Cluster Hiring Initiative

In 1998, UW-Madison launched an innovative university/state partnership—the Cluster Hiring Initiative (CHI). This bold effort was designed to foster collaborative research, education and outreach by creating new interdisciplinary areas of knowledge that crossed the boundaries of existing academic departments. The faculty hired within the 49 newly funded areas, or “clusters,” have approached their work with excitement and optimism. This Web site explains the program and highlights the facultyʼs accomplishments.

Questions about the initiative should be directed to Michael Bernard-Donals, Vice Provost for Faculty and Staff (, 262-5246) or Mo Noonan Bischof, Associate Vice Provost (, 262-5246).

Goals and Objectives

The University of Wisconsin-Madison is one of the preeminent research universities in the world. We achieved that distinction by continually pushing the frontiers of research, scholarship and creative work. Some of the most exciting and important advances are at the borders and connections among disciplines and require multidisciplinary collaborations and the integration of concepts from many different areas. While it is important to maintain and build on our strengths in core disciplines, we also must facilitate cross-disciplinary work if we are to remain at the forefront of research, scholarship and creative activities. That is the main goal of the Cluster Hiring Initiative. The initiative also will enhance cross-disciplinary student learning and benefit our state's economy.

The Cluster Hiring Initiative was launched in 1998 and rolled out via an internal proposal process during a four-year period to provide an alternative to departmentally based hiring practices and norms. In essence, the cluster initiative is an incentive plan designed to facilitate interdisciplinary strategic hiring by providing salary support for faculty positions. The historical objectives of the Cluster Hiring Initiative are to:

• enable the campus to devote a critical mass of faculty to an area of knowledge that would not be addressed through existing departmental structures;
• provide for new research tracks and collaborative opportunities;
• address complex societal problems;
• advance the Wisconsin Idea by serving societyʼs needs through interdisciplinary research, learning and service;
• encourage and foster cooperation within an already strong faculty and staff;
• create new curricular offerings on the undergraduate and graduate levels; and
• assist in fulfilling other missions of the university, particularly increasing campus diversity.

To date, the Cluster Hiring Initiative has authorized 49 clusters and approximately 130 centrally-funded faculty positions in a variety of interdisciplinary areas. In addition, schools and colleges have matched several positions. There is a current campus moratorium on approving campus replacement lines to cluster faculty pending the current budget review and strategic planning. The campus will embark on a new “ecological” model of generous transition or “bridge” funding for future cluster lines. We anticipate that new procedures and policies will be developed for proposing replacement cluster faculty searches or entirely new clusters sometime within 2013-14.

Office of the Provost Oversight

The Cluster Hiring Initiative is managed through the University of Wisconsin-Madison Office of the Provost. Questions about the initiative should be directed to Michael Bernard-Donals, Vice Provost for Faculty and Staff (, 262-5246) or Mo Noonan Bischof, Associate Vice Provost (, 262-5246). 


Call for new proposals to be announced at a future date to be determined.