University of Iowa debuts $100,000 'distinguished professor' honor

Deans urged to nominate women, minorities

The Pentacrest on the campus of the University of Iowa includes the Old Capitol Building (center), Macbride Hall (top le
The Pentacrest on the campus of the University of Iowa includes the Old Capitol Building (center), Macbride Hall (top left), Jessup Hall (bottom left), Schaeffer Hall (top right), and MacLean Hall (bottom right). (The Gazette/file photo)

IOWA CITY — The University of Iowa is introducing a distinguished professor honor that will come with a $100,000 award and a $6,000 raise aimed at supporting and retaining current professors, while also boosting the campus’ ability to recruit in an increasingly competitive environment.

“It is so important that we celebrate and reward faculty excellence, and that we continue to build a culture of appreciation on our campus,” UI Provost Montserrat Fuentes said in a statement.

The “prestigious new UI Distinguished Professorship program” will recognize full-time tenured associate and full professors “of national and international distinction” who are enhancing economic development and well-being in Iowa and beyond through teaching, research and scholarship.

A five-person committee will choose up to three nominated professors a year to receive $100,000 for professional activities — plus a one-time permanent $6,000 bump to their base pay, according to the UI Office of Strategic Communication.

All full-time tenured associate and full professors are eligible for nomination, and the appointments will become effective at the start of the new academic year. Those honored will hold the title of distinguished professor “as long as they remain a faculty member at the University of Iowa in good standing.”

During the first five years of their new appointment, distinguished professors will receive $20,000 annually to support research, teaching and scholarship. The money will come from the UI Office of the Provost, although UI officials did not immediately clarify for The Gazette how the funds were made available.

Only collegiate deans can nominate faculty, and the provost’s office has encouraged them to suggest “women, underrepresented minorities and other groups historically underrepresented in their discipline.”


Nominations for the first cycle of recipients are due by April 15 and must include, from the dean, a nomination letter describing the candidate’s scholarship excellence; evidence of the potential for “continued extraordinary productivityl” and proof of interdisciplinary collaboration.

The nominating dean also must include three letters of support from faculty — including one from outside the UI — showing evidence of the quality of the candidate’s work and national and international recognition among peers.

Candidates themselves must provide a brief statement describing their work and how it has contributed to economic development and well-being in and outside Iowa, plus examples of their scholarship and contact information for supporting faculty.

A “UI Professorship Selection Committee” — composed of three tenured full professors, the president of the UI Faculty Senate or a designee, and the associate provost for faculty — will review the nominations and recommend awards to Provost Fuentes for final approval.

UI officials did not immediately provide names of the professors who will serve on the committee and clarified selection of those members has not been finalized. The current UI Faculty Senate president is Sandra Daack-Hirsch, an associate professor of nursing. Kevin Kregel is the senior associate provost for faculty, and Lois Geist is associate provost for faculty.

Recipients chosen for the distinguished professorship will be recognized at an awards ceremony and dinner hosted by UI President Bruce Harreld and Provost Fuentes in the fall. After the five years of funding, recipients will submit a summary of how the program supported their scholarship.

In a statement, Daak-Hirsch said the professorships “represent a fantastic opportunity for faculty and an important faculty-retention initiative.”

“My colleagues in the Faculty Senate and I are very excited to see this moving forward.”


College of Education Dean Dan Clay called the program “an important new tool to help us give our top faculty the recognition they deserve.”


The number of faculty resignations on the UI campus ticked up in the last budget year from 74 to 81 — 45 of them from the clinical track through the UI College of Medicine and Hospitals and Clinics and 32 who were tenured or tenure-track professors.

Of the total UI faculty resignations in the 2019 budget year, 34 were women and 26 were minorities, according to figures the university provided The Gazette.

The university in 2018-19 reported 1,496 tenured and tenure-track faculty, down from 1,679 in 2009, according to the UI Office of the Provost. The number of clinical and other non-tenure-track faculty increased over the same period from 3,306 to 4,341.

Regarding faculty pay, the university’s average total compensation for full professors — excluding hospital employees — is $227,651, according to a new Board of Regents report out this month. The average total compensation, which includes benefits, for UI associate professors is $169,304. And the average total compensation for UI assistant professors is $168,062, according to the regents report.

Average UI faculty salaries have been increasing, and they’re higher than at Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa. But a provost’s report comparing the UI with peer institutions in 2017-18 — the most recent data available for all the schools — shows Iowa ranked second from the bottom in assistant and associate professor pay and third to last for full professor pay.

It fell below the peer median in all three categories.

The university in the fall announced a new promotional raise policy giving tenure- and clinical-track faculty larger automatic salary increases with their promotions.

Under the new policy, which takes effect July 1, tenure- and clinical-track faculty promoted to associate professor will see a $4,000 raise to their annual salary, up from $2,500. Those faculty promoted to full professor will receive a $6,000 increase, up from $3,500.

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