Editorial: New provost must commit fully to UI mission

The DI Editorial Board welcomes the new UI provost and hopes to see her foster inclusiveness, strengthen the UI’s academic programs, and engage with the world beyond the campus.


Ryan Adams

Montse Fuentes speaks during the provost forum on Thursday, February 7, 2019.

DI Editorial Board

After two years without a permanent provost, the University of Iowa has selected Montserrat Fuentes to assume the role, ending the search that commenced a year ago.

The UI has lacked administrative stability for a long time without not only a provost, but until recent academic years, vice presidents for Student Life, Research, and Medical Affairs, along with deans of the Colleges of Public Health, Law, Medicine, Nursing, and Liberal Arts & Sciences. This amount of turnover is a barrier to the UI to reaching its highest goals and long-term potential.

Before Fuentes’ June 28 start date, the Daily Iowan Editorial Board wishes Fuentes a warm welcome to the Hawkeye community. The Editorial Board believes she recognizes what makes the UI special and is a fantastic choice to help make the institution grow. Given her experience as a dean and professor, Fuentes is well-equipped to take on this role and knows intimately as a first-generation student the role higher education plays in shaping lives.

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With that said, the Editorial Board urges Fuentes to earnestly commit to improving the UI and its students and faculty, not just repeat talking points that can be found on the UI website or brochure.

“The Office of the Provost provides academic leadership to the university,” according to the Office of the Vice President and Provost. “Its fundamental mission is to champion innovation and excellence in teaching, research, creative production, and service.”

The Editorial Board believes that to achieve that “fundamental mission,” Fuentes must continue the UI’s priorities to pursue groundbreaking discoveries as a Research-1 university, maintain and strengthen the quality of its academic programs, and recruit and retain a diverse and inclusive faculty and student body. Fuentes, as the permanent provost, will be responsible for the sustainable execution of these efforts.

One of the greatest assets to the UI is its status as a highly regarded research university. We are designated as Research-1, which the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education uses to distinguish U.S. universities that engage in extensive research activity.

Fuentes’ role won’t be limited to supporting the research done at the UI. Whether it’s producing world-class writers or providing top-notch health-care services, the UI is on the forefront of an exciting future. According to the UI’s 2016-21 Strategic Plan, a main goal of the institution is to “Engage with Iowa and the world to broaden education, improve health, and enhance economic development.” As state funding for higher education declines, the Editorial Board hopes to see Fuentes help relay to external stakeholders the message of why public universities such as the UI are worth supporting.

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A university is not merely its research or academics — as former UI President Willard “Sandy” Boyd said, “People, not structures, make great universities.” The UI is a proud bastion of inclusion that spans the full spectrum of various backgrounds, but that kind of diversity does not happen on accident. There is room for growth in supporting underrepresented populations, so the Editorial Board encourages Fuentes to make a concerted effort to attract students from around Iowa, the country, and the world. It is also crucial that Fuentes prioritize building a more diverse faculty, as those in positions of power have a great deal of influence over the culture of our university and in supporting students from historically marginalized communities.

Being in a high administrative role at an institution of the UI’s caliber is no small feat. The Editorial Board has faith that Fuentes can build upon the UI’s resilient, collaborative spirit to foster a culture of inclusion, and the board is confident that she will be ready to apply her experience in academia to elevating the UI’s academic standing and excellence in research.