Presidential candidate Whittaker talked undergraduate learning, a renewable future and diversity


Dale Whittaker, candidate for the Iowa State presidential search, speaks during an open forum in the Sun Room of the Memorial Union on Oct. 11. Whittaker is currently the executive vice president and provost for the University of Central Florida, Orlando. 

Isaac Carson

“End hunger, heal the earth through knowledge.”

In 1992, Dale Whittaker wrote the above statement on a piece of paper after he achieved tenure. He said this is his life mission while speaking at the third presidential open forum held from 4 to 5 p.m. Wednesday in the Sun Room of the Memorial Union.

Whittaker touched on his experiences from working as provost at the University of Central Florida and as associate dean and director of academic programs for the College of Agriculture at Purdue University, was associate dean and director of academic programs for the College of Agriculture and how they relate to Iowa State.

“If there is something I’ve learned about Iowa it’s their pragmatic can-do attitude,” Whittaker said.

Whittaker compared his mission statement with Iowa State University’s “Create, share, and apply knowledge to make Iowa and the world a better place.”

Whittaker noted the similarities in how both statements are focused on creating a better world.

Each open forum has followed the same theme: “Organizations expect new leadership to help lead them to the next level. What is the next level for Iowa state and how will you help us get there?”

Whittaker presented his three goals to lead Iowa State to the next level. First Whittaker wants “Iowa State to offer the best undergraduate learning experience in the AAU.”

He believes this can be done through faculty focus, student success and institutional alignment.

Whittaker stated that strengthening faculty would be a high focus of his, and he cited his reputation of hiring faculty to create the best learning environment.

For student success Whittaker noted that Iowa State’s first year retention rate has not broken 90 percent. 

“We will break 90 percent for the first time this fall at UCF,” Whittaker said.

This is something that Whittaker would want to bring to Iowa State if appointed president.

“All levers must be pulled in the same direction,” said Whittaker. He stressed the importance of institutional alignment and the importance of everyone “leaning in the same direction.”

Whittaker’s second goal to lead Iowa state to the next level is that “Iowa State will be a worldwide leader in ending hunger and creating a renewable future.”

This statement aligns directly with Whittaker’s personal life mission statement.

“When you aspire to a future, you have to build on your strengths,” Whittaker said.

He believes Iowa State is one of the universities best poised to address this global problem. He thinks this can be achieved with interdisciplinary collaboration, partnerships, reputation and impact.

He connected this to the theme of achieving the next level by saying good work leads to impact, reputation follows that and rankings will follow reputation.

The third goal by Whittaker to lead Iowa State to the next level is “Iowa State will unleash the potential to transform lives and livelihoods.”

In order to achieve this, he stressed economic and social mobility, and diversity and inclusion.

“Diversity is very strategic. We make better decisions as a group when we have multiple lived perceptions at the table, better perception of risk, and Innovation,” said Whittaker.

He talked about diversity and inclusion being closely connected. During the part of the hour where Whittaker took questions, he received several questions regarding diversity. 

Antonio Ball, freshman in political science, asked Whittaker about what policies he would implement regarding the atmosphere of campus tensions caused by racially provocative posters.

Whittaker said, “Everybody should know where the leadership of the university stands [towards diversity], everybody can learn, everybody is welcome, everybody has a place.”

One student, Matthew Millard, asked, “What do you have planned to support people with disabilities or mental [disabilities]?”

Without hesitation, Whittaker said, “Exactly the same thing.”

When asked after the event Whittaker explained his diversity policy as one that includes everyone, and creates support. “All people will benefit from an Iowa State education. All people can learn.”

Whittaker also said that he was impressed by the students of Iowa State not afraid to ask the hard questions.