Executive Director of Alabama Water Institute

The University of Alabama - Office for Research & Economic Development
Tuscaloosa, Alabama
commensurate with experience
Aug 08, 2019
Sep 07, 2019
The University of Alabama
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Executive Director, Alabama Water Institute

The University of Alabama

The University of Alabama seeks a visionary full-time Executive Director of the Alabama Water Institute (AWI).  The Executive Director, reporting directly to the Vice President for Research and Economic Development, will hold a tenured, full professor faculty position in an appropriate academic department at The University of Alabama (UA).

UA, having doubled in size since 2002, is the nation’s fastest-growing flagship university. UA currently enrolls more than 38,500 undergraduate, graduate, and professional students, and now attracts more than half of its students from out-of-state. Additionally, in recent years UA has invested $2.5 billion in campus buildings and infrastructure, including over $400 million in world-class research facilities. As part of the Peter Bryce Campus acquisition, the University also has considerable land and facility holdings available for allocation to the research mission. External grants and contracts reached record levels for UA in fiscal year 2018, and have grown by 85 percent over the last five years.  In December 2018, the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education designated UA as a Very High Research Activity doctoral university or “R1.” 

Building on this momentum, with a forward-looking focus on growth in faculty and research prominence, UA plans to increase substantially the size of the tenured and tenure-track faculty in the coming years, with an eye toward research synergies and addressing our national and global challenges. These investments create exciting opportunities, perhaps unique in the nation, in terms of the potential for research advancements over the coming decade.

Water is a signature research and academic thrust at UA, and the AWI was formed to conduct integrated research and education on complex issues of water quantity, water quality, economy and water security from global to local scales.  The Executive Director position and AWI are vital to UA’s plan to increase research productivity and impact. AWI is a foundation of UA’s Strategic Plan to “Increase the University’s productivity and innovation in research, scholarship, and creative activities that impact economic and societal development.” 

AWI will embrace the University’s strategic objectives by:

  • Leveraging the University’s strengths to create new opportunities for supporting various water resources including freshwater and marine waterways, marshes, estuaries and coastal areas, ecology and ecosystems sciences. 
  • Investing in infrastructure that promotes a thriving water research enterprise.
  • Cultivating, supporting, sponsoring and conducting research that enriches the University’s water research.

AWI is an umbrella organization, consisting of a set of core facilities and research centers and institutes. Current affiliated centers and laboratories include the Center for Complex Hydrosystems Research, Center for Water Quality Research, Center for Freshwater Studies, Center for Sedimentary Basin Studies, Surface Dynamics Modeling Lab and Remote Sensing Center. In addition, AWI will also serve as an incubator for the development of new centers.

Faculty from multiple UA departments are affiliated with AWI including Biological Sciences, Chemical and Biological Engineering, Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering, Computer Science, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Geological Sciences, Geography and Mathematics.  

AWI fosters collaboration across the University, as well as with other academic institutions, industry, state and federal governmental agencies and private foundations.   For example, UA is a member of the Dauphin Island Sea Lab/Alabama Marine Environmental Sciences Consortium as well as Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium and AWI has an important leadership role in each.

The University of Alabama’s campus is also home to the National Water Center (NWC), a center within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service. The NWC collaboratively develops and delivers state-of-the-science national hydrologic analyses, forecast information, data, decision-support services and guidance to support and inform essential emergency services and water management decisions.  The NWC coordinates, integrates and supports consistent water prediction activities from global to local levels.  The strong presence of NWC on UA’s campus provides unequaled opportunity for collaboration and partnership.

The AWI Executive Director will have the following responsibilities:

  • Provide a vision for collaborative water research through effective leadership that embraces the full range of disciplines represented by AWI.
  • Develop AWI’s national and international profile.
  • Partner with staff and the Vice President for Research and Economic Development to identify, promote and contribute resources to strengthen AWI and manage its portfolio. This includes identifying and supporting opportunities for research within existing funding streams and, where possible, through multi-disciplinary collaboration and partnerships across the University and beyond.
  • Work closely with existing centers affiliated with AWI to ensure their growth and success.
  • Stimulate the development of new research centers that are consistent with the AWI research focus and leverage unique research resources within the University.
  • Foster and support high quality research and scholarly activities within AWI by ensuring a stimulating, collegial, and well-managed environment.
  • Work with academic units to attract, retain and develop faculty and staff who will promote academic and research excellence within the AWI and will contribute to the successful development of AWI.
  • Manage resources effectively to ensure the AWI is self-sustainable.
  • Engage a range of internal and external stakeholders to identify research opportunities and partnerships.
  • Oversee regular meetings of the AWI Coordinating Council, consisting of the directors of the involved research centers.
  • Establish and foster an external Advisory Council.
  • Assess gaps and meet the need for common resources and facilities across AWI-affiliated centers.
  • Assist the Office for Research and Economic Development in executing its new Five-Year Strategic Plan.

Required Qualifications of the Executive Director

  • Strong academic record and eligibility for the rank of Full Professor in an appropriate academic department at The University of Alabama. 
  • A PhD in a relevant discipline.
  • Extensive research experience working in an academic, industrial or government research setting.
  • At least 10 years of experience leading successful cross-disciplinary research teams, as evidenced nationally and, preferably, internationally.
  • Evidence of a firm understanding of the full range of disciplines represented by AWI.
  • Strong evidence of being a trusted and effective colleague.
  • History of successful and effective staff management and professional development.
  • Proven capacity to successfully train and develop early-career researchers.
  • Acute understanding of the priorities, operation and strategies of securing externally-funded grants and contracts to support research.

Preferred Qualifications of the Executive Director

In addition to meeting the required qualifications, the preferred candidate will have one or more of the following:

  • Experience in the full range of scientific disciplines represented by AWI.
  • Extensive research experience at a research-intensive university or research-intensive governmental agency.
  • Successful and sustained record of achieving high levels of research-based funding as a Principal Investigator.
  • Existing externally funded research in areas of science represented by AWI and the desire to maintain funding while serving in the Executive Director position.
  • Experience developing and leading successful partnerships at other academic institutions, industry, state and federal governmental agencies, and foundations.  
  • A record of pursuing and supporting technology transfer and licensing, and economic development activities.

The planned start date is as early as January 1, 2020 but is negotiable.  Only applicants currently legally eligible to work in the United States will be considered. 

This is an open, national and rolling search.  Review of applications will begin immediately as they are received.  Candidates meeting all of the required qualifications may be contacted immediately for inquiry and an interview.  It is possible that a preferred candidate may be selected as other applications are still being received.  Therefore, the most serious and qualified candidates are encouraged to submit their application as soon as possible.  To receive the fullest and timely consideration, applications should be submitted prior to September 30, 2019; however, the position will remain open until filled.  Applications submitted after September 30, 2019 will be reviewed and considered as long as the position remains unfilled.  Application materials should include: 1) a full and updated resume, 2) cover letter summarizing the interest in the position and how the minimum qualifications and any preferred qualifications are met, and 3) a list of four references with full contact information.  However, references will only be contacted after written consent of the candidate. 

All applicants must apply online at: http://facultyjobs.ua.edu/postings/44995

Nominations, questions and/or other inquiries should be directed to the Search Committee Co-Chairs, Dr. Behzad Mortazavi (Chair and Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, College of Arts and Sciences; bmortazavi@ua.edu) and Dr. Mark Elliott (Associate Professor, Department of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering, College of Engineering; melliott@eng.ua.edu).