Before joining the Executive Vice President and Provost Office as Vice Provost for Graduate Professional Education, Gary Carini served as a Professor of Management and Associate Dean for Graduate Business Programs at the Hankamer School of Baylor University. We were eager to sit down and talk with him about Baylor’s goal of being an R1 university.
The following is an unedited transcript of that conversation.
Why is it so important to be R1? To reach these research goals?
I think it’s really important to pursue really lofty, stretched goals. Very aspirational goals. Because it’s important that Baylor has a significant place in shaping education and lives of others. Not only nationally, but internationally.
What are the biggest challenges? We know money is a huge challenge, but what are the other challenges of us reaching R1?
Several good challenges. So, I see those challenges as exciting opportunities. Certainly not hurdles to overcome in a negative sense. But, it’s to bring in more stake holders. That involves more conversations with probably new stake holders and existing stake holders.
One of the initiatives in Illuminate is data sciences. We have some ideas about what we can do. We’re looking at hiring new faculty to invest in these areas. That is not in a vacuum at all, but in the context, to have greater movement forward and thought leadership in data sciences. That involves conversations with industry experts that are forward-looking and would help us shape the nature of the research that we’re doing, to assist them in their thinking. So, in data sciences, to look at the influence of technology in, say, driverless cars. And let’s say there’s software. If we’re involved in research on software that really moves that notion forward, we want to be involved in that. But we can’t do that unless we’re involved with industry and talking with that industry.
As we look at commercialization of technology, that involves partnerships. That involves bringing people to Waco with our BRIC. Those are the deep conversations, the shaping kinds of conversations that really propel us forward. And I would like to, not just me personally, but I would like to see Baylor always be considered in that set of schools where others are saying, “Where’s Baylor? Let’s check in with Baylor on this. What are they thinking? What are they doing in terms of leading edge research and material science.”
Or, another initiative is human flourishing and ethics. “What’s Baylor looking at with that? We’re curious about they’re doing.” And I want to be the kind of institution where you do that.
That’s a challenge and it’s a good challenge. To build partnerships and really have a close sense of what is important to society. We certainly would thrive on tackling, and being in the conversation to tackle, big problems, certainly international issues.
Where would you say we are most under resourced with faculty or with facilities?
Great question, as we look at each of the initiatives: health, data sciences, material science, human flourishing and ethics, and then Baylor Latin America. I would say across the board we have a strong asset base, but I would say in each, more assets. And assets, in this context, would mean more faculty.
I can go to material science. We need more lab space. There’s startup costs and then there’s operating costs that continue over years. That would be an under resourced area. I would say in each of the initiatives, there would be an additional cost component. Our base is excellent; these initiatives surfaced from the interest in mobilizing the assets, the thought leadership of existing faculty and stakeholders – certainly including alums. And we want to build that further. So, we need more resources to build more labs, buy and create more software, to reach out from our health initiative in tropical medicine, to serve those areas and then to collect data.
We have an intriguing project that is being launched with Compassion International, and that’s mentioned in Illuminate. A lot of the little kids they deal with are in Latin America. So, we have Compassion International. It covers human flourishing and ethics within that initiative. Also, Compassion has data that they’ve collected on kids. Health status and so on. So, there’s actually a data sciences component which is intriguing. By the way, there’s a health component too. And, by the way there’s the unambiguously Christian pillar that feeds in there. That covers so much.
Why Latin America?
We look at demographics, certainly within the state of Texas, and Latin America is bordering Texas. So, in part, it’s our proximity. In part, there’s so many opportunities for us to engage in society as you look at Latin America. So, there are opportunities.
The University system in the state of Texas is so strong, and we’re glad to be a part of that. And Universities are doing a lot in Latin America. We also have work that we can do, that we’re starting, and that we have done in Latin America. So, we want to build that piece as our neighboring country and certainly serving the population here. That’s a privilege to do.
You mentioned working with outside institutions like Compassion International. Are there any other plans to partner with someone like, say, Baylor College of Medicine?
The two that come up clearly, as mentioned in the plan, are Baylor College of Medicine – we’re looking at several partnerships there, that are under discussion right now – and then Baylor’s Scott & White Health. We have the privilege of having Joel Allison serve as our chairperson of the Board of Regents. And so, there’s a natural interface. We have a very strong relationship with them. They’re here in central Texas, but also beyond. And that allows us to be at the forefront of conversations with them.
Those partnerships do fit in with Illuminate, our strategic plan. So, there’s continuity and we’re always looking for continuity. As you think about organizational strategy it is very much, “Here are the initiatives and here are partner organizations.” And when we look at Baylor College of Medicine, Baylor Scott & White: What their goals are as institutions, what are our goals, how can we help each other? That partnership, in the true sense of using that word, is mutually beneficial. So we look forward to developing those. But, those are two organizations off the top that I would say clearly.
Let me ask you about the “unambiguously Christian” environment. Is there concern that makes it more difficult to win federal grants? Or how much of a concern is that?
No, and there are other sources of grants too. So, this is who we are. Let’s say at some level it made (finding grants) more difficult – and I would not state that it does or doesn’t – that’s still who we are. And so, we’re not going to compromise who we are as an institution, based on our roots, and move away from ‘unambiguously Christian’ in order to get more money.
I think there’s a respect in knowing who you are and pursuing those attributes. What’s important in the soul of the organization, and knowing that, and pursuing that with intentionality, is something that federal grant sources would respond to. Or this would not become a major component. They (grant sources) would look, not only at the mission of the University, but also what are the faculty areas of expertise, what are they going to be, how do you include students, how do you mobilize research efforts. So, there’ a lot more to it. If in fact, at some level, funding sources say, “Hey, I want to stay away from that.” That would be their choice. We’re not going to back off of that to get more money. I think it’s a healthy dialogue and they respect who we are.
“Research marked by quality, impact and visibility.” Quality and impact – I can kind of infer what those mean. What does visibility encompass?
I think it’s getting research out in publications. So, it’s that distribution channel of the research. It’s mobilizing that message and getting that out in the public domain.
As I worked in the business school, for example, and we had research, we would always pitch that research to say, The Wall Street Journal. So, then The Wall Street Journal picks up on the story and then they mobilize that message. So, that’s the visibility component that then makes impact.
It’s really mobilizing to publications that get in the hands of industry experts where our research is important. So, if we’re doing research, as an example, in work life balance or work life integration, then that’s important, not only as the research gets into top journals, but also human resource journals that talk about that. So, that then goes out to organizations. It goes out to human resource organizations with professionals, so that they get new thoughts about how to look at work life balance integration.
Let me ask you a few numbers. How much does Baylor currently spend on research and what is the level that we need to be at?
Numbers from 2016 . . . $26 million, and it’s research and development expenditures. That is recorded, from an accounting perspective, in ways determined by outside government sources. For example, the National Science Foundation. So, that’s auditable, transparent, and we’re right at $26 million in R&D expenditures. Where we need to be is about triple that.
When you look at the number, that $26 million, there’s external funding and then internal funding. Right now, we have more internal funding, which is a great signal that we support research and want to continue to do that. If we look at the ratio of external funding versus internal funding, there’s not an exact science, but I would imagine a (desired) ratio of maybe 3:1. But we cannot get to that level, roughly $75 million, and then move up from there toward the next goal of $100 million, by funding that internally. Because then the burden would fall on internal resources and we can’t do that. The good news about pursuing external funding is that now you’re including more stakeholders outside the university announcing what Baylor is doing inside and funding what Baylor is doing inside.
if we were in a vacuum, we would say, “Oh, let’s just fund that 100% and not worry about anybody else.” That does not improve our reputation. Going back to that notion of visibility, that doesn’t improve visibility. So, external funding is challenging. We need to have the infrastructure to do it, to triple that amount.
Right now with that $26 million, what percentage of that is internal and what percent is external?
I would say it’s probably 70% internal.
If all of this goes according to plan, and fundraising goes well, what’s a timeline to reaching R1? Is there any way to know that?
There’s no way to predict that. So, this is realistically probably a 10-15 year build out. If it’s shorter, that’s wonderful, consistent with the plan. And then, being in the strategy realm from my personal discipline, I know that there are parts of this plan that will be modified as we get new information. We may say at the onset, “All five initiatives, there’s equal money across.” But, we may in fact get more money coming in because of our expertise and a positive snowball effect in data sciences or material science. And then there’s a surprise opportunity in human flourishing that we don’t know about that will come about in three years. So we’re open to that. And then maybe there are new areas or areas that we don’t anticipate emphasizing that we do within these five initiatives. That’s exciting. All those kinds of things could accelerate us.