In faculty hiring spree, U looks to fill spots in STEM fields first

About 100 new faculty members are expected in the next several years.

Emma Nelson

After announcing a plan this summer to hire 100 new faculty members, the University of Minnesota has initiated the process across several of its campuses, with the first major rounds of hiring occurring in the science departments.

The process will require several years, and will vary per department according to hiring climates in individual fields.

The College of Biological Sciences and the College of Science and Engineering  received funds for large-scale hiring through President Eric Kaler’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics initiative, an effort to increase the number of students at the University who are pursuing science and technology degrees.

Sally Gregory Kohlstedt, chair of the University Senate and Faculty Consultative Committee, said she is happy to see new faculty joining the University after cuts in recent years.

Funds designated for the hiring initiative total about $11.8 million. They come from part of a $25 million appropriation that was added to the University’s budget for fiscal year 2012, as well as a designated amount of almost $7 million from the 2013 budget.

The need to fill about 60 positions was identified when the Board of Regents approved Kaler’s budget in June, but additional positions are planned. The total number of new faculty will likely be about 100 by the time the hiring process is complete.

It was initially anticipated that the funds would ultimately cover 100 positions at approximate annual salaries of $75,000 plus fringe benefits, Kaler said in an email. However, he said, individual salaries may fluctuate.

 “We are very much in the marketplace for talent at all ranks,” he said at the June meeting.

The budget allotment from each year will fund hires in different colleges — $4.8 million from fiscal year 2012 will focus on the University’s coordinate campuses in addition to CBS, CSE, the Carlson School of Management and the College of Liberal Arts.

Funds from fiscal year 2013 will cover colleges and programs including the University’s Medical School, the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, the College of Design and the Minnesota Population Center.

A growing demand

CSE hired 13 new faculty members through STEM funding last year and CBS is planning to hire 16 over the next two to three years.

CBS’s approach to this hiring is unique. New faculty will comprise “clusters” to work on collaborative research.

Funding for 11 of the new positions will come from faculty retirements, while the remaining six will be funded through a combination of STEM funds and the hiring initiative itself.

 “Having funds available today for six of the necessary 16 faculty positions aligns with that college’s immediate and long-term plans,” Kaler said in an email.

CSE received $1.5 million from STEM and subsequently hired 13 new faculty members last year, said Mostafa Kaveh, associate dean for Research and Planning.

The college, which is currently home to about 5,000 undergraduates, is gradually increasing its size to meet demand.

“There is tremendous student pressure in our programs and certain fields in particular are getting more demand by students,” he said. “To respond to that demand, we’re putting in positions in those areas.”

CBS was awarded a recurring total of $800,000 for filling the six positions. The amount will cover both salaries and fringe benefits for these faculty members during their time at the University.

Initial costs, such as setting up laboratories and hiring research assistants — which can range from $400,000 to $1 million per faculty member — will be covered by the college.

The college was among the first to receive a large grouping of new faculty members, both because of ever-quickening changes in the field and a growing student body, said Dean Robert Elde.

“There’s never been an explosion of knowledge and information in the history of science that rivals the past 10 years in biology,” he said.

These changes create a need for faculty members who have been trained recently.

“We want to maintain both the quality of the student body, … and we also want to maintain the quality of our instruction,” Elde said.

The college has the highest applicant demand of any at the University. Of 7,100 applicants this year, only 450 were accepted.

The number of available spots will increase to 500 in the next year, but there are currently no plans to expand the student body beyond that.

With this level of demand, 16 new faculty members are not enough, Elde said — rather, it’s what the college can currently afford.

He said, “There will be a perpetual need to hire for the sake of renewal and for accommodating growth.”