UNCC pleased to hit professorial jackpot

In the academic world, it's akin to the Charlotte Bobcats signing LeBron James or Kobe Bryant – an instant profile boost.

That's what the newest crop of star professors, occupants of seven endowed chairs, could do for UNCCharlotte, university officials say.

The seven distinguished professors include cancer researcher Pinku Mukherjee and Joe Mazzola, UNCC's new business school dean and the Belk Distinquished Professor in Business Administration, lured away from Georgetown University.

They arrive at a time when many public universities are experiencing a significant “brain drain,” as more prosperous private or public schools raid prominent faculty by offering more salary and better research opportunities. To UNCC, the seven hires are major free-agent acquisitions.

“Because they actively publish in high-quality journals and are invited to speak at other institutions … they put the university out there in a highly visible way,” said Provost Joan Lorden.

UNCC's haul has surprised some.

Lorden said she recently spoke with leaders at UNCChapel Hill's Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center who knew Mukherjee was on her way to Charlotte from the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix.

They thought she was going to Carolinas Medical Center.

“We don't have a medical school, so someone with Pinku's research profile is not an obvious person for us to recruit,” Lorden said.

It helped that her banker husband was offered a job here and that Charlotte is home to major hospitals already doing important cancer research.

Beyond raising a school's profile, star professors are important mentors to junior faculty.

“These are the kind of people who create an intellectual environment that help us attract other senior faculty and top graduate students,” Lorden said.