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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

STEM colleges aim to hire new profs

Attracting young professors and researchers may be easy for some colleges, but it remains difficult for others.

For the Mel & Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, vacant faculty positions have been open for a number of years, according to Ralph Renger, a public health professor and a member of the Faculty Senate.

“We’re having trouble recruiting these young talents that are coming out of graduate schools to take assistant professors positions,” Renger said. “One of the things about attracting young folk is that they want to work in the best places. And if we are not viewed as the best place, they do not want to come.”

Renger said he thinks the lack of young public health applicants comes from the UA’s rank as a science, technology, engineering, math, or STEM institution.

Currently, the National Science Foundation ranks the UA 18th among the public research colleges across the country. The UA has not been in the top 10 of these rankings for the past several years, according to President Eugene Sander.

“We intend to move up but we need to replace many vacancies,” Sander said in an email. “I speak generally about faculty positions in all of our departments, especially in the STEM areas.”

The National Science Foundation’s rankings are based on statistics and achievements found in the research institutions. This includes enrollment, professor standing and projects conducted in a school’s science and health fields.

“What everybody needs to recognize is that, in the end, what attracts good faculty members and what attracts really good students is a good institution,” said Joaquin Ruiz, executive dean for the Colleges of Letters, Arts and Sciences. “And the minute that goes away, then the whole thing can be a real challenge.”

Instructors in most colleges are divided into assistant, associate and full-time professors. Assistant professors are typically students who have just completed graduate work and full-time professors are usually known on an international basis for their research, Renger said.

“We have some divisions in our department we have been trying to fill for years, and it is frustrating we have not been able to do so,” Renger said. He cited Sander, who said during a Faculty Senate meeting in March that the UA is no longer being viewed as the premier institution it once was.

In this meeting, one of the topics discussed was the excess of administrative positions in the university and the possibility that it could be affecting the UA’s budget.

“When older professors retire they leave a bigger salary behind because they demand a higher salary,” Renger said. “What we could do is take that money and possibly hire one or maybe two young professors.”

Because of budget cuts over the last three years, the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences has been unable to fill vacancies left by retired professors or researchers who left the UA for other job opportunities.

“Last year there were a few faculty members of great note that left us to other institutions because they feel that the environment in Arizona was not the best for their families,” Ruiz said.

Other STEM colleges at the UA are dealing with vacancies in their department by reviewing their budgets and relying on their own reputations to bring in young assistant professors.

While vacancies are not an issue for the College of Engineering, finding money to pay professors is. In the last three years, the college has hired five faculty members who partially fund their own salaries through their research, according to Jeffrey Goldberg, dean of the College of Engineering.

“If I have cash, I can hire people and if not, I cannot,” Goldberg said. “I have made some hires even though I am not 100 percent sure where the funds will be long term.”

Despite the UA’s overall research ranking, the College of Pharmacy has been ranked among the top 10 pharmacy programs by the National Institutes of Health for the past few years. In the last five years, the college has been able to hire six faculty members, including four assistant professors.

“We always look to hire additional talent whenever we can, but obviously there are budget restrictions,” said John Murphy, the associate dean for the College of Pharmacy. “But when we can, we look to hire talented individuals.”

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