Unprecedented Number of Female Faculty Hired

About half of the 49 professors who will be joining the College of Liberal Arts faculty in 2009-2010 are female. That includes an unprecedented five women coming in as full professors from such schools as Harvard University, the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Southern California.

The hires come less than a year after an internal University of Texas at Austin report identified potential strategies for eliminating gender inequity on the faculty. They represent one of the university's biggest successes to date in closing the gender gap.

The new professors' arrival also highlights the College of Liberal Arts' ability to attract top scholars who are already tenured at nationally ranked schools.

"The professors joining the Liberal Arts faculty are among the most accomplished and respected scholars in their fields," said Randy L. Diehl, dean of the College of Liberal Arts. "They will conduct cutting-edge research in such disciplines as linguistics, history, anthropology, psychology and Middle Eastern studies and will work directly with graduate students and undergraduates."

Among the incoming faculty members are Jo Ann Hackett, former director of graduate studies in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Harvard, and her husband John Huehnergard, a former chair of that department.

"Everybody knows about the University of Texas and the quality of the languages and linguistics programs and we've always known this was a marvelous place," said Hackett, a Semitic language and Hebrew Bible scholar who will teach in the Department of Middle Eastern Studies. "We were in Austin for two days visiting and we left and we said, 'we've got to do this.'"

Other full professors who will be joining the faculty include:

  • Anthropologists Jennifer Johnson-Hanks and her husband, William Hanks. They come from Berkeley, where Hanks is a former Anthropology Department chair.
  • Philippa Levine, a scholar in British history, who is leaving the University of Southern California to join the History Department in the spring.
  • Psychologist Russell Poldrack, who is coming from the University of California, Los Angeles to head up the Imaging Research Center.
  • Linguists Barbara Bullock and A. Jacqueline Toribio, who study the use of Romance languages in immigrant communities.. They are coming from Penn State University.

"It's not so much that we wanted to leave Penn State but this opportunity was wonderful," said Toribio, who will focus some of her research on communities in Texas. "Being here and knowing our work is relevant to the local community is important."

Johnson-Hanks and Hanks said they were impressed by Texas' commitment to promoting collaboration among different disciplines.

"There really is on campus a collective vision of how to move forward," said Johnson-Hanks. "They're not just looking for big names in any field but are looking to achieve a particular type of intellectual synergy."

In all, 49 professors, including 22 women, have accepted offers to join the College of Liberal of Arts as tenured or tenure-track professors in 2009-2010. As of last fall, 177 of the college's 529 tenured or tenure-track faculty were female.

University-wide, officials project that about 117 new faculty members will join the faculty for the fall 2009 semester, including 49 women.

The Gender Equity Task Force Report released last fall found that, on average, a lower percentage of tenured and tenure track faculty are women than at other schools and that, overall, the school has too few female professors. The university is developing a five- to 10-year plan to reduce or eliminate gender inequity.

"The College of Liberal Arts has made tremendous progress in its hiring. The school's efforts serve as a model for the rest of the university as we continue to work on this important issue," said Vice Provost Judith H. Langlois, who oversees the university's efforts to achieve gender equity.