U pledges $32 million to recruit and retain faculty

About $20 million of the money went to a 3.25 percent salary increase, adjustments and fringe benefits for faculty.

by Ahnalese Rushmann

Three years ago, University President Bob Bruininks announced the University’s Strategic Positioning plan to become one of the top three public research universities in the world.

According to Bruininks’ recent report to the Board of Regents, “Transforming the U,” the University expects to turn over roughly half of its current faculty and recruit 1,000 new faculty in the next five to seven years.

Sharon Reich Paulsen, University assistant vice president and chief of staff, said the turnover numbers are due to “normal retirement and attrition.”

The University is not “going out and getting rid of people,” she said.

Arlene Carney, vice provost for faculty and academic affairs, said the University has recruited and hired more than 100 new faculty in each of the past three years.

Recruiting happens at the collegiate level, she said, and departments work with their college’s deans to create a recruitment plan to fill each opening.

“We don’t just hire faculty to replace someone who has left or retired,” she said. “When there’s a vacancy, it’s a new opportunity to determine if there is a direction the field wants to go.”

In the 2007-2008 fiscal year, the University pledged $32.5 million in new investments toward faculty and staff, according to Bruininks’ report.

Most of the money, about $20 million, went toward a 3.25 percent salary increase, adjustments and associated fringe benefits, according to the University’s approved budget for the 2008 fiscal year.

Eight Twin Cities campus colleges received investment dollars for new faculty hires.

The Law School received the most money – $1.3 million. Most other schools, like the Institute of Technology and College of Pharmacy received around $250,000.

Each year, the colleges request and submit proposals for new faculty hires, budget director Julie Tonneson said.

Where the money is allocated “depends on what is requested and what is prioritized,” she said.

Karen Dewanz, chief financial officer for the College of Liberal Arts, said the college didn’t request money for additional faculty hires this year because they had received funds over the last few years.

Recruiting new hires was not a priority for the college this year, she said.

The newly formed College of Design received investment funds for three new positions in 2007, and two more in 2008, chief of staff Kathy Witherow said.

Many of the college’s faculty members are active in the recruitment process, she said.

Although the College of Design has yet to fill any of the positions, Witherow said, the college’s recruiters are employing techniques such as inviting candidates for guest lectures or having faculty call their alma maters, inquiring about top graduates.

“(The faculty) are the most important recruiting tool we have,” she said. “They have the best connections, and have a good sense of who’s doing what.”

Witherow said for the disciplines encompassed by the college, the “Twin Cities is a very attractive place,” but the problem recruiters run into is the high number of positions open nationwide.

“The bottom line message is we’re working on it,” she said.

The University is also working to cultivate leaders among its current faculty, Carney said.

“For the past three years, the Legislature has given the University specific money to reward our very best faculty,” she said.

Paulsen said the University has spent less than $20,000 on the “Wish You Were Here” campaign, designed to aid out-of-state faculty recruitment.

The campaign includes a Web site featuring an introduction by Garrison Keillor, as well as a colorful brochure emphasizing Twin Cities life – something important in getting prospective faculty to consider Minnesota, she said.

Carney said Roberto Ballarini, head of the civil engineering department, was heavily recruited before he was hired in 2006.

Ballarini, who previously taught at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, said he visited Minneapolis in 1995 and had friends working at the University, so he was familiar with the city before being recruited.

But he said out-of-towners are surprised by what Minnesota has to offer, a point proven when he recently hosted a business visitor from Lichtenstein.

“We drove around the campus,” he said. “He was just absolutely stunned about what appeared to be a really nice city and he said, ‘How is this possible?’ “

Ballarini said Minneapolis’ schools and its positive family environment were factors in his decision to make the move. Ballarini said he has friends who taught in California that had to move because they couldn’t afford to live there anymore.

“Headhunters always say Minnesota is the hardest place to get people to come, but it’s also the hardest place to get them to leave,” Ballarini said.