Campus office helps new faculty adjust to life in Berkeley

Andrew Kuo/Staff

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Faced with continually dwindling state funding and increasing competition from private universities, Lisa Bagnatori’s job — making sure the best and brightest professors choose to make UC Berkeley their home — is not always easy.

A Cal alumna, Bagnatori was hired in 2008 as the campus’s CALcierge, a position created as a part of a continued campus initiative to improve faculty recruitment by helping prospective recruits with the adjustment process that comes with moving to a new area.

UC Berkeley professor of psychology Sheldon Zedeck, who helped develop the position during his time as vice provost for academic affairs and faculty welfare, said that he had noticed that the campus “needed to provide more to candidates we were trying to recruit to help them make the decision to come to Berkeley.”

Bagnatori’s job works to get around the campus’s monetary struggles by offering prospective faculty a different benefit: individual advice and attention. The CALcierge office provides relocation services to prospective and new faculty as well as career services for partners and spouses and information about child care and schooling.

“They can ask me questions that they would not be comfortable asking the head of the search committee, such as what type of help can Berkeley offer to my partner or spouse to find work,” Bagnatori said.

Lok Siu, an associate professor who joined the ethnic studies department this fall after teaching at the University of Texas at Austin and New York University, said the information and resources Bagnatori provided were critical in her decision process.

“When I wanted to get a sense of the real estate in the area, she put me in contact with two agents, who showed me the various neighborhoods in the area,” Siu said.

Berkeley is not the only campus facing these struggles. UCLA’s Vice Provost for Diversity and Faculty Development Christine Littleton said that administrators at that campus are also investigating new ways to accommodate faculty needs and improve faculty recruitment in the face of increased competition from private universities. The future of providing that kind of service, however, depends on funding, Littleton said.

Zedeck said administrators hope that the CALcierge position will also help improve the campus’s faculty retention rate in addition to its ability to recruit. The CALcierge position addresses personal factors, such as family and living concerns, which make the decision to remain on campus a much easier one, Zedeck said.

“If the kids are in a good school, (they have) bought a house, research is going well, people don’t want to leave,” said Littleton.

Janet Broughton, vice provost for the faculty, told UC Berkeley NewsCenter that the campus won 88 percent of 33 retention cases determined in the 2010-11 academic year, an increase from the year before, when 72 percent of 50 were determined in the campus’s favor.

Raka Ray, chair of the UC Berkeley department of sociology, said the CALcierge position also eases individual departments’ worries about faculty recruitment.

“Cal understands that we live in a word of dual-income households, and we will try to make it possible for the spouses of new hires to find a job or career that would be fulfilling for them as well,” she said.

Contact Alex Berryhill at [email protected].