Recruiting Faculty

In the early stages of program establishment, it is important to recruit faculty for whom VIP is an easy fit. These faculty will become examples for others and advocates for your program within their departments. Across the Consortium, we have found that “easy fit” faculty typically:

  • Already work with undergraduates
  • Are working on large projects that need additional minds/hands
  • Need help from other disciplines
  • Want to try a new idea in a low-stakes setting
  • Are looking for “broader impacts” activities to incorporate into proposals
  • Want to build their research portfolios but do not have the resources to support graduate students

At Georgia Tech, faculty are never assigned by a department to develop or take over teams. Instead, it is a voluntary program, where faculty request teams to work with them and their graduate students. In general, the Director of VIP talks about VIP at faculty meetings in different departments and requests that interested faculty contact them if they would like to have a team. After the initial VIP advisers in a department have success with their teams, other faculty step forward and ask to have teams of their own.

When a potential adviser wishes to discuss joining VIP, they fill out a Team Info Sheet, and we discuss the nature and expected duration of the project. In general, projects should be open-ended and given broad titles to allow the project to evolve in directions that cannot be foreseen when they are launched. The shortest expected duration that should be allowed at launch is four years.

Keep it Simple

Our goal is to support faculty research – not make additional work. Just as the student application is short and simple, so too is the Team Info Sheet. The sheet is used to post a team description online, and students don’t need nitty-gritty details on projects. If anything, you want team information sheets to describe the project in a very general sense so the description will last for many semesters. Other wise they/you will have to keep updating it.

Small Chunks

We’ve also found that if you ask for too much information at once, it will discourage follow-through. When our program was in the early stages, it was easy to coordinate details by email (instructor usernames, meeting day/time, graduate student information, etc.). As we grew, this became harder to do, so we added more fields to the form, which unfortunately increased the effort involved in the first stage of team establishment. To make it less of a burden, we now collect the “Team Info Sheet” as a part i form (the fun stuff), and then other details after the team is approved (scheduling, grad students, the boring stuff).

Text for Faculty Recruiting

We have two pages on our website for prospective faculty. One provides a description of VIP from a faculty-member’s point of view (“Why VIP”, below), and the other provides instructions on how to request a team.


Through VIP, student teams are embedded in faculty research projects. Faculty are attracted to the program for a variety of reasons. In some cases, they already work with undergraduates, and VIP provides a framework for more effective management. Others want to work with students from other departments, and VIP recruits students from across campus (and all teams are multidiscipinary). Still others seek a low-stakes environment in which to try new ideas, and VIP students provide willing support. Additionally, VIP can serve as “broader impacts” or educational components required by some sponsoring agencies. What all teams have in common is that they are established at the request of faculty. Teams evolve with their faculty-member’s research and become integral parts of the instructors’ research portfolios. While faculty provide the materials and supplies needed to run the team, there are no program fees.

Students can participate in VIP for multiple semesters, with returning students taking on additional technical and/or leadership responsibilities within their teams. This lessens the time faculty spend on-boarding new students, freeing them to focus on higher-order work. Maintaining a team of 10-20 students ensures enough students return each semester to maintain continuity. Additionally, multiple majors provide incentives for earning 5-6 VIP credits over several semesters, increasing student persistence in the program.

VIP Projects:

  • Defined by faculty advisor
  • Long-term: on the order of 3-5 years
  • Large-scale: Large enough for 10-20 students to work on, at 1-2 credits each semester
  • Multidisciplinary

VIP Team Composition:

  • Faculty advisor: defines the project, leads the team, and grades students
  • Graduate students:
    • Mentors: paid by faculty advisor, enroll for a 0-credit section of VIP
    • Students: 1-3 credits
  • Undergraduates:
    • Sophomores: 1 credit
    • Juniors: 1-2 credits
    • Seniors: 1-2 credits, 3 for ECE Senior Design or CS Junior Design
    • For Pay: Students can use VIP for PURA awards. Faculty can also hire students, typically indispensable students who’ve maxed-out the number of credits that they can use toward their degrees.