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Spring 2020

In Vivo

The faculty ranks are growing at CALS, and it’s a positive sign for the future of the college.

Dean Kate VandenBosch

Some major challenges in the last few years, from budget cuts to policy changes, led to an overall decline in the number of faculty searches we were able to carry out across the college. But we’ve weathered that storm, and the trend is beginning to reverse.

Over the course of 2019, CALS brought in a total of 19 new faculty members. Much credit goes to our academic departments. Their strengths in existing programs and innovative visions for the future attracted great candidates.

This expansion in faculty numbers brings many benefits to CALS. We will strengthen existing areas of expertise and bolster our departments with new disciplines and diverse perspectives. We will increase our research capacity while fostering new collaborations across campus and with other institutions. And we will be in a position to serve more students and offer a greater variety of subject matter in their courses.

These new scholars possess a diverse range of talents and specialties. Zhou Zhang joins the Department of Biological Systems Engineering looking to combine advanced remote sensing with machine learning for agricultural applications. Scott Coyle brings his investigations of microscale molecular and cellular machines to the biochemistry department. Sarah Rios in community and environmental sociology studies environmental health risks and environmental justice. And in entomology, Amy Trowbridge examines how climate variability can alter the ability of trees to defend themselves against insects. And this is just a sampling. A comprehensive list can be found online.

You may be wondering how we are able to do this hiring now. Some of the funding for these new positions stems from retirements, departures, or gifts, and our departments have generated new revenues to contribute to salaries. Some new faculty positions are shared appointments, co-funded with departments in different UW–Madison schools and colleges.

Other new hires are made possible with support from UW–Madison initiatives spearheaded by the Office of the Provost. This includes the Cluster Hiring Initiative and a faculty diversity effort called the Target of Opportunity Program. The first is designed to establish interdisciplinary groups of scholars, chosen for their shared research interests and specialties, who can collaborate and pool resources from departments across campus. The second seeks to hire faculty members identified for their potential to enhance the quality and diversity of an academic department.

The upward trend in hiring looks to continue beyond 2019. Several new professors already started earlier this year, and with recently completed or ongoing searches, the college is likely to see at least a dozen total new faculty hires in 2020. And thanks to a significant influx of state funding for the new Dairy Innovation Hub, which I described here in the fall 2019 issue of Grow, we will be hiring at least a dozen more faculty with dairy expertise in the coming years.

It’s exciting to see so many phenomenal scholars join our community. I am beyond pleased to welcome them to CALS, and I look forward to all that they will accomplish.

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