Faculty Hiring Drive Already Paying Dividends

Ads in the Chronicle of Higher Education draw attention to UConn's faculty hiring initiative and some of the senior new faculty who have already joined the University.
The initiative is drawing applicants from many of the nation's top universities, and has already helped decrease class size.


Ads in the Chronicle of Higher Education draw attention to UConn's faculty hiring initiative and some of the outstanding new faculty who have already joined the University.
Ads in the Chronicle of Higher Education draw attention to UConn's faculty hiring initiative and some of the outstanding new faculty who have already joined the University.

UConn’s faculty hiring initiative is paying dividends, as the student/faculty ratio has steadily decreased and the allure of joining a rapidly transforming University is drawing thousands of applicants.

The University has hired 188 people for full-time tenure-track positions and professor-in-residence positions under the faculty recruitment initiative since it began two years ago. Provost Mun Choi told the Board of Trustees at its meeting this week that about 100 more are expected to be hired in the 2013-14 budget year, working toward the eventual goal of almost 300 net new positions.

“All of these faculty members will be teaching at the undergraduate and graduate levels, and will contribute to our mission of increasing learning outcomes and teaching outcomes,” Choi told the trustees.

Nearly 7,000 people have applied so far for the UConn positions, which are being created as part of a tuition-funded plan to solidify UConn’s academic core, strengthen research and teaching in key fields, and reduce class sizes.

Other encouraging statistics also point to successful decreases in the student/faculty ratio. It currently is 16.3 students per faculty member in 2013, down from 17.3 last year, and 18.3 in 2011, when trustees approved the tuition schedule to fund the hiring.

“The goal of going down to 15:1 is well within our reach,” Choi told the trustees, adding that the newly hired faculty members include two Pulitzer Prize-winners; experts in physics, philosophy, and additive manufacturing; and many others with valuable talents that will benefit UConn through innovative teaching and research.

The four-year hiring initiative has been described as one of the most ambitious plans of its type in U.S. higher education – especially in such tight economic times.

UConn has targeted several academic areas for growth, including human rights law and policy; genomics and associated disciplines; environment and sustainability; education policy research; insurance risk and health policy; digital media; and several others.

UConn has recruited professors from several of the nation’s top institutions, including some who gave up tenure at their previous universities because they wanted to be part of UConn’s momentum.

Some of the institutions from which they have come include the University of North Carolina, University of Virginia, Johns Hopkins, Duke, Rutgers, Princeton, Temple, Michigan State, and many other top-tier public and private institutions.

Many of the incoming faculty members earned their doctoral credentials at premier public and private universities. Their expertise runs the gamut from genomics to Chinese language, school reform policy, public health, global climate change, family policy, marine sciences, neuroscience, and a host of other specialties.

“With new faculty come new ideas for research and innovation, and opportunities for collaboration,” Sally Reis, vice provost for academic affairs, said this summer when the newest faculty members went through their orientation process.

“With these outstanding new faculty members, we are poised to become an even greater university in the next decade,” she added.

The majority of the faculty hiring initiative is being funded through a four-year tuition increase plan passed by the University’s Board of Trustees in December 2011 to significantly boost research capability, increase course offerings, and reduce class sizes for students.

The faculty hiring drive is separate from a hiring initiative that will take place under the Next Generation Connecticut initiative.

That plan includes the hiring of 259 new faculty members, of which 200 will be in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) disciplines, as part of a broader program to greatly expand UConn’s strength in those areas to benefit research, student outcomes and career opportunities, and statewide economic development.