Presidential candidate Whitten talked student financial aid, community outreach


Mikinna Kerns/Iowa State Daily

University of Georgia Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Pamela Whitten, addressed Iowa State students, faculty, and Ames citizens during the presidential open forum Oct. 10 as one of four finalists for the ISU Presidency. 

Jill Alt

Pamela Whitten, a finalist for Iowa State’s next president, roamed up and down the aisles of the Great Hall, engaging the audience, as she spoke of student financial aid and community outreach during an open forum.

Whitten was the second of four candidates to hold an open forum, which took place at the Memorial Union today at 4 p.m., about her plans for the university. 

Out of all of the finalists for the University of Northern Iowa, the University of Iowa and the Iowa State University presidential searches, Whitten is the only female finalist. 

Whitten said she was impressed by current enrollment rates and by the current successful student transition to work rate. However, Whitten said Iowa State should set higher goals.

“If we look at retention rates, it’s very positive to have an 80 percent retention rate at Iowa State, but we’re shooting for the mid 90s for retention rate,” Whitten said. “The graduation rate up around 74 percent for six years is good, but it’s really time to reach and stretch that toward an 80 percentile.”

She said four-year graduation rates are around 44 percent, and the university should aim to reach for the 60th percentile.

“This is important not because it will make Iowa State look good,” Whitten said. “This is important because it will address important values and goals for the university.” 

Whitten addressed student finances as well and introduced a few programs that were implemented at the University of Georgia, where she is vice president and provost.

“You have to think toward those students that are so challenged that we risk losing them for small financial reasons,”  said Whitten. “We have discovered that it’s more common than people want to admit. So, we have created an emergency fund through the financial aid office because we would find that students would drop out of school because they were short $375.”

She said students should not have to drop out for financial reasons.

Tuition coverage was not the only service introduced. Whitten also used the University of Georgia’s “Let All the Big Dawgs Eat Food” program as an example. 

“We found out — much to our heartbreak — that there were students at our school who weren’t able to eat,” Whitten said. “So we created this program called ‘Let All the Big Dawgs Eat,’ and basically it provides them with a meal plan so they will be able to eat.”

Whitten spoke about the importance of integration of the university with the community, referring to her experience at the University of Georgia with the community, particularly with the recent tropical storms. 

“The University of Georgia is interesting because it’s mixed with the city; so there’s city streets that you think are campus that are actually city, so when it’s that integrated you need to have that good connection with the community,” Whitten said. “For example, one of the tropical storms that was in Florida came to Georgia, and we actually closed the university for days because a lot of people actually lost power, power lines went down and so many trees fell into the street.”

The university ignored where their property lines ended and the city’s began, Whitten said. The university provided the city with the resources it needed and went out into the community and helped. 

The open forum closed with a Q&A, and ended at roughly 5 p.m. today. The next open forum will be with candidate Dale Whittaker at 4 p.m. tomorrow in the Sun Room of the Memorial Union.