A look at the presidential search timeline


Max Goldberg/Iowa State Daily

Iowa State president Steven Leath addresses the Board of Regents during a meeting on Feb. 23 in the Alumni Center. Leath talked how the university would respond to recent budget cuts (postponing renovations on the library, Kildee hall, and the events center), the opening of the Student Wellness Center, and the most recent student diversity statistics.

Tristan Wade

With the end of the open forums, just a few weeks out from a final decision by the Board of Regents, the presidential search is reaching its end. 

Here is a look at the presidential search from the moment former-President Leath announced he was leaving to be Auburn University’s next president to the finalists campus visits.

Leath Leaves

Former Iowa State President Steven Leath was announced as the next president of Auburn University on March 20, 2017. His tenure at Iowa State would end at the end of the semester. 

In an email to the Iowa State community, Leath announced his resignation as president of the Iowa State to “pursue an outstanding opportunity at Auburn University.”

It had been reported two days prior, on March 18, 2017, that Leath may have been on Auburn’s “short list” of presidential candidates.

In September of 2011 Leath was selected by a unanimous vote as the 15th president of Iowa State, and on Jan. 16, 2012, Leath began duties as the president of Iowa State.

Leath said in the email that when arriving at Iowa State the plan was to retire here, but now “realize our destiny is in Alabama and leading one of the nation’s great land-grant universities to even greater prominence.”

In the letter to the Iowa State community, Leath said he had been working closely with the Iowa Board of Regents to identify an interim president and to start a search for permanent president.

Leath stated in a letter to the Board of Regents that his final day at Iowa State would be between May 8 and June 2.

Benjamin Allen selected as interim

On March 24 it was announced that the Board of Regents would vote on approving Benjamin Allen as interim president at Iowa State, which was approved unanimously on March 27.

Previously acting as the president of the University of Northern Iowa, Allen began his interim position beginning immediately after Leath’s final day at Iowa State.

A long-time member of the Iowa State community, Allen began working as an Iowa State faculty member in 1979, eventually becoming the dean of the College of Business from 1995 to 2001.

“We spent most of our professional lives in Ames and developed many lifelong friendships,” Allen said. “We look forward to developing even more friendships with members of the Cyclone family as we engage with Iowa State University and the Ames community once again.”

During his time as interim president, Allen said he hoped to retain the high enrollment and graduation rates set in place during Leath’s presidency.

Search committee assembled

The search committee assembled to find the new president at Iowa State was announced to be a 21-person group on April 24.

Created at the April 2017 Board of Regents meeting, the Presidential Search and Screen Committee would be co-chaired by Dan Houston, president and CEO of Principal Financial Group, and Luis Rico-Gutierrez, dean of the Iowa State College of Design.

The group consisted of eight Iowa State faculty members from a variety of colleges including sociology, chemical and agricultural engineering and veterinary medicine.

Board of Regents members Patty Cownie, Sherry Bates, Milt Dakovich and Nancy Boetter also served as voting members on the committee.

Student Government President Cody West and Graduate and Professional Student Senate President Vivek J. Lawana were the only two students selected to be on the committee.

First open forums

Over the summer months four open forums were held in Ames to get input from the community about the preferred qualifications of the next president of Iowa State.

Three of the forums were held on campus at the Memorial Union, and one was held in downtown Ames. There were two per day, spanning two days, from June 12 to June 13.

“The most important goal of the presidential search committee is to ensure that the search for Iowa State’s 16th president is as inclusive and comprehensive as possible,” said Luis Rico-Gutierrez, co-chair of the committee and Dean of ISU’s College of Design, in a release. “We believe that it is critical to solicit input from all constituencies on what attributes the next president should have.”

At the second forum on June 12, Vice President of Student Government Cody Smith was in the audience to add his input to the discussions.

Smith said it came down to a candidate willing to go against the current status quo, and to form a coalition of multiple voices to support advancement on campus and in the legislature.

“I think over the past five years especially, we’ve seen the mentality ‘well if the state’s not going to fund us more, so let’s raise tuition,'” Smith said. “I understand that that’s necessary to keep the university going, but I also think that we need somebody… who has the ability to question [that].”

Application period ending

The application period for the position of Iowa State president ended Aug. 24. The advertisement for the position was posted to more than 30 groups, websites or news outlets.

Applications would remain confidential through the finalist stage to the extent permitted by law.

The expectations include a character profile: prepared to carry out the university’s strategic plan, employing “strategic leadership, insight, and vision;” be an “enthusiastic, energetic, and engaging voice” on behalf of the university, both on campus and statewide; and be a “thoughtful, innovative, action-oriented multitasker” who “listens carefully, assesses fairly, and acts decisively.”

The ad list of attributes included a “demonstrable record of success leading and implementing diversity and inclusion initiatives,” followed farther down by “direct experience in collaborations with diverse constituencies, including the state legislature, businesses, foundations, agriculture leaders and residents from all parts of the state” and “capacity to nurture an active, contributing alumni base.”

The search firm used was AGB Search.

Finalists annouced

The announcement was made on Sept. 28 that the list of eight had been cut down the four finalists, following two 75-minute interviews in Minneapolis.

Each of the four finalists names would be announced by the Board of Regents 24 hours prior to each being on Iowa State’s campus for their own open forum.

The first candidate, annouced on Oct. 8, is Sonny Ramaswamy, the director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

As director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Ramaswany oversees 400 permanent and contractual employees with a budget of $1.6 billion.

He has worked at several land-grant universities in New York, New Jersey, Michigan, Mississippi, New York, Kansas, Indiana and Oregon.

The second candidate is Pamela Whitten, senior vice president of student affairs and provost at the University of Georgia, Athens (UGA).

In her current position, Whitten is provost to a university containing 17 schools and colleges and 38,000 students — 29,000 undergraduates and 8,700 graduate and professional students. UGA is a land-grant institution.

The third finalist is Dale Whittaker, the provost and executive vice president at the University of Central Florida, Orlando (UCF).

UCF has a total enrollment of 64,318 and 33 colleges. Whittaker works with an operating budget of $1.67 billion.

The fourth finalists is Wendy Wintersteen, who currently serves as Iowa State’s dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Wintersteen has served as the dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Science since 2006. She works with a current budget of $172 million with $51.5 million in sponsored research.

Finalist open forums

Sonny Ramaswamy was the first candidate to participate in the open forums on Monday. For Ramaswamy, the importance of universities lies within student success, innovations, discoveries, engagement and campus environment.

Pamela Whitten was the second candidate to have an open forum, she spoke of student financial aid and community outreach.

Whitten also spoke about the importance of integration of the university with the community.

Dale Whittaker participated in the third open forum, where he touched on three goals to take Iowa State to the next level: the best undergraduate learning experience in the AAU, making Iowa State a leader in ending hunger and creating a renewable future and unleashing the potential to transform lives and livelihoods.

The final forum was by Windy Wintersteen.

Wintersteen pushed her advantage of being able to skip over the transition period and settle directly into being president.

President chosen

The Iowa State community has the opportunity to give feedback on the presidential candidates.  

The open forums can be watched on the presidential search website. The website includes videos of each of the open forums, the candidates credentials and a link to the feed back form. Click on the names to visits the candidates’ pages: 

Sonny Ramaswamy

Pamela Whitten

Dale Whittaker

Wendy Wintersteen

Presidential search co-chair and Dean of the College of Design Luis Rico-Gutierrez emphasized the importance of giving feedback and said they will review the feedback and present it to the Board of Regents. 

On Oct. 23, the Board of Regents will make a decision on which candidate will be the next president after hearing from the search committee.