How the UI is prioritizing faculty recruitment, retention, development, and recognition

As university leaders met in early 2021 to launch the development of the institution’s next strategic plan, it became clear how important faculty would be in helping the university advance as a premier public research university that is a first-choice destination for the next generation of students, faculty, and staff. 

“Our faculty are critical to the overall success of the University of Iowa,” says Kevin Kregel, executive vice president and provost. “They educate and inspire our students, advance our knowledge, and serve our communities. We developed the strategic plan with these efforts in mind and are committed to building upon the comprehensive strength of our faculty.” 

In alignment with this vision, the university is investing significant resources in faculty success and developing new initiatives aimed at helping improve faculty recruitment, retention, development, and recognition. 

Attracting and retaining the best and brightest faculty

In 2021 and 2022, respectively, the university launched the High Impact Hiring Initiative (HIHI) and the Transformational Faculty Hiring Program. These initiatives help recruit and retain faculty who strengthen the university’s teaching excellence, grow areas of distinction, enhance patient care and clinical outcomes, and advance creative work, research, and scholarship.

HIHI, a P3 initiative that provides funding to help recruit or retain faculty, has contributed more than $14 million to support 64 recruitments and 24 retentions across 10 colleges since the program started in 2021. Faculty hires have included established researchers from other AAU institutions, nationally recognized performers, award winning writers, promising early-career faculty, and experts in aging, big data, climate science, genetic diseases, neuroscience, physics, public policy, speech disorders, and more.

The HIHI program also boasts a 72% success rate on faculty retentions, which in many cases arise when a faculty member already has a competitive offer from another institution. These impressive outcomes have made the program a useful tool for collegiate leaders.

“HIHI has been instrumental in helping us recruit and retain outstanding faculty who are making a difference in their fields and in the lives of our students. We are grateful for the support and flexibility that this program provides.” - Sara Sanders, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Listening, evaluating, and evolving

A group led by Lois Geist, associate provost for faculty, has taken the lead in developing and implementing strategic plan efforts around faculty success. One of the first efforts Geist focused on was gathering feedback to determine how the university can improve the faculty experience. 

Members of Geist’s strategic plan faculty success group – which includes deans, university administrators, program directors, and individual faculty members – set up more than a dozen focus groups and conducted surveys with department leaders and faculty from all colleges, tracks, and ranks. 

“We heard some really insightful things from our faculty and we’re trying to act on those to make the University of Iowa a more attractive place to be.” - Lois Geist, associate provost for faculty 

The faculty success group is now using the feedback – along with findings from a Big Ten peer analysis – to identify strengths and areas of improvement for faculty satisfaction at various career stages. For example, plans are underway to improve preboarding and onboarding processes for new faculty to address issues with access to and training on technology tools used by the university. 

Developing and recognizing faculty excellence

Beyond recruitment and retention, the university also has launched several programs to help faculty successfully grow as scholars, teachers, and leaders. This includes the Iowa Mid-Career Faculty Scholar Award and the P3-funded Post-Tenure Faculty Support program. The Office of the Provost’s Investment in Strategic Priorities Fund has provided more than $480,000 to help 106 faculty complete research or scholarly projects.

Claire Fox, M.F. Carpenter Professor of English, said she plans to use support from the Investment in Strategic Priorities Fund to conduct research for a book chapter about Latin American Literature of the Cold War. Her upcoming travel and subsequent work on the chapter, which will be published in the Cambridge Companion to Cold War Literature, is also an opportunity to advance research for her current book project on the emergence of new museums, galleries, and other exhibition spaces across the Americas beginning in the 1960s.

The strategic priorities funds enable faculty to dedicate themselves full-time to a research or creative project. They also provide valuable support for travel, equipment, and collaboration. – Claire Fox, M.F. Carpenter Professor of English

Another strategy implemented by the faculty success group was expanding training for academic leaders. The revamped Iowa Academic Leadership Academy was launched in fall 2023 to help new and aspiring department chairs, program directors, and associate deans successfully transition to those key roles. The program includes group sessions focused on leadership, executive coaching, mentorship, and networking to provide them with the skills, knowledge, and connections to lead effectively and collaboratively.

Setting the stage for the future

Some of the next steps for the faculty success group include evaluating recruitment efforts to increase the attractiveness of job offers, increasing networking and mentorship opportunities, and finding new ways to recognize faculty achievements.

“Our faculty are one of the university’s most valued resources,” says Geist. “It is important that we continue to find innovative ways to support their success and celebrate their accomplishments.”