Week 2: The role of research university in the 21st century

I think universities, in general, serves an important the public mission. There is an integrated role of universities in research, teaching, and public service. As one of the nation’s top and leading research universities, Virginia Tech’s mission is – teaching, research, and outreach. Covering the true purpose of what a research university is all about. Since after WWII, research universities in the U.S have continued to play a preeminent role as important research enterprises and centers of innovation; making significant contributions to socio-economic growth, community development, and institutional building.

Research collaborations between the academic, industrial, and government research have helped to translate vital research findings to provide meaningful social benefits. Mostly, through the commercializing of research results, discoveries or innovations. For example, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) supported university research leading to the development of the Internet.

In fact, by any objective measure, it is undeniable that the US research universities are vital centers for advancing knowledge in all fields, and in contributing to national, regional and local economic growth. However, sustaining and fostering the remarkable successes of U.S research universities may be challenging. Institutional and structural issues in higher-ed, including funding challenges, technology, and social changes are affecting how universities carry out basic research. For research universities to continue to make significant contributions to local, regional, and the national economic growth, universities have to transform themselves and adapt to new social structures, economic systems, and student needs. However, for the foreseeable future, I think research universities in the U.S will continue to play an important role as engines and/or the driving force for local economies. But, to maintain and sustain this role, research universities must seek and foster institutional changes to enable them to become more responsive to the needs of students, industry, and the society-at-large.

In the distant future, I think the biggest challenge for U.S research universities will be in finding new and better ways to maintain and replenish the pool of knowledge on which industry and society could draw. Universities will have to do more to develop and adopt a more student-centric approach to learning and research. To focus on teaching more effectively, and place greater emphasis on new learning approaches.

Fundamentally, applying advances in technology to find new ways to support student success, especially for none traditional students. Research universities must tailor their academic programs to support student research and mentorship, and in developing capacities and competencies. Overall, with an enduring legacy, the American research university system is the core of the country’s science and technology system. It’s continued growth and development requires new funding streams from industry, government, and philanthropic organizations to support university research.