An Elite Research Institution

Explaining a few factors behind UWM’s ascension into the top tier of American research universities.

UWM joined the nation’s elite research institutions in 2016 with a designation of “highest research activity” from the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. The rating was bestowed upon only 115 of the 4,665 universities evaluated. In Wisconsin, only UWM and UW-Madison made the top tier.

UWM’s climb reflects an intentional effort that dates to the 1960s, says Mark Harris, interim vice provost for research. That’s when the administration began building doctoral departments as an “implicit commitment to research quality.”

“When I think of the last 20 years at the university,” he says, “we have brought in a lot of talented, young faculty who have been active researchers. And we’ve supplemented that with some investments on behalf of the university to help them really develop their research. Those investments have paid off.”

Today, UWM has 33 doctoral and 64 master’s programs enrolling about 4,600 students. Its research programs also allow 750 undergraduates to work side by side with faculty members in labs and other venues.

In all, the university had $58.6 million in research expenditures last fiscal year, up from about $49 million a decade ago.