Searches for academic administrators to ‘keep moving’ as UI begins search for new president

The search for President Harreld’s successor begins at a time where the University of Iowa is under a financial deficit and pressure to fill administrative positions across the university, including those in Diversity Equity and Inclusion.


Jenna Galligan

The Old Capitol is seen on Thursday, March 12, 2020.

Mary Hartel, News Reporter

Nearly five years after becoming the 21st President of the University of Iowa, Bruce Harreld announced a new search will begin for his replacement––adding to a handful of administrative positions needing to be filled.

The last presidential search cost in 2015 totaled more than $300,000. Around two-thirds of this went toward consulting services from the Parker Executive Search Firm.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, racial unrest, and a financial crisis looming over the UI, Harreld said in an interview with The Daily Iowan that he is not jumping ship.

“…I’ve agreed that I will stay exactly doing what I am doing until a replacement is found,” Harreld said.

Administrative positions needing to be permanently filled include the,

  • Executive Vice President and Provost
  • Tippie College of Business Dean
  • College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean
  • Vice President for Diversity Equity and Inclusion
  • Director for the Center of Diversity and Enrichment.

“I’m trying to innovate,” Harreld told the DI. “Use my position as a model for how we should be doing this.”

In June of 2019, the regents voted to extend Harreld’s contract to June of 2023. Prior to this, Harreld said he wanted to continue in his position past the initial 5-year contract that began in 2015 and was set to expire this year.

Though the announcement comes earlier than originally expected, Harreld said this is because he thought it may take longer to find his replacement because of the pandemic.

Judith Wilde, chief operating officer and professor in the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University, said she doesn’t think the UI’s search process will necessarily take longer due to COVID-19, but it will look a lot different because almost everything will be virtual.

“And that makes it very hard, without being able to really come to campus, and pubnub with people, really talk with them, get to know what the campus is like, get to know what the people [are] like.” Wilde said. “It’s very difficult for a president or even a faculty member to come into a new situation and really have a good idea of what’s happening.”

The search to fill other interim positions for some of the highest-paid administrators of the institution will “keep moving,” Harreld said.

Harreld said he was not concerned with the cost or the appearance of the cost to run different search processes through consulting firms, adding that he advocates using search firms.

“I understand they are expensive, on the other hand, I think it’s an expense well worth it.” Harreld said.

Though it won’t be his decision, Harreld said he supports using a search firm to find his successor, despite the costs.

“The advantage of a search firm is it dramatically increases your access and it dramatically improves your ability to help a potential candidate understand how they might fit in,” he said.

The DI reviewed the status of ongoing searches on campus.

Executive Vice President and Provost

UI Vice President and Provost, Montserrat Fuentes stepped down from her position in July after one academic year. She reached a settlement agreement with the UI for her to serve as a special assistant to the president while conducting research until June of 2021, when she can assume a regular faculty position.

Kevin Kregel is currently serving as interim executive vice president and provost with an annual salary of $439,000. Upon the announcement, Harreld noted the appointment would last at least two years “to provide stability.”

Tippie College of Business Dean

The Tippie College of Business has been searching for a new dean since January when Sarah Gardial announced she would be leaving the college to serve as dean of the Massey College of Business at Belmont University in Tennessee, after assuming her role as Tippie Dean in 2012.

Gardial cited a desire to be closer to family for her switch, and Amy Kristof-Brown has been serving as interim dean since with an annual salary of $345,890.

The search firm concluded their search in the spring without selecting a candidate, and relaunched their search for a new dean in June. The search is currently underway with search firm WittKieffer.

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean

Former dean of the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Steve Goddard was removed from his position in late July, after violating the Policy on Ethics and Responsibilities for UI staff.

Kregel named Sara Sanders as interim dean for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The former director for the UI School of Social Work will receive an annual salary of $305,000 until a new dean is hired.

Related: Harreld to retire, opening search for new university of Iowa president

Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Liz Tovar is currently serving as interim Vice President for Diversity Equity and Inclusion after the position was vacant following TaJuan Wilson’s resignation in August of 2019. The search for a permanent replacement isn’t expected to conclude until the spring of 2021.

Kregel appointed Tovar following a request from the UI’s seven Diversity Councils to immediately appoint an interim in the position amid nationwide protests calling for racial justice and a need for campus DEI leadership.

Tovar formerly served as associate athletics director for student-athlete academic service. Her current annual salary is $234,000.

“There is no individual who will look at the position, as an appealing position for them if we don’t have some type of stability or model that they can really work with,” Tovar said during a faculty council meeting on Sept. 2.

In the past, the UI has struggled to recruit and retain underrepresented faculty and staff, Tovar noted, the high turnover rate in DEI faculty over the last 5-6 years warrants concern for campus retaining diverse faculty and staff members .

Center for Diversity and Enrichment Director

For the Center for Diversity and Enrichment, Tabitha Wiggins is currently serving as interim director following Nadine Petty’s accepting the position of chief diversity officer and associate vice president for community, equity, and diversity at the University of New Hampshire.

The former associate director of  UI Multicultural and International Student Support and Engagement’s current annual salary is $89,000.

When it comes to filling these administrative positions permanently, Harreld said he thinks the UI should focus look internally more often.

“I have continued to believe, and again I’ll let the search committee for my replacement deal with this issue as it relates to my position,” Harreld said. “But I believe that we are much too reliant on outside. And when you do that you are not developing your talent internally enough. I’ve said this over and over again, so we need to have better succession and career planning, we need to have skill development.”

Harreld pointed to interim positions like Sanders, Kregel, and Tovar as great examples of performance from interim positions filled internally.

“I think in every case that we’ve actually reached in and found an interim who is on our campus, we’ve ended up saying ‘we should rip that interim off because these are really good leaders’ they know us, they fit our culture, they have a lot of experience,” Harreld said.