UI President Barbara Wilson outlines goals during USG, GPSG joint session

Wilson’s goals include mental health and well-being initiatives, student success, increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion programs, and collaborating with shared governance.


Cecilia Shearon

University of Iowa President Barbara Wilson addresses those present during a joint meeting between the University of Iowa Undergraduate Student Government and Graduate and Professional Student Government on Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021. The meeting passed legislature on both the instating of Juneteenth as a University Holiday and the creation of a vaccination requirement in University of Iowa Buildings. (Cecilia Shearon/The Daily Iowan)

Ryan Hansen and Anthony Neri

University of Iowa President Barbara Wilson outlined goals for her presidency during an address at a joint session of the Undergraduate Student Government and Graduate Professional Student Government on Tuesday.

Wilson’s goals include focusing on mental health and well-being, student success, increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion, and collaboration with the four branches of shared governance.

Wilson said many students have felt stress and concern about the future. In a normal year, Wilson said, 30 percent of students seek help with anxiety and depression at the UI. During the pandemic, however, that number has increased to roughly 80 percent, she said.

“I want to make sure that Iowa is a place that welcomes and supports students wherever they are,” Wilson said. “We as an institution have to figure out how to provide the support that you need, and how to teach you resilience, and help you appreciate that you are not alone when you’re stressed out, especially in the face of a pandemic.”

To provide that support, Wilson said she and the UI Division of Student Life will launch a 24-hour text service. The people working for the service will understand student issues and promptly serve mental health needs, she said.

“We know that most of the time when you’re stressed, it’s not between nine and five, when we work,” Wilson said. “It’s late at night, it’s early in the morning, it’s times when we need to make sure we have a team that will help our students.”

Involvement, engagement, and shared governance, she said, are the three major metrics that predict student success.

“We are laser-focused on graduation rates and retention rates. We don’t want to lose any one of you,” Wilson said.

She added her administration is focused on increasing support for basic needs and scholarship funding, and reducing curricular barriers that challenge students.

Wilson added that she plans to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion among all populations at the UI, including addressing divides between races, ethnicities, genders, sexual identities, rural and urban communities, and veterans.

“We’re taking a hard look at the multicultural houses, for example,” she said. “How can we elevate those houses, get them more centrally located, [and] support those important cultural spaces and places?”

In general, Wilson told the joint session attendees how proud she is of what she called the “town-gown relations” — the connection between Iowa City and the UI.

At some of the universities Wilson previously worked at, she said, the town and the university did not necessarily work well together. In Iowa City, she said people in the community are invested in the university.

In her address, Wilson also emphasized the connections that she hopes to make with shared governance through events such as lunches at the president’s house.

“The highlights of my day are typically when I meet with students,” Wilson said. “When I listen to you, when I hear your energy, when I hear your ideas, I know we’re on the right track.”