Boston University was named one of the most innovative national universities for the first time in the 2019 US News & World Report Best Colleges rankings, released September 10, 2018.
“I think there’s a general understanding that the world of higher education is changing rapidly,” says Gerald Fine, Boston University College of Engineering professor of the practice, director of the Engineering Product Innovation Center (EPIC), and executive director of Innovate@BU. “The leadership of the University has created an environment where experimentation in better ways to educate students is encouraged.”
BU made the four-year-old “Most Innovative” list for the first time, tied for 28th out of the 36 schools that made the list, from among 301 schools in the US News National Universities category.
“Each year’s US News rankings are a reminder of how competitive the landscape is for top-tier research institutions and of the level of work necessary—and being performed across both campuses—to remain in this special class of universities,” says Jean Morrison, BU provost and chief academic officer. “We are delighted by BU’s entry into the listing of most innovative universities. It is a noteworthy distinction that spotlights the creative energy of our community and the important research advances being made each day across a host of fields.”
For the US News survey, college presidents, provosts, and admissions deans were asked to nominate colleges or universities making the most innovative improvements in terms of curriculum, faculty, students, campus life, technology, or facilities. The schools were ranked by the number of nominations they received, and a school had to receive seven or more to be listed. US News does not reveal how many nominations each school received or any specific factors behind individual school rankings.
“Over the past 10 to 15 years, the University has embarked on a number of innovative initiatives to educate our students differently in a changing world,” Fine says.
“It is exciting to see BU’s rise to one of the top universities in terms of innovation,” says Gloria S. Waters, BU vice president and associate provost for research and a Sargent College professor of speech, language, and hearing sciences. “Over the past year we have pioneered several new models of support and collaboration for research.”
Among the programs for undergraduates and grad students noted by Waters, Fine, and others:
- The BU Hub: The first University-wide general education program, encompassing 400 classes to help students develop intellectual capacities that will sustain them throughout their lives.
- CARB-X: The public-private Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria Biopharmaceutical Accelerator is the world’s largest preclinical and early development pipeline of antibiotics and other therapeutics, diagnostics, microbiome, vaccines, and devices.
- EPIC: ENG maker space allowing students to design and build their own ideas and gain hands-on experience in design, prototyping, and small-scale manufacturing.
- Innovate@BU: A cross-campus program to support creative problem-solving and hands-on solutions, with a home at the new BUild Lab: IDG Capital Student Innovation Center.
- Johnson & Johnson Innovation Lung Cancer Innovation Center: Centerpiece of a five-year alliance with Johnson & Johnson on the Medical Campus aims to fundamentally change the way lung cancer is detected and treated.
- Kilachand Center for Integrated Life Sciences & Engineering: Designed to facilitate interdisciplinary collaboration across science and engineering, endowed with $100 million to support research.
- Red Hat Collaboratory: Partnership with the leading open-source software company providing opportunities for students to work at Red Hat in Boston’s Seaport District, and for Red Hat staff to work with students on campus.
- SPARK! Project to support student-driven innovation in computer science and engineering and even launch their products into the world.
These and other programs “are paying off in terms of novel experiences for our students and faculty, and hopefully will lead to some groundbreaking discoveries that will have an impact on society,” Waters says.
Fine emphasizes that EPIC and Innovate@BU are just a tiny part of an overall climate of innovation, a mind-set fostered by top administration, that has affected both undergraduate and graduate education at BU. The US News ranking, he says, “is reaffirming that, collectively, we’re doing the right things to educate our students better.”
Overall, BU slipped a few places in the 2019 US News report ranking of national universities, to 42nd, with a total score of 66, down a single point from the 2018 ranking. The University jumped 3 places, to 32nd overall, in high school guidance counselors’ recommendations, and the College of Engineering rose one place, to 48th. The full US News report is available here.
In other annual rankings news, BU climbed 4 spots, to 36th, in the Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education 2019 College Rankings, unveiled September 5, 2018. Its overall ranking of 968 schools is based on 15 factors across 4 categories: resources, engagement, outcomes, and environment; 40 percent of each school’s overall score comes from student outcomes.
A version of this article was originally published in BU Today.