Social Mobility and R1 Status

Department heads, associate deans, deans, and other academic administrators play a pivotal role in achieving NMSU LEADS 2025, and yesterday the Office of the President hosted the first of this summer’s workshop for academic administrators. This year, the workshop is framed around the strategic plan and highlights our new vision, which is founded in the idea that student success is enhanced through our land-grant mission of teaching, research, creative activity, Extension, and outreach. Enriching education with these elements promotes learning and degree completion, leading to improved social mobility for our diverse student population.

Specifically, our vision states: By 2025, the NMSU system will excel in student success and social mobility for our diverse student population, achieve the highest Carnegie research status (R1), and maintain our Carnegie Community Engagement classification.

I count on our academic leaders to ask the hard questions, and they did not disappoint. Early in yesterday’s workshop, one faculty member asked what, exactly,is social mobility. Another asked why achieving R1 status is important to our mission. I will briefly answer both of these questions.

First: What is Social Mobility? Social Mobility is the ability of a person to move within social strata. At NMSU, we promote social mobility when our students advance through college, find that first job in a successful career, and earn wages that exceed what their parents could have earned.

At NMSU, about 50% of our students come from homes where neither parent has a college degree. Importantly, about half of these students are from low-income homes, and they are more likely to be a racial minority. Our commitment to social mobility is more than a commitment to education: it is a commitment to helping students earn degrees that will serve them well in the workforce and in other aspects of their lives. You can view the presentation that Dr. Renay Scott, Vice President of Student Success, gave to workshop participants.

Second: Why is achieving R1 status important to our mission? The Carnegie Foundation ranks colleges and universities regarding research. Their ratings are based on an aggregate score that includes items such as research expenditures, number of doctorates granted in various categories, and research personnel. Out of the thousands of universities they rank, the top 261 are rated R1 or R2. There are 130 R1 universities; NMSU and 130 other universities are rated as R2.

So why is R1 status important? Because top research universities have more and better options for students. Their students have better retention metrics and graduate faster. These universities have more resources; they are more comprehensive in their academic programs because R1 scoring includes the number of doctoral graduates in the Humanities and Social Sciences. Bolstering our research efforts improves student outcomes, and better outcomes lead to improved social mobility.

This material was presented by Dr. Luis Cifuentes, Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School, and his presentation is also available at the Provost’s web site.

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