With two overarching goals—addressing skyrocketing energy demands and gaining a deeper understanding of the historical role played in Western societies by the political, culture, artistic, and religious traditions of the African diaspora, including the dispersed, slave-descended populations—the university has approved two faculty cluster hiring proposals.
President Alice P. Gast and Provost Pat Farrell recently announced the selection of Smart Grid Electricity Systems and Africana Studies as the first faculty cluster hiring proposals approved during the implementation phase of Lehigh’s strategic plan.
The two areas were chosen from seven proposals identified by the Faculty Cluster Hiring Committee. This followed several months of reviewing proposed clusters submitted by faculty across campus that are intended to provide the critical mass necessary to impact important new areas of scholarship, teaching and research at Lehigh.
The development of key clusters would ideally enable the university to achieve several goals, according to Farrell, the vice president of academic affairs. These include attracting and retaining a more diverse faculty and staff, enhancing the intellectual climate on campus, pursuing opportunities arising from emerging world events, competing more effectively for funding in interdisciplinary areas, and raising Lehigh’s visibility in key strategic areas.
Building on existing areas of strength
“This was a difficult decision, as all the cluster proposals were very good,” Farrell said. “The two selected will allow us to build on existing areas of talent at Lehigh while giving these areas the opportunity to truly stand out. The level of interest around all of these interdisciplinary clusters proposals is exciting, and bodes well for future collaborations and clusters at Lehigh.”
Farrell said the Africana Studies Cluster will be awarded three faculty positions. Four possible fields of study were identified: the history, literature, religions and cultures of Africa and the African diaspora.
The Smart Grid Cluster will be awarded four positions, including one faculty member in economic modeling and another in the modeling of complex systems. A committee will consider the remaining two faculty positions from fields that include experimental smart grid systems, real-time systems and optimization of large-scale nonlinear networks.
Dan Lopresti, department chair of computer science and engineering and co-chair of the working group dedicated to cluster faculty hiring, said that he and fellow chair Anne Anderson, associate professor of finance, “found notable strengths in all of the seven full proposals we considered.”
The co-chairs acknowledged the “hard work by our committee members who really defined the process from scratch, including the meaning of cluster hiring at Lehigh.”
An exercise that bodes well for the future
“The committee thought all the proposals had their strengths,” said Anderson, “and narrowing the choice down to just two was very difficult. I am excited for the opportunities that these two programs will create on campus and I look forward to seeing how the process continues to develop beyond this year—both with these clusters as well as with clusters that may be formed in the coming years.”
Each selected cluster will be assigned to a dean who will guide the search and hiring process for the faculty positions. Farrell expects it may take more than one recruiting year to fill the new positions.
In the interim, each of the selected clusters will be introduced to the campus community through a series of open symposiums that will help outline the goals in each area of focus.
“I look for these new hires, joined by current Lehigh faculty already active in these areas, to engage the entire Lehigh community and contribute to the interdisciplinary vitality that is so important for a vibrant university environment,” said Farrell.