Mason talks new liberal arts dean and tuition set-asides


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The Daily Iowan: What are your thoughts on the new College of Liberal Arts and Sciences dean? When will the announcement be made? What qualities did you look for in the hiring, and is there anything further you can say about who it is?

Sally Mason: It’s up to the provost to make the announcement. At this point, it should be soon. We had a wonderful pool of candidates. The finalists that were interviewed were all very good. Now it’s just a matter of nailing down exactly the person we want for the job. Obviously, we look for someone who has had both academic experience and good administrative experience, someone who understands the breadth of liberal arts and sciences. It really takes someone who has a broad and deep understanding of a lot of different aspects of liberal arts and sciences. We look for characteristics in people that would make them a good fit for Iowa. It’s really all about academic and administrative experience at this level.

The DI: The state Board of Regents has discussed examining tuition set-aside policies in light of several legislative concerns. Have regents discussed the practice with you recently? What was said? How many scholarships would be lost? How would scholarship programs, like Advantage Iowa, be funded without the set-aside funds? How else might the UI recruit diverse and low-income students?

Mason: Not since the board meeting, and we have some discussions scheduled for after the semester is over and in preparation for the next board meeting. We haven’t had the discussions yet. The regents want to do this in a thoughtful and constructive way. The idea is obviously not to harm students and their ability to come here and graduate in a timely fashion. That’s going to require some time to think through. We’re constantly outraising money for scholarships, and we currently give out somewhere in the vicinity of $14 million in privately raised money for scholarships now. Since I’ve been here, we’ve continued to place a high emphasis in raising money for scholarships. If tuition set-aside isn’t the right way to do it, we’ll look at ways through the budgeting process that we can do this. I’m certainly not at this point thinking that we’re going to lose our ability to continue to recruit a high-quality, diverse class each year.

The DI: In a past Staff Council meeting, you told members the UI would be focusing in the coming year on recruiting more in-state students instead of focusing efforts on increasing overall class sizes. How, specifically, does the UI plan to increase in-state enrollment? How might that affect the amount of tuition dollars that come in, since theoretically out-of-state and international students pay more for tuition than in-state students?

Mason: This is one of the things we’ll work on more this summer — what kinds of things can we be doing, certainly through the Admissions Office, and that we aren’t overlooking opportunities to send out information to students at the earliest possible time to make sure they understand the University of Iowa is a good choice for them. That includes making more information available at earlier and more opportune times for Iowa students in particular. We’ll be doing a lot of things that will, I hope, be appealing to students and attractive to students, and we think we’re still an awfully good bargain out there.

Obviously, with more in-state students, we will see fewer tuition dollars. [But] the House-and-Senate-approved appropriations increase was wonderful news — assuming that the governor signs that bill, that provides those appropriations, we will see for the first time in almost four years an increase in our state appropriations. With the state appropriations increases, it makes it easier to recruit more in-state students and not worry about tuition dollars. We’re not going to neglect our nonresident students, however. We’re still going to be actively recruiting kids from all over. We love the diversity that brings to Iowa.

The DI: Your husband’s role as the presidential fundraiser was questioned by the media recently. Don’t you think there might be a conflict of interest as his role working with yours? I know UI officials have stated that the this was an agreement between the regents and you and your husband, however, how was this position granted? Other regent universities, such as Iowa State University, do not compensate presidential spouses for fundraising activity.

Mason: No conflict of interest. Are you kidding? We’re full partners. From the very outset, when I was interviewed for the job, I made it very clear that this would be a partnership, and I intended that everything I do at this university be fundamentally based around teamwork. When I was offered the job here, I was very grateful for the offer that they made me. No quibbling whatsoever about that offer. I said simply one thing to the leadership of the Board of Regents; at that time, I said, I would like for my husband to be also employed at the university. He loves to teach, and it would be great if he could continue to teach biology. I knew that wouldn’t be a problem. I’m going to be spending at least half my time fundraising, and he will be doing a lot of that right alongside me. We’re going to set ambitious goals, and they said fine. That’s the way it’s been set up from the start. He’s been involved in probably more than 1,000 events since we’ve been here.

We’ve raised collectively — this is the result of teamwork, I’m not going to claim I raised every penny or he did, either — we’ve raised over $840 million so far since we’ve arrived here. We’re well on our way to announcing a year from now a major fundraising campaign that will be somewhere between $1.5 billion and $2 billion, so I need all the help I can get.

The official announcement won’t be until next May, so I can’t say too much. We’re in the process of fleshing out what the theme will be. The last campaign we had was the Good, Better, Best, Campaign for Iowa. This next one won’t be named that, and it will be significantly larger. The last one raised a $1 billion. By this time next year, we will have raised more than $1 billion since I arrived. We’ve been off to a great start with putting in place the campaign cabinet and the structure to manage the big announcements and really get our donors and alumni fired up about the university of Iowa. There will be a lot more scholarships for students, there will be a lot more things we can do on campus programmatically.

We’ve been averaging close to $200 million a year each year since we’ve arrived. It’s a lot of hard work. It means that Ken and I are doing almost on average an event a day that involves alumni or fundraising or donor relations of some sort. It’s seven days a week, and it doesn’t matter where we are, we do it here, we do it around the country. We even made a trip to South Korea several years ago for the purposes of donor relations and fundraising, and that worked out very well.

The DI: What is your response to the remarks about the situation in the media?

Mason: I was a little disappointed. You know, fundraising in particular is such a fundamental responsibility for the president and the president’s spouse in this day and age. I was a little disappointed that there was any question that this wasn’t somehow very legitimate. It certainly wasn’t a question that was asked of me when I made the request when I was hired. It was very quickly accepted and accomplished, but I didn’t negotiate for anything, either. That was really the only thing important to me was to make certain that the roles and responsibilities of my husband were covered, too.

The DI: Are there any new plans for the upcoming fall semester the university is excited about?

Mason: We still have so much to accomplish in terms of both flood renewal and with all the other construction on campus and facilities. The College of Public Health is another grand example of sustainable building. That’s going to be a building that might achieve LEED platinum status. I’m pretty confident it will at least be a LEED gold facility, but it might achieve the pinnacle of sustainability building. It would be our first platinum building on campus. I think it’ll set a high standard for all the building we’ll be doing in the future. We really have a lot we need to accomplish for facilities that need to be torn down, whether it’s the parking facility to make way for the new Children’s Hospital, or whether the old Hancher auditorium to make way for the new Hancher auditorium. There’s going to lots of mess in Iowa City for a while. I think students that come in the fall, by the time they graduate in four years from now, this campus will look a lot different. In the meantime, they’re going to have to put up with some detours, and road construction, and building construction, and all the things that go into putting this campus back together again.

The DI: What are some things you hope to see improve next semester relative to this year?

Mason: The commons is going to be finished in a year or so. It won’t be this coming year that the students will see the new 24-hour facility where they can go and study, they can do organized activities there, it’ll be open all the time. We think it’s kind of the future for student spaces on campus. The other thing that’s going to be very different and still about a year away is the completion of the IMU, where we get the spaces in the basement area completed and the new patio out back completed. For students, I think there will be some great and positive things happening over the next year. They’ll be able to watch the progress of that develop over the next year with what’s going on in the library and the IMU. There’s going to be some new cluster hirings for faculty and new areas of focus for research that’ll be done on campus. The biomedical discovery building — as we get closer and closer to the opening of that building, we’ll be looking more and more to the areas of emphasis that will live in that building like the diabetes research institute, for example. There are a lot of things that are in transition and in growth right that we’ll keep our eye on, and see what we can do to make them thrive in the future.