When Indiana University released its new list of Carnegie Research Institution classifications last month, sighs of relief and bursts of celebration engulfed Prairie View A&M University.

The designation of Prairie View as a “high research activity” doctoral university places the Houston-area institution among the 10 historically black colleges and universities so identified across the country. It sparked emotions among administrators, faculty, researchers, students, and alumni rooted in a sense of pride for a superb legacy of achievement that was built in the face of countless and, at times, seemingly insurmountable obstacles. This recognition had, in fact, been long in coming.

The Carnegie Classification of Higher Education Institutions is the primary source for describing the diversity of higher education institutions in the United States. As such, it uses a variety of data to determine the nature of an institution’s output.

Using national data for enrollment and completion, a graduate student survey, and a National Science Foundation research and development survey, the Carnegie System provides the higher education and research communities profiles of their competitors and partners and to the funding community confirmation that the institutions they support are on the right track to producing original and applied work that benefits society.

Societal benefit has been at the core of Prairie View A & M’s mission since its founding in 1876. Uncertainty over what to expect for a post-Civil War nation with newly liberated blacks must have seemed like a tall order. moment of our foundation.

Yet this young institution, originally created for narrow training, has maintained and improved by adapting over time. From rudimentary training to general education programs to higher education, the improvements would make the school a viable institution as the country opened up more to black achievement.

Today, Prairie View offers graduate degrees in many fields and has set national records for the production of African American graduates in engineering and architecture. Its nursing program celebrates its 100th anniversary, a bulwark in the production of nurses for the internationally renowned Houston Medical Center institutions.

The level two designation speaks volumes about the success of these efforts.

A member of the Texas A&M University System, Prairie View is a shining star not only for the system, but for the state of Texas and, frankly, for the nation. Along with his HBCU peers, he daily proves that HBCUs are more than just appendages of elite higher education.

This new recognition demonstrates the strong promise of a university that continues to strengthen its societal role: educating students, advancing scholarships and research, and ensuring social progress for marginalized groups. With the addition of the level two designation, this role is further enhanced, as funders can more confidently view Prairie View students, faculty and researchers as worthy of the level of funding that has long been enjoyed by funders. ‘other universities.

I have frequent discussions with donors who I know are generous to other universities but who only offer nominal funds to Prairie View. Such well-intentioned but fundamentally discriminatory practices must finally end.

With the support of the state, the Texas A&M system, national government agencies, our business and academic partners, and our many supporters across the country, we can say our journey has only just begun. With their collective help, as we celebrate the bicentennial of the university in 55 years, our successors can affirm that with the help of fair and impartial people, we have fulfilled our promise to the state, nation and community to whom we were created to serve. .

Ruth J. Simmons is President of Prairie View A&M University. She wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News.


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