New faculty to aid academic programs

by Erin Ghere

The University will hire nearly 80 new faculty members over the next three years to beef up academic study in growing fields and strengthen faculty-student relations.
More than $9 million of 1998 legislative funds will be used to compensate the University’s tenderfoot faculty.
Each year new faculty members are hired to fill retirements and to meet new academic needs, but this surge in new hires is because of large state appropriations.
The money will allow University academic initiatives set up by University President Mark Yudof in the first months of his administration to move forward, said Robert Bruininks, executive vice president and provost.
Yudof, who became University president in 1997, laid out five initiatives prioritized by the University because of major developments in those fields. The five areas of study are genetics, molecular and cellular biology; digital technology; new media and communication; agriculture and outreach; and design.
“The initiatives will result in the hiring of 50 new faculty members over the next two to three years,” Bruininks said.
Twenty-four new positions will open in genetics, molecular and cellular biology studies during the next three years; eight searches will begin this fall.
Fourteen new faculty members are being hired under the digital technology initiative; five positions have already been filled.
Eight or nine faculty members will be hired to fill positions in the Institute for New Media, which will open when the renovation of Murphy Hall is complete.
No new faculty will be hired with the 1998 legislative funds in design or agriculture and outreach.
In addition, 30 new faculty members will be hired for positions on three of the four University campuses to increase faculty available to conduct freshman seminars. The seminars are small courses designed to facilitate one-on-one interaction between students and professors early in undergraduates’ academic careers.
The ultimate goal of the expansion is to increase student education, University research opportunities and program depth to meet the economic and cultural needs of Minnesota, Bruininks said.
The University is using $4.4 million of the 1999 state Legislature’s $116 million appropriation to hire eight new faculty this year and 22 next year to expand the still-new seminar program.
Twenty-two of those new faculty will be hired for the Twin Cities campus, two will be hired for the Morris campus and six for the Duluth campus.
“These additional faculty will be hired to help improve undergraduate offerings, especially freshman seminars,” Bruininks said.
An additional benefit of focusing on the five targeted areas is increasing undergraduate enrollment in those fields.
“(The new faculty) will allow us to maintain and sometimes increase student enrollment,” Bruininks said.
He said the initiatives are designed to improve research, educational opportunities and outreach. Enrollment increases are merely an additional benefit.
“Our investments mean increased student interest,” Bruininks added.
The College of Biological Sciences has seen increases since the University began improving its programs.
Many campus construction projects currently holding up University commuters are also related to the five targeted areas. Lyon Labs, Millard Hall and Owre Hall are being torn down to make room for the new Institute of Cellular and Molecular Biology, while Murphy Hall is being technologically updated in preparation for housing the Institute of New Media.
Bruininks said the University plans to continue its faculty expansion.
Future legislative requests will include proposals for more faculty in new and existing fields as well as increased funding for faculty compensation, he said.
Erin Ghere covers University faculty and welcomes comments at [email protected] She can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3217.