Iowa Staters talk about their next president

Equipped with hours of suggestions and requests, the consulting team from AGB Search will soon begin the task of drafting a job advertisement for the next president of Iowa State. The ad is scheduled to be shared publicly on July 6.

An estimated 60 people attended the four public listening sessions June 12-13 to share ideas on the skill set the next president ought to have and the challenges he or she will face. They also talked about the university's strengths and why candidates would find the Iowa State presidency compelling. They were undergraduate and graduate students, staff members, faculty, retirees, alumni, business people and Ames community members.

The sessions were facilitated by Jim McCormick and Janice Fitzgerald, AGB Search, and attended also by an array of search committee members and Board of Regents members, who ultimately will select the next president. The process is expected to wrap up by late October.

Individuals who were unable to attend a listening session are invited to submit their responses to the discussion questions (below) to To be assured consideration as the search consultants draft the ISU president advertisement, the deadline is Monday, June 19.

McCormick invited responses to three questions:

  • What are the challenges this university faces?
  • What experiences, characteristics should the next president possess to address them?
  • Why should s/he come to Ames?

Following are some (not all) of the responses to those questions:

Challenges ahead for the university

  • State budget woes and diminishing appropriations for higher education
  • Threat of cuts to the federal budget
  • Enrollment growth: What is Iowa State's optimal size? Capacities of the institution (ex., space, teaching loads) and the town (ex., housing/land use, CyRide) are stretched
  • Maintaining quality education and a positive student experience in spite of uncontrolled enrollment, diminishing resources
  • Maintaining Iowa State's AAU (Association of American Universities) status
  • A campus community that understands and values diversity and inclusion
  • Polarized political situation (state and national)
  • A budget model that focuses on undergraduate reallocation but doesn't fit us in all ways
  • Repairing relationships with the Ames community, strengthening the city/university/business triangle
  • In the age of the internet and online learning, validating the need for a physical university campus
  • American society's frustration with the direction of higher education
  • A learning environment that better meets the needs of international students, especially those who have been marginalized

Experiences, characteristics sought in the next president

  • Expertise in working with state and federal lawmakers to ISU's benefit
  • Administrator with an academic background who will be a tenured faculty member; this should not be an experiment with corporate leadership
  • Strong communication skills (including working with the media), particularly in uncomfortable situations
  • An innovator who wants to identify ways Iowa State is different from other schools
  • Defender of academic freedom and academic tenure; without it, faculty self-censor
  • An understanding that the job is a position of responsibility and service, not privilege
  • Ability to relate to all kinds of Iowans (most of whom don't have a bachelor's degree) and convey the importance of a college education as a means to advance Iowa society and economy
  • Leader who is collaborative, can build an effective leadership team and delegate authority
  • Understanding of, appreciation for public-private sector partnerships, particularly for research and student scholarships
  • A person who loves students and enjoys spending time with, listening to students
  • A practicer of integrity and transparency (not just lip service). Integrity is defined differently in different parts of the country.
  • Recognition of ISU's commitment to hands-on, experiential learning and the focus on student outcomes -- and what our students can/will do when they leave here
  • Understanding of ISU's land-grant responsibility (in so many areas) to the state of Iowa and how that evolves as society changes
  • Experience working with diverse, multicultural and inclusive constituent groups and ability to create a culture of sensitivity
  • Appreciation for the role of humanities at a university of science and technology
  • Ability to raise money with integrity; how you get it is important
  • Desire to be here and stay here; this is not a stepping-stone job or a résumé builder

Strengths of the university and Ames

  • ISU is the state's school of innovators
  • People of Iowa are special: smart and compassionate
  • Students vote with their feet -- and they're coming to Iowa State
  • "We'll get that done" collaborative environment on campus
  • Connectivity between getting research done and sharing it with constituents who can benefit from it
  • Aesthetics; more than just a beautiful campus ... it's inspiring
  • Ames is the center of the universe for agriculture
  • ISU is a driver of economic vitality for central Iowa and the state
  • Quality of life: arts, entertainment, sports, sustainability, environment and more
  • Iowa State is positioned to solve the world's problems
  • ISU works well; we're good at what we do (don't have to fix us); there's nothing horrendously broken here
  • Opportunity to build on what past presidents have achieved

In addition to the public sessions, the AGB Search consultants sought input through 22 interviews with individuals at the vice president through dean level. Student leaders and the Professional and Scientific Council also requested their own listening sessions with the consultants.