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Loh: New faculty hires coming

BY SAM LANE | APRIL 08, 2010 7:30 AM

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University of Iowa officials announced two new interdisciplinary cluster hirings Wednesday, which will bring 20 new faculty to the UI.

The hirings, in the “Aging in the Heartland,” and “Public Humanities” areas, will help UI officials achieve their goal of 100 new tenure-track faculty in the next five years.

UI Provost Wallace Loh said the university will create 10 new positions in fiscal 2011, all of which will be matched one-for-one in individual colleges. Thus, 20 faculty positions will be split between the two areas of focus, which were originally recommended by the Provost’s Task Forces on Research and Creative Excellence and Civic Engagement.

All of the planned new faculty positions, which includes the previously announced Water Sustainability cluster, will be financed by money generated from an expected increase in undergraduate enrollment as well as budget reallocations in the Provost’s Office. Loh estimated the positions will cost the university upwards of $2 million.

Robert Wallace, the director of the UI Center on Aging, said roughly 250 faculty across campus have expressed interest in the topic of aging or the center.

“Aging is, in its essence, interdisciplinary,” Wallace said. “There is interest in aging across campus and in every college.”

Hirings in the cluster will help supplement the work of the 20-year-old center, whose research includes laboratory sciences, community programs, clinical trials, as well as the sociology and psychology of aging.

Loh said this type of interest could make the UI a “powerhouse” in the area of aging. The topic of aging is a “demographic imperative,” he said, noting many young people come to Iowa, leave, and don’t come back.

The area of public humanities will help individuals achieve “cultural vitality,” Loh said.

“To make life meaningful, you need music and art,” he said. “We want faculty members who don’t just teach students that, but then will carry conversations with people of Iowa. I think that’s an integral part of enhancing intellectual and cultural vitality of Iowa.”

Benjamin Hunnicutt, a professor of integrative physiology, said the best place for faculty to spread their knowledge is outside the workplace.

“In my class, we’re talking about the collapse of communities,” he said. “We talk about how it’s important to have people around you to talk to, to interact with, and to form friendships with.”

UI faculty will submit proposals for the new positions — with the endorsement of their colleges’ respective deans — through June 30.

Loh also said he is looking to create five other positions as part of a Faculty Diversity Opportunity Program. These individuals will “continue the university’s commitment to broaden faculty inclusiveness.”

Loh said all of the new positions are “in addition to and complement” the 70 to 90 faculty hired yearly by departments in various colleges.



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