Montclair State University student conducting science experiment in CSAM.

State of Discovery

Prestigious Carnegie classification as Research Doctoral University affirms Montclair State’s role as a leader in cutting-edge research

Long a leader in graduate education in New Jersey, Montclair State was recently designated as a Research Doctoral University by the national Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, one of the most widely recognized and prestigious classifications for schools in the United States.

The ranking is produced every five years. Issued in February, the new classification recognizes the increased number of doctoral students produced in research fields as well as the University’s growing ability to attract funding from federal agencies such as the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, NASA and the U.S. Department of Education for research initiatives ranging from the war against bioterrorism to fostering achievement in science and math for all learners.

“Montclair State has been successfully expanding its research activities in important fields,” says Montclair State University President Susan A. Cole. “This new designation reflects the efforts of our distinguished faculty and the programs they have created that both challenge students and address the issues facing society today.”

The Carnegie Classification also reflects the University’s historic contributions to graduate education in New Jersey. In 1932, the University became the first New Jersey state college to offer a master’s degree, while in 1998, it received approval from the New Jersey Commission on Higher Education to offer the first doctoral program in its history. Today, Montclair State is one of four doctoral degree-granting institutions in New Jersey offering master’s degrees, doctoral degrees, certificates and certification programs in nearly 100 fields of study.

“We are gratified that the University’s doctoral programs have received this national and prestigious designation,” says Graduate School Dean Joan C. Ficke. “Our accomplished scholar-faculty have historically provided, and will continue to provide, forward-looking research as they mentor and challenge students.”

Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Willard Gingerich points out that of 4,664 institutions reviewed, only 335 were classified as doctoral universities and only 38 were reclassified from master’s to doctoral institutions.

“This highlights the significance of this classification in higher education as well as the significance of the change in designation,” he says. “It also affirms the important contributions our faculty and researchers are making in their respective scholarly and academic communities.”

A culture of discovery

According to Robert Prezant, dean of the College of Science and Mathematics, the upgraded designation is a long-deserved recognition. “It should translate into new funding opportunities and a growing number of both academic and industry partnerships for our research,” he explains.

Currently, a number of College of Science and Mathematics faculty members – including David Rotella, Stefanie Brachfeld and Eric Forgoston – have strong federal grant support for their cutting-edge research projects. With the support of a $2.5 million, five-year contract from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), Sokol Professor of Chemistry David Rotella is helping the United States fight bioterrorism. Together with government agencies, pharmaceutical companies and other scientists, Rotella is working to develop inhibitors of the botulinum toxin, a potentially potent bioterror weapon.

“It’s an important acknowledgment of the quality of scholarship and programmatic rigor our faculty have worked so hard to cultivate and maintain.”

Jennifer Goeke

According to Rotella, funded research projects succeed on several levels. “Extramural funding recognizes high-quality faculty research ideas and offers students the opportunity to contribute to the investigation of these ideas,” says Rotella. “These research projects can not only lead to valuable discoveries, but they can also lead to the next generation of research scientists.” For Mathematical Sciences Professor Eric Forgoston, the new classification is a measure of the “wonderful research being performed by students and faculty across the University.” He has received a three-year National Science Foundation award to develop computer models of fluid flows and mathematical models of control to determine how best to position the robotic ocean vehicles that are indispensable aids to coastal mapping, environmental monitoring, harbor security and oil field surveying efforts.

Department of Earth and Environmental Studies Professor and Chair Stefanie Brachfeld also directs the PhD program in Environmental Management. She is presently engaged in a three-year research project with national and international collaborators funded by a National Science Foundation Antarctic Earth Sciences award. “The goal of this project is to improve our understanding of the Antarctic Ice Sheet’s response to warming climates, a scenario that is unfolding now,” she explains.

Brachfeld sees the Carnegie Classification as a validation of the ongoing work of University faculty and students. “This designation is external recognition that our faculty are leaders in their disciplines and are advancing the frontiers of exploration, innovation and discovery in our respective fields,” she says.

A research hub

Even before receiving the classification, Montclair State had established a solid reputation as a research hub. Katrina Bulkley and Jennifer Goeke are among the College of Education and Human Services faculty members who have received substantial funding for their projects.

Montclair State University student wearing safety goggles.

Goeke, the University’s Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program coordinator, is currently in the final year of a five-year project, “Restructuring Preservice Preparation for Innovative Special Education,” which is supported by $1.4 million in funding from the United States Department of Education. She has been working to redesign part of the MAT program to prepare middle and secondary school math and science teachers to teach in inclusive classrooms – and increase STEM achievement for all students, including those with disabilities.

“As a grantee, I believe the new designation will make it easier for faculty to obtain external funding,” Goeke says. “It’s an important acknowledgment of the quality of scholarship and programmatic rigor our faculty have worked so hard to cultivate and maintain.”

Bulkley, a professor of Educational Leadership, agrees. “The Doctoral Research University designation reflects the increasing emphasis on strong and important research at the University,” says Bulkley, who recently received a $1 million grant from the Spencer Foundation to study the effectiveness of the portfolio management approach currently used to govern some urban school districts in Los Angeles, New Orleans and Denver.

“For much of the late 20th century, Montclair State was constrained in its development,” says Cole. “But in the past 15 years, the University has worked strategically and aggressively to grow enrollment, faculty and facilities. This growth has enabled us to expand educational programs and research initiatives in service to the state and the nation.”

Montclair State University CELS students – wearing safety goggles and lab coats – chatting.