CORVALLIS, Ore. - Oregon State University leaders have unveiled an ambitious plan to invest $3.5 million in 25-30 new faculty positions in priority areas over the next year and $1 million in a novel endowment program aimed at helping to retain the university's best faculty through more competitive salaries.

OSU President Ed Ray first disclosed the intention to add new faculty to advance the institution's strategic goals in a university-wide speech last October. Most of the positions that will be created in the coming academic year will be in the Division of Arts and Sciences, with the remainder going to the divisions of Earth Systems Science, Health Sciences and Business and Engineering. Each position will be created through a competitive proposal process, with final decisions being made by July 15.

University leaders say that even though the difficult economic environment has required that it reduce expenditures across campus over the past year, the investment in new faculty positions is essential if OSU is to keep pace with growing enrollment demands. Just five years ago, OSU was home to 19,000 students - a figure that has since grown to 22,000.

In further illustrations of the university's growth, OSU broke ground earlier this week on a new residence hall that will house 350 students, including international students enrolled as part of the INTO OSU program, and announced plans for a 100,000-square-foot, $50-million College of Business building that will provide significant new classroom space.

In a Thursday afternoon discussion with the OSU Faculty Senate, Provost/Executive Vice President Sabah Randhawa explained that the $3.5 million investment is not for replacement of faculty positions eliminated through recent budget cuts. Instead, he said, the new funds "will add faculty expertise in targeted areas in order to have a positive and lasting impact on research growth and student learning and produce excellence in outcomes that enable the university to achieve its vision" of becoming one of America's top 10 Land Grant universities.

These positions, to be added to the faculty by fall 2011, are the first toward an OSU commitment to add 60-75 new faculty positions over the next several years, Randhawa said.

The $1-million investment in the Provost's Faculty Match Program is the first installment toward a total of $5 million over five years. In partnership with the OSU Foundation and its Campaign for OSU, the funds will have the potential to leverage more than $20 million in private support and create endowed funds "that will support the most exceptional faculty for generations to come," said Ray.

"Guided by our strategic plan, this creative, novel endowment initiative will help Oregon State University become more competitive as we seek to attract and retain leading faculty, who are often recruited by universities that can afford to offer significant salary increases," said Ray. "Like the new faculty positions being created, these endowed positions will play critical roles in the ongoing development of this university."

The four academic divisions (listed above) will have equal access to the Provost's Faculty Match Program, and only endowed position funds that will advance one or more of university's three signature areas of excellence and its strategic priorities for research, education and outreach will be eligible for the match.

Both the endowed positions and the new faculty additions will also support the continued growth of OSU as a research university. Sponsored research funding has grown by more than $100 million over the past five years, reaching $252 million last fiscal year. Early estimates are that OSU will surpass that total by at least $30 million by June 30. Already one of only three campuses in the Pacific Northwest ranked in the top tier of U.S. research universities by the Carnegie Foundation, OSU conducts more research annually than the other six members of the Oregon University System combined.

"The continued growth and success of Oregon State as a premiere Land Grant university is tremendously gratifying, despite the financial challenges we've faced in recent times," said Ray. "These new initiatives represent significant opportunities to accelerate our maturation and enhance our impact for our students and for the people of Oregon."

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Sabah Randhawa, 541-737-0733