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Archive for Saturday, August 16, 2003

Funding spurs faculty growth

August 16, 2003

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The 18 new tuition-funded faculty positions at Kansas University have a lot in common, and it's not a coincidence.

The positions are focused in two areas -- life sciences and international education.

"Instead of spreading it around and not having any impact, we decided to concentrate them and make an impact," said Kathleen McCluskey-Fawcett, senior vice provost.

The new faculty members, most of whom will start during this school year, were funded through the $8.6 million in extra money KU received last year because of a 25 percent tuition increase. The 18 positions, including salaries and start-up costs, took about $1.5 million.

Deans submitted faculty proposals to the Provost's Office last year. They were told to focus their proposals on how to get programs or schools into the top 25 of their field among public universities.

"It's hard because everybody thinks that their idea is the best one," McCluskey-Fawcett said. "We can't be all things to all people anymore. We need to ask: 'What niche do you want your school to be known for nationally?'"

Provost David Shulenburger's top pick for new positions was life science, which accounts for 13 of the 18 spots. Positions will include bioinformatics, cognitive neuroscience, chemistry, biomolecular engineering, genetics, pharmacology/toxicology and medicinal chemistry.

The other major focus will be international education and the study of global issues. KU already has four federally funded area studies centers and a Center for International Business.

Five new positions will be in the areas of international financial law, biodiversity/global environment and global human ecology.

"In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks and continuing political tension worldwide, the need to develop multicultural and multinational understanding is greater than ever," Shulenburger said. "These appointments will help us create significant international experiences for students, while adding to the knowledge base concerning issues that cross national boundaries."

KU planned to add a total of 100 faculty positions over the next four years.

"That will increased the size of the faculty by about 10 percent," McCluskey-Fawcett said. "We'll continue with those same directions, but new themes will probably emerge for next year."

Kim Wilcox, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said the new faculty positions were giving deans and department chairs new life for long-range planning and goal-setting. He said he expected more inter-departmental proposals in future years.

"It means the departments were allowed to step outside their current situation," he said. "It's different than just filling in places where people have left. It was an opportunity to think creatively for the departments and try to be complimentary, so we're developing common strengths."

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