By Jeremy Craig, Communications Manager, Office of the Provost
Over the span of a decade, Georgia State has transformed into a greater, higher-profile institution with a national reputation and leadership in many aspects of academic life.
Innovative, interdisciplinary research and scholarship are among these facets of Georgia State’s elevation.
To do this, the university launched ambitious programs challenging university faculty to develop unique, impactful research clusters.
The problems of the 21st century – and door-opening discoveries — can only be tackled by researchers and scholars from across different disciplines. Both programs sought – and did – bring the best and brightest in their fields to Georgia State.
The successful Second Century Initiative (2CI) led to its follow-on: the Next Generation Program for strategic faculty hiring. Just as with 2CI, existing faculty at Georgia State developed concepts for impactful clusters that have yielded centers and initiatives that perform critical research and scholarship.
Faculty hired under these clusters have greatly contributed research productivity, grants to support innovative work at the university, and energetic collaborations with existing Georgia State faculty and the greater community.
As the university looks toward its next strategic vision, the Next Gen program is at its sunset – but its legacy will remain strong in the research, scholarship, innovation, and impact it has fostered. Its spirit of pushing beyond what’s thought to be possible will continue with strategic pillars and exciting new initiatives.
A more expansive report will be published at the end of this semester. As we anticipate its release, we wished to share the highlights of this truly transformative program.
(A note on nomenclature: the Next Generation Program [Next Gen] is not to be confused with the Commission for the Next Generation of Faculty, or the Next Generation of Faculty initiative. The Next Generation of Faculty is aimed at faculty diversity, equity, and inclusion in recruitment, retention, and engagement. Next Gen began in 2015; the Next Generation of Faculty commission was formed in 2017. Mentions of “Next Gen” in this article will always refer to the strategic cluster hiring program.)
Basics of the Next Generation Program
The goal of the program has been to build broadly-recognized strength and critical mass around research, scholarly and creative themes that have strategic importance to Georgia State.
After the five-year 2CI initiative ended in 2015, during the fall of that year, the university started the first round of Next Gen, challenging faculty in a request for proposals to develop innovative hubs to produce relevant and high-impact research and scholarship – while requiring proposals to consider how they will help Georgia State graduates to be prepared for rapidly changing job markets.
Closely scrutinizing each cluster for its potential, the university approved clusters over 4 years. Next Gen provided funds for departments, colleges, schools, and institutes to attract the best faculty in their fields to Georgia State.
You can read more about these winning proposals through the Next Generation Program’s website at https://nextgen.gsu.edu/next-generation-program/prior-rounds/.
NEXT GEN BY THE NUMBERS
Next Gen Faculty recruited and retained as of April 15, 2022
Peer-reviewed journal citations by Next Gen faculty while at Georgia State, and growing
Clusters with currently active faculty hires
In grants directly awarded to Next Gen faculty while at Georgia State
Sources: Office of Faculty Affairs, Office of the Provost, University Research Services & Administration; academic databases via University Library; Georgia State Scholars information system via Office of Institutional Effectiveness
Examples of Major Grants & Projects
A few examples of major grant-supported work include, but are definitely not limited to:
- A $1.14 million grant from the National Cancer Institute allows Next Gen faculty member Jun Kong to develop cutting-edge artificial intelligence computer vision and big data technologies to advance cancer research.
- A $1.4 million grant from the federal Minerva Research Initiative to the Evidence-Based Cybersecurity Research Group, led by Next Gen faculty member David Maimon, is being used to examine the growing threat of conspiracy theories and how they lead to radicalization and acts of violence. (Learn more here.)
- Next Gen faculty member Terri Pigott is coordinating a research institute supported by a $1 million National Science Foundation grant, designed to support early career STEM educators.
Centers and Initiatives Affiliated With Next Gen Faculty
Faculty from Next Gen have helped to continue existing centers of excellence in research and scholarship, and/or were key to the founding of several important university- or college-level centers and institutes. Below are a few examples.
- Center for Neuroinflammation and Cardiometabolic Diseases (CNCD): CNCD promotes interdisciplinary research in neuroinflammation, which is recognized as a common factor in the development of diseases ranging from hypertension and obesity to Alzheimer’s disease and depression.
- Center for Research on Interpersonal Violence (CRIV): CRIV aims to establish collaborative and interdisciplinary scholarship that will ultimately prevent or reduce interpersonal violence.
- Evidence-Based Cybersecurity Group (EBCS): EBCS seeks to produce new and review existing empirical research that examines the potential effect of existing cyber-security policies and tools that can prevent or halt the progression of cybercrimes.
- Global Research Against Non-Communicable Disease (GRAND) Initiative: The GRAND Initiative addresses the growing global threat of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases, diabetes, obesity, drug and alcohol abuse, and mental illness – which are among the leading causes of mortality worldwide.
- Legal Analytics Lab and the Legal Analytics & Innovation Initiative: These two groups work with one another at the intersection of data science and law to solve intractable problems and create a more just society, exploring the use of natural language processing, machine and deep learning, network analysis, and other methodologies.
- Center for the Quantitative and Statistical Sciences (QUEST): Quantitative and statistical sciences are the bedrock of scientific inquiry and are the glue of interdisciplinary research – interdisciplinary research including work by other Next Gen and 2CI faculty. That requires places like Georgia State to innovate and refine quantitative research methods – something that is at the core of QUEST’s mission.
- Research on the Challenges to Acquiring Language and Literacy (RCALL): RCALL emphasizes research, student training, and dissemination of knowledge focused on improving the outcomes of children and adults who face challenges in acquiring language and literacy skills.
- Urban Drivers of Resilient Youth (ResY): Resilience is the process by which people are able to overcome adversity in their lives. ResY faculty are building interdisciplinary scholarship using resilience as a framework to address health disparities among urban youth.
- Transcultural Conflict and Violent Extremism (TCVE): TCVE scholars work on research to address the problems of terrorism and violent extremism, and how to counter it using evidence-based strategies to inoculate communities from radicalization, and to provide communities with tools needed to resist the allure of violent extremism.
- Urban Studies Institute: An outgrowth of faculty hired under the Future of Cities cluster in year 1 of Next Gen, the institute has developed into a hub for interdisciplinary research into the problems of cities, including economic resilience and inclusive development, sustainability, diversity, inequality, life-chances, social/spatial integration, access to public goods, and urban health disparities.
RISE to the Future
While the Next Gen program is ending, research and innovation at Georgia State won’t. As part of President M. Brian Blake’s four pillars guiding the university’s strategic visioning in the 2020s, research and innovation are key. And the university has already acted on its next phase of interdisciplinary research and scholarship: the Research Innovation and Scholarly Excellence (RISE) challenge.
While Next Gen was aimed toward faculty recruiting external of the university – RISE is an internal challenge to current faculty, to engage in interdisciplinary research and scholarship through one-time funding. Winning clusters are expected to be announced in May.
Thanks to Next Gen, and 2CI, their legacy means that RISE isn’t the end for interdisciplinary research and scholarship.