Momentum Continues in UM’s First Year as ‘R1’ Research University

UM wildlife biology student Bailey Underwood processes samples from fruit flies in an evolutionary genomics lab.
A picture of Scott Whittenburg
Scott Whittenburg

MISSOULA – The University of Montana was named a top-tier "R1" research institution last year. It was the culmination of a decades-long goal for UM, and the science surge has only gained momentum in the first six months of the 2022-23 fiscal year.

During the past decade, expenditures from research grants have more than doubled at the University. This past fall reported research expenditures were a record $126 million, up $4 million from the year before. UM experienced a 129% increase from the $55 million reported in 2014.

Scott Whittenburg, UM vice president for research and creative scholarship, was a chief architect of the University’s bid to earn R1 status from the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. Only about 3.7% of degree-granting institutions across the U.S. earn the designation. Of the 146 R1 universities, UM ranks No. 9 for research growth since 2014.

Whittenburg said the amount of new external funding received by UM in the first six months of this fiscal year is up 18% over where it was a year ago. The award volume stands at $99 million, compared to $84 million at this time last year.

“So our trajectory looks strong – poised for another record,” he said. “We expect this trend to continue for the next several years as our research awards continue to reach new heights.”

The number of research proposals submitted in the first six months is about even, 260 this year compared to 263 a year ago. However, the amount of external funding requested, also called the proposal volume, is $151 million this year compared to $123 million last year.

Additionally, research and associated instructional expenditures are up 8%. Whittenburg said this figure does not yet include expenses channeled through the UM Foundation and the Montana Technology Enterprise Center (MonTEC), UM’s business incubator.

Of the 146 R1 research universities in the U.S., only two – UM and the University of Oregon – managed to achieve that status without also having an engineering school or a medical school. Whittenburg said the University’s R1 status should continue contributing to the growth of UM and its research enterprise.

“In addition to the added prestige of being an R1 university, the designation also helps in the recruitment of students – both undergraduate and graduate – and new faculty,” he said. “Many students will only consider R1 universities when looking at where to apply in much the same way that they only consider D1 athletic schools.

“I also meet with many of the faculty candidates during the recruitment process, and they have all mentioned our achievement of R1 status as a major factor in their decision as to where they would like to continue their career.”


Contact: Scott Whittenburg, UM vice president for research and creative scholarship, 406-243-6670,