Vision for Faculty Excellence at Rutgers–New Brunswick

Dear Colleagues,

Since my appointment as Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor for Research and Academic Affairs, I have had the privilege of becoming closely acquainted with the remarkable work of the diverse faculty body at Rutgers­–New Brunswick. From innovative pedagogy to groundbreaking scholarship, excellence in teaching, research, and service abounds on our campus.

One of my goals is to help foster an enhanced culture of interdisciplinarity and collaboration at Rutgers. My office's combined portfolio of academics and research uniquely enables us to bring new voice and priority to emergent research initiatives and allow collaborative academic projects to scale across the campus. As one instance of this, we have catalyzed the exploration of several cross-disciplinary planning initiatives in the Humanities and the Arts, including in the Public Humanities and the Environmental Humanities, in Civics and Community-Engaged Scholarship, and now in Arts Integrated Research, a national movement in higher education that joins the creative practices and research methods of artists together with scholars in the humanities, social sciences, and STEM fields. By December, we, together with a newly established network of research deans, will have launched four campus-wide research ideation forums, three in STEM fields and one in the humanities and arts, bringing together more than 200 faculty scholars to brainstorm more than 30 different research ideas related to societal grand challenges. Our collaborative synergies are well at play in other ways, too, from competing for global, disruptive challenge grants on forecasting hurricanes to supporting Rutgers projects on "smart cities", establishing wireless testbeds in New York City, and growing initiatives in artificial intelligence and brain-morphic computing.

As Provost, I also seek to ensure that uniformly high levels of support for research, teaching, and infrastructure extend to all faculty regardless of their discipline, rank and tenure status. To this end, in April 2019, we hosted a faculty campus climate survey through the Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education (COACHE). The Office for Institutional Research and Academic Planning (OIRAP) is building an interactive platform to share the survey results, expected by February 1, 2020. These results will help us identify perceived strengths and areas for improvement in our campus culture, and gaps in services and institutional support that potentially limit faculty productivity. We look forward to forming thematically specialized working groups, informed by insights from the survey, with the ultimate goal to develop and implement institutionally scalable solutions.

An additional priority for the Chancellor and me will be to showcase more broadly the intellectual vitality and creativity of our faculty, which forms the core of Rutgers as a higher educational institution. In my role as Provost, I had the good fortune of recently welcoming the newest cohort of faculty to Rutgers. We remain committed to bringing more scalable faculty development resources and mentoring this new group of junior and senior faculty members as they augment our existing excellence in teaching and research. At the same time, we are also focused on recognizing our very best through a new series of Chancellor’s and Provost’s Awards for Faculty Excellence. These six awards will recognize outstanding faculty members, including untenured, tenured and non-tenure track faculty, who have demonstrated significant impacts in innovative teaching, cross-disciplinary research, public engagement, and diversity. At the Spring celebration event, we will highlight these and several more high honors of the faculty.

As a vivid example of how diverse our palette of excellence is, let me cite three recent notable faculty honors. Victoria Abraria, assistant professor in Cell Biology and Neuroscience, who is doing pioneering work in elucidating the mechanisms of touch sensitivity, received the Pew Biomedical Sciences award for 2019; Waheed Bajwa, associate professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, received a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation for use of machine learning and exploration of dark matter; and Erica A. Dunbar, Charles and Mary Beard Professor of History, received in February 2019 one of the most coveted honors in African American History, the Frederick Douglass Book Prize for her book, Never Caught: The Washingtons' Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge.

We recognize that there is much work ahead to realize our institution’s fullest potential, yet there is already much to celebrate. Through a collaborative process, we will prioritize efforts to address institutional deficits in key areas: teaching and research resources, faculty development, infrastructure support, and strategic communications, among others. We will continue to highlight with pride the many great achievements of the faculty community that support the intellectual ecosystem so vital to our vibrant university.

Sincerely,

Prabhas V. Moghe
Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor for Research and Academic Affairs
Distinguished Professor