Cultivating Research Excellence at City College — Dr. Rosemarie Wesson

by Malina Seenarine

As Associate Provost for Research Rosemarie Wesson steps down from her position at City College, she looks forward to seeing City College grow as a research institution.

In Wesson’s tenure as Associate Dean for Research in the Grove School of Engineering and associate provost, she helped remove barriers that faculty faced when performing research.

In the eight years that Wesson worked to support research efforts at CCNY, research award expenditures increased by 30%.

Wesson recalled the skepticism from some faculty members when she first became associate dean as they wondered how she would improve the school.

“That’s when I began saying that I’m here to help faculty,” Wesson said in an interview with The RICC. “I’m here to remove barriers. I’m here to make research easier for the faculty. When I moved into the provost position, I said the same thing.”

Now CCNY, currently an R2 research institution, attempts to position itself to attain an R1 Carnegie Classification by 2028. The American Council on Education (ACE) and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching has developed a classification of colleges and universities to support its program of research and policy analysis. While there aren’t clear specifications for which designation an institution gets, more detailed guidelines are set to be released in early 2025. 

Looking at the research institution’s record from the preceding three years, the R1 designation will be given to institutions expending a total of $50 million in research and conferring 70 research doctorates. The R2 designation includes $5 million in research expenditures and at least 20 research doctorates.

The City University of New York Graduate Center is the only CUNY school that has an R1 designation. With the new classifications in 2025, no CUNY school is set to have the R1 classification.

However, CCNY will be the closest with over $50 million in research expenditures, but lacks ample research doctorates. The Office of Research is now looking ahead to see what needs to be done to reach the threshold to qualify for the R1 classification by 2028.

If City College becomes an R1 institution, it would join a handful of Hispanic-Serving Institutions across the country with the designation and would be the only one in the northeast region.

“It’s important because it attracts faculty and students that are very interested in doing research,” Wesson said on the R1 status.

In Wesson’s time as Associate Provost, she created initiatives to promote collaborative research and helped ease the administrative barriers to research.

Wesson initiated the College Research Vision (CRV) research competition for seed funding, encouraging faculty to collaborate across disciplines and later submit for larger grant opportunities.

Taking a hands-on approach, Wesson sought to alleviate challenges that occurred when grants had been awarded to faculty at CCNY. Typically, releasing funds to the faculty member in charge of a research project involves a substantial amount of paperwork. To streamline this process, Wesson and the CCNY Grants and Sponsored Programs Office helped to implement a customer service system in the Grants Office to assist faculty members pay their invoices so they can be more focused on doing research.

The Office of Research, through the Provost Office, also began paying health insurance for graduate students. In previous years, the faculty members were responsible for filling out the paperwork for students to get health insurance.

Wesson emphasized that it’s not only important that faculty have time to perform research but that graduate students do as well. If they are worried about health insurance or medical bills then they won’t be focused on their research.

As Associate Provost, Wesson communicated with faculty members about funding opportunities long before the application was due. This allowed the faculty to have enough time to work with the Grants Office to submit quality proposals.

As Wesson moves into her new position at central CUNY, she hopes that CCNY will keep meeting the research needs of the Harlem community and that the faculty and the students continue to excel in research.

“I’m hoping that people will say, ‘Yes, she did make things better.’ I’m hoping that faculty have been empowered to do research and I’m hoping that the faculty continue to excel in research,” Wesson said. “We have excellent students at City College. We have excellent faculty members at City College and the only thing that’s needed is someone that will help them to succeed.”

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