An Excellent Faculty

Recruit and retain an outstanding, diverse, and inclusive faculty from researchers, scholars, teachers, and creative artists worldwide who are recognized as among the very best in their fields.

A Community of Scholars

Academic institutions are sometimes caricatured as places of obsessive introspection, but in fact, modern universities are relentlessly outward looking. In order to create, preserve, and disseminate knowledge and understanding, university faculty members study and learn from other places, peoples, and cultures; they explore phenomena on scales that are far from our daily experience, from nanoparticles to galaxies; they look back to understand the remote past and forward to predict the distant future; and increasingly, they work across and between traditional disciplinary boundaries to better understand the world around us, as well as ourselves. This often requires faculty members to forge and sustain deep connections with individuals and places at a far remove from their home institutions. Connecting with the wider world has, indeed, become an essential aspect of modern universities, and it unquestionably diversifies and enriches education and research.

Professor working alongside student in lab

At the same time, looking outward can come at the expense of the core idea of the university as a community of scholars, in the most inclusive sense of teachers, researchers, and creators. Such a community sustains and enriches the intellectual life of its members, through constant interactions among them and with the overlapping community of learners. Additional centrifugal forces include disciplinary rather than institutional focus and attention; greater competition among universities for accomplished faculty members; greater demands on faculty time for competitive research and scholarship opportunities, especially in view of increased external regulation; increasingly specialized research areas which often require faculty members to interact primarily with scholars at other universities; and the relative ease and frequency of travel for academic conferences and collaborations, a trend that will only increase with globalization. New technologies, which make extensive collaboration possible, also enable (perhaps even encourage) individual faculty members to find their intellectual communities outside the university and to conduct much of their research, creative, service, and even teaching responsibilities remotely, severely limiting regular interaction with their colleagues and the university community.

Such isolation is a loss to both the community of scholars and the community of learners. Regular formal and informal interaction among individuals in the same or related disciplines, and even more importantly among those in different disciplines, have long been the hallmark of great universities. Indiana University has prided itself on welcoming interdisciplinary scholarship, and it is a core value and objective of many school and campus strategic plans. Interactions among faculty members deepen and broaden understanding. In particular, such interactions bring to bear the diversity of individuals, experiences, perspectives, and views that we regard as fundamentally important. Lack of regular contact also makes it difficult to sustain the institutions of shared governance on which the progress and cohesion of the university community depends.

Likewise, a vibrant community of scholars supports students’ active engagement in their education, which we know is central to their learning, retention, and graduation. Such a community enhances instructional effectiveness through the sharing of ideas and techniques, mutual observation, and mentoring. Successful engagement of students also depends in part on the intentional development of pedagogical skills and techniques. IU has invested substantially in centers for teaching and learning and a variety of learning technologies; IU boasts excellent faculties who study the science, tools, and skills of effective pedagogy; and IU supports the Faculty Colloquium on Excellence in Teaching (FACET), a faculty-led organization committed to education and research in effective pedagogy. While students’ engagement is not limited to the classroom, studio, laboratory, or office, these core areas of formal and informal educational interaction require faculty members who are regularly present and available to students.

An inclusive scholarly community must also recognize that education and research at IU is not the sole province of the tenure-stream faculty, but that other full-time faculty (e.g., clinical, lecturer, librarian, practice, and research ranks), part-time (adjunct) faculty, and the professional staff make essential and invaluable contributions to IU’s core mission. Community-building and development activities and programs must include and support these members of the scholarly community as well.

All IU campuses are and will remain primarily physical spaces. IU, the State of Indiana, and hundreds of benefactors have invested greatly in physical surroundings of inspiring beauty, architectural significance, and functional excellence. This investment continues, and the facilities are built to last. The investment directly supports the educational and research missions of the university; it also furthers a sense of community among scholars and learners, among teachers and students. An exceptional physical infrastructure must be populated if they are to foster the kind of intensive and varied student engagement that a physical campus offers.

Finally, a strong and engaging community of scholars is an important tool for recruiting and retaining a strong faculty at all of IU’s campuses. Time and again highly sought after faculty members remain at IU because of the community that they find at our campuses. In order to compete effectively for top talent in all fields, a vital community of scholars is a matter of urgency.