Faculty Professional Development Assignment (FPDA) Program Overview

Faculty Professional Development Assignments (FPDA) allow faculty time to advance work on research and scholarship that is difficult or impossible to perform in conjunction with one's on-campus responsibilities. FPDAs provide faculty with a release from teaching and service responsibilities, however the responsibility to continue mentoring current graduate students and post doctoral research associates remains. This professional development assignment may also entail international travel and/or familiarization with new or specialized training in the faculty member's discipline. FPDAs are expected to result in publications, grants, scholarly innovation and enhanced learning opportunities for students.

The University recognizes that significant opportunities for professional growth and development are required periodically by faculty members and that the Faculty Professional Development Assignment Program is one of the best modes in which to achieve such growth and development. The University strives to promote an environment in which the faculty will be motivated to participate enthusiastically in the Faculty Professional Development Assignment Program. This environment permits both the faculty and administration to plan so as to obtain the desired results from the program.

Criteria for review

The criteria used to evaluate Faculty Professional Development Assignment applications include:

  • Determination of the extent to which the assignment will enhance the future performance of the individual's duties as a faculty member;
  • A clear indication that the improvement sought in a period of leave will benefit the department and the institution;
  • A clear understanding that granting the assignment is an investment in the future of the faculty member and of the department, and is not intended as a reward for past performance;
  • Length of time since the most recent previous faculty professional development assignment (previously known as faculty improvement leave). A minimum of two years from completion of previous faculty professional development assignment must have passed;
  • Evidence of productive use of any previous faculty professional development assignment;
  • Evidence of the proposer's record of scholarly or creative activity.


Faculty Professional Development Assignments may be used for a number of purposes. Examples of purposes include:

  • To conduct research or scholarship. This may involve work impossible to perform at Iowa State University or difficult to perform in conjunction with one's on-campus responsibilities. Many faculty members find that their normal duties prevent them from giving sufficient attention to an ongoing research, scholarly or creative project. Others may have accumulated substantial amounts of data or other materials and now need time to sort through, analyze, and prepare the results of their earlier work for publication.
  • To obtain new or specialized training. Faculty members may find it desirable to take the time to familiarize themselves with new methods in their major fields of interest, to collaborate with others, or to "retool" by switching emphases. In such cases, the faculty member will presumably apply these techniques to work on campus and/or use them in teaching students.
  • To participate in an international program. Because the funding for international programs, such as the Fulbright program, is seldom sufficient to cover the costs involved, faculty interested in participating may wish to combine such activities with a Faculty Professional Development Assignment.


All members of the faculty employed half-time or more are eligible to apply for Faculty Professional Development Assignment. There is no arbitrary restriction on length of service in order to qualify for a faculty professional development assignment. However, priority may be given to tenured faculty over adjunct and term faculty, and to persons who have not received a faculty professional development assignment in the past five years.

Salary and benefits

The Faculty Professional Development Assignment program allows for a maximum of six months' salary through ISU payroll, regardless of fund source. A faculty member on assignment for six months or less will continue in full paid status; a faculty member on an assignment of more than six months will receive six months' salary with the salary prorated across the total period of the assignment. Grant funds may not "supplement the maximum salary paid" during the period of the assignment. Regardless of the length of the assignment, full benefit contributions (to the various employee benefit programs in which the faculty member is enrolled) continue.

Length of assignment

A Faculty Professional Development Assignment may be no longer than twelve months. When assignment dates do not conform to the beginning or ending dates of a semester, a separate justification/approval memo outlining how teaching responsibilities will be covered during that fraction of time will be required of the department chair(s) via the dean(s). This memo should accompany the FPDA application. Persons on 9-month appointment are not eligible for assignments that include all or part of the summer session, but may include the summer period in their assignment on an unpaid basis.

IMPORTANT NOTE: A faculty member who applies for and is awarded an FPDA must agree to return to active/paid service in the academic semester(s) following the FPDA for a period of at least twice the length of the assignment. If the faculty member should not complete this payback obligation for any reason, they will be required to pay the State of Iowa an amount equal to the total compensation (salary and benefits) received during the FPDA period. 

Application and review process

Early in the fall semester, the applicant initiates an FPDA proposal for the following academic year by preparing the required materials as outlined in the Faculty Professional Development Assignment Application Guidelines, including the Application Cover Sheet (DOC, 41KB), and submits these to the department chair for departmental review, often by a committee. The department chair sends the request, with the department's priority rating, to the dean for review by the professional development committee of the faculty member's college. Those requests that are supported by the college review committee will be reviewed by the dean to determine whether they can be financially supported by the college. All Faculty Professional Development Assignment recommendations granted by the deans are forwarded to the Office of the Senior Vice President and Provost by September 15. [College memo template, DOC, 22KB] These must be approved by the Senior Vice President and Provost, the President, and the Board of Regents before they become official. Announcement of assignments granted for the following academic year are made at the beginning of the spring semester.

Upon completion of FPDA

Each faculty member granted a Faculty Professional Development Assignment is required to submit an FPDA Final Report (DOC, 15KB) upon completion of the assignment. The final report will provide information that compares the proposed assignment to the actual results obtained (e.g., article submitted, training completed, draft manuscript produced, international collaboration established, grant submitted, etc.). The final report will also include information about external grant proposals submitted and grant funds received as a result of the assignment. The FPDA Final Report (DOC, 15KB) must be routed by the college to the Office of the Senior Vice President and Provost by September 15.



Scientist looking at leaves

FY2024 FPDA Recipients

For questions or more information, contact:

Kaela Black,
Faculty Personnel and Policy Director,