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University Cluster Hires: An Opportunity to Enhance our Strategic Initiative Themes

January 30, 2014

Faculty, Staff, and Students:

We have put KU’s four strategic initiative themes into action through a number of focused investments — including our four summits during the 2011–12 academic year, subsequent seed funding for multidisciplinary research through the Strategic Initiative Grant program, and the Bold Aspirations Visitor and Lecturer Series, which supports our Foundation Professor initiative.

During the last two faculty recruitment cycles, an additional program — University Cluster Hires — has been developed and tested to support research communities. This program is in collaboration with the deans of the schools and the College.  

University Cluster Hires and collaboration

University Cluster Hires are all about collaboration in which the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts. They offer an exciting opportunity to add new faculty expertise around the strategic initiative themes, to build bridges between departments and schools, to strengthen existing research areas or move into new developing areas, and to attract significant external research funding. There are five defining objectives:

  1. Address emerging and escalating global grand challenges and societal issues where KU has special capabilities.
  2. Build scholarly communities that challenge, engage, and inspire individuals from many disciplines around a common theme.
  3. Enhance KU’s national and international visibility and impact.
  4. Engage and motivate funding agencies, foundations, state government, community, alumni, and friends to provide much-needed resources.
  5. Provide our students with unique experiences that will position them as highly recruited and valued drivers and innovators of social and technological change.

To date, three University Cluster Hires of varying sizes have been authorized:

  • A cluster on the topic of water quality and resources consisting of eight new faculty members in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, the School of Engineering, and the School of Law;
  • A cluster on the development of therapeutic proteins and vaccines involving three new faculty members in the School of Pharmacy and the School of Engineering; and
  • An Enhancing Energy cluster of six new faculty members in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences and the School of Engineering.

The University Cluster Hires website describes the purpose and makeup of these three clusters.  More information will be available in the coming weeks. Other promising proposals have been submitted and are under development.

Proposals for University Cluster Hires at KU

Deans are working with faculty and department chairs to put forward University Cluster Hire proposals as part of annual hiring plans. The website includes an example of the proposal template used by the deans, as well as a description of the makeup of the three authorized clusters.

University Cluster Hires are funded jointly by the schools/College and the Provost's Office. Those faculty slots that are centrally funded come from the state-supported growth of engineering with 30 new faculty positions, the 12 Foundation Professor positions funded by the state, and 22 new faculty positions funded by savings generated through Changing for Excellence.

In many cases, such as the three clusters listed above, plans for University Cluster Hires will include the recruitment of a Foundation Professor, although Foundation Professor recruitments can also proceed independently.

In addition, individual schools may pursue exciting cluster hires on their own separately from the University Cluster Hire program when the scope falls within their own school or the College. 

(Kilo)Bits and (Kilo)Bytes

The beginning of a new semester brings an expanded edition of Bits and Bytes:

  • David Roediger, the Kendrick C. Babcock Professor of History at the University of Illinois and an internationally recognized historian, will join KU during the 2014–15 academic year as our first Foundation Distinguished Professor. Professor Roediger is the first of 12 such eminent faculty members who will join KU. I look forward to additional Foundation Professor announcements this year.
  • The Office of the Provost is one of the co-sponsors of the panel seminar on “What is Free Speech in the Age of Social Media” on Tuesday, March 25 at 7 p.m. at The Commons, as part of this year’s exploratory theme on Data & Democracy. This important conversation on the use of social media is a prime example of how an academic community can explore the fascinating ramifications of protecting academic freedom while responsibly operating in the public forum of social media.
  • As Chancellor Gray-Little noted in her message last week, KU is well represented in the working group that will recommend a revised social media policy to the Board of Regents by April. The working group had its first meeting last week.  I want to thank the members of faculty and staff governance who recommended Charles Epp, professor in the School of Public Affairs and Administration, and Easan Selvan, associate director of support services in KU Information Technology and past president of Unclassified Senate, to represent the Lawrence campus. Professor Epp is also serving as co-chair of the group. The Medical Center is represented by Mark Fisher, professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.
  • Last month, the Wall Street Journal (KUID login required) featured KU in a story about how major research universities are embracing comprehensive strategies for administrative efficiencies. In particular, the WSJ highlighted some of our Changing for Excellence initiatives in Facilities Services and purchasing and our first Shared Service Center. The national interest generated by the story is one more testament to the big accomplishments so far by our dedicated staff. I’d like to particularly thank the FS employees who were part of an impromptu photo shoot in Dyche Hall for the article: Justin Barton (whose photo is featured in the story), Delmar “Mo” Henley, and Jeremy Mills.
  • The multidisciplinary research community working on water issues is following up on the great success of last fall’s Water Research Workshop by hosting a Q&A event on water issues in Kansas and the region on Friday, Feb. 28 at 3 p.m. in the Lied Center Pavilion. The event will feature a pair of speakers well-versed in Kansas and western U.S. water topics followed by a reception. A formal invitation from the community will be released soon. The speakers are:
    • Michael Hayden, 41st Governor of Kansas (1987 to 1991) and former Secretary of the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks.
    • Burke Griggs, Consulting Professor at the Bill Lane Center for the American West at Stanford University, who on an ongoing basis represents Kansas in water rights litigation.
Provost's Message Signature: 

Rock Chalk!
  -- Jeff

Jeffrey S. Vitter

Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor
Roy A. Roberts Distinguished Professor

This issue of Provost eNews as well as past ones can be found on the Provost eNews web page.

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