STEM field based on research, not just overall merit
Southeast’s College of Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics is still competing annually both in the classroom and in the workplace with schools on a different financial playing field.
Schools that are classified as Research 1 (R1) doctoral universities receive more money on average from independent research grants than any other group in the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education of Universities. Southeast is not a R1 university or even an R2.
The difference between R1, R2, and all other groupings according to the Carnegie Classifications website is based on research activity and amounts of doctoral and masters programs available, and limited to institutions that “awarded at least 20 research/scholarship doctoral degrees and had at least $5 million in total research expenditures.”
Michael Cobb, a physics professor for over 20 years at Southeast, explained Southeast’s programs “could never compete with an R1 university.”
Schools with an R1 classification, generally pull in money annually from research grants. Many times, professors at these universities teach fewer classes to be employed at the university and receive funding for their research.
“When you go to an R1 institution, teaching is something they have to do in order to do their research, and so it’s a different paradigm,” Cobb said. “I think [Southeast] cares, we try, and we keep innovating and pushing forward.”
Dean of STEM Tammy Randolph said despite bringing in less money on grants or independent research, she has high confidence in her program and its graduates.
Randolph said a lot of the growth and success comes from the culture of being a smaller school.
“We don’t have million-dollar grants,” Randolph said. “We don’t have researchers that just sit around in their office and do research all day — we work.”
In 2019, the University of Missouri’s College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources was given a single grant for $8.6 million for biomedical research, is just one example.
Chemistry department chair Philip Crawford said he believes there is a different mindset for a professor at Southeast than at a research university.
“At Southeast, teaching is number one, so our faculty teach substantially more classes. We have more interactions with the students and the faculty,” Crawford said.
Marcus Bond, a chemistry professor, believes a lot of the growth since he arrived at Southeast in 1994 is based on the ambition of those working in the college.
“We’ve received a lot of support from the administrators in the college,” Bond said. “We’re not pulling in tons of money, but I think we’re doing pretty good with what we got.”
Improvement in a field with many different programs and majors is hard to press down to one figure of statistics, or one achievement.
The college was the first in Missouri history to introduce a cybersecurity major, and it is still one of less than 50 schools nationally to do so. The program remains one of only three schools nationally to be accredited by the Accreditation Board for Science and Technology (ABET).
In Magill Hall, there is a new visualization lab, a combination of nine 60-inch 4k flat-screen televisions, all running on one hard drive. Bond believes he will use the lab for his x-ray crystallography course, which is “the experimental science determining the atomic and molecular structure of a crystal.”
Bond and his students will look to use the lab in the future, as a step up on the Rose 301 projector screen that the class was using previously.
Bond, who is working in the x-ray crystallography program, believes his students have opportunities that they wouldn’t have anywhere else.
“You would be hard-pressed to find another undergraduate university like us that has an x-ray crystallography program… we have had an x-ray crystallography program for about 20 years now,” Bond said.
Randolph believes the STEM programs will look to continually improve in the future.
“If there is something that somebody thinks is not up to par, all of us work together to make it better,” Randolph said.
For more information on Southeast STEM programs, visit https://semo.edu/stem/index.html.