ISU search committee talks qualifications, gets timeline

June 7, 2017

In its first meeting on June 5, the 21-member Iowa State University Presidential Search Committee outlined the challenges the university’s 16th president will face—such as high enrollment and finances—as well as what its members want to see in the new chief.

The committee also received a tentative schedule on the search process, including two open forums that will occur at Iowa State’s Memorial Union next Monday, June 12. The next day, June 13, one listening session will be held at the Memorial Union while another will happen at the College of Design’s building at 203 Main St. The times for the forums will be published at a later date on

After the committee received its formal instructions and agreed to a confidentiality resolution in the Uelner Executive Boardroom at the ISU Alumni Center, Jim McCormick of AGB Search, the firm contracted by the board to assist with the search, posed three questions to the room: What kind of challenges will the new president face? What traits should the committee look for? Why would a presidential candidate want to come to Iowa State?

To answer the first question, Steven Freeman, a professor in the agriculture and biosystems engineering department, brought up ISU’s streak of recent enrollment growth and the rising student-to-faculty ratio. From 2006 to 2016, overall fall semester enrollment had grown by more than 11,000 students to 36,660.

Vivek J. Lawana, representing ISU’s graduate students said the new president should encourage inclusivity and welcome international students to ISU. In April, the Ames Tribune reported that undergraduate applications from international students were down more than 20 percent from last year.

Lawana also mentioned the tuition increases the regents approved in December. The board will vote on whether to hike tuition again later this week, and ISU Student Government President Cody West said he hoped the new president would evaluate the current tuition model, which places a larger burden on non-resident students.

As for other revenue resources, several committee members mentioned fundraising prowess as a quality desired in the new president, along with the ability to communicate with lawmakers to promote the university and secure adequate funding.

Over the course of about half an hour, the committee discussed a cornucopia of additional qualities that would make a candidate attractive, including: the ability to connect with Iowans across the state; an understanding of big-time college athletics; the skill to run a land-grant institution; and the awareness to maintain a presence on campus. Presidents at ISU also chair the university’s faculty, which could mean that whoever it is would have to serve as a professor and would likely require an advanced degree in his or her field.

The deadline for candidates to submit their applications for best consideration is Aug. 24, according to the tentative schedule.

After interviewing the semifinalists in late September, the committee will schedule campus visits for the finalists. Those visits, currently scheduled for Oct. 9-13, would mark the transition from a confidential search to a public, open search.

The committee will then submit three to five candidates—unranked—to the Board of Regents for its final consideration. If the schedules holds, the Iowa Board of Regents could select Steven Leath’s successor around Oct. 23.

By Austin Cannon, Staff Writer, Ames Tribune