Editorial: Qualities to search for in a new ISU President

Editorial Board

As the Presidential Search committee continues advancing toward its task of finding someone to fill President Geoffroy’s role a year from now, we brainstormed a few ideas as to what attributes the committee members should look for in a candidate.

A month ago, the committee held a conference call to update everyone on its progress. At that time there were 50-odd individuals nominated for the position. The organization hired by the Board of Regents to assist in the search for a new ISU president then stated there were still about five or six weeks of recruiting.

It has been more than four weeks since then. According to that timetable, it is time to think more aggressively about what qualities candidates should possess. We need administrative leaders who will take their roles as facilitators of education very seriously.

A good university president should be a good professor and teacher. College is a place of higher education and everyone on the staff, from the president to the custodians, should approach their job with an eye toward facilitating learning as much as possible. More and more, Americans of all ages pursue higher education. To say nothing of the cost of room and board, tuition is nearly $10,000 per semester for non-resident students and $4,000 per semester for resident students. That pursuit is expensive.

And just as it’s not enough for a professor to be unbelievably brilliant in class, it’s not enough for any administrator to simply be good at his or her job. An ability to connect with students when talking to them — an ability to meet their minds with an understanding that is almost second nature — is absolutely imperative.

Visibility goes along with that. Our next president should appear at university functions often and be visible around campus. If you walk past Beardshear Hall toward the Campanile and Memorial Union early enough in the morning, you have a pretty good chance of walking past President Geoffroy.

An administrator also should not use his or her position here as a political position. It may be funded in large part with appropriations from the state of Iowa, but the reason this place exists is to educate the citizens of this state so they will be able both to work as productive members of society and to make informed decisions about the aspects of life that bring us together.

As we face budget cuts and the difficulties of merging departments, we need a leader who can determine which departments can absorb the redundancies of others, which can best survive budget cuts, and which can be eliminated altogether. A good president will understand the relation of one discipline to others and not discriminate in favor one program or college.

Good presidents are ones who take active interest in their students. They are leaders, willing to make difficult decisions that better the university, with vision for where we’re headed in the years to come.