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Special Opportunities Fund

Special Opportunities Fund

Application Form
Budget Template

Visiting Scholars Fund and Postdoctoral Fellowships for Diversity and Academic Excellence

Overview and Application


The Special Opportunities Fund was created to assist deans and department chairs in increasing the diversity and inclusiveness of the faculty.  It can be difficult for a department or school to compete for quality faculty who are members of groups historically underrepresented in certain academic fields.  In addition, a quality candidate who would enhance diversity can become known to a department or school that does not currently have a faculty slot available.  Centrally available bridge or supplemental incentive matching funds help assure that the broader goals of the University to enhance diversity in the faculty can be met in these circumstances.

The Special Opportunities Fund is available on a competitive basis to departments and schools for the hiring of individual faculty, clusters of faculty in specified areas, visiting faculty, or postdoctoral candidates who offer special opportunities for the enhancement of faculty diversity.  These funds are particularly for, though not limited to, proposals to search for individual faculty who will enhance diversity in the University and departments that have an unusually meritorious plan for how to achieve this goal.  The fund can also be used for the creation or expansion of an academic area of study and research (ie. interdisciplinary work) that may attract the interest of clusters of faculty who will enhance overall University educational goals of inclusion and diversity.

In 2009, President Seligman called for expansion of the Special Opportunities Fund, in accepting the recommendation in a report on improving faculty recruitment and retention (the “Listening Tour Report”).  The planned expansion was for the purpose of providing support for a visiting faculty/postdoctoral fellow program to strengthen the diversity and inclusiveness of our University.  Visiting scholar programs may provide the opportunity for in-depth scholarly exchange with individuals who are from underrepresented groups.  In some fields, post-doctoral fellows frequently become faculty upon completion of their fellowship.  Expansion of the Special Opportunities Fund creates the opportunity to submit proposals to increase diversity through either of these means.

The overarching purpose of the Fund is to make available resources for supplements to achieve an important broad educational goal when special opportunities arise.  The purpose of the fund is not to provide budget relief.

The Fund Mechanisms

There are five mechanisms in this fund to promote hiring and retention of faculty who contribute to the diversity of our University Community: 

  1. Recruitment of specific faculty: candidates who might otherwise not be recruited because of intense competition. 

  2. Retention of faculty: supplemental funds needed to retain a valued faculty member who has received offers from other institutions that might lead to the faculty member’s departure. 

  3. Support for visiting scholar: support for visiting scholar to develop and strengthen relationships between universities, while leading to collaborative research and teaching initiatives.  Click here for more information.

  4. Recruitment of postdoctoral fellows: support for fellows from underrepresented minority groups who might otherwise not be recruited because of competition or because of timing.  Click here for more information.

  5. Program support: programs of particular interest to traditionally underrepresented groups may themselves attract faculty from underrepresented groups and are an appropriate gender- and race-neutral approach to increasing the diversity and inclusiveness of the University.

Please note that each school may have slightly different nomenclature to describe early career appointments.  Should you have any questions about the eligibility of a candidate, please call the Office of Faculty Development and Diversity.

Distribution of Funds

Special Opportunities funds will be distributed by the Provost and the Vice Provost for Faculty Development and Diversity.  Funds will be made available to schools for a limited duration (up to three years for faculty, one year for visiting scholar or postdoctoral candidates) and awarded only in cases where the school has presented a well-developed plan for how the faculty member(s), postdoctoral candidate, or the proposed program(s) fit into its longer term academic goals, budget, and plans for career advancement of the faculty member or fellow being considered.

In funding the recruitment or retention of faculty or recruitment of post-doctoral fellows, equal consideration will be given to the strength of the plans to advance diversity and the professional development plan.  The latter can include such elements as plans for mentoring, protected time to develop scholarship (and/or teaching or clinical excellence, if applicable), and short/long-term career goals.

It is generally expected that departments and schools will demonstrate the ability to contribute the majority of the funds to a faculty initial hire.  Departments must provide a plan for the assumption of the total cost of maintaining faculty members by the beginning of the fourth year, if not sooner. 

Schools or departments that wish to use the fund for visiting scholars or post-doctoral fellows need to describe departmental /school support for their proposal.  This includes financial support, space, and support for the academic pursuits planned for the proposed hire.  If any interdisciplinary effort is anticipated, applicants should delineate shared sources of support.  Innovative programming must include a department/school contribution and plans for sustainability beyond the fourth year, if applicable.

Application Process

To ensure the timeliest processing, applications should be developed in consultation with appropriate department and dean’s office personnel and must be submitted with the approval of the school dean.  Before submitting a request, each department that wishes to compete for funds to hire or retain faculty, hire a postdoctoral fellow, or to establish innovative recruitment programs should work in close consultation with the dean to identify and articulate its goals for enhancing the diversity of the faculty.

Individual communication with the Provost and the Vice Provost for Faculty Development and Diversity is encouraged throughout the process.  Requests for funds will be accepted and reviewed on a rolling basis.

Applications should be submitted with the approval of the dean to the Vice Provost for Faculty Development and Diversity and should include the following information:

  • The name and contact information of the school/department making the request, as well as appropriate signatures

  • Identification of the school/department’s goals and strategies for enhancing faculty diversity and how this proposal fits within that strategy

  • Description of the current proposal for which the school/department is requesting time-limited funds, including professional development plan for faculty, if appropriate

  • Identification and enumeration of the school/department resources that are available to support this request

  • Indication of the additional support needed and the span of time for which supplemental funds are required

Application Form
Budget Template

All departments that utilize Special Opportunities Funds are expected to submit a report to the Vice Provost for Faculty Development and Diversity in March of each year documenting progress toward these goals. The Vice Provost will prepare a year-end report for the President and the University community that summarizes each school’s progress toward the accomplishment of the University’s faculty development goals.


Maintained by the Office for Faculty Development and Diversity. Please send your comments and suggestions to: Office for Faculty Development and Diversity