With 173 new faculty positions, GW exceeds major strategic plan goal

Media Credit: Hatchet File Photo by Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

Officials have added 173 new tenure-track faculty positions since University President Steven Knapp came to GW in 2008 – a major check mark on GW's overall hiring goals.

GW has completed more than 100 new faculty hires – a top priority under the University-wide strategic plan.

Since 2008, the first full year University President Steven Knapp served as president, 173 new tenure-track faculty positions throughout the University have been created and filled. Those hires were also a top priority for Provost Steven Lerman, who will step down at the end of this semester. Some faculty members say certain departments, especially in science, have seen sharp increases in faculty hires, while others’ hires have dropped off or remained stagnant.

Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs Dianne Martin said in an email that most tenure positions have been created in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Engineering and Applied Science.

Martin said in total, 400 new faculty have come to GW since 2008, with most filling existing positions.

“New positions are determined by the strategic goals of the University with a priority to filling critical areas of need in each school for teaching and research,” she said.

Creating new faculty lines, instead of only filling vacancies, is a critical strategy for departments to bring in younger, more research-minded faculty at the forefront of their fields. Officials have said these new positions are necessary because they can rejuvenate departments and bring in more research opportunities.

Last year, the business school offered buyouts to a number of faculty who had taught there since 1990. The business school was the fourth school in five years to convince tenured faculty to retire. Eliminating those faculty through buyouts freed up money to hire younger faculty who better fell in line with the University’s priorities.

Because a tenured faculty member could earn up to $2 million over their time at GW, creating new faculty roles is also more expensive than filling a vacancy. GW planned to spend between $50 million and $100 million on 50 to 100 new faculty lines by 2021, according to its strategic plan.

That expense is something officials have to balance among other goals, especially as schools have had to tighten budgets over the last two years and funding for the strategic plan was cut by $8.2 million last year.

The addition of endowed professorships, particularly in CCAS and SEAS, have afforded departments opportunities to add more faculty for specific academic programs. These positions are typically funded by outside donors and can attract top faculty, and officials announced two endowed professorships in SEAS in September.

“Endowments play a fundamental role in the continued growth and enhancement of academic programs, allowing the University to expand research and teaching capabilities,” Martin said.

Growing despite cuts
The hiring growth in CCAS was mainly in science-related fields, but came as the school has recently struggled to grow because of budgetary restrictions, faculty members said. Budget shortfalls caused by a surprise drop in graduate enrollment forced officials to enforce a hiring freeze in the school last year.

While some schools and particular departments have added positions, many part-time faculty positions, especially in CCAS have been eliminated due to University-wide budget cuts, brought on by the graduate enrollment slump. All administrative divisions were asked to cut their budgets by 5 percent last year and 46 staffers were laid off in April. Graduate enrollment is back up this year, though not at its all-time high, Knapp said earlier this fall.

The music department’s budget was cut by 40 percent last year, and the creative writing program will lose eight adjunct faculty members next semester because of budget restrictions.

Media Credit: Hatchet File Photo by Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor
Dianne Martin, the vice provost for faculty affairs said the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Engineering and Applied Science had the most new tenured faculty positions created.

But the University’s focus on the sciences has benefited those departments. Randall Packer, the chair of the biology department, said his department has gained three completely new faculty positions over the last 10 years.

Packer added that Peg Barratt, former dean of the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, was mostly responsible for that shift, as she added more than 30 new positions across the school over her decade-long tenure. Barratt stepped down from her position as dean in 2012 after faculty were upset with her leadership.

Carol Sigelman, the chair of the psychology department, said her department has created three new faculty positions, including one in clinical psychology that the department is in the process of filling.

She said the college and administration have been supportive of the psychology department’s work with undergraduate students in particular.

“The Columbian College and the administration more broadly appreciates that we teach large numbers of undergraduates, have three successful doctoral program areas, and have a strong record of attracting external funding,” Sigelman said in an email.

While science departments have brought in a significant number of faculty members, other departments have not had the ability to fund completely new positions.

Roy Grinker, chair of the anthropology department, said his department has had three completely new faculty positions open up since 2007. He added that there are certain things his department has been unable to hire, like an archaeologist or a professor specializing in Latin America.

“We are always struggling to permit faculty to do research that requires leaving the University,” Grinker said.

He added that it is always encouraged for professors to research, but wants to increase diversity of research in the department – a goal that could be reached with the addition of new faculty lines.

Other departments have been unable to add new faculty positions in areas they say are essential to their programs. Robert Eisen, the chair of the religion department, said he has tried multiple times to add a faculty position in Buddhism, a major area in religion, without success.

“It’s a problem because we desperately need new faculty lines to cover the major areas in the field of religion,” Eisen said in an email. “Repeated attempts to open up a new line in that area have failed.”

A focus on science and research
As officials have pushed for more research and deans have highlighted the need for research-minded faculty, hiring in science fields at GW has reflected that priority.

SEAS has added more than 40 new faculty members since the school’s dean, David Dolling, began his tenure in 2008, about the same time as talks began for a new engineering building. The $275 million Science and Engineering Hall, which opened last winter, was one way officials hoped to attract new researchers, but not all of the science departments have been able to be housed in the new complex.

Lerman, who will leave his office at the end of this semester, has prioritized bringing in research-minded faculty. He will return to GW as an A. James Clark scholar of engineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Science in the fall of 2016.

New faculty focused on research is also important for the University’s bottom line. Some research qualifies for an additional federal subsidy. Officials have counted on that subsidy in the past, and it was supposed to help cover the costs of the Science and Engineering Hall. Officials had to change their funding plan for the building last year, after the subsidies did not come in at the level they had hoped and after their fundraising plans failed.

Richard Stroupe, an adjunct professor of engineering and a member of the school’s National Advisory Council, said it was clear to him that SEAS has undergone high levels of growth during recent years, including adding more tenured faculty.

“Overall the engineering department has gone through a lot of growth,” Stroupe said. “Ever since Dolling stepped in he’s really taken charge and tried to promote GW’s engineering programs, and has brought in some very talented professors from around the U.S.”

Janna Paramore contributed reporting.

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