The University of Alabama (UA) seeks a visionary Executive Director for the Alabama Water Institute (AWI).
The Executive Director reports directly to the Vice President for Research & Economic Development and serves in a full-time, 12-month, administrative position. Due to the wide scope of responsibilities, UA invites strong candidates with various backgrounds and experiences from academia, government, non-profit, and/or industry to apply. Depending on background and experience, the Executive Director may be a Senior Research Professional (staff position) and/or an adjunct or tenured faculty member in an appropriate academic department at UA, subject to UA’s standard review practices.
UA, having doubled in size since 2002, is one the nation’s fastest-growing flagship universities. In December 2018, the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education designated UA as a Very High Research Activity Doctoral University, formerly called “R1,” a designation assigned to the nation’s highest level of research activity for institutions that grant doctoral degrees, placing UA among the most elite research universities in the U.S. The Carnegie designation followed unprecedented investment in the campus and in new faculty. Since July 2015, UA President, Dr. Stuart R. Bell, has overseen a $1.16 billion investment in the physical campus, adding more than 2.55 million gross sq ft of space, and the recruitment of over 250 new research-intensive faculty and research professional staff.
The progress of UA’s research and economic development enterprise over the past four years has been extraordinary. Total externally sponsored awards to UA increased by 113%, and total R&D expenditures increased by 105%. In the past three fiscal years, total annual funding from industry partnerships has increased by 500% from about $3 million to more than $15 million. This growth rate strengthens UA’s position as the fastest growing in the Southeastern Conference and in the top 10 for all 146 R1 institutions.
In April 2022, AWI led a consortium to win a competitive five-year $360 million Cooperative Institute award from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) titled, “Cooperative Institute for Research to Operations in Hydrology (CIROH),” representing the largest externally sponsored award in UA’s history. CIROH’s research themes include improving water resources prediction capabilities; advancing community water resources modeling; innovating hydroinformatics tools and data science applications; and integrating social, economic, and behavioral science in water resources prediction.
Also in 2022, the Global Water Security Center, under AWI’s umbrella, secured $4 million in new funding through the Department of Defense and worked with major science agencies to develop cooperative agreements.
AWI coordinates across disciplines to maximize benefits of water-related core facilities and research centers at UA. Current affiliated centers include the Centers for Complex Hydrosystems Research, Freshwater Studies, Sedimentary Basin Studies, Water Quality Research, Remote Sensing Center, and the Global Water Security Center. Faculty from multiple UA departments are affiliated with AWI.
UA’s campus is also home to two federal facilities with primary emphasis in water research and operations.
The National Water Center (NWC) within NOAA’s Office of Water Prediction, 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 United States Geological Survey (USGS) is currently building a state-of-art Hydrological Instrumentation Facility (HIF) on UA’s campus. USGS supports water-resource monitoring and evaluation efforts by providing quality-assured hydrologic equipment and instrumentation to the USGS, federal, state, and local agencies, academia, and private industry.
The strong presence of NOAA-NWC and USGS-HIF on UA’s campus provides an unprecedented opportunity for collaboration and partnership.
Strategic Plan for the Alabama Water Institute
UA is committed to premier water-related research and education. AWI’s goal is to become a world-class interdisciplinary water research institute that develops path-breaking, holistic, and environmentally friendly solutions to ensure people and ecological systems in our community, state, nation, and around the world are water secure, with access to clean water, and are resilient to extreme events. UA researchers promote water research in areas of remote sensing, biodiversity of aquatic systems, water quality, water and wastewater treatment, groundwater assessment, flood and drought forecasting, hydro-informatics, and disaster planning and engagement. Partnering agencies include NOAA, USGS, Army Corps of Engineers, NASA, National Science Foundation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and the Alabama Geological Survey. With government relationships and numerous private sector partnerships, AWI improves existing centers by encouraging effective multi-disciplinary collaboration and by exploring opportunities to develop new water-related centers.
AWI’s current strategic plan, encompassing years 2021 through 2026, has the following four strategic research themes:
1. Modeling and Remote Sensing – Develop and improve modeling and remote sensors to broaden research in water resource management, hazard assessments, and communications.
2. Integrated Water Resource Assessment – Develop basic understanding needed to inform programs and policies to reduce impact on water quantity, water quality, threatened and endangered species, health, and ecosystem function.
3. Management of Water Hazards – Develop and improve predictive tools that reduce risk and increase resilience of agricultural, industrial, public water supplies, and natural ecosystems to stressors.
4. Water Security and Risk Communication – Create research opportunities to communicate water, science, and risk impacts on society.
The 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 and elevate AWI’s national and international profile.
- Coordinate closely with federal water agencies.
- Partner with UA staff and the Vice President for Research & 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 through multi-disciplinary collaboration and partnerships across UA and beyond.
- Work closely with existing affiliated centers to ensure their growth and success.
- Stimulate the development of new research centers consistent with the AWI research focus and leverage unique research resources within UA.
- Foster and support high quality research and scholarly activities within AWI by ensuring a stimulating, collegial, and well-managed environment.
- Collaborate with academic units to attract, retain, and develop faculty and staff who will promote academic and research excellence and will contribute to the successful development of AWI.
- Manage resources effectively to ensure AWI is self-sustainable.
- Engage a range of internal and external stakeholders to identify research opportunities and partnerships.
- Assess gaps and meet the need for common resources and facilities across AWI-affiliated centers.
Required Qualifications of the Executive Director
- Bachelor's degree with 10 years of relevant experience or master's degree with at least seven years of relevant experience.
- Extensive research and operational experience working in an academic, industrial, and/or government setting.
- At least three 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.
- Demonstrated experience in government relations, including developing proposals and securing state and/or federal appropriations.
- Demonstrated experience working with one or more key federal partners focused on water, including, but not limited to, NOAA, USGS, Army Corps of Engineers, NASA, National Science Foundation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Environmental Protection Agency.
- Demonstrated business acumen, with experience managing public/private partnerships and fostering government to industry relationships.
- Compelling evidence of being a trusted and effective colleague.
- History of successful and effective staff management and professional development, and the proven capacity to recruit and successfully train and develop researchers.
- Acute understanding of the priorities, operation, and strategies of securing externally funded grants and contracts to support research and applied research.
- Additional required qualifications for faculty consideration: Strong academic record and eligibility for the rank of Full Professor in an appropriate academic department at UA; and a PhD in a relevant discipline.
Preferred Qualifications of the Executive Director
In addition to meeting the required qualifications, the preferred candidate will have one or more of the following:
- Evidence of national and/or international reputation in one or more of the scientific disciplines represented by AWI.
- Successful and sustained record of achieving prominent 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 with multiple 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 April 1, 2023 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 the required qualifications may be contacted immediately for inquiry and 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 February 28, 2023; however, the position will remain open until filled. Applications submitted after February 28, 2023, will be reviewed and considered if the position remains unfilled. Application materials should include: 1) a full and updated resume, 2) cover letter summarizing 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.
Background Investigation Statement: Prior to hiring, the final candidate(s) must successfully pass a pre-employment background investigation and information obtained from social media and other internet sources. A prior conviction reported as a result of the background investigation DOES NOT automatically disqualify a candidate from consideration for this position. A candidate with a prior conviction or negative behavioral red flags will receive an individualized review of the prior conviction or negative behavioral red flags before a hiring decision is made.