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March 14, 2014

Report highlights Purdue's retention, diversification of faculty

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue is moving toward a more diverse faculty, which will enhance both student success and research excellence, according to one of the highlights of a report presented by S. Laurel Weldon, interim vice provost for faculty affairs, at Friday's (March 14) Academic Affairs Committee meeting.

"Our recent hiring efforts show that we have made important progress in our efforts to recruit and retain a diverse faculty," Weldon said. "In 2013-14 we hired 106 faculty, and 56 percent of these new hires are female. In addition to the exciting news about the proportion of female hires, we are also pleased that the number underrepresented minority faculty is growing. These are both signs that we are making progress toward closing the gap in diversity with our peers.

"The number of underrepresented minority at Purdue has increased 19 percent in the past five years, a substantially more rapid increase than has been seen across peer institutions."

The key initiatives supporting these efforts are the Strategic Hiring Opportunity Program, known as SHOP, that focuses on building diversity and ADVANCE-Purdue, which works to increase the representation and advancement of women in academic STEM careers. ADVANCE is a National Science Foundation program.

Another program aimed at increasing interdisciplinary collaboration and expanding the faculty is cluster hiring, which makes it possible to hire leading faculty in research-themed groups such as nanotechnology, STEM education, next-generation manufacturing and autism.

"The cluster hiring program sets Purdue apart as an institution working to break down disciplinary barriers to encourage problem-focused research. This program helped to set the stage for many of the Purdue Moves and other strategic initiatives," Weldon said. "These efforts also help us to attract senior, accomplished scholars under the Leading Faculty hiring program."

Purdue Moves, announced in September, is a range of initiatives designed to broaden Purdue's global impact and enhance educational opportunities for its students. All of the moves fall into four broad categories: science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) leadership; world-changing research; transformative education; and affordability and accessibility. Additional information about Purdue Moves is available online at http://www.purdue.edu/purduemoves

For example, one Purdue Moves goal is to expand the College of Engineering. Many of the cluster hires are in engineering, which will increase the number of faculty and students, leading to an increase in the number of engineering graduates. An example is the integrated imaging cluster, which involves chemistry, the biosciences, electrical and computer engineering, and biomedical engineering.

Weldon also reported successful retention of Purdue faculty who received outside offers. These professors are often leaders in their fields and are considered top scholars. Since 2009, 320 retention offers have been accepted by these top scholars to continue their research and teaching at the West Lafayette campus.

"Retaining top faculty prevents disruptions to student success, research programs and strategic initiatives," Weldon said. "Purdue is more proactive in working to retain top faculty, and that includes underrepresented minorities. It is more affordable to preemptively retain people than to match counter offers, and our efforts are paying off."

There are 1,807 tenure and tenure-track faculty and 121 clinical faculty at Purdue. These faculty members focus on research, teaching and engagement through curriculum development and planning, course preparation, classroom teaching, student advising, designing research programs, coordinating research teams, running laboratories, and publishing research. 

Writer: Amy Patterson Neubert, 765-494-9723, apatterson@purdue.edu

Source: S. Laurel Weldon, 765-496-9503, weldons@purdue.edu