University of Wisconsin–Madison

Cluster Hiring Initiative

Starting in fall 2017, UW-Madison will make a substantial investment in a new iteration of the initiative over the course of the next three years. It is anticipated that funding will be provided for about five new clusters in each of the three years, for a total of up to fifteen new faculty each year.


The Cluster Hiring Initiative was launched in 1998 as an innovative university-state partnership, and is managed through the Office of the Provost. This bold effort is designed to foster collaborative research, education and outreach by creating new interdisciplinary areas of knowledge that cross the boundaries of existing academic departments. To date, the initiative has authorized nearly 50 “clusters”  and continues to centrally fund faculty from across campus.

Goals and Objectives

The Cluster Hiring Initiative aims to provide an alternative to departmentally based hiring practices and norms. In essence, the initiative is an incentive plan designed to facilitate interdisciplinary strategic hiring by providing salary support for faculty positions. The historical objectives 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 society?s 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
  • Assist in fulfilling other missions of the university, particularly increasing campus diversity

Hiring Policies

Pay Tools Covered by the Initiative

The Cluster Hiring Initiative will pay a portion of the base salary adjustments of cluster faculty when applicable in cases of 1) post-tenure review and 2) promotion. Additionally, cluster-hire faculty are eligible for increases from the Faculty Block Grant.

Salary Policy

When Cluster Faculty are on 100% Leave or a Position is Vacated

When a cluster-hire faculty member is on 100 percent leave from the university (whether or not she/he intends to return to UW-Madison), or has resigned her/his position, the salary funds will be returned to central campus.

Cluster Faculty Replacement

In the event that a cluster-hire faculty member resigns from UW-Madison or is not granted tenure, the position and corresponding salary is returned to the central campus. Requests for replacement faculty may take place when the current freeze is lifted, and will need to compete with other requests when the Office of the Provost issue calls for proposals.

Salary Savings

When Cluster Faculty Pay a Portion of Their Salary with Extramural Sources

When a cluster-hire budgeted faculty member goes off budget by paying a portion of his/her salary from extramural grants or other funding sources, any salary savings will be retained by the cluster program. Permission to use unspent salary to pay for expenses – such as PAs or equipment – directly related to the faculty member’s cluster activities must be requested.

Dual Career Couple and Strategic Hire Funds

Dual Career Couple and Strategic Hire funds are available in appropriate cases to facilitate the recruitment of cluster hires.

Cluster Evaluation Reports and Recommendations

Round 2 Proposal Deadline

April 2, 2018 @ 4pm

See proposal criteria and instructions.


There will be multiple call for proposals between fall 2017 and 2019. If funding remains, calls will continue beyond 2019-20.

Round 1 – Fall 2017
Round 2 – Spring 2018
Round 3 – Fall 2018
Round 4 – Fall 2019


Please review the
FAQ page.

If you still have questions, please contact:
Michael Bernard-Donals
Vice Provost for Faculty and Staff
Office of the Provost

Current and Past Clusters

Browse a list of current and past clusters.