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At A&M System, Sharp Investing in Faculty Recruiting

Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp is launching a $5 million effort to bring Nobel laureates and other prominent scholars to College Station. He says he plans to adopt a similar approach throughout the university system.

Chancellor of the Texas A&M System John Sharp makes a point to the TribLive audience at the Austin Club on September 29, 2011.

In an approach he plans to spread across all 11 schools in Texas A&M University System, Chancellor John Sharp is committing $5 million to an initiative designed to boost faculty recruitment at the flagship campus in College Station.

The system funds are going to help kick-start the Texas A&M University Institute for Advanced Study, which was established by the board of regents in 2010. Similar to other programs at prestigious universities throughout the country, the institute is designed to invite nationally and internationally prominent scholars — such as Nobel laureates — to serve as faculty fellows, pursuing research projects of their choice in collaboration with A&M faculty and students.

By attracting such top-notch talent to campus, Sharp, who assumed his post in September, hopes to raise the profile and reputation of the institution outside of College Station, and promote the intellectual opportunities it offers students and faculty already there.

"We hope this will truly be one of those ‘one plus one equals three’ programs that will provide a unique opportunity to bring outstanding faculty and researchers to the Brazos Valley,” Sharp said in a statement. Active recruitment of faculty fellows is currently underway.

Some members of the A&M faculty expressed frustration with the system leadership last year, saying they felt underappreciated as the state found itself embroiled in debates about higher education reform and faculty productivity. Much of that unrest has — at least for now — calmed.

"When I returned as chancellor last year, one of my goals was to enable academic superstars to flourish here, and this is the first of what I hope are many steps forward for the university," Sharp said.

The program is projected to cost $11 million for a minimum of five years. This week, Sharp announced that he was using system funds to provide $2 million in start-up funding and an additional million dollars each year for the next three years.

The institute is being run by Interim Director John Junkins, a distinguished professor of aerospace engineering, and Ed Fry, a distinguished professor of physics. In a statement, Junkins described their combined vision for the institute as "robust and bold.”

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