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; the responsibility to continue mentoring current graduate students and post-doctoral research fellows 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 FPDA 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 FPDA 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 FPDA 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/school and the institution;
  • A clear understanding that granting the assignment is an investment in the future of the faculty member and of the department/school, and is not intended as a reward for past performance;
  • Evidence of the proposer's record of scholarly or creative activity.
  • Length of time since the previous FPDA (or faculty improvement leave). A minimum of two academic years from completion of previous FPDA must have passed;
  • Evidence of productive use of any previous FPDA.


FPDAs 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, collaborate with others, or "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 an FPDA.


All members of the faculty employed half-time or more are eligible to apply for FPDA. There is no arbitrary restriction on length of service in order to qualify for FPDA. Priority, however, may be given to tenured faculty over term faculty and to persons who have not received an FPDA in the past five years.

Salary and benefits

The FPDA program allows for a maximum of six months' salary through Iowa State University payroll, regardless of funding source. A faculty member on FPDA for six months or less will continue in full paid status; a faculty member on FPDA 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 continue to the various employee benefit programs in which the faculty member is enrolled.

Length of assignment

An FPDA 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)/school director(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 FPDA on an unpaid basis.

Obligations to the University and the State of Iowa immediately following an approved FPDA assignment

A faculty member who 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 does 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 per Iowa Code 262.9(14). The payback requirement is the sole responsibility of the Faculty member and must be paid through personal funds. There is no allowance for university funds of any type to be used to pay or supplement the payback requirement.

Application and review process

Prior to or early in the academic year, 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, 114KB), and submits these to the department chair/school director for review, often by a committee. The department chair/school director sends the request, with the department/school's priority rating, to the dean for review by the FPDA committee of the faculty member's college. Those requests that are supported by the college FPDA review committee will be considered by the dean to determine whether they can be financially supported by the college. All FPDA recommendations granted by the deans are forwarded to the Office of the Senior Vice President and Provost by September 15. These must be approved by the Senior Vice President and Provost, the President, and the Iowa Board of Regents before they become official. Announcement of FPDAs granted for the following academic year are made at the beginning of the spring semester.

For more information

Contact your college-level, FPDA representative to receive additional guidance and request sample applications forms:

  • College of Agriculture and Life Sciences: Ruth MacDonald, Ph.D., Associate Dean, Personnel and Finance; Professor of Food Science and Human Nutrition; email: ruthmacd@iastate.edu; phone: (515) 294-5991
  • Ivy College of Business: Scott Johnson, Ph.D., Associate Dean, Research and Academic Personnel; Professor of Management and Entrepreneurship; email: sgj68@iastate.edu; phone: (515) 294-2460
  • College of Design: Seda McKilligan, Ph.D., Associate Dean; Professor of Industrial Design; email: seda@iastate.edu; phone: (515) 294-0737
  • College of Engineering: Sriram Sundararajan, Ph.D., Associate Dean for Academic Affairs; Professor of Mechanical Engineering; email: srirams@iastate.edu; phone: (515) 294-1050
  • College of Human Sciences: Deb Sellers, Ph.D., Associate Dean for Academic Personnel; Professor of Human Development and Family Studies; State Specialist, ISU Extension and Outreach; office: 142 MacKay Hall; email: dsellers@iastate.edu; phone: (515) 294-2312
  • College of Liberal Arts and Sciences: Leslie Hogben, Ph.D., Associate Dean; Professor of Mathematics; email: hogben@iastate.edu; (515) 294-8168
  • College of Veterinary Medicine: Lisa Sebring, Executive Administrative Assistant to the Dean; email: lkseb@iastate.edu; phone: (515) 294-9860

Upon completion of FPDA

Each faculty member granted an FPDA is required to submit an FPDA Final Report (DOC, 86KB) 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 FPDA. The FPDA Final Report (DOC, 86KB) must be routed by the college to the Office of the Senior Vice President and Provost by September 15.

Updated March 2023



Scientist looking at leaves

FY2025 FPDA Recipients (PDF, 61KB)

For questions or more information, contact:

Kaela Black,
Faculty Personnel and Policy Director,