In a new program announced by the Office of the Provost, junior faculty can now receive funds from the University to help pay for travel expenses when attending professional or refereed forums.
A junior faculty member is a professor who has not been awarded tenure. Some of the forums they can attend consist of conferences, art exhibits and concerts.
“Participation in these professional venues not only allows the faculty member to present their scholarship, but also contributes to expanding the reach and impact of their research/scholarship on his or her profession,” said Havidán Rodriguez, provost and vice-president for Academic Affairs, via email.
The maximum amount of funds provided is $500, and is meant to supplement the amount that is already provided by the faculty members’ department. Departments are expected to match the amount given by the University.
Rebecca Mitchell, vice provost fellow and associate professor of English, commented on the relief the new funding could have for faculty members.
“Typically departments are unable to fund one conference, so it was up to faculty to spend their money,” Mitchell said. “This was more hardship on the junior faculty members because they make less money, and most have to pay off graduate school loans.”
In order to receive the funds, faculty members have to submit an application online via the Office of the Vice-Provost for Faculty Affairs section of the UTPA website. Deadlines are split into three cycles over the calendar year. The first was Sept. 14, 2012 and the second was Jan. 18,of this year. The last cycle will be May 17 and will cover the travel period June 15-Oct.14.
One of the professors that received the funds was Michael Abebe, assistant professor with the Department of Management. Abebe attended the Decision Sciences Institute Annual Meeting in San Francisco as the co-author and mentor of two Ph.D students. The event took place Nov. 17-20 in 2012.
“It’s a wonderful initiative,” Abebe said. “It’s just $500 dollars. That may be a little, but it definitely compliments the money we get from the department.”
The two students Abebe mentored each submitted a peer-reviewed paper, one on the happenings in the newspaper industry, and the other on how online higher education is affecting quality and traditions of face to face universities.
Abebe explained that the first purpose behind these conferences was to present their findings and network with colleagues. The second was to mentor graduate students and introduce them to researchers in other institutes.
“We have a Ph.D program. That means responsibility,” Abebe said. “We have to make our Ph.D students stronger, and one of the ways we do that is presenting at conferences.”
The program is not available for senior faculty members, but they are still eligible to receive funds from their departments. The Office of Research and Sponsored Projects also assists faculty members in acquiring funding. This can be done by submitting a funding search request form online.
According to Abebe, attending the conference wouldn’t have been possible without the junior faculty funding, and that in itself is an aspect that is he believes is sometimes not recognized.
“There is a general misperception that we are just going to exotic locations to vacation,” he said. “We are going there to present our findings. It’s an important part of our research.”