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Research activity sets another record at New Mexico State University

Researchers at New Mexico State University had another record-breaking year in 1999-2000, with $129.9 million in expenditures on grants and contracts. The total for the fiscal year that ended June 30 was up 7.5 percent from the previous year.


Since 1995-96, grants and contracts have grown by more than $30 million, an increase of 30.7 percent, said Gary Cunningham, NMSU's vice president for research. The money, from federal agencies and other sources, was used for research in areas as diverse as bridge safety and arid lands ecology -- and also for a wide range of public service and educational outreach activities.

The competitiveness of NMSU faculty members in the national grants and contracts arena yields big premiums for NMSU students and the community, Cunningham said.

"The economic impact of this research and scholarly activity is significant," he said. "Each year $35 million to $40 million in payroll goes into the local economy. Last year we had 184 graduate students and more than 1,000 undergraduate students working on these funded projects."

In addition, the funding allows the university to buy equipment that can be used for educational as well as research purposes. In the past two years, more than $12 million in equipment and facilities have been purchased through grants and contracts, Cunningham said.

The steady increase in externally funded research at NMSU in recent years is due largely to the quality of faculty members' work, he said. "Our faculty members are writing good proposals. Our success rate on grant proposals is around 50 percent, and nationally the figures you see are around 25 to 30 percent."

Nearly 50 percent of all NMSU faculty members participate in sponsored programs. To students, the benefits of this activity are numerous, Cunningham said.

"The most important benefit is that faculty who are actively involved in creative scholarly activities -- who are leaders in their fields -- are actually doing the teaching," he said. "The people who are good researchers and creative scholars are the best teachers."

Students also have more opportunities for hands-on research experience, "learning how knowledge is created and how to evaluate it," Cunningham said.

"We're not just passing on knowledge; we're teaching students how to evaluate the quality of new information," he said. "The knowledge base they graduate with is not the knowledge base they will use throughout their careers -- they will continually acquire new knowledge and they need to know how to evaluate it and put it to work for them."

Karl Hill
Sept. 11, 2000