Clustered & Connected Hiring Program (CCP)
National conversations are centered around solving vexing, complex problems - the seemingly intractable grand challenges – focused on societal needs. The National Academies, federal agencies, national foundations and other entities call for Convergence Research, that is the integration of knowledge, methods, and expertise from different disciplines and the formation of novel frameworks to catalyze scientific discovery and innovation to address these challenges. A similar and complementary approach has been undertaken by the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities to align and connect research outcomes for societal benefits (http://www.aplu.org/projects-and-initiatives/research-science-and-technology/hibar/index.html). The National Science Foundation, for example, has identified Convergence Research as having two primary characteristics:
- Research driven by a specific and compelling problem. Convergence Research is generally inspired by the need to address a specific challenge or opportunity, whether it arises from deep scientific questions or pressing societal needs.
- Deep integration across disciplines. As experts from different disciplines pursue common research challenges, their knowledge, theories, methods, data, research communities and languages become increasingly intermingled or integrated. New frameworks, paradigms or even disciplines can form sustained interactions across multiple communities.
From its inception, the convergence paradigm intentionally brings together intellectually-diverse researchers – not only researchers in science, engineering, business, and medicine, and also social scientists, humanists, artists, and scholars beyond - to develop effective ways of communicating across disciplines by adopting common frameworks and shared languages, which may, in turn, afford solving society’s most pressing problems.
A few examples of convergent, transdisciplinary approaches include developing new biotechnologies and drugs to treat or prevent disease; pushing the boundaries of space and novel materials to defend our country or ethically harvesting information to secure our way of life while valuing privacy; advancing the human condition through education or policy to address social and economic disparities; stewarding our environment while extracting valuable resources. The Big Ideas funding opportunities issued by the National Science Foundation are examples of this approach at the federal agency level. Addressing these grand challenges requires hiring strategies that connect, cluster and cut-across disciplinary divides to enable true transdisciplinary innovations.
Institutional excellence historically has been measured by faculty – their research, scholarship, and creative works, such as in books, journal articles, and performances, as well as by the impact of faculty work - reflected in nationally competitive honors and awards, citations, and federal grants. With a comparatively smaller number of tenured and tenure-track (T/TT) faculty at UTSA, in this era of national grand challenges and the need for convergence research to address them, the path forward to meet the growth targets in research capacity set out by the UT System and State goals and to provide the kind of faculty-intensive, engaged student experience for which UTSA aspires is not simply adding faculty by replacement or rote formula.
Rather, for UTSA to advance institutional excellence and enhance its stature, one tactic with demonstrated effectiveness is to intentionally tie together faculty expertise through simultaneous connected or clustered faculty hiring to bolster our transdisciplinary capabilities by linking our strengths and approaches. By utilizing a connected and clustered hiring approach, significant impact can be realized more quickly by better aligning our capabilities with federal priorities and enabling collaboration among the full range of our faculty to create a new whole that is greater than the sum of its disciplinary parts.
Finally, UTSA is increasingly recognized as a national player and academic destination for “cyber-intensive/big data” capabilities, where many of our faculty and accompanying academic programs utilize data analytic/digital/computational approaches. This broad space is of critical national need and is relatively more wide-open, as there are comparatively fewer universities competing relative to more established disciplinary areas. As an Emerging Research University without long standing, well known track records of expertise, we have the opportunity to further advance our overall academic reputation by intentionally spreading these digital/computational/data analytic capabilities and distributing our signature expertise across our campus programs. This tactic has the added advantage of leveraging the shared connections to the greater benefit of the whole, and enhancing alignment with the needs of our industry, governmental and community partners.
With these investments, the goals of the Clustered & Connected Hiring Program (CCP) are to:
- Increase the number of outstanding T/TT faculty with nationally/internationally recognized capabilities in departments to enable convergence research that is truly transdisciplinary, contribute to a high quality student experience, and advance engagement with our stakeholders;
- Expand UTSA’s capacity to address society’s grand challenges, enhancing our competitiveness for, and alignment with, federal, foundation and industry research opportunities;
- Increase the institutional key performance indicators (KPIs) and impacts of faculty scholarship, including partnership opportunities locally, nationally and internationally.
- Broaden UTSA’s signature “big data/cyber-intensive” capabilities in digital/computational/data analytics across more disciplinary areas and connect those utilizing these approaches to further deepen UTSA’s reputation and capabilities.
Results of 2019 CCP
Thirteen faculty groups submitted proposals under this program, and four were selected by the Transdisciplinary Research Council using the evaluation criteria, as the highest priority for further consideration. With funding from the Strategic Investment Fund as a result of the implementation of the Incentivized Resource Management (IRM) budget model, Academic Affairs was able to proceed with all four cluster proposals by authorizing the first 15 searches in FY20, with remaining to be considered for searches in FY21. The selected clusters of faculty scholars selected to augment existing UTSA expertise are the following:
- Social and Environmental Challenges in Latin America
- Quantum Information Science
- Human Performance
- Virtual and Augmented Reality
The next call for new proposals for CCP hiring will be issued in Fall 2020.
The CCP is designed to recruit and hire some of the best and brightest minds of diverse backgrounds and experiences in select fields to The University of Texas at San Antonio to join in efforts to address some of today’s most significant challenges. The intent is to attract groups of scholars who will add depth and expertise in specific areas, who will connect the efforts of our existing faculty to enhance our competitiveness to address national societal needs, and who will advance the University’s capacity to meet UT System and State goals. Part of the Strategic Investment Fund created under the new Incentivized Resource Management budget model, fund has been dedicated to partner with the academic colleges to recruit and hire small, strategic groups of new scholars (connected or clustered faculty of 2 to 5 members) to campus as a part of this program.
- Encourage and foster collaboration among our strong, existing faculty within, or across, the identified cross-cutting areas that enhance research visibility and competitiveness.
- Enable collaborative opportunities that broaden and deepen existing, recognized expertise and create new links among them to enhance UTSA’s national profile.
- Advance research capacity, competitiveness, success and progress towards the outcomes described in President Eighmy’s Vision and Strategic Plan for UTSA.
- Enable the campus to devote a critical mass of faculty to convergent, transdisciplinary knowledge areas that are not solely addressed through existing departmental/college structures.
- Brings diverse backgrounds and perspectives together to increase and enrich collaborations across traditional disciplinary and ideological divides
- Strengthen existing curricular offerings on the undergraduate and graduate levels, and create opportunities for new offerings and programs, which link to identified opportunities and needs.
- Advance the impact of UTSA programs by addressing society's needs, connecting with industry, government and institutional partners, and engagement with our communities.
- Deepens and broadens our reputation for quality capacities in “big data / cyber” approaches, i.e., analytics/digital/computational/cloud approaches
- Ability to enhance national/international pre-eminence and campus leadership in a priority area. Why does this cluster specifically make sense for UTSA? How will this cluster advance UTSA’s competitive position compared to other universities across the nation who have existing programs or expertise in this area?
- Concretely link outstanding departments/disciplinary capacity across colleges to advance excellence to realize the goals in President Eighmy’s Vision and Strategic Plan for UTSA.
- Demonstration of transdisciplinary collaboration and convergent approaches.
- Diversity in backgrounds and perspectives that will enrich collaborations across traditional disciplinary and ideological divides.
- Utilization of “cyber-intensive” digital, analytic and/or computational approaches that broadens our capabilities and leverages local, state and national partnerships.
- Ability to increase sponsored/foundation/industry funding to meet UT System/State goals
- Commitment to share extant resources, take advantage of existing core facilities, and augment the facility infrastructure that supports research. Addresses infrastructure gaps that would needed for the cluster hire’s success.
- Inclusion of multiple units and at least two colleges
- Demonstration of a clear, inclusive hiring plan, and attendant 3-5 year research and teaching plan, collaboratively developed by deans that meets the programmatic goals and addresses institutional priorities to advance academic excellence and UTSA’s competitive position relative to other universities.
Examples of Cross-Cutting CCP Priority Areas:
- Broadening participation & improving P-20 education in computer science through social-digital design
- Advancing finance with privacy and security in the Blockchain Era
- Forecasting our human futures through integrated computational humanities
- Sustainable Smart Cities through human-cyber-physical systems
- Precision “neuroengineering” through biosystem modeling, drug delivery and therapeutic interventions
- Using Cloud and Digital tools for Integrated Media through connecting communication, arts, culture and marketing
- Windows on the Universe – uncovering the nature and behavior of matter and energy
- Groups of proposing faculty (with one faculty specifically identified as lead, and team members stated) should prepare brief proposals ( no more than 3 pages) describing: a) the grand challenge, b) national funding opportunities for convergence research/scholarship, c) evaluation of UTSA’s competitive position in the area d) hiring concept and rationale, e) hiring plan to attract connected/clustered hiring of 2 to 5 leading or promising scholars to campus that addresses the CCP objectives and criteria f) fit with existing UTSA scholars, and g) plan to link proposed hires and existing faculty into functioning teams to advance UTSA’s competitiveness and realize the intended success.
CCP proposals can put forward tenured/tenure track hires at any level (senior, mid-career, junior TT, or mixed), depending on the current faculty composition and the goals and opportunities of the proposed cluster. Proposals should be submitted by email ( firstname.lastname@example.org) to Academic Affairs by TBA DATE.
- In addition to the CCP concept and rationale, proposals should provide the expected appointment structure (e.g., joint/cross/single departmental appointment), estimates of faculty salary and shared/ individual start-up costs for each hire, a draft advertisement that might be used to attract the connected/clustered faculty, the suggested venues in which to advertise to maximize impact, and the proposed transdisciplinary search committee (e.g., composed of faculty across UTSA).
The proposing faculty group must consult with the cognizant college dean(s) and the respective department chairs for consideration of alignment with college hiring needs and budgetary priorities (matching funds) in the development of the CCP proposal. Deans also are encouraged to communicate with one another to hone these cross-campus proposals via the Deans Transdisciplinary Research Council (TRC).
Evaluation & Selection:
CCP proposals will be reviewed and prioritized by the College and University leadership, using the program objectives and evaluation criteria listed above. Depending on how many proposals are submitted, a two stage selection process may be used that includes presentations by the proposing faculty. The resulting prioritization and recommendations will be discussed with the Vice President for Research, with final decision regarding proposal selection made by the President and Provost. The merit of individual proposals will be reviewed in the context of our existing capacity, along with other submitted proposals. Please note that as a part of the review process, leadership may recommend modifications to CCP proposals in order to optimize the benefit to the University, and further changes to proposals also may be sought prior to initiation of the search process.
Deans, Department Chairs and the Proposing Faculty Group then will be notified of the outcome of the proposal review. For those concept proposals selected to proceed, Department Chairs will then enter the approved positions into the Academic Affairs position request portal to initiate the search process.