President Steven Leath addresses goals, thanks faculty and staff

ISU President Steven Leath talks to attendees before his Annual Address on Friday, Sept. 13, in the Great Hall of the Memorial Union.

Danielle Ferguson

President Steven Leath welcomed the new academic year by expressing thanks to students, faculty and staff.

At the President’s Address Friday, Sept. 13, Leath spent the majority of his speech articulating gratitude toward the work of the faculty, staff and department leaders of Iowa State, especially considering the large number of students on campus.

Introducing President Leath was the Government of Student Body President Spencer Hughes.

“With this new enrollment comes new challenges. I am very pleased with the great work that University Administration and Student Affairs have done to prepare facilities and services for all 33,241 students,” Hughes said. “More and more students want to be part of this special environment that we have here.”

Referencing “Field of Dreams,” Leath replaced its famous quote, “If you build it, he will come,” with “Build the best university and Iowa and the students will come.”

Leath said one of the main reasons students want to come to Iowa State is the faculty and staff, whom he thanked directly multiple times in his address.

“It’s the people here that make a difference and make [students] want to come here,” Leath said. “I am very proud of you. … I want to say thank you to faculty and staff for everything they do for this university to make it a great university.”

Leath thanked individuals in the crowd for their work with dealing with the increased enrollment and other accomplishments, such as economic development and research.

Before discussing the next academic year’s objectives, Leath spent time on the past year’s accomplishments, including support from alumni, also attributing this to the work of faculty and staff.

“Last year alone, they provided $113 million in support to this university, the largest amount ever contributed in a noncampaign, which is a tremendous testament for what you folks do,” Leath said.

Moving into goals for this year, Leath focused on improving academic excellence and growing research and development.

Funding from the state, $12 million, is to be used to build onto the research park for economic development movements.

“I think you’ll see this effort in the park pay off. A park that can grow from the 1,200 employees it has now to a 5,000 employee robust economic center for central Iowa … is a game-changer for Iowa … and could be for the whole nation,” Leath said.

Academic excellence is a big concern with the largest enrollment Iowa State has seen. In order to help combat this, Leath set a goal to hire 200 additional faculty members at his instillation address last year. He said 140 have been added.

“I am very pleased with what we’ve done so far, and this is going to enable us to continue to deliver the high quality instruction we want to deliver … and keep the student-to-faculty ratios right,” Leath said.

In addition to increasing faculty numbers, Leath has another focus on growing the number of graduate students attending Iowa State by growing research. Leath also mentioned graduate enrollment at University of Iowa dropped, while Iowa State’s numbers increased by more than 100 students this year.

“He really struck a chord with graduate students when he focused on [wanting] to make a strong research focus,” said Peter Huffman, university relations and legislative affairs chairman of the Graduate and Professional Student Senate.

Leath said the best way to attract more faculty and graduate students to the university is building Iowa State’s status as a great research university. To do this, Leath plans to focus on increasing national awareness of the faculty and increasing the value of graduates’ degrees.

“While the work in the classroom is a key component, it is not the entire picture,” Leath said. “In order to be a successful institution, we need to focus on the total education experience, the ‘Iowa State brand.’”

Components going into helping improve this brand and educational excellence are all linked to hard work of faculty, as well as funding, Leath said, and he briefly spoke of the September meeting of the Board of Regents.

The board’s approval for last year’s tuition freeze is a testament to the work of campus employees, Leath said.

Hughes said his biggest concern is college affordability.

“We have seen strong leadership from this university’s president in making college affordability one of his primary goals,” Hughes said. “The Iowa Board of Regents planning to freeze tuition for a second straight year is a move that hasn’t happened at many other places.”

Leath’s closing topics included a new comprehensive diversity report to be completed within a few weeks. The report will examine the strengths and weaknesses of Iowa State’s campus diversity and building a closer relationship with the Faculty Senate.

“There is nothing wrong with setting high goals,” Leath said. ”I’m confident, [while] working together, we’re capable of delivering excellence and exceeding expectations. Iowa State has a great reputation of overdelivering and I think that’s where we want to be.”