Tufts University to Hire "Bridge Professors" to Teach and Conduct Research Across Disciplines
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MEDFORD/SOMERVILLE, Mass. – Tufts University will bolster its approach to interdisciplinary education by establishing a program that will add new senior-level faculty positions to foster teaching and research across traditional disciplines, connecting at least two academic departments or schools. Tufts’ recently announced 10-year strategic plan envisions hiring as many as 10 such Bridge Professors over the next five years.
Schools and departments on all three of Tufts’ Massachusetts campuses are now developing and submitting proposals for Bridge Professorships that reflect their unique vision for innovative cross disciplinary work. All Bridge Professors will hold the rank of either associate or full professor, and will be tenured in those schools that offer tenure.
These positions are "a mechanism to incentivize us to seek out and hire those scholars and researchers whose work resonates deeply with more than one school, department or discipline," says David Harris, Tufts provost and senior vice president. "And the program acknowledges what we already know—that many of the challenges we are pursuing as an institution do not align solely with one department or one school."
In a departure from the typical academic hiring model, the provost’s office will cover one-third of the compensation, benefits and start-up costs over the first five years of each position.
The program can potentially create a real culture change across the humanities, the social sciences and the sciences, complementing the typical hiring that occurs within departments and schools, says Kevin Dunn, associate provost and associate professor of English, who is guiding implementation of the initiative.
The concept of the new positions "grew out of in-depth discussions with the faculty and the constraints they have in trying to do interdisciplinary and cross-school research," notes Dunn. "So this is not a top-down initiative: faculty must propose what kinds of topics they would like these new professorships to address."
Bridge Professors will also contribute to another plank of Tufts’ strategic plan: creating and nurturing transformational experiences for all students: experiences that "fundamentally challenge a person’s assumptions and preconceptions, as well as their beliefs and values, and thus affect how they understand themselves, others and the world."
The search for the first two Bridge Professors is slated to begin this spring with the goal of bringing the inaugural professors on board for the 2014-2015 academic year.
"This initiative helps provide a bridge that will take Tufts where a university of this caliber needs to go," says Harris.
Tufts University, located on three Massachusetts campuses in Boston, Medford/Somerville, and Grafton, and in Talloires, France, is recognized among the premier research universities in the United States. Tufts enjoys a global reputation for academic excellence and for the preparation of students as leaders in a wide range of professions. A growing number of innovative teaching and research initiatives span all campuses, and collaboration among the faculty and students in the undergraduate, graduate and professional programs across the university is widely encouraged.