Investing in our faculty

Academic Voices: A Provost's Blog

Investing in our faculty

October 12, 2022

The Ohio State University has an outstanding faculty. The quality of our faculty determines the quality of our scholarship, research, and creative expression; our faculty enables us to attract top graduate and professional students and postdocs; an eminent faculty fosters excellent pedagogy, which has a profound effect on our students and their academic experience. President Kristina M. Johnson’s goal of increasing the number of tenure-track faculty is not simply about growing the sheer size of researchers and educators. Instead, it is a promise to invest resources and provide support to the academic heart of the institution—the faculty. As provost, I am committed to making our university a top institution for all scholars to work, teach, and live.

The competition to recruit and retain top faculty is fierce. The Office of Academic Affairs is hard at work preparing to lead this effort. While the central administration does not hire faculty directly, it can help to prepare our colleges and campuses for an initiative of this magnitude. I will soon share more on our Academic Plan, which outlines focus areas for advancing academic excellence at Ohio State. One of the priorities of the plan will be to build an infrastructure that enables us to develop and retain the excellent faculty already here at Ohio State, and better attract and recruit additional premier scholars.

This past summer I had the opportunity to welcome Patrick Louchouarn as our new senior vice provost for faculty. Patrick joined us from Texas A&M University, where he successfully created and delivered on the transformation of faculty recruitment and development programs. His arrival enables Ohio State to create an enhanced faculty affairs office that will focus on the professional and personal success of our faculty, including faculty development and engagement, prizes and awards, and academic networks inside and outside the university. He will work closely with Helen Malone, vice provost for academic policy and faculty resources, to ensure that our policies and practices are equitable and that our faculty have the personal and professional resources they need to thrive.

This team is implementing several programs. For example, when conducting searches, we want to ensure that our favored candidates favor us. One new initiative is the Provost’s Early Career Scholars program, which provides a named professorship at the beginning of an individual’s academic career, funding to support their scholarship, and membership in a distinguished cohort of early career scholars. The award comes as a post-offer surprise, signaling institutional support, in addition to that of the local unit. Patrick has just opened nominations for our 2023-2024 cohort.

In 2008, the Michelle R. Clayman Institute at Stanford University published a report on dual-career academic couples, finding that 72% of those surveyed had a partner whose career, academic or non-academic, needed to be considered during the hiring decision. The authors conclude academic couples comprise 36% of the American professoriate—representing a deep pool of talent—and that dual-career hiring accelerates the success of institutions and can be a major factor in competing for new faculty and retaining current faculty. Patrick is overseeing the new Office of Dual Careers and Faculty Relocation to address this challenge. It will provide comprehensive service offerings in support of new and prospective faculty.

Through our Shared Values Initiative, the university has a stated commitment to diversity and innovation as well as equity and inclusion. At Ohio State, we define diversity broadly and are committed to achieving a faculty that is diverse and wholly inclusive. Increasing faculty diversity requires intentionality, and we must ensure that whenever we hire, we take the time and care to recruit a diverse applicant pool. Senior Vice Provost for Inclusive Excellence Wendy Smooth is now leading our campus-wide efforts in diversity and inclusion and will focus on supporting our university as we gain skills in recruiting, hiring, and retaining a diverse faculty. She is overseeing our new Fellow to Faculty program, which hires recent PhD graduates into a two-year fellowship before a transition to assistant professor. This enables us to develop and support new scholars, preparing them for success on the tenure track.

Another priority is to increase the number of endowed chairs and professorships to attract the highest-quality faculty across an array of disciplines, while equipping them with the resources to thrive. In addition, we must steward the endowed chairs and professorships we are fortunate to have already. I have been privileged to have the support of our Office of Advancement, which asked a committee of The Ohio State University Foundation Board—a group of our most committed and generous alumni donors—to assess our current use of endowed faculty positions and identify opportunities for prioritizing and increasing these assets. These recommendations will be an essential input, and I will create a working group to help us make rapid progress on our approach to chairs and professorships.

These investments will enable the university to better support our existing faculty and conduct a major hiring initiative. To be clear, our current faculty are essential partners in our effort to recruit new colleagues. The faculty are experts in their fields, they attend academic meetings, know the literature, and understand future academic trends. Thus, not only will the university need locally led hiring processes, but it will also need faculty to collaborate with academic leaders to drive all aspects of this initiative. The central administration will be a crucial partner with our colleges, schools, departments, and University Libraries in providing resources, setting strategic direction, identifying priorities, ensuring academic rigor, attending to compliance, and creating accountability.

Of course, the hiring has already begun. Upon arriving, I had the opportunity to work with Trevon Logan, the Hazel C. Youngberg Distinguished Professor of Economics, and the committee he led to implement the RAISE initiative. We have now approved nearly 50 searches across many units. Through Ohio State’s partnership with JobsOhio, the Enterprise for Research, Innovation and Knowledge, OAA, and our colleges launched faculty startup awards in research and innovation as well as STEM education to support state workforce needs and seed growth in Carmenton, our new innovation district.

Over the coming months and years, OAA will collaborate with the university community to develop and announce additional priorities, funding, programs, and initiatives to support our current and future faculty. I will keep the campuses updated as we make progress on faculty hiring.

Now is an exciting time to be at Ohio State, and I very much appreciate the extraordinary dedication, determination, and unwavering commitment to excellence that our faculty and staff bring to work each day.