New Talent: President's Distinguished Faculty Recruitment Program

To assist the three universities of the University of Illinois System in attracting the most exceptional faculty, the President's Office launched a three-year program in 2018, the University of Illinois Distinguished Faculty Recruitment Program. Committing $10 million per year, with matching funds from the recruiting university, funds are designated for start-up costs such as new equipment, renovation of space, graduate student support and other needs associated with supporting the research and teaching needs of prominent faculty. These scholars are engaged in cutting-edge scholarship and are experts in areas of high or emerging student demand.

The faculty that come to us through this program represent many fields of expertise and come from other prominent universities and research facilities from across the country. We are pleased to have these inaugural members of this program join the ranks of our renowned instructors and researchers in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago, and Springfield.

The 2020-21 class of recruits include:


Ana Barros

Civil and Environmental Engineering
Barros The Grainger College of Engineering 
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Ana P. Barros is the new Donald Biggar Willett Chair of Engineering and new head of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in The Grainger College of Engineering. She will join from Duke University in February 2021. Barros’ primary research interests are in hydrology, hydrometeorology and environmental physics, focusing on water-cycle processes in complex terrain, remote sensing of the environment and predictability and risk assessment of extreme events. She has received more than $20 million in past and current research support from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Science Foundation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, among others. She is a founding member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Committee on Climate Change and Adaptation and president-elect of the Hydrology Section of the American Geophysical Union (AGU). Barros also is a fellow of AGU, the American Meteorological Society, ASCE and AAAS.  In 2019, she was elected to the National Academy of Engineering.

Jeffery Baur

Aerospace Engineering
Baur The Grainger College of Engineering 
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Jeffery W. Baur, a principal engineer and researcher leader at the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory's Materials and Manufacturing Directorate, will join The Grainger College of Engineering as a Founder Professor in January 2022. Baur’s research focuses on the processing-structure-property relationship of multifunctional composites, at the intersection of manufacturing, mechanics, materials science, chemistry and application. He has received more than $30 million in research support from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the Office of the Secretary of Defense, among others. Baur’s previous work included serving as a senior research engineer and instructor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Russell Hemley

Physics/Chemistry
Hamley College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
University of Illinois Chicago

Russell J. Hemley, a College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Distinguished Chair in the Natural Sciences and professor of physics and chemistry, joined the college in 2019 from George Washington University. Hemley's research explores materials in extreme conditions, especially very high pressures. Professor Hemley’s research programs have been supported by $175 million from private foundations and the federal government, including the Department of Energy, Department of Defense and National Science Foundation. Hemley is the director of the new Chicago/DOE Alliance Center, co-founded and helps manage the HPCAT research consortium at Argonne National Laboratory and is co-executive director of the Sloan Deep Carbon Observatory. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, member of the National Academy of Sciences, a corresponding fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and Honoris Causa Professor of the Russian Academy of Sciences.  


Reuben Buford May

Sociology
MayCollege of Liberal Arts and Sciences
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Reuben A. Buford May is the Florian Znaniecki Professorial Scholar and Professor of Sociology and joined the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in the fall of 2020. He had been a member of the faculty at Texas A&M University. May is an expert on race and ethnicity, urban sociology and the sociology of sports.  His research has been supported by more than $5 million in outside funding. May has received a number of awards for his teaching, including the 2018 Minnie Stevens Piper Professor Award in recognition of teaching excellence in the state of Texas. He is the author of three books, “Urban Nightlife: Entertaining Race, Class, and Culture in Public Space,” “Living Through the Hoop: High School Basketball, Race, and the American Dream” and “Talking at Trena’s: Everyday Conversations at an African American Tavern.” May also has been a fellow at the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University.

William Ocasio

Business Administration
Ocasio Gies College of Business
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

William Ocasio is the James F. Towey Professor of Business and Leadership in the Gies College of Business. He joined the college in June 2020 from Northwestern University. Ocasio is an organization and management theorist known for his interdisciplinary approach to strategic organizational research and education. He is the co-author of the book “The Institutional Logics Perspective: A New Approach to Culture, Structure, and Process.” His work has been recognized with major awards from the American Sociological Association, the Strategic Management Society and the Academy of Management.

Graham Peck

History
peck College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
University of Illinois Springfield

Graham Peck is the Wepner Distinguished Professor of Lincoln Studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. His published scholarship – which includes the book “Making an Antislavery Nation: Lincoln, Douglas and the Battle Over Freedom” – focuses on antebellum American political history, and particularly on Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas, and the origins of the Civil War. Peck also wrote, directed and produced a feature-length film on Douglas for use at the Douglas Tomb State Historic Site in Chicago and created an eight-episode podcast on Mother Catherine McAuley, the 19th century nun who founded The Sisters of Mercy. Peck won the Illinois State Historical Society Russell P. Strange Memorial Book of the Year Award in 2018 and the Illinois State Historical Society Superior Achievement Award in 2015.


Bernadette Sánchez

Educational Psychology
Sanchez College of Education
University of Illinois Chicago

Bernadette Sánchez is a professor of educational psychology who joined the College of Education this fall from DePaul University. She is an expert on the role of mentoring relationships in the positive development of urban, low-income adolescents of color. Sanchez’s work been recognized with awards that include the Distinguished Fellowship from the William T. Grant Foundation in 2017, the Public Voices Fellowship at DePaul and the Ethnic Minority Mentoring Award from the Society for Community Research and Action. She has received more than $4 million in research funding from the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, William T. Grant Foundation and others. Sánchez is also a member of the Research Board for the National Mentoring Resource Center. 

Jeff Shamma

Industrial and Enterprise Systems Engineering
Shamma The Grainger College of Engineering
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Jeff S. Shamma is the new head of the Department of Industrial and Enterprise Systems Engineering (ISE) in The Grainger College of Engineering. His appointment will begin in December 2020, and he will also be the Jerry S. Dobrovolny Chair in ISE. Shamma will join the Urbana faculty from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia, where he served as chair of the Electrical Engineering Program and established the Robotics, Intelligent Systems, and Control Laboratory. Shamma’s research focuses on human-machine networks, autonomous systems and distributed autonomy. Prior to joining KAUST, he was a faculty member at UCLA and Georgia Tech, where he led research projects supported by more than $14 million from the National Science Foundation, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and others. He is a fellow of the IEEE and IFAC.

Lesley Sneed

Civil Engineering
Sneed College of Engineering
University of Illinois Chicago

Lesley H. Sneed will join the College of Engineering in January 2021 as a professor of civil engineering from Missouri University of Science and Technology. Her research focus includes reinforced and pre-stressed concrete structural members and systems, structural models and experimental methods, innovative methods of repair and strengthening of structures subjected to seismic loading or other extreme hazards, and design codes for structural concrete. She has earned a number of awards, including the Missouri S&T Faculty Excellence Award and the Missouri S&T Joseph H. Senne Jr. Academy of Civil Engineers Faculty Teaching and Service Achievement Award. She has received more than $11.4 million in research funding from the National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Transportation and others. Sneed also is a fellow of the American Concrete Institute.


Xiaowei Wang

Pharmacology and Bioengineering
Wang College of Medicine
University of Illinois Chicago

Xiaowei Wang is a professor of pharmacology and bioengineering and a Presidential Scholar in the College of Medicine. He leads the University of Illinois Cancer Center’s Bioinformatics Core. Wang joined UIC earlier this year from Washington University in St. Louis. Wang’s laboratory develops cutting-edge bioinformatics tools and studies prognostic biomarkers to stratify patients based on the risk of failure to standard therapies. His research has been supported by more than $10 million from the National Institutes of Health, the American Cancer Society and the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, among others. Wang has served on a number of NIH grant-review committees and has published five widely cited software packages.

 

The inaugural class of distinguished faculty included fourteen individuals:

  • Eben Alsberg, Colleges of Engineering and Medicine, UIC
  • Nancy Amato, The Grainger College of Engineering, UIUC
  • Mark Anastasio, The Grainger College of Engineering, UIUC
  • Qing Cao, The Grainger College of Engineering, UIUC
  • Ardith Zqyghuizen Doorenbos, College of Nursing, UIC
  • Ido Golding, The Grainger College of Engineering, UIUC
  • Melissa Graebner, Gies College of Business, UIUC
  • Axel Hoffman, The Grainger College of Engineering, UIUC
  • Rodney Hopson, College of Education, UIUC
  • Kenneth Kriz, College of Public Affairs and Administration, UIS
  • Liviu Mirica, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, UIUC
  • Uwe Rudolph, College of Veterinary Medicine, UIUC
  • David Sepkoski, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, UIUC
  • John Stewart IV, College of Medicine, UIC