Faculty reacts to Provost Hoffman’s recent decision to step down


ISU Executive Vice President and Provost Elizabeth Hoffman speaks at a farewell reception for President Gregory Geoffroy on Thursday, Dec. 8, at the Memorial Union. The reception began with refreshments and chatter, followed by presentations and words of appreciation. “I am very proud of you,” said Geoffroy, speaking to the ISU community at large.

Aimee Burch

Emotions ran high this week as Elizabeth Hoffman, executive vice president and provost, announced her plans to step down from her position after nearly five years.

Thomas Hill, vice president for student affairs, said that while he was not overly shocked by Hoffman’s decision, he was still saddened that she will be leaving.

Steve Freeman, Faculty Senate president, said he shared a similar sentiment. 

“I don’t think any faculty member was overly surprised by the announcement,” Freeman said. “We suspected it would be coming but weren’t sure when.”

Administrative leaders were quick to express their gratitude for all Hoffman has done in her years as executive vice president and provost.

“She has done an excellent job implementing the budget model and has done good things for this university,” Hill said. “She will be missed.”

Freeman spoke similarly, citing the way Hoffman improved faculty involvement, leadership and the principle of shared governance throughout the university.

“She has been excellent. No one was looking forward to this announcement,” Freeman said.

Hoffman said while she currently does not have anything lined up, she is looking with a selective eye at her options.

Former university President Gregory Geoffroy’s decision to step down combined with the implementation of a new administration played a role in her decision.

“I’ve been a provost before and know it’s fairly common for a new president to want to hire his own leadership,” Hoffman said. “I have been preparing for this for a long time and was just waiting for the right time.”

Freeman said it is common for new presidents to want to bring in their own leadership teams and want to make sure Iowa State students know that this announcement has nothing to do with Hoffman’s performance as provost. He said this is just the process of academia and by making this announcement, Hoffman is letting Iowa State President Steven Leath know that she is okay with this process.

“I could retire, but I don’t want to,” Hoffman said. “I’m looking into a few private opportunities. If the process takes longer than a year, then the opportunity to be a faculty member here is still present.”

Hoffman is currently on faculty with the economics department. She said she could teach Economics 101 or 301, like she did when she first arrived at Iowa State, or teach specialty courses, and she could conduct research similar to what is already being conducted by the department.

Her main goal is to find something she is passionate about.

“I want it to be something I can throw myself into like I have in my five years at Iowa State,” she said.

When it comes to her successor, Hoffman hopes it will be someone who has a passion for Iowa State and its status as a land grant institution. She hopes that the new provost and Leath will have a professional relationship similar to the one she shared with Geoffroy, where they knew each other well and did not have to second-guess what the other one was thinking.

“These positions are demanding and challenging, and the president and provost need to have confidence in one another,” Hoffman said.

Hill said he hopes Leath will find someone with a wealth of experience and an understanding of how the entire university operation works, particularly when it comes to matters of the budget.

Freeman said he hopes for someone with a similar skill set to Hoffman and someone who supports faculty issues and shared governance.

Both Hill and Freeman said they are unsure of how long the search process will take.

“It will depend on when Leath decides to start the search process,” Freeman said. “His office will be the one to form a search committee. I look for that to be the next announcement, and it will set the tone for the search.”

Freeman also said Iowa State is in the national norm when it comes to administrative turnover in higher education, where an upper-level administrator staying for five or more years is rare.

With a new president, new provost and new deans of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the College of Business, university leaders said they expect students will notice some changes as time passes, but these changes would set a positive tone for the university.

Hoffman hopes that people will remember her tenure as a time of strength in the face of budgetary adversity. She said she hopes to be remembered for leading the university through years of budget challenges in a way that minimized pain and disruption while maintaining the morale of the campus.

“I really mean it when I say I will always be a Cyclone,” she said. “I have great affection for this university, and it is a wonderful place. I will always carry a piece of Iowa State with me.”