Editor’s note: UVA Today is profiling some of the University’s new faculty members in an ongoing series that introduces them to the University community.
Nearly 200 years of academic greatness define the University of Virginia, a reputation earned by the bright students and accomplished professors who have stepped foot on Grounds.
As many of the University’s veteran faculty members prepare to enter retirement, however, it will be up to a new generation to continue UVA’s tradition of excellence.
In 2014-15, approximately 50 faculty members retired, 35 of whom were tenured; so far for 2015-16, 29 faculty retirements have been reported. Kerry Abrams, UVA’s vice provost for faculty affairs, said the University is at the beginning of a “retirement bubble,” as more than 300 faculty members are projected to reach retirement age by 2018.
“In order to maintain the quality of teaching and research that we’ve had at the University, we need to hire new faculty,” Abrams said.
This year, the University began a major, multi-year recruiting and hiring initiative to bring talented teachers and scholars to UVA.
And the University has, indeed, been successful in its attempt to attract some of academia’s brightest minds. For fiscal year 2016-17, Abrams said 107 tenure-track faculty were hired – and roughly twice that many, if non-tenure track faculty and clinical faculty are included.
“We’ve had a nice combination this year of getting some really established, senior faculty who have tremendous worldwide reputations, and also some really talented folks who are right out of graduate school and have tremendous potential,” Abrams said. “It’s also the most diverse group of new faculty we have ever had; 31 percent are members of underrepresented minorities and 40 percent are women.”
According to Abrams, the search process for the new faces to lead UVA’s classrooms goes beyond simply replacing those who have retired.
“This is a pan-University hiring initiative,” Abrams said. “The faculty are working together to think strategically about where we want to be in the future, because this is a big opportunity to shape what UVA will become.”
Expanding the University’s research capabilities is a big part of that strategy.
“We plan to lead in solving global societal problems,” said Thomas Katsouleas, executive vice president and provost. “That necessarily means recruiting a new kind of interdisciplinary faculty and new approaches to recruiting them.”
The University is focusing first on interdisciplinary cluster hiring, Abrams said.
“Rather than hiring within a specific department or school, we are thinking about the fields or topics of research that we believe are important,” she said. “It’s not about a school or department getting a body; it’s about the University getting the best researchers who want to work together and break down interdisciplinary boundaries.”
Abrams said several schools and departments have come together during the hiring process to broaden the scope of their searches and seek candidates they believe are the best fit for the University as a whole.
In many cases, Abrams said, new hires will serve dual appointments across schools or will hold a primary appointment in one school and a secondary appointment in another.
“We’re looking at candidates from all different disciplines and trying to find the best person for UVA out of a much broader field,” Abrams said. “We can leverage the strengths we have in all of our schools if the faculty work together.”
Beyond the regular hiring plan, the University has also focused its efforts on targeted opportunity hires by recruiting individuals who are renowned experts in their fields.
“We asked ourselves, ‘If we could get anybody we wanted from anywhere in the world to come here, who would it be?” Abrams said.
Take a look at UVA Today’s Faculty Profile Series to meet a sampling of the professors who make up the next generation of faculty at UVA.