Brain Gain

Last year, Gerry Stefanatos had two job offers: the Mayo Clinic, one of the top medical schools in the country, and one at Temple as chair of communication sciences and disorders. He – along with

Last year, Gerry Stefanatos had two job offers: the Mayo Clinic, one of the top medical schools in the country, and one at Temple as chair of communication sciences and disorders.

He – along with 59 other new faculty recruits – chose Temple.

Sixty tenured and tenure-track faculty members have joined the academic community for the 2007-2008 school year, the peak of a hiring push that began in fall 2004, according to the Office of the Provost. Since then, Temple has hired about 205 tenured and tenure-track professors, and aims to reach 300 in the next two years.

Provost Lisa Staiano-Coico said Temple’s intense hiring push is a nationwide trend in academia due to the bolus of professors hired in the baby boomer era.

“We’ll be replacing nationally about a third of faculty during the next decade,” Staiano-Coico said. “It’s an exciting time and era in all academic settings.”

And in all of the excitement, competition ensues.

“It’s getting very great because there are people retiring in universities all throughout the nation,” she said. “So you have to be really quick, assertive, trying to recruit faculty very aggressively.”

Staiano-Coico said Temple attracts professors from world-renowned institutions in two ways: from the buzz current faculty and programs create and during the interview experience.

“When our faculty members are making important contributions – whether it’s pedagogically in teaching or in their research, their scholarship or their performance – we want to get the word out to the public and nationally,” she said.

Biochemistry professor Nora Engel, who has a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from the University of Buenos Aires, decided to come to Temple after completing her post doctorate at the University of Pennsylvania.

“I knew two very distinguished professors at the Temple Fels Institute for Cancer Research and Molecular Biology who work in my field, genetics,” Engel said. “They’re pretty much founding members of this field.”

Engel said the world-renowned reputation of the Fels Institute attracted her to Temple.

“Even if people don’t know Temple, if they hear ‘Fels,’ they know this place,” she said.

When these potential faculty recruits come to campus, the experience they have often serves as the deciding factor – which Staiano-Coico, who became provost on July 1, can attest to.

“One of the first things that attracted me to Temple was when I drove on the campus and walked around the campus, how engaged the students look,” she said. “The students who walk with their heads held high. They were engaged in working with themselves, they were engaged in teams working with each other.

“This kind of active, engaged undergraduate population got me very excited,” Staiano-Coico said.

Stefanatos drove up and down Broad Street from Elkins Park every workday for 25 years, never really acknowledging or knowing what went inside the confines of Temple’s Main Campus.

“I was never really aware of what existed beyond the facades,” said Stefanatos, who did his doctoral work at Oxford University. “I’m just pleasantly amazed at how wonderful the campus is. I don’t even have a sense of if it’s always been this wonderful, or if it’s been something that’s evolved in recent years. I’ve never had cause to explore.”

Many new professors said they see Temple as an up-and-coming university with plenty of room for innovation.

Spanish literature professor Luis Gonzalez-del-Valle, who earned his Ph.D. at the University of Massachusetts, accepted the job offer as chair of the department of Spanish and Portuguese. Previously he chaired at the University of Colorado at Boulder for 12 years, and is now committed to revising Temple’s program.

“That’s why I was brought here,” Gonzalez-del-Valle said. “To be the chair of the department and to implement. We’re in the process of doing something different. How we govern ourselves, how we function as a department.

It is essential to attract faculty members who have varying perspectives and backgrounds to broaden the perspective of the university, Staiano-Coico said.

Neuroscience professor Dianne Langford, who left her job at the University of California, San Diego, agreed.

“The personalities that you see in the scientific community, each type of person has a different approach to looking at the problem,” Langford said. “It takes a lot of outside approaches to look at a problem. This is a perfect example of that, because Temple has a lot of personalities that allow them to approach a problem from a different angle, more efficiently solving a problem or a question.”

Along with Gonzalez-del-Valle, Stefanatos also accepted his job based on the chance to lead a department.

“My decision was made a lot easier by the changes that have occurred at Temple recently,” he said. “The leadership instills in faculty that they’re really valued.”

Staiano-Coico also applauded the leadership of President Ann Weaver Hart and Board of Trustees chairman Dan Polett in attracting faculty to Temple and rousing excitement.

“I think it’s been their leadership that has galvanized around the excitement of what it means to be a Temple student, a Temple alum and a Temple faculty member,” she said.

And during a time when student enrollment, new faculty, new facilities and expanding community engagement are coming together, the appeal of Temple may not be easily overlooked.

“Temple is a hot university,” Staiano-Coico said. “We all have to be vigilant in making sure that we’re always looking for the best for the university, the best for our students, the best for our faculty. And that’s what keeps the Temple name alive and burning.”

Leigh Zaleski can be reached at

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