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University seeks out new VP

Kaitlynn Riely | Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Notre Dame has launched a nationwide search for a vice president for research, a newly created position to direct the University’s efforts to become a top research institution, said University Provost Tom Burish.

“The Office of the Vice President for Research will focus on helping to create and implement a strategy that will strengthen the research efforts at Notre Dame,” Burish said.

The new vice president will work with various offices, deans and department chairs to strengthen the support of research programs at the University, he said.

“We are looking for a person who, himself or herself, has a research record, who is an accomplished scholar,” Burish said.

The person who is picked to fill this position will be someone “who can work well with the faculty, who is willing to work toward ambitious goals and who has an appreciation for the many areas of the University that can reach toward this ambitious goal,” Burish said.

Burish created an ad hoc committee on graduate studies and research in November 2005 to recommend the best way to organize the offices that oversee graduate studies and research. In a letter to Frank Incropera, dean of the College of Engineering and chair of the committee, Burish listed the committee’s responsibilities and the topics it should explore.

“The University’s long-range goal is to support distinctive, leading-edge research that is consistent with and that advances the University’s overall mission,” Burish said in his letter.

The committee produced a report titled “A New Beginning” in May. In this report, the committee said “the University’s leaders must develop a compelling research message and communicate it clearly and often to all constituents.”

The majority of committee members recommended the University rearrange the administrative structure of research and graduate studies, so the head of the Graduate School would be a dean and the head of the Office of Research would be a vice president and an officer of the University.

The committee members expressed their judgment that Notre Dame “can and should … become a high impact 21st century research University.”

With this in mind, the Academic Council named a five-person search committee last week to find candidates for the vice president position. Neil Delaney, director of the Arts and Letters Honors Program and a philosophy professor, sociology professor Maureen Hallinan, aerospace and mechanical engineering professor Steve Batill, chemistry and biochemistry professor Richard Taylor and physics professor Malgorzata Dobrowolska-Furdyna have been named to sit on the committee.

Dobrowolska-Furdyna said the committee will meet with Burish later this week to discuss their course of action.

“I think it’s a very important position and definitely we are all hoping that the new vice president will help us move up to the next level,” she said.

Burish said he hopes to see the new vice president in position for the beginning of the next academic year.

University President Father John Jenkins and Burish have both made clear in public addresses over the last year and a half their objective to make Notre Dame a preeminent research institution.

Jenkins told faculty in his annual address that while Notre Dame is not now regarded as a premier research university, it has the potential to become one.

In his October address to the faculty, Burish introduced his plan to create a steering committee that will work to advance the University’s research mission while the new vice president is being chosen.

“The goal of the steering committee is to seek ideas from inside and outside the University on how we can creatively, successfully and strategically invest new dollars with those that are already available to focus on a small number of research areas that can truly become among the preeminent research areas in the country and beyond,” Burish said.

The steering committee will make recommendations on research areas that have the potential to become nationally ranked programs, Burish said.