Dartmouth Achieves Goal for Investment in World-Leading Academics

Baker Library in winter
(Photo by Eli Burakian '00)

Dartmouth has reached its goal of securing $100 million in philanthropy by the end of 2015 to establish 10 new interdisciplinary groups of faculty members. These “academic clusters” will focus on urgent world challenges and important questions, from issues of global poverty to health care and cybersecurity.

Thanks to three gifts in December, the goal of endowing 10 clusters was achieved in 20 months time.

The clusters will create 30 new faculty positions at Dartmouth, a milestone in the pursuit of President Phil Hanlon’s goal of enhancing faculty and student excellence.

“The clusters will attract faculty who are at the forefront of their fields to work with outstanding faculty already at Dartmouth and to engage students as partners in their work,” says President Hanlon ’77. “Dartmouth will build on its history of tackling world challenges and, in the process, secure its status as magnet for the most talented academics and students.”

Hanlon says Dartmouth is especially well suited for such an initiative.

“Our scale and configuration, our culture of distinguished scholars in the classroom, and our tradition of involving students in important research position Dartmouth as a hub of collaboration across schools and disciplines,” Hanlon says. “The teaching and research this effort catalyzes will be a powerful draw for top faculty and students.”

Gifts totaling $100 million from alumni, parents, and friends have endowed three faculty positions in each of the 10 clusters. In addition, a match of $5 million per cluster—drawn from a historic $100 million gift to Dartmouth in 2014—will support research, programming, travel, and related activities.

The full $150 million philanthropic investment in the clusters will expand interdisciplinary research; create dozens of new courses, symposia, and seminars; offer students unprecedented experiential learning opportunities; and ultimately improve the lives of people around the world.

“Our students will benefit tremendously from this investment,” says Provost Carolyn Dever. “Learning in an interdisciplinary environment will prepare them to be leaders and problem solvers in demanding times.”

Several universities have launched similar hiring initiatives in recent years, but none has announced a level of philanthropic support for clusters comparable to Dartmouth’s.

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Introducing Dartmouth’s Three Newest Faculty Clusters

Alumni Gifts of $10 Million Will Fund Poverty Research

$20 Million in Gifts Furthers Hanlon’s Cluster Initiative

“Leaders among our alumni and parents recognized the importance of this initiative, and in less than two years Dartmouth has received $100 million in gifts to support the academic clusters,” Dever says. “The generosity of our donors will transform lives and Dartmouth scholarship itself.”

Gifts received during the final days of 2015 will establish academic clusters concentrating on cybersecurity, cystic fibrosis, and engineering challenges in extremely cold regions—each building on established strengths at Dartmouth.

The seven previously announced clusters are:

  • Breaking the Neural Code
  • The Challenges and Opportunities of Globalization
  • Digital Humanities and Social Engagement
  • Global Poverty Alleviation and Human Development
  • The Jack Byrne Academic Cluster in Mathematics and Decision Science
  • The Susan J. and Richard M. Levy 1960 Academic Cluster in Health Care Delivery
  • The William H. Neukom Academic Cluster in Computational Science

(See a complete list with descriptions on the Office of the Provost’s website.)

More than 50 faculty members wrote or contributed to initial cluster proposals, and dozens of professors worked in partnership with the Office of the Provost and the Advancement Division to complete donor proposals. A total of 14 alumni, parents, and friends made multimillion-dollar gifts supporting the initiative.

The clusters will involve new and current faculty members from across Dartmouth’s academic landscape, hundreds of undergraduates, students in graduate programs, and professional students at the Tuck School of Business, Thayer School of Engineering, and the Geisel School of Medicine.

“Breaking down barriers between disciplines and among our schools will create strong new possibilities for groundbreaking research and scholarship,” says Michael Mastanduno, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. “Imagine faculty from multiple departments and with different academic backgrounds exploring complex issues from perspectives they might not have considered in the past. The experience will energize and inspire them as well as their students.”

Faculty recruitment for several cluster positions is under way. In July, the College hired Rahul Sarpeshkar, the inaugural Thomas E. Kurtz Chair in the William H. Neukom Academic Cluster in Computational Science. Sarpeshkar's is the first of 30 professorships endowed through the cluster initiative.

Sarpeshkar, previously a faculty member in MIT’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, holds more than 35 patents and is the author of more than 125 articles, including one featured on the cover of the journal Nature.

Sarpeshkar has won awards for his interdisciplinary bioengineering research, including the Packard Fellow award, given to outstanding young faculty; the National Science Foundation CAREER award; an Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award; and the Junior Bose Teaching award at MIT. His work on a glucose fuel cell for medical implants has been featured by BBC Radio, The Economist, and Science News, and was highlighted by Scientific American as one of 10 world-changing ideas in 2012.

“Rahul is exactly the kind of faculty member the academic cluster initiative was intended to attract,” Dever says. “He brings to Dartmouth a vision and aspiration that has the power to transform an important field of study.”

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