URI President David M. Dooley said the University will invest approximately $5.3 million to establish these positions with an annual investment of about $1.5 million over fiscal years 2016-2019. Funds to support this strategic initiative will be allocated from within the University’s general operating budget.
“Our goal is to substantially increase our faculty in meaningful ways to support and fulfill our standing as a premier learning-centered research university,” said President Dooley. “The future health, vitality, and productivity of the University and the learning experiences of our students depend upon a very productive, talented and engaged faculty.”
Provost Donald H. DeHayes developed the plan and requested the investment through the University’s Strategic Budget and Planning Council. The proposal illustrated a clear need to expand the number of full-time faculty based on increased enrollment, opportunity for strategic transformation of programs or majors, and development of new research, scholarship, and creative work that will enhance economic opportunity, workforce development, and quality of life throughout Rhode Island.
The proposal shows that enrollment at URI increased by approximately 4,000 students between the late 1990s and 2010, and has generally stabilized since that time at the highest levels in University history. During that same period, despite the increased enrollment, the number of full-time faculty remained constant. URI has also just announced its largest freshman class and total enrollment in its history for fall 2014.
“While there has been some growth in the number of lecturers, the majority of the faculty expansion to accommodate the increased enrollment has been part-time instructors, who have played an important role in teaching introductory and general education courses,” said Provost DeHayes.
The University’s Full-time Faculty Hiring Initiative will establish and fill about 40 new tenure-track and 15 new lecturer positions between 2016-19. Both the lecturer positions and the tenure-track positions are viewed as critical to the institution’s teaching, research, and outreach mission. Filling both types of positions is critical. The hiring plan is in addition to normal processes to fill replacements of faculty due to retirements or departures.
The new positions will be allocated strategically across colleges and disciplines based on market demand and opportunities. These faculty will contribute critical and important teaching across levels within the university — including introductory, general education, advanced undergraduate, and/or graduate courses — depending upon programmatic and institutional needs.
Research has shown that greater student-faculty engagement in introductory and general education courses has enhanced student retention and assisted overall academic completion. URI has an institutional goal of attaining and sustaining a student to faculty ratio of 16.5:1, a ratio that provides a competitive advantage in the public research university marketplace. The strategic investment in faculty will not change that ratio, but URI will have a larger proportion of full-time faculty contributing to student learning and engagement goals, while at the same time enhancing capacity for teaching advanced and graduate courses and expanding the University’s research enterprise.
The new positions will help the University respond to growing student demand in some programs, further support innovation and excellence in general education, and enhance the research, scholarship and creative contributions made to the University and the State of Rhode Island.