Presidential sound bites

President Steven Leath fielded questions from Iowa State employees at a Feb. 28 open forum hosted by the Professional and Scientific Council. Here is a sample of topics and his responses.


"I want Iowa State to be more demand-driven. We need to be much more sensitive to the needs of the state, we need to do a better job of listening to our citizens, our elected officials, our business partners, our community leaders, as to how we form our [research] agenda.

"That doesn't mean we're going away from basic research. It means we're going to frame it with a practical question."

Provost search

"The provost will remain the top academic official on campus, so that won't change. Some things that probably will change -- some responsibilities will go to vice president Tom Hill and vice president Warren Madden. So there will be a little bit of restructuring -- not in the academic world, but more on the budget, finance and student affairs things -- just spreading the workload out.

"Here is the dilemma we're in. If we don't move very quickly and do interviews while all the faculty, students and staff are here this semester, we can't do interviews until fall. So, we're going to move on a fairly aggressive schedule and I think we're capable of that."

"Things that drive me right now"

"I'm very nervous and frustrated and disappointed with the amount of student debt we have with our undergraduate students. This is going to be a multi-year passion of mine. It's going take a lot of effort and time and different approaches to get on top of that.

"You'll see a more focused approach in research. You'll see more public-private partnerships. Some people worry about private partnerships, but they can be done well. There are a lot of resources out there we can capture to help our students, and our university, and to help our nation compete."

Enrollment growth

"We've got a lot of issues to wrestle with, and we're not there yet. I don't think it's a panic [situation], because we can handle this next year and we've got a little time to get organized.

"This is something I'm trying to drive home with our legislators, too. Because of our admissions policy in Iowa, if students meet the criteria we tell them they have to meet, they get to come. We don't control how many kids come, we take whoever wants to work hard."

Review of the Resource Management Model

"We expect two things: a report from a group that feels disadvantaged on what it thinks is a fairer look at [the model]; and a look at the overall plan from the university [review committee].

"It will be different than it is. I don't have any intention of throwing it out. I like a lot of the incentives that are built into it, but it won't look quite the same."

Initial impressions of ISU

"I'm convinced this school is way better than most people think it is, probably including most people here. I said early on that I think the university is too humble, I still think it was and is.

"What surprised me -- I had a really positive impression, I was excited to be here, I was proud to be here -- but every time I turned a page, you're even better than I thought you were."

Communicating our value to legislators

"We definitely need everyone's help. We're taking some different approaches. I'm meeting with groups, and I'm meeting with legislators one-on-one.

"They seem to be very responsive to students, so we've started an initiative where we're going to engage more students down there to talk about how important it is to them and then especially to the legislators that represent the districts where the students, parents live, work, pay taxes, vote."