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WVU achieves Carnegie R1 (Highest Activity) Research Status

During the dedication of the Life Sciences Building, the faculty and students comprising the Department of Psychology were reminded “to whom much is given, much is expected.” The state-of-the-art facility that now housed the department provided the structural foundation for the department to support the university’s goal of obtaining the status of a leading research institution. The department already had a solid culture of publishing in the top scientific journals since its foundation and producing more PhDs than most other units in the College of Arts and Sciences and the entire university. The research infrastructure of the institution had grown following the founding of its non-profit corporate affiliate, the West Virginia University Research Corporation, in 1985 that provided the financial and practical flexibility for WVU researchers to conduct work funded through external grants and contracts without adhering to state regulations. Further, in 2005, researchers were empowered to hire research staff though the WVU Research Corporation without the limitations imposed by the state’s salary structure.

Under the auspices of the WVU Research Corporation, receipt of external grant funding rose from $13 million annually in the 1980s to over $140 million by 2015.  During the same time period, enrollment at WVU rose from around 18,000 students in the 1980s to almost 30,000 in 2013, and approximately 1000 new faculty positions were added to cover their instruction.  Although the institution continued its strong tradition of teaching excellence, it now recruited and retained faculty possessing solid credentials both in research and teaching in all disciplines.

To support WVUs growth into an institution characterized as the state’s only land grant and research university, the Department of Psychology focused considerable effort on creating and maintaining top tier research laboratories funded largely through external grants and start-up funds committed by the institution to assist beginning scientists in launching their programs of research. Expectations for promotion and tenure were strengthened with a renewed emphasis on obtaining external funding to support faculty programs of research.

After a solid year of self-study, in 2009, the faculty voted to launch a new graduate program area of study, Behavioral Neuroscience. Recognizing the growth of this area of study nationally and related successful record of funding within federal agencies and scientific foundations, this area was envisioned as a bridge to the scientists conducting research within the WVU Centers for Neuroscience at the Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center.  Based upon the solid reputations of the four existing program areas (Behavior Analysis, Clinical Psychology, Clinical Child Psychology, and Life Span Developmental Psychology), each in existence for 30 years or more, the faculty comprising this new program area had the support it needed to begin accepting graduate students in 2010. The first PhD from WVU in the area of Behavioral Neuroscience was granted in 2014.

Neuroscience Labs
                       Students working in the department’s behavioral neuroscience laboratories

Click here to view a timeline of faculty comprising the Behavioral Neuroscience area

Although WVU faculty in the Department of Psychology have always been expected to demonstrate meritorious activity in both areas of teaching and research, the increased emphasis on research productivity that occurred as the institution pursued R1 status as a research institution from the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education required a balanced approach to managing the teaching demands of its large undergraduate and graduate psychology programs. Indeed, the psychology major is one of the most popular undergraduate programs at WVU, comprised of over 800 students and graduating over 200 each year with BA or BS degrees in psychology.

Rather than continuing to employ ad hoc instructors on an increasingly regular basis, the institution committed resources to hire teaching faculty to support WVU’s goal of becoming a top tier research university. The Department of Psychology was already blessed with several exceptional instructors and was quick to take advantage of this initiative to hire several into these teaching faculty positions. In addition to instructing essential psychology courses themselves, the teaching faculty supervise graduate teaching assistants as they accumulate a broad range of teaching experiences before they graduate and become faculty members at both large universities and small teaching colleges around the world.

Click here to view a timeline of Teaching Faculty in the Department of Psychology

In 2016, West Virginia University achieved the status of being among the top research institutions in the nation, and was granted the R1 (Highest Research Activity) designation by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. 

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