Provost reviews "cluster hire" program and answers questions

Scott Coltrane
Scott Coltrane

As many as 15 new faculty members will be on the University of Oregon campus over the next 18 months, as the result of the Faculty Excellence Cluster Hire Program, Provost Scott Coltrane said Tuesday at an academic planning session.

The university is preparing to hire those faculty members, in clusters of two to five at a time, in an effort to dramatically expand its cutting edge research and creative endeavors, the provost said.

The academic planning discussion in Gerlinger Lounge was the sixth and final session in a series that began in December. Coltrane reviewed the cluster hiring initiative and took questions from faculty members.

Oregon is one of 62 select institutions in the Association of American Universities, but in contrast to its AAU peers, it has significantly fewer tenure track and research faculty, he said.

“In order to stay competitive, we need to expand dramatically the proportion of our faculty who are engaged in cutting edge research and creative endeavors,” Coltrane said.

Objectives of a cluster hiring initiative include advancing the UO’s research and creative capacity to enhance its national and international profile, and to address key social, scientific and creative challenges.

Cluster hire proposals are due May 1, and may come from small groups of faculty, organized research or curricular programs, departments, schools and colleges, or cross-college collaborations.

The criteria for selecting cluster hire proposals include the ability to achieve national or international pre-eminence, enhancement of cross-disciplinary collaboration, and potential to build on and connect existing strengths.

Campus research, academic leadership and faculty advisory committees will review the proposals and make recommendations to the provost’s office, which will launch the search process by June 1. The first new faculty clusters are expected to be on campus as early as January 2014, but no later than fall of 2014, Coltrane said.

The provost’s office has set aside $2 million for initial hiring. The university will likely repeat the process every two years, he said.

After the session, Coltrane said faculty response to the initiative has been “uniformly positive.”

- by Tim Christie, UO Office of Public Affairs Communications