Editorial | Barbara Wilson is leading the UI in the right direction

As University of Iowa President Barabra Wilson begins her tenure, her goals and strategies have set a bright future.


Grace Smith

University of Iowa President Barbara Wilson speaks during a groundbreaking ceremony at the North Liberty University of Iowa hospitals and clinics construction site on Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021. Many leaders attended this event including Wilson, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, Iowa City Mayor Bruce Teague, CEO of UIHC Suresh Gunasekaran, the Iowa Board of Regents, and more. The new facility is set to include procedure rooms, emergency care rooms, laboratories, outpatient clinics, a pharmacy, advanced diagnostic imaging and teaching/research space.

DI Editorial Board

University of Iowa President Barbara Wilson has left a positive impression on the Daily Iowan’s Editorial Board following the first three months of her tenure.

Wilson walked in on a whirlwind of challenges faced by the UI. From COVID-19 financial losses and state budget cuts to diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, she entered the position with her work cut out for her.

But the Editorial Board believes that Wilson’s goals and strategies have set a bright future for the university, and work as a step in the right direction to combat the UI’s current issues.

First, Wilson has established strong and healthy relationships between various campus stakeholders, including the UI Undergraduate Student Government and the state Board of Regents.

So far, Wilson has tried to meet with the student regent once a month and has met with USG to further collaboration for student success. Additionally, Wilson intends to meet with every college and a group of students within each one.

She’s already starting to reach out to the colleges, so far meeting with the colleges of nursing, dentistry, engineering, law, and the Tippie College of Business, she said in a recent interview with Daily Iowan editors.

“And at the end, they pull a group of students together, and it’s always a highlight, because I just get to talk to student leaders who care about the college, and the first question I ask everyone is, ‘Why are you at the University of Iowa?'” Wilson said. “And I get great answers and it’s just really inspiring.”

Second, Wilson has made it a priority to increase the retention rate for students. The UI has experienced a decrease in student enrollment rates since 2017; prioritizing the retention of students is crucial to uphold the reputation of the UI as a top-tiered university.

Wilson emphasized the importance of investing in student resources, which are vital in making sure students feel supported on campus.

“The more money and time and attention we put into those support services, the more we’re going to have lots of different ways to ensure success for students, and we’re behind our peers — we need to be better in those areas,” Wilson said.

As for student life on campus, Wilson said she wants to focus on sexual assault and misconduct prevention and education — two important steps to addressing it as a cultural issue.

“The more we can help students and faculty and staff appreciate issues around sexual misconduct, and the more we can prevent people from getting in situations that unfold in really bad circumstances, the better off we’re going to be,” Wilson said. “So, I’m going to always have attention on prevention and education, and I think that’s what we need to do as a university.”

Another goal Wilson has is to increase the availability of mental health resources for students.

Although she mentioned the difficulties the UI faces to hire enough counselors for one-on-one therapy for every student who needs it, she is committed to investing in mental health programs to make sure that the university shows care not just in the academic success of students but also their health and wellbeing.

Wilson wants to implement similar programs, like the 24-hour Mental Health Support line in partnership with CommUnity Crisis Services, to combat the rise of mental health issues during the COVID-19 pandemic.

One thing we would like to see Wilson do, however, is advocate for academic freedom and state budgeting for the university. For three years, the Iowa Legislature has introduced bills to eliminate tenure, which is essential not only for academic freedom, but also faculty retention.

“I mean, if we lose academic freedom here, we lose this university,” Wilson said. “We have to celebrate, reinforce, and nourish academic freedom here. The minute we lose that, if we were to, we would see faculty leave.

However, Wilson believes the importance of tenure is dedicated to educating professors about its importance, which is something essential once the legislative session begins. The DI Editorial Board has seen her dedication to these efforts, as she has already met with legislators around the state.

Wilson will also need to emphasize the importance of financing regents’ universities this year. With an estimated $83.4 million revenue loss due to COVID-19 and state budget cuts,  it’s important that Wilson advocates for an increase in funding to make up for losses and uphold the quality of higher education institutions.

As Wilson moves forward in her presidency, it’s important for her to continue advocating on behalf of the university to the legislature.

But so far, the Board has been impressed with the goals she has for the university and believes the future is bright for the UI.

Editorials reflect the majority opinion of the DI Editorial Board and not the opinion of the publisher, Student Publications Inc., or the University of Iowa.

Editorial board members are Caleb McCullough, Rylee Wilson, Josie Fischels, Hannah Pinski, Shahab Khan, and Sophie Stover