Purdue welcomes 11 faculty through public health and health equity cluster hiring efforts; advances the goal of further diversifying the campus

The University significantly expands teaching and research expertise in key health sector initiatives through strategic hiring and investment

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – A strategic hiring effort to expand Purdue University’s focus on public health and health equity while diversifying the racial makeup of its faculty has reached a major milestone, with 11 new faculty members beginning their academic careers at the Boilermaker this fall.

These new faculty members, hired as part of the inaugural hiring cluster search in conjunction with Purdue’s centrally supported Equity Task Force, span six departments in the Colleges of Health and Human Sciences and Pharmacy and the School of Libraries and Information Studies.

“This lineup of outstanding new Boilermaker faculty members will strengthen our growing public health impact and advance Purdue’s research, teaching and engagement in public health and health equity,” said Marion Underwood, dean of the College in Health and Humanities.

Underwood developed the proposal to hire the Purdue cluster, which requires a major investment from the university in public health and health equity, in collaboration with Eric Barker, the Jeannie and Jim Cheney Dean of Pharmacy; Karen Plaut, Glenn W. Sample Dean of Agriculture; and Willie Reed, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine.

A major component of the multiyear, $75 million effort by the Equity Task Force and the Purdue Board of Trustees was a set of cross-campus interdisciplinary cluster hires led by comprehensive searches designed to bring a diverse set of outstanding scholars to Purdue, said John Gates, Purdue Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Inclusion in the Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging.

“Hiring these excellent scholars is a significant step in responding to our call to become a more diverse campus. We know that a more diverse faculty and student body enhances the research and teaching initiative of our entire university,” Gates said.

The hiring landscape is particularly favorable in the field of public health, with a strong pool of young black faculty across the country pursuing employment opportunities in the field, which also encompasses policy, justice and other emerging areas of study and research.

“It is an honor, indeed a privilege, to be part of the largest class of new faculty at Purdue and as a new member of the university’s black faculty community,” said Andrea Hayes, a new assistant professor of library and information studies who has a background in literacy of public health among underrepresented and underserved groups.

“We need more equity and diversity in higher education faculty to make the impact we need in our global health community. Purdu is taking these important steps to make that happen. That may be a lofty, lofty goal, but we must aim high.

Additionally, the focus on public health aligns with Purdue’s current and future plans, drawing on the growing number of excellent, diverse scholars earning degrees in public health and health equity, according to the 2020 NSF Survey of Ph.D.s Earned.

“Expanding and protecting Purdue’s academic diversity and increasing the number of underrepresented faculty on our growing campus increases our excellence and is an important step in advancing our progress in public health and health equity,” Underwood said. “The experience and perspectives these colleagues bring will enhance our teaching and learning environment, interdisciplinary research, and community engagement.”

Carlos Mahaffey arrives this semester as an assistant professor of public health in Purdue’s College of Health and Human Sciences. He comes from Oklahoma State University with plans to advance his research and scholarship in the field of sexual health.

“We want to see you there already,” said Mahaffey, who earned a doctorate in pharmacy from Florida A&M University and a master’s degree in public health from Morehouse School of Medicine. “My mere presence here sends the message to other black scholars seeking opportunities for advancement in academia that Purdue supports a culture of diversity and makes it a top priority.”

An emerging practice in higher education that emerged in the late 1990s, cluster hiring involves adding faculty to multiple departments or colleges around interdisciplinary research topics or “clusters.” Purdue has already used this hiring strategy to successfully strengthen specific research areas.

The 11 faculty members arriving through this Strategic Public Health and Health Equity Hiring Cluster search bring exceptional breadth and depth of scholarship and scholarly excellence to their respective pursuits. These areas of academic expertise range from mental health disparities, preventive health behavior promotion, and health policy to epidemiology, biostatistics, nutrition and dietetics, and health intervention and advocacy programs for marginalized communities. Faculty members beginning their academic careers at Boilermaker this fall are:

  • College of Health and Human Sciences/Department of Human Development and Family Studies: Paul Robbins (Duke University).
  • HHS/Nursing: Haocen Wang (Texas A&M University) and Soojung Jo (Arizona State University).
  • HHS/Nutrition Science: Patricia Wolff (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign).
  • HHS/Public Health: Shandi Malcolm (Turks and Caicos National Epidemiologist), Carlos Mahaffey (Oklahoma State University), Afsan Bhadelia (Harvard School of Public Health), and Bukola Usidame (University of Michigan).
  • Libraries and Information Research School: Andrea Hayes (University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences).
  • Pharmacy/Pharmaceutical Practice: Faria Chaudhry (St. Joseph’s Health System) and Michael Preston (University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences).

This fall, the Public Health and Health Equity Cluster search will resume for three vacant positions in the Brian Lamb School of Communication and the Departments of Health Sciences and Sociology.

In conjunction with the efforts of the Equity Task Force and Purdue’s expanding focus on public health and health equity, Dr. Jerome Adams, former Indiana State Health Commissioner and the 20th U.S. Surgeon General, has been named a Presidential Associate and executive director of Purdue’s Health Equity Initiatives in October 2021. He also serves as a professor of practice in the Departments of Pharmacy Practice and Public Health and as a faculty member of Purdue’s Regenstrief Center for Healthcare Engineering.

In addition, two new faculty clusters will be launched this fall, totaling eight positions:

  • The first of these focuses on sustainable and equitable urban environments and food systems. Hires will likely land in one or more of the five departments in the College of Agriculture (Agronomy, Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, Food Science, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, and/or Agricultural Economics).
  • The second is in the prevention and treatment of antimicrobial resistance. Target employees are in the Colleges of Veterinary Medicine, Science and Agriculture (Comparative Biology, Veterinary Clinical Sciences, Chemistry, Life Sciences and Animal Science).

About Purdue University

Purdue University is a leading public research institution developing practical solutions to today’s toughest challenges. Ranked each of the last five years as one of the 10 most innovative universities in the United States by US News & World Report, Purdue delivers world-changing research and out-of-this-world discoveries. Committed to real-world, hands-on and online learning, Purdue offers a transformative education for all. Committed to affordability and affordability, Purdue has frozen tuition and most fees at 2012-13 levels, allowing more students than ever to graduate debt-free. See how Purdue never stops chasing the next giant leap at https://stories.purdue.edu.

Screenwriter: Philip Fiorini, 765-430-6189, [email protected], 765-430-6189

Media contact: Trevor Peters, [email protected], 765-494-2073

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