University makes progress on faculty growth

Iowa State is making progress on President Steven Leath's pledge last fall to build both the number and the excellence of the university's faculty. Since then, 60 tenured or tenure-track faculty members accepted positions on campus for the 2013-14 academic year.

During his installation address last September, Leath shared his intent to bolster faculty recruitment, particularly in areas "critical to Iowa's economic future" -- the biological sciences, agriculture, physical sciences and engineering. He announced a first target of 200 additional tenured or tenure-track faculty. More than half of this year's hires are in these targeted fields.

In the last decade, the annual number of new tenure-track faculty has ranged from 45 to 100 new hires.

"Hiring faculty is a priority of our departments and colleges. I can't think of a situation here in which a college or department doesn't have that at the top of its 'to-do' list," said associate provost Dawn Bratsch-Prince. "I think we're all on the same page that we want to grow the faculty -- and in the right way. It's possibly a lifetime commitment we're making to a faculty member."

The office of the senior vice president and provost has the authority to hire tenured and tenure-track faculty members; hiring responsibility for non-tenure eligible faculty rests with college deans.

Bratsch-Prince offered some insight into the recruiting process and the variables in play:

Strong job market. Higher education has eased past the economic downturn of a few years ago and good jobs are more plentiful, she said. Strong universities are vying for the same pool of applicants, so there's more competition for the top candidates. During the lean years, there were more candidates than there were positions to fill.

Hiring to retain. "We want to hire the best-qualified people, those we believe will be successful and will stay at Iowa State," Bratsch-Prince said. She noted that several departments this year closed a search when they weren't able to hire their top candidates. "Their applicant pool wasn't as deep as they'd hoped for. They'll regroup and reopen the search when perhaps they can attract a more robust pool of candidates," she said.

It's cyclical. Iowa State always is in search mode, Bratsch-Prince said, and each discipline has its own hiring cycle. That cycle may be tied to specific conferences, at which interviews typically occur. The cycle might begin in September or January or April, depending on the discipline. Some departments succeed quickly with their searches; for others, it's a longer process.

Focus on humanities salaries. One of the university's initiatives this spring was to raise faculty salaries in the humanities to be more competitive with Iowa State's peer universities. Leath, senior vice president and provost Jonathan Wickert and Liberal Arts and Sciences dean Beate Schmittmann collectively put $450,000 into salaries and benefits for faculty in six departments: English, Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication, history, music and theatre, philosophy and religious studies, and world languages and cultures.

"Salary is a concern at any university. The humanities faculty do teach a lot of our students and we want to keep the good faculty that we have," Bratsch-Prince said.

Beyond 200. Leath set a first target of 200 new faculty in his speech last fall. He also set a goal of increasing Iowa State's graduate student body by 2,000. "We're looking to increase our faculty numbers in those areas where we have strong or up-and-coming graduate programs," Bratsch-Prince said.

Investment in retention. "We can hire all the faculty in the world, but if we don't have an environment in which they can be successful, we'll lose them," Bratsch-Prince said. The provost office is investing money and time particularly in targeted professional development for early-career and mid-career faculty and for department chairs.

"That investment helps us keep the people we hire and create a community that's attractive to new hires, too," she said.

August 2012-August 2013: New tenure-track faculty by college

Departments with 2 or more hires

           Management (2)


           Architecture (2)


Veterinary Medicine
           Vet Clinical Sciences (2)


Human Sciences
           Apparel, Events, Hospitality Management (3)
           Human Development/Family Studies (4)


Agriculture and Life Sciences
           Agronomy (3)
           Sociology (2)


           Mechanical (4.5)
           Electrical/Computer (2)


Liberal Arts and Sciences
           Biochemistry, Biophysics, Molecular Biology (3)
           English (3)
           Computer Science (3)
           Philosophy/Religious Studies (2)
           Political Science (2)




* Reflects split appointment