The Texas A&M University Institute for Advanced Study (TIAS), created to bring world-class scholars here for extended visits to work with resident faculty and top students, has its inaugural “class” on campus this spring and summer. Carrying the title of TIAS Faculty Fellows, these eminent teachers and researchers include a Nobel Laureate, members of the National Academies of Engineering and of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a fellow of the Royal Society in England.
TIAS was authorized by The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents to build on the growing academic reputation of Texas A&M, with System Chancellor John Sharp making available a $5 million fund to support TIAS through the Academic Scholars Enhancement Program. Additional funds from the academic master plan and other sources provide a total budget of more than $10 million to cover operations through 2018.
In addition to academic benefits, Sharp said TIAS will provide the Texas A&M significant additional visibility, both nationally and internationally. “We are delighted to host these world-renowned scholars on our flagship campus through this innovative program,” said Sharp. “I have always said that Texas A&M is one of the country’s best-kept secrets in higher education, and I suspect that the TIAS Faculty Fellows will be impressed by the creativity, energy and dedication of our faculty and students. In turn, we will have an opportunity to engage with some of the brightest minds anywhere.”
University President R. Bowen Loftin said the TIAS Faculty Fellows will team with one or more “rising star” young faculty member at Texas A&M to work on collaborative research projects and activities that engage the institution’s graduate and undergraduate students.
“These scholars will join Texas A&M’s already-distinguished faculty to help enrich our academic, research and learning environment,” Loftin said. “This first cohort of fellows is representative of the type of world-renowned scholars we sought to attract to the university through the creation of TIAS, which I consider to play an essential role in our Vision 2020 goal to become recognized as one of the top-10 public research universities by the year 2020.”
Texas A&M Foundation President Eddie J. Davis joined in welcoming the TIAS Faculty Fellows and outlined endeavors being considered by foundation officials for future support for the institute.
The basic concept is for the TIAS fellows to serve on an in-residence basis for periods ranging from three months to a year.
One of the first, Prof. K.R. Sreenivasan, set the tone for the start of his work in Aggieland and spoke informally on behalf of his visiting colleagues.
“We feel greatly honored to be chosen for the first class of Faculty Fellows,” said Sreenivasan, who is University Professor in the Department of Physics and the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences at New York University — and who is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. “Equally, we know the responsibility that this choice places on us. We embrace the expectation that we should make vigorous contributions to the intellectual landscape of the university. I speak for all the fellows who, indeed, do wish to make a difference. The young members of the Texas A&M faculty represent its future. We will especially work with them and their students.”
Sreenivasan also observed that Texas A&M “has transformed itself into one of the nation’s premier research universities.”
John Junkins, who holds the title of Distinguished Professor in Texas A&M’s Department of Aerospace Engineering and the Royce E. Wisenbaker Chair in Engineering and also is the founding director of TIAS, praised the selection of this first class of Faculty Fellows. “The positive impact on the university of this world-class talent cannot be over-emphasized,” Junkins said. “These exceptional faculty fellows, together with our current top-flight faculty, will help foster an even more vibrant environment for research and learning.”
“The launch of TIAS distinguishes Texas A&M University in a uniquely positive way relative to all public universities,” he added. “A successful implementation of TIAS over several years will result in a dramatic enhancement of both the quality and reputation of the university.”
In addition to Sreenivasan, and representing disciplines spanning business and economics, the life and physical sciences, and engineering and geosciences, the first TIAS Faculty Fellows are:
•Jay Dunlap, who is Nathan Smith Professor and chair of the Department of Genetics at Dartmouth Medical School and a member of the National Academy of Sciences;
•Peter Liss, Professorial Fellow in the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia, Norwich, England and a fellow of the Royal Society.
•Alan Needleman, Professor of Materials Science and Engineering in the College of Engineering, University of North Texas, and a member of the National Academy of Engineering;
•Aleda Roth, Burlington Industries Distinguished Professor in Supply Chain Management, College of Business and Behavioral Science, Clemson University, and ranks seventh worldwide in service management research;
•Vernon Smith, Professor of Economics and Law, George L. Argyros Endowed Chair in Finance and Economics, Economic Science Institute, Chapman University, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences;
Additional biographical information about each of the first TIAS Fellows can be viewed here.
Roth said she is “honored to be a part of this stellar group of scholars.”
“It was a surprise for me to be honored with this award,” she noted. “As I reflected, I thought what a wonderful idea to bring scholars from around the world to Texas A&M University to be able to share and integrate knowledge and ideas. I believe I can contribute to some of those ideas, as well as being able to bring some of those ideas back with me to Clemson University. So I see this as just the beginning of a long-term venture for me.”
Dunlap said institutes such as TIAS “are really of major importance for advancing the academic mission of universities.”
“They bring in eminent scholars from across the country and allow for a lot of cross-pollination and exchange of ideas,” he added. ”They are really very important. which is why major universities have institutes like this. I think TIAS has been very well conceived and a number of people are very glad that TIAS has happened. I am very glad to be a part of this.”
The TIAS Faculty Fellows were formally introduced to the campus community at a weekend banquet hosted by Sharp, Loftin, Junkins and Davis and attended by several members of The Texas A&M System Board of Regents and numerous top university administrators, deans prominent members of the faculty.
“These scholars, freed from their normal obligations at their home institutions, will be given the flexibility to engage in creative endeavors and to collaborate with Texas A&M faculty, students and other TIAS Fellows in ways that will advance scholarship in one or more disciplines, contribute new research ideas, engage in collaborative research, provide mentoring for younger faculty and contribute to the ongoing education of our students, especially at the undergraduate level,” Loftin explained.
“The institute will greatly increase the visibility for Texas A&M and its faculty and students in the U.S. and the world,” he emphasized. “Unique programs fostered by these notable scholars will, in turn, be significant in retaining our best faculty and in recruiting the best faculty and students. Thus, TIAS will significantly enrich the quality of the university’s education and research and the social and economic environment of the state and region.”
Numerous current faculty members, among them some of the most distinguished on campus, have applauded establishment of TIAS, as have deans and other top administrators.
“TIAS will be the tide that raises all our scholastic ships,” noted Distinguished Professor of Physics and Astronomy Marlan Scully.
“The establishment of the Texas A&M University Institute for Advanced Study represents a pivotal point in the history of Texas A&M University,” said Distinguished Professor and Regents Professor J. N. Reddy, who serves as head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering. “It will foster excellence in basic and applied research, and I am optimistic that TIAS will dramatically accelerate our academic programs across the University.”
TIAS-related comments by other prominent faculty and academic leaders on campus can be viewed at http://tias.tamu.edu/about/tamuleaders
By 2018, Junkins said he expects a typical TIAS class to include about 20 world-class scholars each year.
He said faculty fellows and other scholarly guests of TIAS are annually selected through a process led by an electorate of acclaimed current faculty at Texas A&M, consisting of Nobel Laureates, Wolf Medal recipients, National Academies members and those holding the title of Distinguished Professor.
About the Texas A&M University Institute for Advanced Study: The Texas A&M University Institute for Advanced Study (TIAS) provides a catalyst to enrich the intellectual climate and educational experiences at Texas A&M. It is a mechanism for attracting world-class talent to the university and is driven by nominations of National Academy and Nobel-prize caliber researchers that align with existing strengths and ambitions of the university. The wide-ranging areas of advanced studies in TIAS include, but are not limited to, architecture; arts, humanities, and social sciences; business; education; engineering; physical, geophysical, agricultural, and life sciences; public and foreign policy; and multiple disciplines.