A $113 million grant to UC Berkeley from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation that "raised eyebrows" when it was announced in 2007 has helped the university retain most of its faculty at a time when the University of California system has been subjected to deep funding cuts, Fortune reports.
The grant, the largest ever received by the state-funded university, is being disbursed in increments over seven years and, when fully disbursed, will create one hundred endowed faculty chairs — full professor positions that come with a $25,000 stipend for research, travel, or graduate student employment. According to Fortune, the foundation has distributed $52 million of the total, while Berkeley has created ninety-one chairs, in fields ranging from art history to chemistry.
That faculty retention rates are up at Berkeley, even as the state has cut funding for the UC system by $650 million in the four years since the grant was awarded, is the best indication that the grant is having the desired effect. Indeed, of the forty-nine retention cases where a faculty member was "poached" by another institution and Berkeley made a counteroffer, twenty-seven were resolved, with twenty-three professors staying at the university.
"One of my greatest worries at Berkeley has been whether I can assure myself that my longest-range goals for my teaching and research will and can be supported by the university," Whitney Davis, an art history professor, told Fortune. Since being named the George C. and Helen N. chair in art history, Davis has been able to invest in professional development and new technology without having to raise project support, a time-consuming process that can detract from teaching. "[The Hewlett grant] doesn't solve the problem," said Davis. "But it gives me a fighting chance."