Morgan State Makes Strides Toward Goal of Reaching Highest Tier of Research Universities


  • Morgan has launched three new research centers in 2022, ranging from sports gaming to equitable artificial intelligence to violence reduction.
  • The State of Maryland has appropriated more than $11 million annually for Morgan’s research centers.
  • The new research combined with an increase in funding and hiring of tenure-track professors could help Morgan reach its goal of R1 status by 2030.

Morgan State University is continuing its mission to become part of the upper echelon of research universities by creating three new research centers this year and establishing a new endowed research professorship.

All these efforts are part of Morgan’s goal to become an R1 institution. This status is determined by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, which classifies schools based on a variety of characteristics like doctoral degrees conferred and research spending. 

An unofficial hierarchy system to the classifications translates into real-world funding — schools like Johns Hopkins University, MIT, Georgia Tech and Harvard University are recognized as R1, which Carnegie classifies as schools that have a very high degree of research activity. No HBCU currently has R1 status; Morgan is an R2 institution, one tier below.

No HBCU currently has R1 status, and only 11 of the 133 universities designated as R2 are HBCUs.

Morgan has launched three new research centers this year: the Center for Data Analytics and Sports Gaming Research, the Center for Equitable Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Systems and the Center for Urban Violence and Crime Reduction. The Baltimore-based HBCU also launched a cybersecurity research center in 2018 and the Center for Urban Health Equity (CUHE) in 2021.

“Each center’s launch was done very strategically and with a great amount of intentionality,” Willie E. May, vice president for Research and Economic Development at Morgan, said in a release.

“The University evaluated the expertise and strengths already possessed in specific focal areas and looked to amplify them with dedicated centers of research and study. Not only will these centers of research be instrumental in attracting funding commitments and contracts from governmental agencies and private corporations but will also aid in elevating the depth and breadth of our research,” May continued.

The State of Maryland has allocated more than $11 million annually for these five research centers. Morgan has also used at least $4 million of a $40 million donation by philanthropist MacKenzie Scott towards establishing three endowed professorships in brain science, predictive analysis, cybersecurity engineering and psychometrics, and a new Endowed Chair for the CUHE. 

But with no HBCU currently being an R1 university, there is an impact on the federal research funding, philanthropic donations and other funding they are eligible to receive.

“The big proposals that are being funded, the big research scientists that get multimillion-dollar awards over a long period to really establish a certain type of research and to be able to experiment and see it through and keep it going, those rarely go to institutions like HBCUs,” Claudia Rankins, Senior Research Associate at PRISSEM Academic Services and a retired Program Director of HBCU-UP at the National Science Foundation, told The Plug.

“You have more confidence as a [grant proposal] reviewer based on what’s in your mind that it’s more likely that the faculty member at the R1 institution has the support needed to carry out the research, so it’s more likely that this research will be successful. That’s just how the thinking goes,” Rankins said.

Morgan is hoping to reach R1 status by 2030. With the new research centers, the university plans to hire 44 tenured or tenured track, full-time faculty members, which could add to its chances of becoming an R1 institution.

Morgan is already hoping to create more centers —  the National Center for the Elimination of Educational Disparities, the Center for Education and Research in Microelectronics, the Center on Brain Science and the Center for the Preservation and Advancement of Democracy.

Mirtha Donastorg

Mirtha Donastorg is a corps member with Report for America and The Plug's HBCU Innovation Editor and Senior Reporter, exploring start-up initiatives and innovations coming from Historically Black Colleges and Universities, as well as the way students are shaping the future of tech. She previously worked as an associate producer and a researcher for CNN.