Letter from the Editor | How the DI is covering the presidential selection process

A next head Hawkeye is expected to be selected by April 30. The Daily Iowan is talking to colleagues and students at each of the four finalists’ universities to gauge a holistic picture of each finalist and their leadership styles.


Katie Goodale/The Daily Iowan

The Old Capitol building is seen on March, 6, 2021.

Sarah Watson, Executive Editor

The next president of the University of Iowa will lead an institution of 31,000 students and 25,000 employees. They’ll navigate recycled financial struggles — trying to solve the mind-bending problem of how the university can keep costs low for students while offering faculty and staff attractive wages, improving programs to help students succeed, and bolstering support structures for its students and employees with declining or stagnant state funding and an enrollment cliff squeezing every side.

Picking a quality leader of the institution is important to the state’s economy, too.

In fiscal 2017-18, the UI added $6.5 billion to Iowa’s economy, according to a 2019 report, about 3.4 percent of the state’s total gross state product. For the state’s employment numbers, the UI supported 81,073 jobs. That’s one out of every 26 jobs in Iowa.

The UI boasts a top research hospital network, 12 graduate programs ranked in the top 10 in their fields, and it is located in a UNESCO City of Literature. In the last 15 months, Iowa researchers conducted vaccine trials and COVID-19 research that is helping lead to an end of a pandemic.

Leading the UI will be a challenge, and the presidency is an important job to select a great candidate for.

That’s why you’ll see The Daily Iowan’s profiles of each of the four finalists in the order that they visited campus. We contacted colleagues and students at each finalist’s institution to better understand how they work as a leader and talked with campus stakeholders about what they thought.

The first two are in today’s paper, and you can read our second pairing on Wednesday.

Students and administrators at Penn State College of Law described Dean Hari Osofsky, the first finalist to visit campus, as having “unflagging energy,” and colleagues and students at University of Illinois Systems said Barbara Wilson’s collaborative skills and transparency made her an ideal administrator in higher education. Wilson was the second candidate to visit the UI.

The third and fourth finalists to visit campus also brought attractive qualities and academic experience. Wendy Hensel has presided over Georgia State University’s academic affairs to close graduation gaps between students of color and their white peers. Daniel Clay has Iowa experience, having led the UI College of Education for the past five years. The DI will publish those two profiles in our Wednesday edition.

Each candidate has their impressive qualities, as well as their drawbacks, and the DI felt it was important to parse each of the candidates’ strengths and weaknesses by interviewing people they’ve worked with and doing background research beyond their CVs. The DI also reached out to each of the candidates for a chance to interview, but most declined out of respect for the open search process.

The deadline for campus feedback on each of the four finalists is today at 5 p.m., and the state Board of Regents is slated to select a candidate on Friday.

As former UI president Willard “Sandy” Boyd would often say — it’s the people, not the structures, that make this university great.

As the regents prepare to make their selection, the DI believes it’s important to gain a holistic view of each of the four potential head Hawkeyes. One of them will chart the path for our institution — scratch that — its people, into a new era of higher education with all the twists, turns, and roadblocks that may bring.

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