ISU community members weigh in on qualities of presidential candidates


ISU presidential candidate Kumble Subbaswamy speaks in Morrill Hall during a public forum for the presidential finalist forum on Thursday, Sept. 22. 

Ted Sics

The Iowa Board of Regents will announce Iowa State’s new president on Tuesday at 4 p.m. in the Campanile Room of the Memorial Union.

The candidates, Kumble Subbaswamy and Steven Leath, both have extensive experience as deans, research leaders, department chairmen and college directors.

Roger Underwood, co-chairman of the presidential search committee, said in a phone interview that Iowa State needs a very specific type of president.

“The search committee was looking for a good collaborative leader that will take Iowa State forward, in the same direction that Greg Geoffroy has,” Underwood said. “We want Iowa State to still feel like a small university, but it’s growing, and that’s going to be a challenge to make that all happen.”

Other major challenges that will face the new president involve budget issues, tuition rates, fundraising and growing enrollment numbers, according to Underwood.

“It’s going to be even harder to run a university in the future due to the funding situation,” he said. “It’s going to take a very skilled leader to negotiate fundraising, the securing of research dollars and the ever-evolving challenges of a public university.”

Elizabeth Hoffman, executive vice president and provost at Iowa State, said that Subbaswamy would transition well into the office of the president.

“He’s had all the jobs that would lead him up to being ready for a presidency,” Hoffman said. “He’s certainly had experience in fundraising as a dean, and he’s had experience in public speaking in all the jobs he’s had. He understands the challenges that higher education faces today.”

Hoffman said Subbaswamy is also well-equipped to handle the intense public scrutiny that accompanies the position.

“I don’t think anyone can get prepared for the public nature of the job, but having observed [University of Kentucky president] Lee Todd for a considerable amount of time, I think [Subbaswamy] understands that that’s going to be part of the job,” she said.

Conversely, GSB President Dakota Hoben said that one of Leath’s strongest attributes is his “incredible ability to communicate effectively within any group.”

“Along with that, with his vision for Iowa State, he can really take us to a whole new level,” Hoben said. “His understanding of where universities need to be and how their roles are changing is very unique.”

Hoben believes that Leath would provide the strong leadership needed to take Iowa State in the right direction.

“His track record of getting things done is unbelievable,” he said. “Coming to Iowa State, he’ll bring new visions and new goals, but he’ll also be able to build off of what we’re already doing here.”

Underwood said that Geoffroy has set high standards that will be difficult for the next president to meet.

“Greg Geoffroy is loved, and it’s going to be a challenge for that person to find ways to grow Iowa State,” Underwood said. “We’re looking for a leader who can balance all those issues and continue to take the university forward.”