More than 60 applicants considered in presidential search

Presidential search committee co-chair Luis Rico-Gutierrez said he's pleased by the quality and size of the pool of candidates seeking to be Iowa State's next president.

Rico-Gutierrez, dean of the College of Design, told the state Board of Regents on Thursday that the search committee is reviewing applications from a little more than 60 people. More than 100 candidates were nominated, he said.

The committee received the applicant materials last week, after the Aug. 24 deadline for best consideration. Rico-Gutierrez said he's still working his way through the applications, but he likes what he's seen so far.

"I think of few of those have potential," he told the regents.

More detailed information about the candidate pool will come out at the search committee's meeting Tuesday, Sept. 12, when the committee will pick which applicants to interview, he said.

That discussion, and the semifinalists selected, will be confidential. Discussion of how to translate the lengthy position description into semifinalist questions will be public, however.

In an interview earlier this week, Rico-Gutierrez said he'll be looking for a candidate who can nurture an environment ripe for academic opportunity and knowledge creation as well as support the university's infrastructure, including a track record of securing external funding. A familiarity with Iowa State's land-grant mission will be especially important, he said. 

"This is, for me, the defining factor of this position," he said.

Committee members will interview an estimated 10 to 12 semifinalists at an off-campus site Sept. 26-27. The number of finalists -- possibly as many as five -- may be disclosed afterward, but finalists won't be named publicly until the day before their on-campus interviews, slated for the week of Oct. 9.

When the presidential prospects visit Iowa State, they will answer questions from the public in on-campus forums. Rico-Gutierrez encouraged those interested to participate and offer written feedback. It's an important aspect of the search that creates a bond between the campus community and its new leader, he said.

"In many ways, the presidency begins there," he said.

Rico-Gutierrez said the search is a special opportunity, noting the relative rarity of turnover. Iowa State's 16th president will assume office in the same year the university celebrates its 160th anniversary. He also praised the 21-member committee for its commitment.

"They understand how important this is," he said. "The president position is the one position at the university that impacts absolutely everybody. Students, faculty, staff, alumni -- everybody in one way or another relates to the activities of the president. So I just hope everybody helps us find the right person."

In a special meeting set for Oct. 23 in Ames, the regents will receive the search committee's recommendation, interview finalists and select Iowa State's next president. 

Former President Steven Leath left Iowa State to be president of Auburn University last spring. Interim President Benjamin Allen has been leading the university since May and will continue in that role until the president begins her or his tenure in early 2018.

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