College hires 24 new faculty members

by Erin Lee | 4/12/15 7:44pm

Based on faculty turnover and changing student enrollments by department, the College hired 24 new faculty members in the arts and sciences this academic year, associate dean of faculty for the sciences and computer science professor David Kotz said. In addition, Thayer School of Engineering hired one new professor and Tuck School of Business hired five.

Ten of the new faculty members hired joined departments in the social sciences, including economics, government, geography, anthropology and history. Nine faculty members joined departments in the arts and humanities, three teach in the sciences and two joined interdisciplinary studies.

“In any given year, there’s usually a mixture of faculty replacing people who have retired or departed for some other reason and a few each year that are incremental,” Kotz said. “Obviously most departments would want to grow, but there’s a limited set of hires we can manage or afford.”

Interest in the computer science department is doubling and tripling, increasing pressure on the department, Kotz said, which is hiring new faculty nearly every year. The three new science professors — one each in biology, chemistry and computer science — were all hired to fill vacant positions and started in the fall. He added there are ongoing faculty searches in the sciences and eight offers outstanding, some of which are for new positions.

“I expect a net growth of faculty in the sciences for next year,” he said.

Computer science department chair Thomas Cormen said that the department hired three new faculty members this year, two of which deferred their start date to next fall. He noted that 187 prospective members of the Class of 2019 have expressed interest in computer science, a number that is significantly higher than in previous years.

New chemistry professor Michael Ragusa said that the hiring process at the College moved quickly compared to other institutions to which he applied. He said that the chemistry department offered him a position a week after he interviewed last March.

Ragusa said that he chose to come to the College because it matched his interests and the size of the department is uniquely small.

“There’s a strong sense of community, and collaboration naturally falls out of that,” he said.

New engineering professor John Zhang said he appreciated the opportunities Thayer offered for working with other researchers and interacting with students. He said that the students in his “Systems Engineering” class had a broad view of challenges in the world as a result of their travel experiences and diverse global involvement.

Laura Ogden, a new anthropology professor, wrote in an email that she was excited both by her colleagues and the students she taught. She said she was “amazed by the thoughtfulness” of the students with whom she met when she visited campus for her interview, adding that prior to coming to the College, she worked for a large university and taught classes with many students, so she found the opportunity to work more closely with her students appealing.

Economics professor Diego Comin, who began last summer, said that he was able to experiment with his teaching methods in his macroeconomics class because students were interactive and engaged. He said that the undergraduates embraced the approach he generally used to teach masters of business administration students, which allowed for graduate-level case study discussions and a Socratic class structure that encourages discussion between students and the professor.

Comin was one of three economics faculty members who joined at the beginning of this academic year, according to an email from economics department chair Bruce Sacerdote. He said that the department’s most recent hiring season was unusually successful.

Associate dean of the faculty for the social sciences and economics professor Nancy Marion wrote in an email that faculty searches are authorized in August.

Marion wrote that a method the College uses for identifying strategic faculty hiring priorities is the cluster hiring method, as part of College President Phil Hanlon’s cluster initiative to build interdisciplinary faculty teams. She said that of six clusters currently in development, only the Neukom Cluster in Computational Science has obtained funding.

Kotz said that the Neukom search committee is currently making offers to candidates right now after two months of interviews, and dean of the Thayer School of Engineering Joseph Helble is negotiating with the top candidate. He added that it is promising that one or two cluster searches will be conducted next year.