You're invited: Listening sessions are starting point in presidential search

Dan Houston and Luis Rico-Gutierrez lead a search committee meet

The 21-member presidential search committee is led by alumnus and Principal Financial Group president and CEO Dan Houston (left) and College of Design dean Luis Rico-Gutierrez. Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Following a series of listening sessions with Iowa State constituent groups this month, the search for Iowa State's next president officially will launch on July 6 when the job advertisement posts on higher education job sites. Aug. 24 is the application deadline for guaranteed consideration, with an anticipated 8-12 semifinalists selected for interviews during the last week in September at a neutral location and finalists interviewing on campus the week of Oct. 9.

All 21 members of the presidential search committee participated in the group's first meeting June 5 at the Alumni Center. Jim McCormick and Janice Fitzgerald of the firm AGB Search joined them. State Board of Regents president Michael Richards read the group its charge, noting that the search committee will choose a small group of finalists and the board will select a president.

McCormick confirmed that nominees and applicants would remain unnamed through the semifinalist phase. At the time the finalists visit campus, their names will be shared publicly.

Share your thoughts

McCormick and Fitzgerald will lead the listening sessions, accompanied by search committee members and regents who want to sit in. Discussion and comments at the sessions will shape the content of the position description and the job advertisement, which the AGB team will draft and the search committee will approve.

Four public sessions are scheduled for next week; individuals may attend any of the sessions:

Monday, June 12

  • 1:30-3 p.m., MU Pioneer Room
  • 5:30-7 p.m., MU Campanile Room

Tuesday, June 13

  • 8:30-10 a.m., MU Pioneer Room
  • Noon-1:30 p.m., Design on Main, 203 Main St.

Those who cannot attend a session but would like to provide input on desired candidate characteristics and qualifications may email their comments by June 19 to

McCormick said three questions will drive the listening sessions:

  • What are the challenges the next Iowa State president will face?
  • What kind of leader is needed to face these challenges?
  • Why would someone want to come to Iowa State?

Thoughts on a president

Search committee members also responded to these questions during their meeting. Following is a summary of their comments.


  • Rapid and recurring student enrollment growth and the issues it creates with space, resources and the student-faculty ratio
  • Reduced availability of federal research dollars and the strain it puts on Iowa State's research output and membership in the Association of American Universities (AAU)
  • Diversity and inclusion incidents and issues
  • Finishing a $1.1 billion capital campaign successfully
  • Broad workplace changes that will impact many staff, such as the P&S classification/compensation system review and implementation of Workday software
  • The state's political climate and nurturing a positive relationship with both the state Board of Regents and state legislators
  • Decline in international student applications, in part due to national political climate
  • Tension with Iowa media (by more than one previous president) and the ability to navigate communications issues as they arise

Qualities needed in the next president 

  • People skills, especially the ability to deal well and often with legislators
  • Collaboration experience and skill, given Iowa State's broad list of engaged constituent groups: students, legislators, alumni, businesses, faculty and staff, regents
  • Appreciation for shared governance, willingness to participate in it
  • Recognition of Iowa State's unique student experience and that they're not merely active; "they run things in a very important way"
  • Recognition of the Iowa State "gestalt," and that the university is about more than science and technology. Disciplines in design, humanities and human sciences contribute to the unique Iowa State experience, too.
  • Understanding of the land-grant responsibility and impact

Iowa State, Ames pride points

  • Student success -- by not just the high performers but also the students "our peer schools wouldn't accept"
  • High faculty retention levels despite challenges of high enrollments; faculty like it here
  • Strong student affairs network as well as its seamless relationship with the academic side to help students succeed
  • Ames is a safe, clean community in which to raise a family
  • A research park that's better than it was five years ago and growing exponentially
  • Loyal, supportive alumni who want to be involved
  • Membership in the respected Big 12 Conference and an athletics director who "likes to win" but also "gets integrity" and the importance of graduating student-athletes
  • Iowa's core values are alive and well

The short list

Reading from the charge, Richards said that the board will expect the search committee to provide an unranked list of the finalists. In October, following the campus interviews but prior to the board's interviews with the finalists, Richards said the regents would meet with the search committee to discuss the strengths of each finalist.