Attracting and Retaining Faculty
One of the goals of Vision 2039 is the improvement of VMI’s academic reputation to establish the Institute as a premier undergraduate college in America. The ability to attract and retain the most outstanding faculty is a critical element in achieving this goal.
Thanks to support from the Jackson-Hope Fund, Virginia Military Institute has been able to attract and retain more than 15 junior and senior faculty members with signing bonuses and funding to establish the laboratories and research programs they need to be successful in their professions.
The Jackson-Hope Fund has provided new faculty positions in mathematics and computer science, molecular biology and materials chemistry, as well as two new positions in VMI’s most populous engineering major, mechanical engineering. The humanities and social sciences have gained 11 new positions: four in psychology and leadership, two in economics and business, three in international studies and one each in Arabic and rhetoric and composition.
“The Jackson-Hope Fund has been a tremendous boost to the academic program at VMI in general, but especially to the Department of Psychology and Philosophy,” said department head Col. James Gire. “It provided us a much needed lifeline at a critical time, generously supporting four positions in the department, three of which are leadership faculty, which enables us to implement a core curriculum course in organizational leadership. Not only does this course support leadership development, a major focus of Vision 2039, but it also serves as the gateway requirement for the academic minor in leadership studies.”
Maj. Glenn Sullivan came to VMI in 2006 thanks to Jackson-Hope funding and has made an indelible mark on the Institute with outstanding teaching and a dedication to mentoring cadets. Already a well recognized researcher in forensic psychology, Sullivan has made the boundary between teaching and research transparent by fully engaging cadet researchers in his own groundbreaking work.
It’s this passion and enthusiasm for his profession as an educator that explains why students are drawn to him like a magnet and why his peers awarded him the 2009 Thomas Jefferson Teaching Award, presented once each year to a faculty member who demonstrates qualities that inspire the development of traits of intellect and character in cadets.
Sullivan also has been an enthusiastic contributor to VMI’s Summer Undergraduate Research Initiative (SURI), supervising five cadets’ independent research projects, three of which have been presented at external venues, including one national conference. Two of these studies empirically tested a prominent model of psychopathology, the first studies of their kind to do so. A third study revisited the classic “Milgram study” on obedience, focusing on the personality dispositions of those who heroically refused to inflict harm on another person.
Like Sullivan, Mohamed Taifi came to VMI thanks to Jackson-Hope funding and has helped develop the Arabic program into one of the largest language programs at the Institute. Through a summer research and language immersion program in Morocco, Taifi has introduced hundreds of cadets to a new world and has helped prepare them for careers in government, business and the military. The recent growth and the strength of VMI’s Arabic program attracted the attention of the U.S. Department of Defense, which awarded VMI a three-year grant in 2008 to enhance its program and provide opportunities for ROTC cadets to study the language and culture abroad.