Wickert addresses university in first of three provost forums

Jonathan Wickert, dean of the College of Engineering and one of the candidates for senior vice president and provost, discussed how he would handle the position in an open forum in the Pioneer Room of the Memorial Union on Monday, April 23. Wickert came to Iowa State in 2007 and was a formerly a faculty member of the Carnegie Mellon University engineering department.

Aimee Burch

The forums for finalists in the search for Iowa State’s new vice president and provost began with Jonathan Wickert on Monday. Wickert’s was the first of three forums.

Wickert, dean of the College of Engineering at Iowa State, gave a presentation outlining his vision for the job and answering questions from faculty, staff and students.

Wickert said his time in a leadership position in the College of Engineering will aid him should he get the provost position.

“The College of Engineering is large in scope with 7,000 students,” he said in his opening remarks. “That’s larger than many towns in Iowa. It’s a program of significant scale.”

Wickert said one area of focus in this job would be on business operations and collaboration efforts. He cited the example of the collaboration between the College of Engineering and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in terms of blended online classes.

“We have been able to offer more courses with higher quality at a lower cost,” Wickert said.

Challenges facing the university were also a major topic Wickert addressed in his remarks. Navigating the university through state budget cuts in a student-focused way will be one of his areas of emphasis, along with maintaining a close relationship with state citizens and legislators to ensure Iowa State is meeting their expectations of efficiency in higher education.

“We have growing enrollment and capacity, which is a good problem to have,” Wickert said. “But it creates pressure to be proactive and to engage everyone in addressing [the problems].”

The legacy left by former President Gregory Geoffroy and Executive Vice President and Provost Elizabeth Hoffman were heavily emphasized, the resounding remark from Wickert being that “nothing is broken here.”

“The role of provost is a job of empowerment — arranging jobs on campus so faculty, staff, and students can excel,” he said. “We set standards and a bar for excellence to arrange for a stimulating place to work and study.”

To close out his remarks, Wickert said Iowa State can expect three specific things from him if he becomes the new provost.

“You can count on me to have a focus on academic excellence, collaboration and to be very student-centered,” he said. “Students are why we come to work everyday. I’ll still teach, and I’ll meet with students regularly in my office

After his remarks, Wickert answered questions from the crowd. What he learned from his time at previous issues and the issues of promotion and tenure were common themes, along with how to provide enough funding in order to avoid a cap in enrollment.

“The case for state appropriations needs to be made year-round, not just in the spring when the legislature is in session,” he said in regards to questions about funding. “We need to show that we’re using our current resources at full capacity.”

Wickert also said one of his first orders of business in the role of provost will be to meet with each college and department within Iowa State in order to better understand the challenges and concerns facing students and faculty in those areas.

One of the final questions asked by the audience asked what Wickert will do if he and current ISU President Steven Leath disagree over a certain issue, and how he will reduce friction. He said he looks forward to having a great and open relationship with Leath as provost.

“We may not always see eye-to-eye, but we will share and talk through things,” Wickert said in response. “We’ll explain issues and why the decision was made.”

“In regards to friction, I’m an engineer. A mechanical engineer. Part of my job is to reduce friction.”