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Cluster hiring connects faculty across disciplines

University Business, June 2015

Higher ed institutions are expanding interdisciplinary research activity by hiring groups of faculty from multiple disciplines at the same time. The idea, pioneered by the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the late 1990s and sprouting up elsewhere since then, is to formalize the expectation of working collaboratively across the university. It may involve a variety of collaborative support activities or a less structured expectation (as part of their job descriptions) that the new hires work together.

According to a new report based on a study of 10 public research universities’ cluster hiring programs, the technique can increase faculty diversity (shown to produce higher-quality research outcomes) and cultivate a more inclusive campus climate (which helps in faculty and student retention).

Among the key recommendations is for administrators to provide ample opportunities for the clusters to collaborate. Some tactics include:

  • holding regular events where informal networking can occur
  • dedicating space for the clusters to gather and interact
  • putting a staff or a faculty member in charge of coordinating the cluster’s activities

The report also suggests shifting focus away from short-term costs of establishing and maintaining these programs and toward longer-term benefits for everyone at the institution. The programs can help eliminate silos, improve the teaching and learning environment, and increase community engagement. See UBmag.me/clusterreport for the full report, which was released by Urban Universities for HEALTH, a partnership between the Coalition for Urban Serving Universities, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and the Association for American Medical Colleges.

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