As any businessperson will tell you, the success of an organization depends on the people who carry out its mission. Leaders who make wise investments in people invariably see returns far in excess of the initial outlay. On the other hand, managers who fail to invest in deserving employees invite productivity decline and organizational failure.
That's why the University of Iowa asked the Iowa Board of Regents to approve career development assignments for 58 faculty in 2010-11.
We are incredibly grateful to the board for approving our request, and wish to take this opportunity to explain to our fellow citizens why these investments are so important to the university and to Iowa.
Career development assignments provide selected faculty with a one-semester release from teaching obligations. The release from teaching is not a sabbatical or leave. Instead, the faculty member spends the semester working on projects that will increase the faculty member's long-term productivity.
Some faculty members pursue research projects aimed at increasing their knowledge of their subject and contributing to the advancement of learning in their field. The increased expertise they gain from this work translates into better future teaching, research and service to the people of Iowa.
Other faculty use career development assignments to make curricular improvements. This is critical to ensuring that students receive the cutting-edge education they'll need to compete in their future careers - whether they work in traditional businesses and professions, or in emerging industries, such as biotechnology, nanotechnology and wind power.
These investments in people pay enormous dividends.
Over the past five years, University of Iowa faculty on career development assignments have developed 90 new undergraduate courses and 260 new graduate or professional courses. In addition, dozens of existing undergraduate and graduate courses were significantly revised and brought up to date.
During the same period, faculty on development assignments made 234 successful applications for grants from outside businesses or agencies to support research, teaching, or outreach at the university.
The Board of Regents staff has conservatively estimated that faculty on development assignments last year brought more than $5 million of outside funding into Iowa to support world-class educational activities in our state.
Faculty on development assignments during this period also wrote more than 100 books or monographs and more than 1,000 articles for research journals, improving their own expertise, advancing human knowledge in their fields, and enhancing the university's reputation as one of the nation's top higher-education institutions.
The cost to the university for this program averages less than $400,000 per year, most of it spent to hire temporary replacement instructors. This cost amounts to less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the university's budget and is significantly less than the grant funding that is typically generated by faculty on development assignments.
As leaders of the University of Iowa, we can say with certainty that this investment - while very small compared to the return we receive - is nonetheless essential to maintaining and increasing the vitality and productivity of our faculty.
And faculty vitality is the key to our ability to deliver the many services - education, health care and more - that thousands of Iowa families receive from the University of Iowa every year.
In short, investments in the people who put their skill, talent and knowledge to work in service to the students, families and communities of Iowa are the most important investments we can make to ensure the quality of the University of Iowa.
Those investments will pay dividends to Iowans for many years to come.
Hmm ... I don't think this editorial writer will ever get a job offer to work for the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, etc, etc, etc.