UGA invests in faculty development, strategic hires
November 4, 2020
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The University of Georgia continues to invest in faculty whose work addresses urgent statewide and global issues through new Presidential Cluster Hiring Initiatives in integrative, precision agriculture and in brain and behavioral health.

“Bringing more faculty to UGA who are experts in these critical fields will advance our efforts to solve grand challenges for Georgia and the world,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “We are grateful for the support of donors who endowed the John H. ‘Johnny’ Isakson Chair for Parkinson’s Research and Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar position, and we look forward to all that our new faculty members will add to the research enterprise and the learning environment at UGA.”

The university’s recent investments in faculty through Presidential Cluster Hiring Initiatives have been guided by the work of the Provost’s Task Force on Academic Excellence, which identified several areas of strength where the university can build on its expertise and maximize its impact on society. Those areas include integrative, precision agriculture; the broad category of security, which includes cybersecurity, national security and food security; research and scholarship that addresses challenges facing rural areas; and the biomedical and social sciences, with a particular emphasis on brain health.

The integrative, precision agriculture cluster hiring initiative aims to recruit five faculty members over a two-year period, with the first two faculty members joining UGA in fall 2021. The brain and behavioral health cluster hiring initiative aims to recruit five faculty members over three years. That cluster hiring initiative begins with the recruitment of the John H. “Johnny” Isakson Chair for Parkinson’s Research and Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar, which honors the former U.S. senator.

Provost S. Jack Hu has assembled multidisciplinary search committees for each hiring initiative and emphasized that the faculty hired could serve in one or more of any number of departments, schools and colleges at UGA.

“Our recruitment process reflects the fact that the areas of strategic emphasis identified by the Task Force on Academic Excellence span multiple disciplines,” Hu said. “We are interested in attracting the most distinguished faculty to UGA through these cluster hiring initiatives, regardless of which department their academic home will be.”

In addition, searches for faculty with positions authorized by the schools and colleges will also continue.

New faculty for fall 2020

The new hiring initiatives follow last year’s Presidential Cluster and Strategic Hiring Initiative, which recruited 14 new faculty members for fall 2020 in addition to the more than 100 faculty members who joined UGA through the regular hiring process at the unit level.

Assistant professor Alexander Strauss joined the faculty of the Odum School of Ecology this fall, where he teaches courses on mathematical modeling, population and community ecology and population biology of infectious diseases. His research focuses on the impact of changes such as biodiversity loss, climate change and nutrient pollution on disease ecology. He said the opportunity to share ideas and collaborate with experts in a range of fields attracted him to UGA. “The Odum School is especially strong in disease ecology and aquatic ecology, which align closely with my fields of study,” Strauss said.

In the College of Family and Consumer Sciences, Sina Gallo joined the department of foods and nutrition this fall as an associate professor. Her research has found that fewer than a third of breastfed infants in the U.S. receive supplemental vitamin D, which has the potential to result in deficiencies that increase the risk of long-term health effects. “My current research is exploring how best to improve adherence with this recommendation so that we can optimize children’s health,” Gallo said, noting that she also seeks to reduce health disparities that disproportionately impact those receiving government food assistance, as well as racial and ethnic minorities.

In the College of Engineering, Jaime Camelio was recruited to UGA as a professor and associate dean for research, innovation and entrepreneurship. His goal is to make the college a national and international model for experiential learning in engineering. He also will work with his faculty colleagues to fuse the college’s instruction and research with programs that promote leadership, entrepreneurship and ethics. “The college, UGA and Athens offer a unique ecosystem to integrate learning, research, innovation and entrepreneurship as a key economic development driver,” Camelio said.

New career development pathways

The new UGA faculty are receiving an extended welcome and introduction to the birthplace of public higher education through the newly established Keys to UGA: New Faculty Academy. This series of monthly Zoom workshops began in August with the New Faculty Academy Kickoff, which featured a welcome from Morehead and Hu, as well as sessions on instructional resources, strategies for success and an overview of UGA traditions, legends and lingo. Additional sessions were created in partnership with units such as the Office of Research, Public Service and Outreach, Student Affairs and the Graduate School.

“Throughout the year, faculty from across campus will have the opportunity to engage with university leaders, resources and one another, thus building a cohort of cross-disciplinary colleagues for support, fellowship and collaboration,” said Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs Elizabeth Weeks, the Charles H. Kirbo Chair in Law. “Given the current realities of social distancing, providing ways to connect new faculty is especially critical.”

Story written by Sam Fahmy and Mike Wooten

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