Third round of cluster hires announced

Data responsibility, freshwater sustainability, polar change research. These are among the important topics UW-Madison’s latest round of cluster hires addresses.

Cluster hires foster collaborative research, education and outreach by creating new interdisciplinary areas of knowledge that cross the boundaries of existing academic departments. The UW’s Cluster Hiring Initiative was launched in 1998 as an innovative partnership between the university, state and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF). In its first phase, the initiative authorized nearly 50 "clusters" and nearly 150 new faculty through several rounds of hiring. In 2017, phase two of the Cluster Hiring Initiative was authorized with a goal of supporting at least 12 clusters.

This is the third round of clusters chosen with previous clusters announced in September and February of 2018. This latest round brings the total of clusters supported to 15. Submissions for a fourth round of proposals will be announced, with a fall deadline to be announced.

The Cluster Hiring Initiative aims to provide an alternative to departmentally based hiring practices and norms. In essence, the initiative is an incentive plan designed to facilitate interdisciplinary strategic hiring by providing salary support for faculty positions. The historical objectives are to:

  • Enable the campus to devote a critical mass of faculty to an area of scholarship that would not be addressed through existing departmental structures.
  • Provide for new research tracks and collaborative opportunities.
  • Address complex societal problems.
  • Advance the Wisconsin Idea by serving society’s needs through interdisciplinary research, learning and service.
  • Encourage and foster cooperation within an already strong faculty and staff.
  • Create new curricular offerings on the undergraduate and graduate levels.
  • Assist in fulfilling other missions of the university, particularly increasing campus diversity.

Learn more about the Cluster Hiring Initiative.

The five being funded are:

Foundations of Data Science

Michael Newton, professor of statistics and biostatistics and medical informatics; Robert Nowak, professor of electrical and computer engineering; Sébastien Roch, professor of mathematics; Stephen Wright, professor of computer sciences.

Issues of responsibility are increasingly coming to the fore in the use of data: fairness in the treatment of individuals and groups in the decisions that result from data analysis systems, bolstering robustness to adversarial efforts to distort the outcomes of these systems, and preserving the privacy of sensitive data without compromising the quality of information gleaned from it. Foundational research is key to resolving these critical issues in the responsible use of data.

The new cluster will expand on existing strengths of the university in this critical area, contribute to the growth of new programs and institutes on campus, and promote synergy between the contributing disciplines of statistics, mathematics and computer science.

Freshwater Sustainability

Steven Loheide, professor of engineering; Daniel Phaneuf, professor of agricultural and applied economics; Jake Vander Zanden, professor of zoology; Michael Cardiff, associate professor, geoscience; Trina McMahon, professor of civil and environmental engineering and bacteriology; Anita Thompson, professor and chair of Nelson Institute’s Water Resources Management Program ; Carolyn Voter, hydroecology lab; with the support of the Water@UW-Madison community

Freshwater is central to the geography, economy and culture of Wisconsin, and is emerging as the most globally important resource challenge of the 21st century. Research and training in water sustainability will yield a host of other benefits to society, the state and the UW-Madison water community.

Water management problems operate at the local, regional, national and global levels. At the same time, water issues span rural and urban regions, affect topics as diverse as human health and agricultural productivity, and are salient in people’s day-to-day lives. Many constituencies will benefit from and appreciate the work on water problems from this cluster. This is particularly true in Wisconsin, where many emerging resource management issues are related to water quality and water scarcity.

The Emerging Polar Regions

Daniel J. Vimont, professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences and director of the Nelson Institute Center for Climatic Research; Shaun Marcott, assistant professor of geoscience; Lucas Zoet, assistant professor of geoscience; Jack Williams, professor of geography; Basil Tikoff, professor of geoscience; Sara Hotchkiss, professor of botany; Christian G. Andresen, assistant professor of geography; Ankur Desai, professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences; Hilary Dugan, assistant professor in the Center for Limnology and Department of Integrative Biology; Kurt Feigl, professor of geoscience; Feng He, associate scientist in the Nelson Institute Center for Climatic Research; Jeff Key, NOAA/NESDIS, Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies; Tristan L’ Ecuyer, associate professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences, director of Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies; Pavana Prabhakar, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering; Emily Stanley, professor in the Center for Limnology and Department of Integrative Biology; Neil Stenhouse, assistant professor of life sciences communication; Stephen Vavrus, senior scientist, Nelson Institute Center for Climatic Research, co-director, Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts.

Earth’s polar regions are at the frontier of profound global change. These changes in polar regions will have profound global effects through melting ice, which triggers sea level rise and destabilizes ocean circulation, and via emissions of greenhouse gases (methane and carbon dioxide) from thawing permafrost soil carbon reservoirs.

Our global society is struggling to adjust to rapid changes in loss of ice at sea and on land, rise of sea level, and emergence of new ecosystems developing where cryosphere processes once dominated. The cluster will address key research and education needs in anticipation of new physical, biological and societal challenges and opportunities in the emerging polar regions.

Sexual Violence: Connecting Social Science Research with Policy

Janet S. Hyde, departments of Psychology and Gender & Women’ s Studies; Alexandra Huneeus, professor of law; Michael Massoglia, professor of sociology; Stephanie Robert, professor of social work; Susan Yackee, director, La Follette School of Public Affairs

The topic of sexual violence has captured the nation’s attention; however, the base of research required for constructing evidence-based, effective policy falls dramatically short. This cluster hire will create a synergy between social science research and policy, with research that addresses individual and interpersonal aspects of sexual violence, societal aspects of sexual violence, and legal and policy approaches to sexual violence.

Issues of sexual violence rank among the most pressing contemporary problems in need of research. Hiring a cluster of faculty with interdisciplinary expertise across social science and policy will create the targeted research strength necessary to conduct breakthrough research, advance empirically informed policy, and raise UW-Madison to prominence in these areas.

Opening Doors Through Language: Access and Equity

Jenny Saffran, Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor in the Department of Psychology and Waisman Center; Martha Alibali (Department of Psychology); Susan Ellis Weismer (Department of Communication Sciences & Disorders); Morton Ann Gernsbacher (Department of Psychology); Maggie Hawkins (Department of Curriculum & Instruction, Doctoral Program in Second Language Acquisition); Katherine Hustad (Chair, Department of Communication Sciences & Disorders); Rita Kaushanskaya (Department of Communication Sciences & Disorders); Heather Kirkorian (Department of Human Development & Family Studies); Ruth Litovsky (Department of Communication Sciences & Disorders); Gary Lupyan (Department of Psychology); Monica Macaulay (Language Sciences Program; American Indian Studies Program); Maryellen MacDonald (Department of Psychology); Carrie Niziolek (Department of Communication Sciences & Disorders); Rob Nowak (Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering); Mariana Pacheco, (Department of Curriculum & Instruction, Chican@ & Latin@ Studies Program, Doctoral Program in Second Language Acquisition); Eric Raimy (Director, Language Sciences Program; Department of English); Rajiv Rao (Department of Spanish & Portuguese); Jenny Saffran (Department of Psychology); Joe Salmons (Language Sciences Program); Mark Seidenberg (Department of Psychology); Catherine Stafford (Director, Doctoral Program in Second Language Acquisition; Department of Spanish & Portuguese); Audra Sterling (Department of Communication Sciences & Disorders); Haley Vlach (Department of Educational Psychology); Anja Wanner (Department of English); Jerry Zhu (Department of Computer Science).

Language is central to successful participation in society. The ubiquity of language and the high level of skill that most adults achieve in their native language(s) mask myriad societal problems that arise because of unequal access to language. This cluster will bring together scholars whose research addresses linguistic disparities and focus on understanding and addressing situations in which language impacts access and equity.

Because the study of language spans a wide array of disciplines, the cluster will seek collaborations with experts in policy as it relates to social disparities, in units including Curriculum & Instruction, Educational Leadership & Policy, the Institute for Research on Poverty, the La Follette School of Public Affairs, Nursing, Pediatrics, Population Health Sciences and Sociology.


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