About University Distinguished Professorships
The university distinguished professorship is a pre-eminent faculty rank bestowed by the university board of visitors upon members of the university faculty whose scholarly attainments have attracted national and/or international recognition. The professorship is to be bestowed upon no more than one percent of the total full-time faculty at any time.
Each academic year the provost will determine if there is to be one or more vacancies in the rank of university distinguished professors and, if appropriate, will issue a call to the academic deans for nominations. The deans will, in turn, invite nominations from academic departments.
Screening procedures at departmental and collegiate levels will involve personnel or executive committees in place. Nominations will be accompanied by a full dossier of relevant materials including current curriculum vitae, letters of nomination from both the department and collegiate screening committees, and letters of support and other evidence attesting to the scholarly reputation of the nominee(s).
In developing recommendations, the provost will rely primarily on the advice and counsel of the University Commission on Faculty Affairs. The commission, in turn, will invite the evaluation of nominees by the incumbent distinguished professors. The president will make the final judgment at the university level and, if that judgment so determines, will take the recommendation(s) to the board of visitors for approval.
The rank of university distinguished professor is conferred by the university and is to be considered a university (as distinct from a collegiate or departmental) appointment. While the successful nominee will have been nominated by departmental and collegiate colleagues, and while he or she will continue to serve in the discipline and department of origin, nonetheless the perquisites and responsibilities of each university distinguished professor are to be fixed by the university. Specifically:
The salary of university distinguished professors will be annually adjusted by the president of the university after consultation with the dean of the relevant college and the provost.
The sole responsibility of the university distinguished professors will be to continue their professional development at the same high level evident at the time of appointment. They will be free to define the exact nature of their work after consultation with the dean of the college and the head or chair of the department. They will be expected to enter fully with their colleagues into the governance of their departments.
At the same time they may freely decide to teach, when invited, in other departments of the university or in collegiate or university courses (e.g., honors colloquia). They may also elect, in a given term, to devote all of their energies to research, scholarship, or extension activities. In shaping their plans of work, the university distinguished professors will take full cognizance of departmental and collegiate needs and expectations. But their principal responsibility will be to serve the university well by giving their talents to the development and sharing of their competencies where, in their judgments, they will be most effectively employed.
It will be the university’s responsibility to provide such support as seems necessary to sustain the high level of performance expected of university distinguished professors:
- by assuming the full impact of annual salary adjustments;
- by ensuring in the annual allocation of the collegiate operating budget sufficient funds to provide necessary travel, equipment, and secretarial support for each university distinguished professor in the college. These operating funds will be established by the dean and administered from his or her office;
- by ensuring in the annual allocation of assistantships to the colleges, appropriate recognition of the needs of the university distinguished professors;
- by providing sufficient space, within the university’s acknowledged constraints and the space needs of the relevant department, to house the university distinguished professor and the support persons associated with him or her;
- by allocating, where necessary and justified, an additional (floating) faculty position or fraction thereof to the college and department from which the university distinguished professor was elected. This supplemental position (or fraction) is meant to give recognition to the continuing instructional needs of the department, and to make certain that the occasional decision of the university distinguished professor to teach outside the department in a given term will not impose an additional instructional burden on departmental colleagues.
The rank of university distinguished professor shall be carried by incumbents until resignation or retirement from the university, subject to the normal standard of continuous high performance. The rank is conferred only by the university board of visitors and can be altered by that body alone, on the recommendation of the president of the university.
The above stipulations are designed principally to ensure appropriate measures of support for university distinguished professors without requiring the supplemental allocation of limited departmental resources. They are not meant to abrogate in any way the responsibility of the department head or chair to administer the affairs of the department or to empower the university distinguished professor to influence departmental decisions beyond the authority of example.
UDPs in the News
- Mar 23, 2017 Virginia Tech Board of Visitors to meet April 2-3