UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — University leaders praised the critical role of faculty with teaching, research and clinical appointments at an Oct. 14 event that celebrated their recent promotions with their families and supporters.
Speaking at Robb Hall in the Hintz Family Alumni Center, Penn State President Neeli Bendapudi said the University’s core missions would not be possible without non-tenure-line faculty.
“There’s no question, as a land-grant university, when you think about our access and affordability mission of social mobility through higher education, when you think about our economic empowerment message, when you think about our research that makes an impact, we would not be here without you,” Bendapudi said.
Interim Provost Justin Schwartz, one of the evening’s keynote speakers, said these faculty were essential not just in helping students to be prepared academically, but in fostering a sense of belonging and furthering the mission of affordability through effective teaching. He said during his time in graduate school, it was often the non-tenure-line faculty he interacted with the most and that years later, he still remembers them and their impact on his academic career.
“All of our faculty, they all work hard to advance the Penn State mission,” Schwartz said. “The bottom line for Penn State is we have the land-grant mission at our core. It may be the 21st century version of it, but the fundamentals of that haven’t changed.”
A total of 201 teaching, research and clinical faculty were promoted in 2022 across all of Penn State. These faculty represent more than half of all full-time faculty at Penn State. To honor their work — and the sacrifices and support of families and friends — the Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence and the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences sponsored and organized the event, which organizers hope to continue in future years.
The genesis of the idea came from Laura Leites, associate research professor of quantitative forest ecology in the College of Agricultural Sciences, who said last year she conducted research on the experiences of faculty with teaching, research and clinical appointments at Penn State. The research was conducted in cooperation with Jennifer Hamer, professor of African American studies and women’s, gender and sexuality studies and interim associate vice provost for educational equity.
During her many conversations with faculty across Commonwealth Campuses, Leites said she learned about the deep love they have for teaching and mentoring students, and research faculty’s passion for discovery.
“This celebration gave us a concrete opportunity to tell them we are immensely grateful for all they do and how much we appreciate that they have chosen our Penn State community,” Leites said.
Liz Wright, Penn State Hazleton chancellor, was joined by two recently promoted Hazleton faculty at the event and said she couldn’t be prouder of their accomplishments.
“I think they are representative of everything that our teaching-line faculty represent at Penn State: their dedication to students, their absolute commitment to their field, scholarship, and their focus on helping their students,” Wright said.
Darcy Medica, director of academic affairs at Penn State Schuylkill, said her campus had three promoted faculty this year.
“That’s an incredible resource for our campus,” Medica said. “They are all amazing teachers, they’re very productive in their scholarship, and provide valuable service to the campus, the college and the University.”
Andrew Read, director of the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences, said he was proud these faculty members could be recognized for their contributions.
“This group of faculty is more than critical, and I’m so proud that we can recognize their successes,” Read said. “I especially want to thank the organizers at the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences and the Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence for making this night possible.”
Angela Linse, associate dean for teaching and executive director of the Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence, said the event was about giving non-tenure-line faculty the recognition they deserve.
“The people I’ve talked to tonight that were promoted have a clear passion for teaching and research,” she said. “They deserve this. It’s through their hard work that we are able to accomplish our mission as a University. I’m grateful to all of these faculty and that so many Commonwealth Campus faculty could attend. It was an exciting night.”
Camelia Kantor, associate director of the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences, joined the planning committee for the Oct. 14 event, along with Linse, Leites and Deidre Yingling, Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence; and Jennifer Graham, Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences. She said after the event that it was an important first step in recognizing the contributions of recently promoted teaching, research and clinical faculty.
“We want to foster a culture that values all faculty regardless of rank or position,” Kantor said.