Cluster Hiring Initiative

Program Update

The Cluster Hiring Initiative is no longer accepting new proposals.

The Wisconsin Research, Innovation and Scholarly Excellence (RISE) Initiative is a multifaceted effort focused on faculty hiring, research infrastructure, interdisciplinary collaboration and student opportunity. For more information, visit


The Cluster Hiring Initiative was launched in 1998 as an innovative university-state partnership. Managed through the Office of the Provost, this bold effort was designed to foster collaborative research, education and outreach by creating new interdisciplinary areas of knowledge that cross the boundaries of existing academic departments. Over two phases and several rounds of hiring, the Cluster Hiring Initiative has authorized almost 70 clusters

The program goals include:

  • Enable the university to focus on areas of knowledge that can only be addressed across existing departmental structures
  • Provide new research tracks and collaborative opportunities
  • Address difficult contemporary problems
  • Advance the Wisconsin Idea through interdisciplinary research, learning and service
  • Encourage and foster cooperation within an already strong faculty and staff
  • Assist the fulfillment of other missions of the university, particularly increasing diversity

Recruiting Cluster Faculty

The program is not accepting new proposals at this time. All previously authorized clusters should continue to recruit for their open positions.

For the most part, the process for recruiting faculty members of the cluster will follow the best practices in your school, college, or division for hiring all faculty, while coordinating efforts with other departments involved in the cluster. Please review our Cluster Hiring Procedures for Recruitment page before launching your search.

If a cluster-hire faculty member leaves UW–Madison, replacement requests may be submitted to and will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

Financial Details

Annual Salary Allocation

Phase I “legacy clusters” (pre-2017): The Cluster Hiring Initiative pays a set amount of the annual salary and 50% of base salary adjustments in cases of promotion. Schools, colleges, or divisions must notify us of promotion increases at in order for the annual allocation to be increased. In most cases, these employees have already been promoted to professors, so the annual allocation will not change.

Phase II “new clusters” (2017-2023): The Cluster Hiring Initiative pays 100% of the starting salary rate for six years (employees hired as assistant professors) or five years (employees hired as associate professors or professors). Thereafter, the Cluster Hiring Initiative pays 70% of the starting salary rate annually. Departments are responsible for any salary increases.

Salary for both Phase I and II employees is added to the annual planning allocation and verified each year by the school, college, or division’s financial team.

Salary Savings

If a 135-funded cluster faculty member has part of their salary paid on gifts or grants, one half that part of their salary will be returned to the Office of the Provost. The other half may, upon request, be returned to the faculty member’s department only for expenses directly related to that faculty member’s cluster-related activities.

Requests for salary savings may be made at the beginning of each fiscal year by submitting a brief proposal that details the amount requested, why funds are leftover, and how the funds would be used to support the faculty member’s cluster-related activities to

When Cluster Faculty are on Leave or Resign

When a cluster-hire faculty member is on 100 percent leave from the university (whether or not they intend to return to UW-Madison), or has resigned their position, the salary funds will be returned to central campus. Funding for cluster-hire faculty members on sabbatical continues as usual and is not reduced.