March 14, 2012

University Pushes to Hire Professors in International Studies

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This is the first article in a series about the University’s push to advance its international education and engagement.

As Prof. Fredrik Logevall, history, director of the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, sat in his office overlooking East Avenue, he recalled what had initially drawn him to Cornell. He said he was drawn not only by the University’s renowned history department, but also by its Southeast Asia studies program and its faculty’s dedication to studies of international cultures.

Now, after the March 2 release of President David Skorton’s white paper, “Bringing the World to Cornell and Cornell to the World,” and in light of an expected wave of faculty retirement, hiring professors with similar dedication as Logevall’s to international studies has become a University priority.“Faculty renewal in international studies and international engagement is a critical need if Cornell is to enhance its stature in the most strategic international areas,” Skorton wrote.Prof. David Lee, applied economics and management, noted that Cornell has long prioritized international studies, but has recently fallen behind relative to comparable institutions.“My sense is that we haven’t invested in ramping up our attention to international work the way many of our peer institutions have,” Lee said. “In relative terms, we’ve lost ground as our peer institutions have escalated their investments in international programs.”The push to hire within international studies fields comes in response to the recent and imminent departure of faculty members through a wave of retirements. In the white paper — a report issued earlier this month which reaffirms the University’s plan to increase investments in international study and engagement abroad — Skorton asserts that if the University does not respond to these losses, Cornell’s prominence in international studies could suffer.“The world of university-based international studies and engagement is changing, and Cornell must respond aggressively or risk being left behind,” Skorton said.According to Skorton, more than half of the 70 international professors in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences are approaching retirement.“Of the 70 faculty designated as international professors … 20 already have emeritus status and another 20 are in their sixties,” Skorton said. “Similar trends exist in other colleges with strong international programs.”In addition, Logevall said that, looking forward, the University needs to focus not only on the departments that have suffered losses but also on those that have remained strong.“What we need to address is some of the losses that we’ve suffered and build on those strengths,” Logevall said.Logevall said it is Cornell’s already acquired strengths — including the Einaudi Center and its programs, the language programs and the international reach of faculty research — that will appeal to faculty members the University would want to recruit.“I think that going forward, we can utilize these existing strengths to attract these international faculty,” he said.According to Alice Pell, vice provost for international relations, one of the challenges in hiring faculty in international fields is coordinating the needs of the departments hiring new faculty with the needs of the University as a whole.“For us to have really top international programs, we are looking across the whole spectrum and making sure we are not inadvertently creating gaps that are going to harm the international programs,” Pell said.Logevall, echoing Pell’s sentiments, said that although the colleges understand the need to think beyond departments, the needs of the individual departments sometimes take precedence over the Einaudi Center’s mission to promote international studies accross the University.“Sometimes it’s difficult for interdisciplinary entities like ours to be heard when these decisions about hiring are made,” Logevall said. “We can be left shouting into the wind.”According to Logevall, the strength of Cornell’s language programs may be another appealing factor for potential faculty.“If we are to attract, recruit successfully and then retain faculty in the years going forward, I think it’s crucial that we maintain robust offering of these foreign languages,” he said.To reconcile University hiring needs with those of individual departments, there will be a task force of faculty members, spearheaded by Provost Kent Fuchs and Dean of Weill Cornell Medical College Laurie Glimcher, devoted to addressing issues associated with hiring international faculty members, Logevall said.Pell said she feels that a faculty task force is the more appropriate forum for addressing hiring issues than a committee of administrators.“Hiring faculty is very much a faculty responsibility,” she said.Lee noted that globalization is also an important issue for the University to keep in mind.“There is no question that the issues related to globalization, the internationalization of the economy and many other socioeconomic and cultural issues are going to be increasingly important down the road, and we need to respond to those trends,” Lee said.Pell said that the opportunity to hire new people opens new doors for the University.“It’s sort of an exciting problem to be dealing with because it means hiring new, well-trained people to continue work in an area that is rapidly changing, incredibly interesting, and really important to the University and all of its aspects,” Pell said.

Original Author: Caroline Flax