For the first time since the mid-2000s, Kansas University is embarking on a wide-scale effort to fill new faculty positions.
As proclaimed in a full-page ad in The Chronicle of Higher Education last month, KU is hiring for 64 newly created faculty spots. The jobs will be broken down into three categories, KU officials said:
• 12 “Foundation Professor” positions: spots designated for high-profile, established faculty members drawn from other institutions, to be funded by a $3 million annual award from the state with some donations through;
• 30 new jobs in the expanding School of Engineering, which will make use of increased tuition dollars from the growing student population;
• And 22 other positions, to be paid for with savings from the university’s ongoing Changing for Excellence efficiency measures.
The hiring campaign is a first during the tenure of Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little. Because of budget cutbacks, the university’s faculty size decreased in the years shortly after she took office in 2009.
“There was a year or two where we did very little hiring of new faculty,” Gray-Little said.
She said the current effort would aim to return the faculty to the size it reached in the previous decade and then continue to grow.
Provost Jeff Vitter said the effort would be the biggest instance of faculty growth at KU since the early- to mid-2000s, when tuition dollars were rolling in as the university’s enrollment grew.
The university is spreading the word about its openings with an advertising campaign in print and online venues, KU spokesman Jack Martin said, including the full-page Chronicle ad that promises prospective faculty members the opportunity to “make discoveries that change the world” and cites its membership in the Association of American Universities.
To fill the 12 higher-profile jobs, Vitter said, KU will likely need to seek out prospects rather than waiting for them to apply.
“Typically, you need to target and find people and then entice them to come to campus,” Vitter said.
One way to do that will be to show off the university to scholars coming as part of the its Bold Aspirations Visitors and Lecture Series — visitors who would be “potential great hires,” Vitter said.
The other 52 jobs, at the engineering school and elsewhere, are meant for faculty members with a broader range of experience, Gray-Little said, including some junior faculty starting in their first positions.
The 30 engineering faculty positions are being created to keep pace with the engineering school’s planned 60 percent expansion in enrollment, Vitter said. The school is opening a new research building this fall and is planning construction on another larger building set to include classroom space, bolstered by state funds intended to help produce more engineers in Kansas.
Tuition from those additional students will help fund the new faculty jobs, Vitter said, and the hope is that growth will inspire more giving to the school, as well.
“It’s a giant circle that is a real win-win for everyone,” Vitter said.
The additional 22 new jobs, allocated to other schools and departments, were made possible by the efficiency measures made through the university’s Changing for Excellence program, Vitter said. Those changes, made with the help of the Huron Consulting Group, have included the reorganizing of the Facilities and Operations office and new vendor agreements.
“We are going through a lot of reorganization so we can do more with less, and use the savings to invest in making this university a better place,” Vitter said. “And a part of that is bringing in faculty so that we can provide our students with better experiences and we can be more innovative.”
Among the 97 KU employees who accepted early-retirement buyouts this year are 11 faculty members. Vitter said those early retirements could lead to new faculty jobs through reorganization in the future, but they did not contribute to the group of 64 jobs for which the university is now hiring.
Martin said the university had not set a deadline for filling the positions but has already begun identifying some candidates.
“The quality of these hires is what is most important and attracting top talent can take time,” Martin said.
Gray-Little said the new faculty positions would help the university beef up the quality and the quantity of its research — an important factor in maintaining its AAU membership.
“This is very much related to the question of research stature,” Gray-Little said.