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U of I System launches initiative to add world-class faculty
New state budget clears way for three-year, $60 million recruiting effort

September 7, 2017

URBANA – The University of Illinois System has launched a new initiative that will provide $60 million over three years to help recruit “superstar” faculty and expand leading-edge scholarship across its three universities, President Tim Killeen told the Board of Trustees on Thursday.

Killeen first previewed the program at the board’s May meeting, but said then that it was contingent on full-year state funding for the U of I System. In July, the legislature approved a spending plan that ended a two-year budget impasse and cleared the way for efforts to recruit 10 to 15 world-class faculty a year, and up to 45 over three years.

The program will pool funding from the U of I System and its universities in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield to support start-up costs for star professors, providing financial leverage in the highly competitive landscape of faculty recruiting, Killeen said.

“This will make the U of I System a key player in an increasingly competitive arena where just a single hire can be a game-changer, raising your national profile and your appeal to students and research funding agencies,” he said. “The initiative is an investment that promises rich dividends far into the future by adding to the ranks of world-class talent that define our excellence and fuel a pipeline of talent and innovation that drives progress.”

Killeen said proposals will be accepted this fall from the three universities for funding under the President’s Distinguished Faculty Recruitment Program, which seeks to attract tenured, high-achieving faculty of national and international distinction in a broad range of academic and research disciplines who can help transform teaching and discovery.

System offices will cover half of program costs, with the offices of the president and the executive vice president providing a total of $10 million each year for three years. The three universities will collectively match a total $10 million each year. The program will be coordinated by the Office of the Executive Vice President.

The funds are to be used for new faculty start-up costs such as purchase of equipment, renovation of space, graduate student support and other needs associated with enhancing research and teaching needs of prominent faculty. Faculty salaries are not covered and are provided separately by each university.

With the program’s launch, the universities may now submit proposals for funding to support the recruitment of associate or full professors who are engaged in cutting-edge scholarship or creative activities, who are working in areas of high and/or emerging student demand, and who are able to provide transformative excellence to college, campus and system missions. Emphasis also will be placed on faculty who enhance the diversity of departments and colleges at the three universities. All three universities will participate in the program.

Each proposal will require support from the unit’s executive officer, the college dean, and the provost of the respective university. Proposals will be evaluated by the president, executive vice president and the vice president for economic development and innovation.


The board approved the appointment of veteran administrator Avijit Ghosh as interim chief financial officer for the U of I System. Ghosh has filled the position in a designate capacity since Sept. 1. He will serve during a national search for a permanent replacement to succeed Walter K. Knorr, who retired from the U of I System on Aug. 31 after more than a decade as vice president and chief financial officer.

In his new role, Ghosh is responsible for all System financial functions, overseeing costs, revenues, capital expenditures, investments and debt. Ghosh most recently served as chief executive officer of the University of Illinois Hospital in Chicago since 2014. He had been scheduled to leave that position Aug. 31 to become head of the Department of Business Administration for the College of Business in Urbana-Champaign, where he served as dean from 2001-2008. Business administration professor Cele Otnes will serve as interim head of the department until a permanent chief financial officer is hired.

Ghosh also served as vice president for technology and economic development from 2008-2011, and as senior advisor to then-President Robert Easter from 2011 until he joined the hospital.

Trustees also approved the appointment of Garrett Klassy as director of athletics at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). He has filled the position in a designate capacity since Aug. 15 and succeeds Jim Schmidt, who retired Aug. 1 after 22 years as athletics director.

Klassy has more than 21 years of experience in intercollegiate athletics, most recently as senior associate athletics director at George Washington University, a Division 1 program where his responsibilities included development, corporate sponsorships, marketing, ticket sales and communications. He earlier served as an athletics administrator at the University of Oregon, the University of Alabama and Tulane University.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in communication arts from the University of Wisconsin.

The board also approved the appointment of Steven Anderson as dean of the School of Social Work in Urbana-Champaign, effective Sept. 16. He will succeed Wynne Korr, who will return to the faculty Sept. 15 after serving as dean since 2002.

Anderson earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the school and served on its faculty from 1997-2010. He left Urbana-Champaign to become director of the School of Social Work at Arizona State University and had served as director of the School of Social Work at Michigan State University since 2014.

Along with his social work degrees from the U of I, Anderson received masters and doctoral degrees in political science from the University of Michigan.

New trustee

Trustees also installed U of I alumnus Stuart King as a new member of the board. King was appointed to a six-year term last month by Gov. Bruce Rauner and succeeds Karen Hasara of Springfield, whose term ended in January.

King, 51, of Champaign, earned three degrees from the U of I System. He received his medical degree from the Chicago-based College of Medicine and a bachelor’s degree and MBA from Urbana-Champaign.

He is currently a physician specializing in pain management at Christie Clinic in Urbana, where he also serves as head of the Department of Spine and Pain Management. King resigned from his positions as a clinical associate professor of surgery and interim associate dean for academic affairs for the College of Medicine to clear the way for his appointment to the Board of Trustees. 


The University of Illinois System is a world leader in research and discovery, and the largest educational institution in the state with more than 81,000 students, 24,000 faculty and staff, and universities in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield. The U of I System awards more than 20,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees annually.