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  August 30, 2004

Proposal Calls For 150 New Faculty

University officials last month outlined an aggressive proposal to hire 150 new professors within the next five years, enabling UConn to decrease class sizes, continue improving academic quality, and expand research in the Graduate School.

"The proposal is designed to focus us very intensely on the future," said Dr. Lenworth Jacobs, chairman of the academic advisory committee of the Board of Trustees, where the plan was presented. "We are here to serve our students, and to hire the best faculty we can attract to serve those students. This proposal provides a map, a blueprint, to keep us on track."

The proposal, outlined by Fred Maryanski, interim provost, calls for the addition of 30 new professors each year for five years, starting in September 2005. These faculty members would be in addition to professors hired to refill normal turnover, and those hired to refill positions created by the Early Retirement Incentive Program of 2003. Maryanski told the committee that searches would have to begin this fall to fill the first 30 slots.

UConn's faculty-student ratio has crept up to 18 to 1, he said. Adding 150 professors would lower the ratio to 15 to 1 or 16 to 1.

Maryanski said the additional faculty come with a price, but not acting comes with a steeper price.

"Since 1995, our student population has grown by 5,805. In that same time period, the number of faculty has increased by only 14," he noted. "If we're going to continue to deliver a quality education to our students, and continue to partner with the state of Connecticut to deliver a high quality workforce and research that can be applied by business, we must grow our faculty and staff."

Using the University's Academic Plan as a guide, the proposal emphasizes science and technology, where half of the new faculty would be assigned. Another 57 are proposed to fill seats in the broadly defined field of health and human services, which includes business, education, nursing, and the social sciences; and 17 are targeted to bolster offerings in the arts and humanities. The new positions include plans to add faculty at all five regional campuses.

The discussion now moves to the deans and department heads, where the planning data will be refined and searches identified for the first 30 positions. The full Board of Trustees, as well as its finance committee, also will be apprised of the proposal at their next meetings. At that time, a financial plan will be proposed to support the initiative.

The proposal also challenges administrators, faculty and staff to continue improving the quality of education UConn delivers. To benchmark progress, the group of universities that are considered UConn's peers has been revised to reflect a cohort that is generally ranked higher than UConn in national rankings and on federally recognized data points. These data include average SAT scores, endowments, research funding, student/faculty ratio, doctoral degrees awarded, student and faculty diversity, and six-year graduation rates. In some of these areas, UConn is currently equal to or better than members of the new peer group.

Institutions no longer considered peers include UMass, West Virginia, Louisiana State University, Tennessee, and Nebraska, as UConn has distanced itself from them on the data points. The new group comprises Purdue, Ohio State, Georgia, Iowa, Iowa State, Missouri, and Minnesota.

Already, Maryanski said, UConn is competitive with the new group in most undergraduate categories, but lags behind when graduate programs and research are considered.

He said UConn's objective is to become the best university among the new peer group. When that has been accomplished, the list of institutions identified as peers will be upgraded again. The University's ultimate aspiration is to be among the top 10 universities in the nation.

Although other institutions are also implementing strategic plans to raise their standing, he said, UConn's current trajectory gives confidence that focused efforts will bring it into the realm of the very best universities in the nation.

Maryanski cautioned that moving into another, higher, peer group will not happen overnight: "We may not see the rewards for 8-10 years" he said, pointing out that new faculty - especially those in the sciences - take time to establish themselves and build their laboratories, especially those hired as assistant professors.

Janet Greger, dean of the Graduate School, noted that the schools in the new peer group "are much more aggressive in seeking federal research funding" than the schools UConn had, until now, considered peers: "That means they are doing the same things that we do, so - in order to gain ground - we have to do them faster and better."

Maryanski said that adding faculty is critical to the successful implementation of the Academic Plan: "Improved research and scholarly activity, coupled with the continued enhancement of the undergraduate experience, require a significant investment in new faculty."