Public health school sees largest growth in tenured, tenure-track faculty

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James Tielsch, the chair of the global health department and a professor of global health, said the uptick in tenured and tenure-track faculty corresponds with an increase in student enrollment over the past decade.

Over the past decade, the public health school has increased its tenured and tenure-track faculty at the fastest rate of all other schools.

The Milken Institute School of Public Health saw a nearly 150 percent increase in tenured and tenure-track faculty between 2009 and 2018, jumping from 30 to 74, officials said at a Faculty Senate meeting Friday. Public health faculty said increased student enrollment and fundraising efforts during the past 10 years have allowed the school to take on more tenured and tenure-track faculty who produce research and projects that boost the school’s national reputation.

Monica Partsch, the public health school’s assistant dean for faculty affairs and program development, said the school has seen a roughly 11 percent growth in full-time faculty over the past five years. She said the departments of global health and epidemiology and biostatistics have had the largest increase in the number of full-time faculty over that period, growing about 29 and 43 percent, respectively.

“The majority of the growth in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics was due to the integration of the Biostatistics and Computational Biology faculty into the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics,” Partsch said.

She declined to say why the school has hired more full-time faculty than other schools and whether the increase in tenured faculty has helped the school. She said the school currently employs 54 tenured faculty.

James Tielsch, the chair of the global health department and a professor of global health, said the uptick in tenured and tenure-track faculty corresponds with an increase in student enrollment over the past decade. Undergraduate student enrollment across all majors in the public health school directly has increased from 142 students in 2009 to 310 students in 2018, according to institutional data.

“It’s no surprise that as the school has matured over time, that you’re likely to see a higher and higher proportion of tenure-track and tenured faculty,” he said.

Tielsch – who serves on the appointment, promotion and tenure committee in the public health school – said the school is still working to hire more tenured and tenure-track faculty to comply with the faculty code’s mandate that 75 percent or more of a school’s total faculty should have tenure.

“We’re not quite there,” he said. “We’ve been right around there in the last couple of years, but we tend to have a few more research faculty and specialized faculty who are on tenure track than is officially allowed by the faculty code.”

The engineering and medical schools saw the second- and third-largest jumps in tenured and tenure-track faculty over the past decade with 15 and 13 percent increases, respectively. On the lower end, the Graduate School of Education and Human Development and the law school saw 4 and 7 percent decreases, respectively, in tenured and tenure-track faculty, officials said Friday.

Tielsch said that because the public health school is newer than most other schools, it started off with fewer tenured and tenure-track professors, allowing for more growth in the long term. He said research revenue, increased student tuition and major donations to the school – including an $80 million gift in 2014 – have also contributed to increased faculty hiring.

He said tenured and tenure-track faculty often conduct more research and are more experienced instructors, helping to promote the national stature of the public health school.

“It’s just an acknowledgment that you have a higher proportion of more senior, more experienced faculty who are likely to be more successful teachers and researchers,” Tielsch said. “It’s an indicator of the maturation of the school as it continues to grow.”

Doug Evans, a professor of prevention and community health and global health, said in an email that many public health faculty members were hired or promoted in the last decade.

“The school of public health is still a relatively young school, and is basically maturing over time,” Evans said in an email.

Mark Edberg, an associate professor of prevention and community health, said the increase in tenured and tenure-track faculty retained since 2009 helps the public health school attract talented researchers who seek out tenure-track positions that require them to conduct research in addition to their teaching responsibilities.

“In order to attract high caliber researchers and faculty, the open faculty slots need to be tenure-track slots,” he said in an email. “This is an important distinction – it’s not just about faculty positions but about how many of those are tenure-track.”

Edberg said that since the public health school is relatively young, it is still maturing and growing its faculty pool. He said tenured faculty are more likely to stick around to help sustain and develop their programs.

“The more faculty that are in tenure-track positions and tenured, the higher the likelihood that the research done and publications produced will be fundable and recognized, and the higher the likelihood that graduate and doctoral students will be trained at GW and go on to become researchers, academicians and practitioners themselves,” Evans said in an email.

Lauren Peller contributed reporting.

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