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Northeastern To Hire 100 New Professors

By Risheng Xu, Crimson Staff Writer

Even as a decade-long, $477 million building campaign wraps up at Northeastern University, the school has announced plans to spend another $75 million recruiting close to 100 faculty members over the next five years.

“Over the past eight years, we have built nine new residence halls and a new recreation center,” said Ahmed Abdelal, Northeastern’s provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. “Now that we have made a significant impact on the physical campus, we need to focus more on academic experience both for students and faculty.”

Hiring around 100 new faculty members, Abdelal hopes, will help move Northeastern into the top 100 colleges in the U.S. News & World Report ranking. It is currently ranked 127th.

Northeastern spokesperson Steve Sylven said the hirings will focus on four areas, including biotechnology, nanotechnology, imaging and urban affairs and public policy.

“We have always been strong in the sciences—especially engineering—and we want to pay special attention to our existing centers of excellence,” Sylven said.

Just down the river, Harvard is working on plans to boost its faculty by approximately 10 percent, according to Dean William C. Kirby’s annual letter two weeks ago.

Kirby’s letter said that last year’s increase of 15 faculty members was the “result of our plan to expand to a faculty of 700, and possibly beyond.”

Harvard spokesperson Robert Mitchell said that Kirby’s goal for faculty expansion remains on target, despite warnings earlier this year about the need to curb spending.

Despite Northeastern’s multimillion-dollar push, Harvard does not seem worried about competition between the two universities’ expansion efforts.

“There is great talent in the academic world,” Kirby wrote in an e-mail. “I am sure there is room for both Northeastern and Harvard to grow.”

Harvard science professors said that, aside from the ample talent throughout academia, they would not expect the two universities to interfere with each other.

“We don’t compete for undergrads, and we don’t compete for graduate students. We serve very different communities, I think,” said Lawrence Professor of Engineering John W. Hutchinson.

“Harvard’s budget problems are budget problems that any other universities would love to have,” Hutchinson said.

David Pilbeam, Ford Professor in the Social Sciences, agreed that there would be little competition between the two universities.

“I suspect Harvard University and Northeastern fish in somewhat different pools, at least at the tenured level,” Pilbeam said. “Harvard University will be expanding more at the non-tenured rather than tenured level, so I don’t anticipate any impact.”

Others said that Harvard would encounter at least some competition because of the new initiative.

“Northeastern’s a wonderful school—my wife works there. Of course there will be competition,”said Charles D. Stiles, professor of microbiology and molecular genetics at Harvard Medical School.

But Stiles pointed out that Northeastern is just one of many complicating factors that Harvard will face in hiring faculty members.

He cited a decrease in the availability of research grants and a stiffer budget for the National Institutes of Health.

Even with tens of millions of dollars aimed at recruiting new faculty, Abdelal says that Northeastern is not looking to compete with Harvard.

“I think it is fair to say that Harvard and MIT are at one level by themselves,” he said. “I think it is fine for Harvard to be at the top of the institutions in the country, but we want to strengthen our undergraduate and graduate programs nationally.”

—Staff writer Risheng Xu can be reached xu4@fas.harvard.edu.

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