UI Presidential Search Committee plans to bring finalists to campus in April

The University of Iowa’s Presidential Search Committee brainstormed interview questions and timelines for the remainder of the search at a virtual meeting Friday.


Grace Smith

Pictured on Aug. 27, 2020, is a student walking through campus to their classes during the first week of school at the University of Iowa. (Grace Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Eleanor Hildebrandt, News Reporter

The University of Iowa’s Presidential Search Committee plans for finalists to travel to campus to participate in a hybrid interview process in April.

The committee is preparing for the application portal for the next top Hawkeye to close on March 15. At its virtual meeting on Friday, the committee said it will virtually interview semifinalists at the beginning of April. 

Committee co-chairs Sandra Daack-Hirsch and John Keller said two weeks after semifinalist interviews, finalists will travel campus and participate in some in-person and some virtual events to better understand campus. 

“We are envisioning this to be a very hybrid way,” Daack-Hirsch said. “We would ask the finalists to come to campus. We’re thinking that these interviews, with whomever we decide that these candidates should be meeting with, that there will be both an in-person and virtual opportunity for people who are engaging in most interviews.” 

She said the committee will work with campus counterparts on what locations would be best for forums and conversations while remaining safe and flexible. 

Managing Principal of AGB Search Roderick McDavis said there are virtual as well as hybrid options for bringing finalists to campus during the pandemic.

“Just about 90 percent [of AGB searches] have been done virtually for the last year,” he said. “That is because of COVID-19 and all of the CDC requirements. And naturally, a lot of candidates have concerns about traveling. So, we’ve been able to work very comfortably with the Zoom technology.”

The committee discussed ways to ensure the interview process is similar to the way it would have taken place in-person. Representatives from AGB Search encouraged the committee to strive to make interviews as personable and conversational as possible.

The committee plans to meet with the state Board of Regents to discuss the search committee’s findings on April 29 or 30. While a deadline for the regents to select a new UI president remains set for April 30, Daack-Hirsch said it is possible that that date could shift if necessary. 

“We’ve said from the very beginning if it gets to a point where the pool just doesn’t work right with the pool that we want, that changes that deadline for sure,” she said. 

Keller said he is optimistic that the search committee will be able to proceed as planned so the committee can wrap up at the end of next month.

The committee will gain access to applicants’ information on March 16 and will have 10 days to go over the candidates. On March 26, the committee will hold a closed virtual meeting to select the semifinalists. 

Daack-Hirsch said this meeting will take the majority of the day for committee members, but stressed there will be breaks to ensure committee members can take a break from their computer screens. 

She said as the process continues forward, the committee will work collaboratively to ensure individuals can attend classes and other necessary meetings while the search shifts into a busy stage. 

“We do want to have the presence of somebody from the committee, when the group [the candidate] is meeting with is a part of the group that [a committee member] may be representing,” Daack-Hirsch said. “I think it will be good to even virtually escort people from meeting to meeting. That, to me, is a part of the committee’s responsibility.”


At Friday’s meeting, the committee members also went over questions they intend to ask their semifinalist candidates for the next UI president. The committee broke into groups earlier in the semester to develop topic-specific questions.

The committee decided to ask semifinalists about their experiences with and views on leadership; communication; diversity, equity, and inclusion; shared governance; and the university overall, including the health care sector of the UI. 

The committee will ask each candidate 10 predetermined questions on these topics. At the meeting, the group in charge of questions for the diversity, equity, and inclusion portion of the interview also added a question about free speech. 

As previously reported by The Daily Iowan, the regents’ free speech committee suggested several recommendations for Iowa’s regents institutions at its most recent meeting, from syllabi changes to creating spaces to learn about free speech. UI President Bruce Harreld supported the board’s proposed initiatives.

Members of the committee agreed it is important to add a question about freedom of speech into the interview. 

“Our committee thought that there should be some reference to free speech,” Professor of Philosophy David Cunning said, who helped develop questions. “…The thought is that sometimes folks find a tension between free speech and diversity.”