Ad for next university president touches the bases


Maggie Curry

The official advertisement for Iowa State University’s next president is out, and posted to more than 30 groups, websites or news outlets. Among them, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and several diversity and race-based groups.

Nominations are invited, but all applications should be received by August 24. Applications will remain confidential through the finalist stage to the extent permitted by law, according to the search website, and can be sent to [email protected].

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.”

They want applicants to know and support the triple land-grant mission of education, research and outreach. 

The search firm, AGB Search, set up several input sessions in June and had an open email suggestion box. So how does the advertisement compare to what we heard at the forums?

Significant budget constraints and increasing tuition. 

The community said:

The state and federal budget were the top of College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Senior Associate Dean Joe Colletti’s list at input forums in June, specifically cuts in research and education funding on a state and federal level. For many staff, faculty and community members at the forums, working with both the public and private sector was important.

“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,'” Student Government Vice President Cody 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].”

The advertisement said:

Applicant attributes included “fiscal management of organizations of equal complexity, including strategic diversification of revenue sources, and creative resource generation and allocation.” Fancy speak for finding and generating money. Then, more explicitly, “Firsthand understanding of the fundraising process and successful record of leadership and partnership in capital campaign efforts.” 

Growth of enrollment and resulting consequences.

The community said:

The question of the optimal size of the university also came up at June forums, with concern for upkeep, equipment, infrastructure and renovation after rapid enrollment growth. 

“It really is about having enough resources. Space is the number one resource we’re lacking,” Colletti said. “To use an [agriculture] term, the bin is busted.”

Colletti said another concern was people resources, particularly in teaching faculty, and infrastructure and equipment quality and upkeep.

“At the whole university level there’s a backlog on major renovation and upgrade and some very, very old buildings,” Colletti said.

The advertisement said:

Nothing directly addressed university enrollment, growth and service needs.

All the different groups on campus.

From diversity and marginalization topics to balancing a student-first mission with faculty needs and development, to relationships with industry and legislative leaders and alumni, the president has to interact with all of them. 

The ad list of attributes includes 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.”

Faculty also makes the list, from “inspiring team player” to “understanding of the tenure process and the role of academic freedom” and “profound appreciation for the contributions of staff and administrators … and explicit commitment to support their professional development.”

Being more visible/transparent.

The community said:

Students at input sessions in June emphasized the need for a president who does not give “cookie cutter responses” to issues that arise on campus. They stressed the importance of not only admitting mistakes, but providing a plan for how to remedy them, or just plain honesty if something cannot be fixed at all. 

“I think that students want a face that they’ll recognize,” Smith said. “Students want a person to emulate what Iowa State is and how welcoming we are to people of all backgrounds.”

The advertisement said:

The list of attributes included “capacity to engender trust with excellent communication skills and a transparent, open-door, open-mind leadership style.”

Choosing the adventure

The community said: 

Colletti said Iowa State, being student centered, is a university that really values teaching, along with collaboration in research and sharing the learning from the research, whether that be a group or a farmer.

The advertisement said:

The first line of the expectations for the next president is that “the new president must maintain the highest standards in all aspects of the land-grant mission and celebrate Iowa State’s disciplinary breadth.” That’s broken down into support for research, “balanced with a commitment to a unique, rich student experience characterized by unlimited social and academic opportunities in a friendly and supportive campus environment.” 

Read the full advertisement here.