By Chris Moran
The University of Florida doubled down today on its strategy to climb to a top 10 national ranking among public research universities, announcing its intention to recruit top minds in personalized medicine, unmanned vehicles, online learning and seven other fields.
UF had already committed to bringing on as many as 100 researchers of national stature with more than $13.3 million from the state earmarked for what’s known as UF Rising. UF President Bernie Machen announced today that UF would use an additional $4.7 million of combined state and university funds to hire as many as 30 additional recruits.
The announcement coincides with the first day of classes for UF Online, the state’s first fully online four-year bachelor’s degrees at a public university. The hiring spree includes recruitment of a brain trust to lead UF Online’s R&D arm, known as the Online Learning Institute. The same legislation that granted UF the state money to push for preeminence mandated that UF lead the development of online higher education in Florida.
“The state’s generous investment allows us to make a mass hire and to do it strategically. The idea is to bring in teams of researchers in fields where we’re already on the cusp of top national stature,” Machen said. “Adding university resources to this initiative should increase the likelihood of breakthrough discoveries, greater educational opportunities, a spike in federal research dollars for Florida, more spinoff companies and creation of jobs.”
In November, the Board of Governors approved UF’s Preeminence Plan, which includes recruitment of faculty in areas such as big data, food security, drug discovery and plant genomics. This week’s announcements focus on faculty hiring in:
- African studies: $300,000
- Autonomous systems: $500,000
- Creative writing: $300,000
- Genomic medicine: $500,000
- Obesity research: $600,000
- Online learning: $600,000
- Renewable energy and storage: $500,000
- Skeletal muscle biology: $450,000
- Smart polymer nanomedicines: $650,000
- Social network analysis: $300,000
UF Rising encompasses much more than hiring. The UF Foundation last year launched a three-year fundraising campaign with a goal of $800 million to endow chairs and professorships, build or upgrade facilities, increase scholarships and invest in innovative teaching.
Provost Joseph Glover took advantage of the state-funded hiring surge to encourage cluster hires and interdisciplinary teams of faculty members to be hired in a collaborative cross-college process coordinated by deans. UF’s human resources office even classifies many of the job postings as “preeminence department” hires.
“The increasingly complex problems we face in society usually can’t be solved with a single kind of expertise,” Glover said. “Throwing more minds at a question won’t necessarily accelerate discovery if they all attack a problem using the same toolbox.”