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Bridge Professorships to join university’s schools

Published: Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Updated: Tuesday, February 18, 2014 11:02

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Scott Tingley/Tufts Daily Archives


The Office of the Provost recently announced the two winning proposals for the new Bridge Professorships initiative.

According to the announcement, these new professorships will bridge the different schools that make up Tufts University. One of the inaugural proposals will introduce professorships that connect the School of Arts and Sciences and The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, linking international environmental security and issues of political sovereignty, human rights, regional security and sustainable development. A second proposal, offering a bridge between the School of Arts and Sciences and the School of Engineering, focuses on cognitive science — linking psychology, computer science, philosophy and linguistics.

These proposals, according to the announcement, are part of Tufts’ T10 Strategic Plan. Different schools within the university were asked to submit proposals for bridging different disciplines. After the proposals were drafted, the Office of the Provost chose which would go into effect.

“The provost mentioned that some of the basis for this idea was from a project that we have in the School of Arts and Sciences called ‘cluster hires,’ [where] we decide to hire faculty members to support a particular program,” Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences Joanne Berger-Sweeney said.

Ian Johnstone, academic dean of The Fletcher School, said that his faculty began working on the proposals in October, soon after they were announced in the strategic plan.

“We have five academic groups,” Johnstone said. “They are clustered faculty in substantive areas such as sustainable development and security and conflict resolution. I basically asked the academic groups to start brainstorming proposals.”

Though only one proposal was chosen from The Fletcher School, Johnstone explained that there were many others posed for consideration by the provost.

“We had a couple of other [proposals], one related to cyber security, another related to international economic policy and institutions,” Johnstone said. “We are very excited about the idea of having someone here working on these issues [regarding environment and water security] which are very important to Fletcher.”

Johnstone added that he believed the Department of Political Science in particular will benefit from the bridge because so many faculty members and students are already working on these topics.

“This is a good way of enhancing what is already good collaboration between Fletcher and the political science department,” Johnstone said. “We’re just institutionalizing this great relationship.”

Berger-Sweeney explained that, in reviewing proposals, she and her colleagues looked for quality and excitement in the research topics, how well research areas complemented one another and in what ways both graduate and undergraduate students could get involved.

“What we were looking for ... were academic areas that we were interesting in growing, ones that had a lot of potential to appeal to the students with exciting research areas,” Berger-Sweeney said. “We looked and weighed all of [these] things in making our recommendation to the Provost’s office.”

Berger-Sweeney was all the more impressed by the proposals she saw because faculty members had very little time to pull their ideas together, she said. 

“That just underscores the innovation and creativity of [the] faculty and their willingness to reach beyond their original borders to make connections with other schools,” Berger-Sweeney said.

Admiral James Stavridis, dean of The Fletcher School, explained that because the final proposals have been chosen, the search is now on for new professors. Stavridis said that the university is currently creating a search committee and drafting job descriptions. 

“These new professors will all be new hires,” Stavridis said. “[We’re] starting immediately, we hope to hire in the spring and start teaching in the fall.” 

Stavridis explained that the funding for these professorships will be split between the university and the two schools that proposed the program.

Berger-Sweeney said these professorships would not replace normal hires into individual programs. 

“I always need to weigh how much money I devote to new and innovative things and how much [I devote] to the great departments we have now,” Berger-Sweeney said. “I look forward to more [hires] but a balanced approach. We’ll see how these first hires work out for the faculty and students and go on from there.”

As a result of the initiative, students can expect to see more courses and more new faculty, Johnstone said. 

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