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Coleman announces U-M interdisciplinary faculty hiring program

  • Contact Nancy Connell
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—The University of Michigan will invest $30 million to encourage the hiring of 100 new tenure-track faculty members, with the goal of expanding interdisciplinary teaching and research, President Mary Sue Coleman announced today (Thursday).

Coleman outlined the ambitious plan in an address to the U-M Board of Regents Nov. 15 when she discussed several goals for the University over the next five years. Coleman also announced the Michigan Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative, a proposed public-private partnership to rebuild the Michigan economy.

Interdisciplinary faculty hiring
The faculty hiring plan will provide $10 million for salaries and benefits and $20 million for startup costs to fund junior faculty positions, especially in areas that advance the University's major teaching and research initiatives such as alternative energy and environmental sustainability. The program will encourage cluster hiring of faculty who will share research facilities or work together across disciplines.

"This is a major commitment?financially and philosophically," Coleman said. "As faculty evaluate scholarship, they must challenge each other to think differently about work that crosses boundaries.

"No other university offers faculty and students our scope and scale of fields of study, and the opportunities to push their ideas in new directions," she said.

"The faculty we are interested in hiring are those who will encourage our undergraduates to think about solving problems in new ways," Provost Teresa Sullivan said. "The successful proposals would expand our research activity in emerging areas of priority."

The faculty expansion program builds on Coleman's 2005 initiative in which the University invested $2.5 million to stimulate team teaching and develop multidisciplinary courses and degree programs. That commitment led to faculty developing several new courses in informatics, applied complex systems, Southeast Asian social issues and other topics.

The Michigan Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative
The Michigan Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative will be an effort of at least $100 million to draw on the state's public universities, philanthropic foundations and private enterprise to strengthen ties between academia and industry, speed the commercialization of university research and promote a culture of entrepreneurial risk-taking.

"It is, in effect, an investment in the people and ideas that emerge from our public universities as drivers of a knowledge-based economy," Coleman said.

Potential directions for the initiative include awarding grants to help sell university-born inventions to venture capitalists, resulting in new Michigan businesses, and supporting universities in training savvy entrepreneurs in all disciplines.

The C.S. Mott Foundation has awarded U-M a $2 million in seed money for planning the initiative. U-M is joining with the Council of Michigan Foundations, leading private foundations and other public universities throughout the state to launch the initiative.

"There are many, many details to process, but this should not hinder us from finding ways to jumpstart the Michigan economy," Coleman said.

Related links:

Text of speech, links to video

President Coleman's accomplishments

Text of the speech, links to videoPresident Coleman's accomplishments