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Build an Excellent Faculty in Every School

Srinivas Aravamudan, English Professor
Srinivas Aravamudan, an outstanding scholar and teacher, joined the English Department in 2000.

Investment in the constant improvement of the faculty is the route to excellence in all the university does. Hiring is a key component. We create new faculty positions when there is a good academic reason and when we can afford it, but strategic use of positions generated by regular turnover in the faculty represents our greatest opportunity. We must, therefore, be willing to hire precisely in those areas of most dynamic intellectual development and not simply replace faculty just to continue a presence in a particular area. We should concentrate new faculty where Duke can achieve excellence and make a difference.

Our planning process identified growth in the faculty of some schools is crucial to maintaining and improving excellence and to attaining Duke’s broader intellectual priorities. Specifically, we expect significant additions in three schools: the Fuqua School of Business, the Pratt School of Engineering, and, to a lesser extent, the Law School. Fuqua’s academic plan, for example, calls for increasing its faculty by 50 percent over the next five years. Toward that goal, in 2001, Fuqua celebrated its best year ever for recruiting faculty in its 32-year history, adding 21 new members.

An exciting recent recruitment by the English Department illustrates the multi-faceted approach Duke is employing to attract distinguished young scholars. Srinivas Aravamudan was first identified by Duke University Press and then recruited to Duke as an associate professor of English by the English Department in Fall 2000. In December 2000, his book Tropicopolitans: Colonialism and Agency, 1688-1804 (Duke University Press, 1999), was awarded the Modern Literature Association prize for the best first book, and he now serves on the board of Duke University Press.

However, Duke will not improve its faculty solely by making new hires. Duke’s emergence as an institution of national and international stature has been based on the contributions of its current faculty. We must retain our best faculty and support the efforts of every faculty member to become the best scholar/teacher possible. We will provide new spaces and renovate others, especially in the sciences and engineering, where the need is greatest. We will provide the necessary support personnel who have the expertise to assist faculty efforts, primarily in the incorporation of information technology into teaching and research. We will work to add and keep up-to-date the equipment and instrumentation necessary to support and strengthen our programs.