UT Austin Invests in Faculty Careers with Two New Development Programs

UT is home to faculty who are renowned experts and innovators in their field of study. Faculty often balance high-impact research with teaching, student support, mentorship and more. In an effort to better support research, scholarship and creative pursuits, UT Austin announced a renewed focus on faculty growth and success as part of the new strategic plan, Change Starts Here.

We spoke with Tasha Beretvas, senior vice provost for faculty affairs, about two new programs – Faculty Development Leave and Faculty Development Award – born from the strategic plan and why they will be instrumental to faculty and their future at UT.

What is the Faculty Development Leave program (FDL)? How is it different from the Faculty Development Award program (FDA)?
The Faculty Development Leave program provides tenured faculty members with an opportunity to dedicate an entire semester of their effort to research, scholarship, and creative activities. At other institutions, this type of leave is often called a sabbatical.

In recognition of the needs of professional-track faculty and the university’s commitment to investing in professional-track faculty members’ career development, the university created the Faculty Development Award program that affords mid-career and senior professional-track faculty with time and funding, up to $10,000. This funding can be used for summer effort and in some units, faculty can use the money to support attendance at professional conferences and workshops, as well as other activities designed to seed the professional-track faculty member’s continued professional growth.

Why should faculty be excited about these programs?
Both programs clearly signal a direct investment by the university in faculty members’ professional development and in their careers at UT. Leadership wants to support the evolution of faculty members’ work lives and of their professional trajectories. Once faculty start their careers here, we want them to grow here and stay here!

Where did the idea for these programs come from?
I believe that faculty development leave programs have been discussed on and off for many years. Some of our colleges and schools already have some versions of faculty development leave programs. And the university previously had the very competitive Faculty Research Assignment (FRA) program that was available to a small percentage of UT’s faculty members.

With the renewed focus on faculty development in the strategic plan, and the interest in positively impacting the work lives of more faculty, the Faculty Affairs team was charged by President Hartzell with creating a sabbatical-like program. This led to the creation of the FDL program which has the capacity to impact almost three times as many tenured faculty as the former FRA program did. Professional-track faculty are a critical part of our faculty and focus for the faculty talent development component of the university’s strategic plan. So we were also tasked with deriving a faculty development program for our professional-track faculty – which led to the birth of the FDA. Finalizing of the FDL and FDA programs involved benchmarking with peer and aspirational peer institutions and the programs resulted ultimately from a collaborative effort with thanks to many cross-campus stakeholders who helped us move both forward.

What is in store for the future?
The FDL and FDA programs are just the start of what we are rolling out in response to the faculty talent development components of the university’s strategic plan. As another signal of the university’s dedication to faculty development, we hired the university’s first vice provost for faculty development, Ali Preston, to help lead this work. Over the next couple of years, we are planning to pilot more professional-track, tenured and tenure-track faculty and leadership development programs and initiatives to meet the needs of faculty across their career cycle and roles. There is a lot more on the horizon!

The applications for Faculty Development Leave and Faculty Development Award programs close on Monday, October 3. Please visit the websites to apply and learn more. If you have questions, email facultyaffairs@utexas.edu.