise in the rankings, entering students who are more competitive and diverse every year, and an array of academic, economic, and community outcomes that demonstrate its impact.

As Connecticut’s land-grant university, UConn is dedicated to excellence. According to our Mission, “through research, teaching, service, and outreach, we embrace diversity and cultivate leadership, integrity, and engaged citizenship in our students, faculty, staff, and alumni.” The ability to meet this mission relies upon its dedicated staff, administrators, and faculty. Professors engage in empirical and secondary research projects that challenge assumptions, produce innovative new technologies, and make the world a better place.

UConn faculty are also committed to both undergraduate and graduate teaching and mentoring the future scholars and professionals among the student body. Service comes in the form of campus governance, contributions to professional societies around the globe, reviews for journals and grant panels that advance knowledge across disciplines, testimony that informs policies at state and national levels, and public engagement that brings scholars and communities together to jointly address society’s most pressing issues.

As you may surmise from our summary, faculty often engage in a wide variety of roles and activities that exceed their basic job descriptions and expectations for weekly hours. Most are paid for nine-month contracts but work through the summers on their research, advising, and service. We see in our colleagues an incredible level of commitment and passion for their work.

We are proud to be affiliated with one of the finest public research universities in the United States. In order for UConn to maintain and build upon this excellence, Connecticut should continue to support public higher education in the State. We must recognize the importance of keeping tuition costs reasonable for Connecticut’s students, even as we offer them world-class education and training. As our state legislators approach difficult budgetary decisions, we encourage them to focus on how past investments have made UConn a top public research universities, for the benefit of our students and our entire state.

Preston A. Britner, Ph.D., is Professor of Human Development and Family Studies (and former Philip E. Austin Endowed Chair) at the University of Connecticut, Storrs.

Michael M. Ego, Ph.D., is Professor of Human Development and Family Studies/Asian and Asian American Studies/History at the University of Connecticut, Stamford.