U of I System launches initiative to add world-class faculty

aerial view of campus and Chicago skyline

The University of Illinois System has launched a new initiative that will provide $60 million over three years to help recruit “superstar” faculty and expand leading-edge scholarship across its three universities, University President Tim Killeen told the Board of Trustees at their meeting Thursday in Urbana.

Killeen previewed the program at the board’s May meeting, but said then that it was contingent on full-year state funding for the university. In July, the legislature approved a spending plan that ended a two-year budget impasse and cleared the way for efforts to recruit 10 to 15 world-class faculty a year, and up to 45 over three years.

The program will pool funding from the U of I System and its universities in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield to support start-up costs for star professors, providing financial leverage in the highly competitive landscape of faculty recruiting, Killeen said.

“This will make the U of I System a key player in an increasingly competitive arena where just a single hire can be a game-changer, raising your national profile and your appeal to students and research funding agencies,” he said. “The initiative is an investment that promises rich dividends far into the future by adding to the ranks of world-class talent that define our excellence and fuel a pipeline of talent and innovation that drives progress.”

Killeen said proposals will be accepted this fall from the three universities for funding under the President’s Distinguished Faculty Recruitment Program, which seeks to attract tenured, high-achieving faculty of national and international distinction in a broad range of academic and research disciplines who can help transform teaching and discovery.

System offices will cover half of program costs, with the offices of the president and the executive vice president providing a total of $10 million each year for three years. The three universities will collectively match a total of $10 million each year. The program will be coordinated by the Office of the Executive Vice President.

The funds are to be used for new faculty start-up costs, such as the purchase of equipment, renovation of space, graduate student support and other needs associated with enhancing research and teaching needs of prominent faculty. Faculty salaries are not covered and are provided separately by each university.

New trustee

Trustees also installed U of I alumnus Stuart King as a new member of the board. King was appointed to a six-year term last month by Gov. Bruce Rauner and succeeds Karen Hasara of Springfield, whose term ended in January.

King, 51, of Champaign, earned three degrees from the U of I System. He received his medical degree from the UIC College of Medicine and a bachelor’s degree and MBA from Urbana-Champaign.

He is currently a physician specializing in pain management at Christie Clinic in Urbana, where he also serves as head of the Department of Spine and Pain Management. King resigned from his positions as a clinical associate professor of surgery and interim associate dean for academic affairs for the College of Medicine to become a member of the board.