California State University, Long Beach
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Reinvesting For The Future

Published: September 1, 2015

This year’s fall semester saw the hiring of 58 new tenure-track faculty, the same as last year. Those numbers mean that the past two years CSULB has seen the largest cohorts of new faculty members since 2007-08, prior to what is commonly referred to as the “Great Recession.”

Data distributed about a year ago by the statewide Academic Senate to the Board of Trustees showed that of all the CSU campuses, Long Beach, although not the largest in enrollment, had the most tenure track faculty–by a sizable margin (48) and the most total faculty–by an even larger margin (120), explained Provost David Dowell.

“This represents a re-investment by the state in the CSU,” said the senior vice president for academic affairs. “Tenure-track faculty anchor our curriculum. They lead the way into the future. The fact that the budget is improving and that we can hire more faculty members is evidence of the state’s investment in the CSU in general and CSULB in particular.”

Dowell praised the quality of this year’s hires.

“Every single one of these hires is the product of a national search,” he explained. “We’re a pretty great university. That is the secret sauce of CSULB. That’s why we punch above our weight in many ways. We sometimes have hundreds of applicants for each position we advertise.”

Each search is important in a number of ways.

“The choice of what specialization we hire sets the future direction of this university. There’s nothing more important than that,” he said. “We’re hiring in fields like health care informatics, health care operations research, gerontology, sustainability, African-American literature, Chicano/Latino history, geophysics and big data for engineering. “We are hiring in fields that are cutting edge.”

This year, CSULB did something a little different in its tenure-track hiring, adding an emphasis on new faculty’s preparation to work with the university’s diverse student body.

“We required that each candidate write a student success statement which states how well prepared the potential faculty members are to work with our diverse students,” said Dowell. “With this process we got outstanding pools of candidates. This will help us to ensure that, not only are we hiring top-quality faculty in each field but that we are hiring faculty who are ready and willing to work with our diverse student population. In California, we already have the nation’s learners of the future. Our new process is likely also to have the benefit of diversifying the faculty we hire.”

Dowell believes that student success is fundamental to the university’s success.

“Tenure-track faculty are critically important to student success outcomes,” he said. “They design the curriculum the students go through. They build the framework for the campus academic support structures like tutoring and laboratory work. Tenure-track faculty design community service learning and resource experiences. They will create the curricula in which our students will be successful. That is critically important.”

The new hires will bolster certain areas of study.

“There used to be a belief in the CSU that the make-up of various disciplines remained static. When somebody retired, you replaced them. That theory has been gone from this university for at least 25 years,” Dowell laughed. “In every way, when we look at a new tenure-track hire, we always ask how their specialization will take the department in the directions it needs to go. That opens the door to topics that are innovative and cutting-edge like biomedicine. We’re also working on an American Sign Language program within the Linguistics Department. There are very few of those in the whole country. We are adding important new dimensions to the curriculum.”

CSULB may have the reputation of a teaching university but there is plenty of research going on.

“A restored budget enables the university to re-invest in research,” said Dowell. “If you roll in new faculty support dollars, there will be around $3 million in direct incentives for new and continuing faculty to engage in research activities. Then there is another $1 million for the infrastructure to support that. This is approximately triple what we were able to offer research during the bad budget years.”

Dowell believes in putting faculty where the students are.

“I took a hard look at how many majors there were for tenure-track faculty by department,” he said. “Instead of just rolling over past positions by colleges or departments, we are taking a look at how students vote with their feet. Health and Human Services is our fastest-growing college. The Colleges of Engineering and Business Administration have grown quite a bit. My principle is simple and driven by student success. As much as is reasonable, I try to put faculty where the students are.”

This year and last year, CSULB hired the largest numbers seen in nearly a decade.

“Next year, we’re hiring even more,” said Dowell. “I encourage current faculty to welcome the new faces. The Beach is a very special place. Go Beach!”