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University of Akron president aims for 200 new faculty, staff over next 10 years

By admin Published: November 8, 2011

University of Akron President Luis Proenza said Monday he aims to expand the faculty and staff by 200 over the next decade.

He told about 350 community leaders, faculty and students in the UA Student Center that the university is ''developing plans for a 10-year investment strategy of at least $50 million.''

The comments were part of his annual State of the University address.

This marked the 13th year Proenza, 66, has led the state's fourth-largest university. He is the longest-serving president in the network of 13 tax-supported institutions in Ohio.

He has overseen a complete refreshment of campus, adding new buildings and updating existing ones, at a cost of more than $600 million.

The number of students has grown to almost 30,000 this fall the university's highest enrollment since 1991. Last year, the university hit a high-water mark with $50 million in research funding.

In his message about the future, Proenza focused on two of his favorite themes: research and partnerships.

He was enthusiastic about the university's Akron Model, his term for a wide-ranging ''tool chest'' of partnerships and programs that is trying to jump-start the area economy.

That includes the nonprofit University Park Alliance, which seeks to improve the modest neighborhood around the Akron campus, to the new bachelor's program in corrosion engineering, the first program of its kind in the nation.

Education is an engine of economic development, he said.

''That's why we developed the Akron Model,'' Proenza said, ''and why we are accepting significant responsibility for the economic, social and cultural vitality of the communities and constituencies we serve.''

Proenza pointed to two specific initiatives within the past year.

The first is a partnership in which the Timken Co. will ''insource'' its research to UA. Scientists will work in a new facility under construction along Wolf Ledges Parkway on campus.

In addition, the university opened a satellite this fall in Lakewood in a rented facility. It is UA's first venture in Cuyahoga County and fifth beyond the main campus.

Programs like the Timken partnership and Lakewood program lead to ''a kind of entrepreneurial optimism, a belief that our collective impact can achieve audacious goals and improbable outcomes,'' he said.

Reshuffling allocations

As for how to pay for 200 new employees, Proenza will turn to one of the oldest practices in the management book: reshuffling allocations.

Proenza and UA Provost Mike Sherman are tipping the faculty/staff fulcrum from 50-50 to 60-40, increasing the number of faculty and decreasing the number of staff.

Each year the university will shift $5 million in favor of new faculty and staff in targeted areas. Proenza has said no employees will lose their jobs and promised even greater things to come.

He said the shift will generate ''no less than $200 million in annual research support by 2020'' four times the current level.

''We will achieve distinction, greater prominence and more effectively differentiate the University of Akron in this region and across the nation,'' Proenza said.

Carol Biliczky can be reached at 330-996-3729 or cbiliczky@thebeaconjournal.com.

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