When Luca Di Cerbo sets foot in Emerson Alumni Hall for New Faculty Orientation next Wednesday, he will be joined by a wave of new faculty colleagues hired as part of the University of Florida’s Faculty 500 initiative. The initiative aims to strengthen a variety of research disciplines and improve the university’s student-faculty ratio—all in support of UF’s goal to be ranked among the top-five public universities in the country.
Di Cerbo, an assistant professor of mathematics, came to UF having most recently served as a visiting assistant professor at Stony Brook University in New York. He said he is looking most forward to the high quality of students and other faculty he will be working with here.
“This is a great school that wants to get better, and I’m happy to help,” said Di Cerbo. “I’m especially looking forward to working with the students, who everybody talks very highly of. An undergraduate who saw my webpage and seemed interested in what I do has already reached out to me.”
The Department of Mathematics is one of the key areas to benefit from the early influx of hires made thanks to the Faculty 500 initiative. According to David Richardson, dean of the UF College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS), the initiative has led to investments in areas in which his college has struggled to meet demand, as well as needs for modernization and flexible instruction. CLAS will experience an overall growth of approximately 70 faculty members this fall, a more than 10-percent increase.
“The initiative has had a tremendous impact on our ability to deliver on both the teaching and research fronts,” said Richardson. “We expect to see a decrease in class sizes in mathematics, as well as a more flexible math education program to meet the needs of a variety of degree programs across campus.”
Richardson anticipates another heavy hiring year, based on information from the Provost’s Office.
“This future hiring will enable us to address a number of issues in front of us—in particular the UF Quest program in general education, meeting the needs of the honors program, building research proposals and grants, and reducing class sizes,” he said. “We are also paying significant attention to leveraging the investments the university has made in signature areas, including informatics, emerging pathogens and international excellence.”
While UF’s rising stature and excellent students are both attractive features to new faculty, these weren’t the only factors that led Di Cerbo to UF. Di Cerbo and his wife, Kate, said other reasons they were drawn to Gainesville and UF included the weather, the green spaces and the proximity to the ocean.
Kate Di Cerbo, who joined UF Health Web Services as a marketing and communications specialist in April, was also pleasantly surprised by the support she received as a dual career hire. She said UFHR’s dual career services helped make their decision between an offer from another top public university and UF a little easier.
“I was a freelancer for quite a while and thought I would end up working for a company somewhere,” said Kate Di Cerbo. “But when I began talking to an HR representative, I realized how good working at UF could be in terms of the benefits and time off. And I was surprised to find plenty of job listings that catered to what I’ve been doing.”
The Di Cerbos noted that, in addition to the draw of Gainesville’s geographic location and the weather, they were able to quickly find a home they love in a walkable community. They were also impressed by the cost of living and the easy commutes.
“For us, coming from the Northeast, we have a lifestyle that is really everything we were hoping for,” said Kate Di Cerbo.
The new faculty joining UF this fall represent just a portion of those who will be recruited as part of the Faculty 500 initiative. Searches will be underway once again in the new academic year, and departments conducting searches are reminded to consult the Faculty Search Committee Toolkit on the UFHR website for a range of resources designed to “attract, identify, engage, evaluate and hire” faculty. Resources include guides on creating job announcements, advertising, dual career services, campus visits and much more.
To further support these search processes and improve the experience for committees and applicants, UF has invested in Interfolio, a separate applicant tracking system exclusively for faculty and postdoctoral hiring. The new Careers at UF: Faculty and Postdocs portal is currently under configuration, and the system will be available soon for use in the next academic hiring cycle. UFHR will provide more information on go-live and training in the weeks to come.