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The Provost’s Blog: Welcome

Hofstra Provost Herman Berliner
Hofstra Provost Herman Berliner

I have been thinking about my remarks to our new faculty who will begin their careers at Hofstra in a few weeks.  Looking at their credentials during the hiring process, I know very clearly how impressive they are and how much they will potentially add to our university.  I want them to succeed in every area and I we will do everything we can to be supportive of them meeting their goals.

Our priorities are clear.  Excellence in teaching is still the highest priority.  It has been from the first day that Hofstra was in existence and for us and for our students it continues to be an enduring value of the institution.  To maximize learning, teaching excellence is a key ingredient.  We also expect faculty to be active scholars (subject to peer review) in their discipline and look for their scholarship to inform and enhance their teaching. And we look for faculty to be involved in university service and thereby be involved in the life of the institution and in moving the university forward.

To succeed, a faculty member has to have ongoing strength in all three areas. In addition, for a faculty member to succeed there, of course, has to be a need for that faculty member.  Student enrollment is often the determining factor in assessing need and all of us work hard at maintaining and increasing enrollments.

There are distinctions between insurers and risk takers.  Reading the work of the late Gary Becker, a Nobel Prize winner in economics makes this very clear.  My profile would clearly label me as an insurer.  I am not sure that all faculty are insurers or even that they should be insurers. But I am sure that for faculty preparing for tenure and promotion, being an insurer is a good thing to be.  Many of us can give examples of topnotch faculty who begins working on their scholarship later than they should have and then coming up for tenure with a limited record in an area that clearly is a priority.  Judgments that could have been easy positives become much more complex with much more uncertain outcomes.

When I received my PhD, I didn’t worry about getting a good full-time position.  Higher education was different, the full-time job opportunities more plentiful and the supply of PhDs more limited.  If I was starting out today in a time where there are more limited desirable opportunities and I was able to secure  a full-time tenure track position, I would do everything I could to fully meet the tenure standards sooner rather than later.  I would look to limit my vulnerability. With limited opportunities, I would want every opportunity to work out as well as possible.  My message to new faculty is to be insurers; don’t cut it close and instead exceed every expectation.  In that way they will be insurers and more likely to be successful just when it matters the most.

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