New Institute Launches to Close Gap in Research and Scholarship Opportunities for Underrepresented College Students and Faculty

National University’s Cause Research Institute (CRI) will invest in social sector research and innovation; foster collaboration with mission-aligned institutions

SAN DIEGO, CA (August 18, 2023) – National University (NU), a nonprofit serving more than 40,000 students and one of the largest private Minority Serving Institutions (MSI) in the United States, today announced the launch of the NU Cause Research Institute (CRI), a new applied Research & Development arm that will work to coordinate research, scholarship and other innovation efforts, with a special focus on social sector challenges, such as education, health, human services, criminal justice, technology and sustainability. To lead the new initiative, the university has named Dr. Thomas Stewart, a veteran higher education administrator and social scientist, as the inaugural executive director of CRI.

“Too often, academic and scientific discovery and the teaching mission can seem at odds with each other. However, the research enterprise can also be a powerful lever for promoting the academic success and career advancement of students as well as faculty,” said Dr. Stewart, executive director of the Cause Research Institute. “This is about harnessing the power of a fast-growing academic research enterprise and the diverse talents and interests of faculty and students to develop real-world solutions to societal challenges.”

A core component of the Cause Research Institute’s work will be to expand opportunities for applied undergraduate, graduate and post-doctoral research for underrepresented students and institutions. According to data from the National Science Foundation, U.S. colleges and universities invested more than $89.9 billion in FY 2021, an increase of $3.4 billion from FY 2020. Nationally, 63% of federally funded research occurs at a small group of institutions representing roughly 2.8% of bachelor’s degree-granting colleges and universities.

To help close the gap, the CRI will serve as a hub that will work with broad-access universities, community colleges, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic Serving Institutions and K-12 schools that can now engage members of NU’s community to support a wide variety of academic fields. In addition to coordinating research and development activities for current NU faculty and students, the CRI will offer research, evaluation, assessment and other professional services to peer institutions and third-party organizations.

Well-known for its distinctive focus on serving working adults, educators and Veterans, National University has steadily grown its research enterprise over the past decade with the addition of graduate, doctoral and research programs. Stewart takes the helm of the Cause Research Institute after five years of NU service, most recently as the vice chancellor for social justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion at National University.

In this new role, he will lead a team of experts in R&D, assessment and evaluation that will be responsible for managing research and scholarship efforts, overseeing research administration and the university’s research & development function, and providing contract professional services.

“Our vision is to democratize opportunities for academic research and scholarship in ways that support upward mobility for students and faculty. It’s about putting world-class research within reach of institutions that share our access and success mission,” said Dr. Mark D. Milliron, president and CEO of National University. “This new venture will be a dynamic feature of NU that links students, faculty and programs to spark innovation, power R&D and contribute to social good—both within our own university community and in partnership with mission-aligned academic institutions across the country.”

As a Veteran-founded, Minority-Serving Institution, National University’s student population reflects the shifting—and highly diverse—demographics of higher education today. According to DIVERSE: Issues in Higher Education, the university provides more master’s degrees in education to minority students than any other college or university in California. NU also consistently ranks in the Top 10 nationally in conferring master’s degrees to women.

For more information on NU’s Cause Research Institute and its initiatives, visit

About National University: National University, a veteran-founded nonprofit, has been dedicated to meeting the needs of hard-working adults by providing accessible, affordable higher education opportunities since 1971. As one of the nation’s largest private nonprofit universities, NU offers over 190+ online and on-campus programs and flexible four-week and eight-week classes designed to help students reach their goals while balancing busy lives. Since its founding, the NU community has grown to 40,000 students and 230,000 alumni around the globe, many of whom serve in helping industries such as business, education, health care, cybersecurity, and law and criminal justice. To learn more about National University’s new possibilities in education including next-generation education, credential-rich education, and whole human education, visit

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