Hiring the university's future

July 08, 2004, vol. 30, no. 6
By Howard Fluxgold

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With the large number of professors due to retire in the next few years SFU is faced with the task of renewing itself through the hiring of younger faculty members.

John Waterhouse, VP-academic, maintains the hiring of new faculty “is probably one of the most important things the university does. Those who we now hire will determine the quality of SFU for the next 30 years, so we better do a good job at it.”

The problem, however, is that the supply of young Canadians with doctorates is drying up, forcing Canadian universities to look outside of the country. SFU is no exception. “Many universities like us are going through a rapid hiring process,” notes Waterhouse. “The output of Canadian doctoral programs is not sufficient to meet the demand of both universities and government and industry.”

In 2002-2003, 26 of the 59 new faculty came from outside Canada. Europeans made up 57.7% of that total while 19.2% came from the U.S. and 7.7% came from Asia, Australia, New Zealand and the Middle East.

There are many reasons why new faculty chose to leave their homeland for SFU, among them are the opportunities to work in an innovative environment with well-respected senior staff, a feeling of collegiality on campus and the opportunity to live on Canada's beautiful west coast.

Assistant professor of philosophy Lisa Shapiro, a Maryland native, says there isn't much name recognition for SFU itself in the U.S., but individual professors are well known. She chose to accept a job at SFU over other offers. “The campus visit went very well,” she explains. “There was a feeling of collegiality here.”

For Faisal Beg, an assistant professor in the department of engineering science, the recommendation of a UCLA math professor was a key factor in his decision to accept an offer from SFU.

“The first time I heard about SFU was at a math conference at UCLA,” recalls Beg, a native of India who previously taught at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. “A well known UCLA professor named Stanley Usher suggested I look at SFU.” Beg also knew, or knew of, kinesiology professor Parveen Bawa and assistant professor of mathematics Steven Ruuth.

Beg, whose specialty is medical imaging and computational anatomy, says he chose SFU over competing offers because “SFU's programs were innovative. SFU did not have that inertia that one finds at traditional schools. It seemed to me to be a place where departments are easily bridged.”

Jill Shepherd, an assistant professor of business administration, had one different requirement. She was looking to move from the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland, to somewhere near snow and mountains to accommodate her husband, a snowboard instructor. “I did look at UBC, but SFU was my first choice because I liked the notion it was a more collaborative place.” An expert in business technology, Shepherd was also attracted by the master of technology MBA program and the opportunity to teach online.

While her husband is delighted with the local mountains, she says, “I'm the only one he hasn't been able to teach to snowboard. I got here in November and I've been too busy to spend much time on the slopes.”

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