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Texas State University

The Big Ideas (Cover Story)

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The Big Ideas

By Robyn Ross

Texas State's bold research initiatives will transform the future

The Big Ideas are high-impact research initiatives shaping the future of Texas State University and the Central Texas economy. As the university progresses toward its goal of becoming a tier-one public research institution, the Big Ideas are leading the way.

Projects developing within the Big Ideas research include a virtual-reality training program to prepare police to respond to an active shooter, sensors that can detect structural weakness in a bridge and alert state inspectors, and machine-learning algorithms that help diagnose patients’ mental health conditions.

The vision is to continue to expand the Big Ideas landscape to incorporate Texas State’s legacy of excellence in the arts, humanities, and creative expressions. The word “research” often conjures the image of a scientist in a lab, and professors at Texas State produce their share of cutting-edge scientific studies. At the same time, faculty in every college is conducting research that quickly moves out of the lab to influence people’s daily lives and relate to issues they read about in the news. “It’s research with relevance that occurs in a lab or the field or a studio or a training setting that is easily adapted to solving a real-world problem,” says Dr. Gene Bourgeois, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs.

The Big Ideas, chosen last year from three dozen proposals, are the vanguard of the university’s next capital campaign. While every contribution advances Texas  State toward top-tier research university status, gifts of $1 million or more will have a transformative effect: endowing a professorship, supporting scholarships, or funding research. Such significant gifts not only enable faculty research but help the university deliver those innovations to the public more quickly.

Donors to the Big Ideas campaign may also see their gifts matched with additional state dollars. Since 2012, Texas State has been designated as one of Texas’ eight emerging research universities. That distinction makes the university eligible for support from the Texas Research Incentive Program, which offers partial matching grants for private gifts starting at $100,000 and fully matches gifts at the $2 million level or higher.

When the university reaches defined benchmarks set by the state, including a $400 million endowment and $45 million in restricted research funds, it will receive additional financial support through the National Research University Fund. Texas State has made substantial progress toward those markers in the last decade, and gifts to the Big Ideas will accelerate that journey.

Each idea represents an opportunity to support research that will have a tangible impact on the future of Texas. Donors will be able to see their investments generating returns in law enforcement, hospitals, construction, works of art or literary importance, and nonprofits that serve communities across  the state and the nation.

“As Texas State researchers, we’re not in the proverbial ‘ivory tower,’ ” says Dr. Melinda Villagran, a professor of communication studies who directs the Big Idea focusing on translational health. “We’re in the community. We’re in the WIC clinic. We’re in the kitchens in public housing. We’re moving research into reality, and we’re doing it in a deliberate way that makes us relevant from the start.”