While many universities are freezing hiring because of an unstable economic climate, the University is pushing through the first phase of its $30 million initiative to hire 100 new faculty members.

In 2007, the University launched the program to create tenure-track positions in interdisciplinary fields. A year into the program, 25 positions had been approved and the search for individual faculty is underway.

Those 25 positions will be from six specific interdisciplinary groups suggested by faculty members to the Office of the Provost.

Despite the suffering economy, University Provost Teresa Sullivan said the initiative hasn’t slowed.

“Over half of all American colleges and universities now have a hiring freeze,” Sullivan said. “So people who are on the job market this year are being funneled to an increasingly smaller set of schools. We’re one of those schools, so it’s actually good for us — perversely.”

One of the already selected groups, which will focus on the global HIV/AIDS epidemic, will be bring together medical and social scientists to research infection prevention.

Other groups include: Global Change: Cryosphere and Sea-Level Impact; Data Mining, Learning and Discovery with Massive Datasets; Energy Storage; Microbial Ecology: Relationships to Human and Environmental Health; and Social Science and Energy.

Sullivan said the five-year program is being frontloaded with these 25 positions, although the plan is to hire roughly 20 new faculty members a year.

Approving a certain number of areas doesn’t mean that a specific number of hires will necessarily be made, Sullivan said. Because the University has to consider things like the time it could take for new staff to arrive and begin working, it’s hard to set a concrete timeline for the program’s completion.

While the new staff will have very specific areas of focus and expertise, like any faculty member, they will both teach and conduct research.

In an e-mail interview, University Spokeswoman Kelly Cunningham said, “the new 100 hires will have regular tenure-track faculty appointments and will engage in teaching, research and service, as all regular faculty do.”

The process for establishing the positions and bringing in new staff is long and arduous, but progressing, Sullivan said.

“I do expect that next fall we’ll have a significant chunk of that first group here on campus,” she said.

Search committees have been formed by the Office of the Provost to find staff to fill the positions. The committees will create a short list of applicants who will then be brought to campus and interviewed.

The next round of academic disciplines to be selected for the program has already started to be discussed, and faculty members are invited to make suggestions for new interdisciplinary groups.

The proposals will be collected later this month, organized by the Office of the Provost and reviewed by faculty members before being sent to Provost Teresa Sullivan and President Mary Sue Coleman for final approval and funding. The search for the next wave of positions is slated to launch by the end of winter term.

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