Iowa State University's new president, Steven Leath, during his official installation ceremony as the 15th president of the university on September 14, outlined his goals. He pledged the university would raise an additional $150 million for student aid and add 200 faculty jobs aimed at helping the state assemble the workforce it needs to become a bioeconomy leader.
Leath also set goals to add 2,000 grad students to ISU programs and to significantly expand the ISU Research Park, which he expects will become the north anchor of a "Capital Corridor" economic development project growing out of Des Moines. As part of the expansion effort, the ISU Research Park will report directly to Leath's office.
Leath delivered his remarks during his formal installation as ISU's 15th president. Leath began at ISU in January but installation ceremony is held several months after a president starts. A bold vision that thinks big is what Leath says he wants for Iowa's land grant university and its role in helping the state.
"I have very high expectations for the people of Iowa State," he says. "The great success of Iowa State over the past 154 years has resulted from bold leadership, and we must be bolder, we must think bigger in our goals and impact if we're going to drive ISU from great to greater at a time when our state really needs us."
Leath has vision and is thinking big—he says ISU "needs to be bolder"
The $150 million in additional student aid will be raised over the next five years. Leath says this is a top priority to keep ISU's high quality programs accessible and affordable to Iowans. The 200 faculty jobs will be added in the next two years.
Also, ISU is launching a new effort to address issues of job placement, technology transfer, technical assistance and continuing education for Iowa companies large and small. It will be a fully integrated approach to economic development, he says, to better help Iowa companies and communities to grow.
Leath has strong experience in research-based economic development efforts. His previous job was vice president of research and sponsored programs with the North Carolina university system. But he says he doesn't want to give Iowans the impression ISU will become soley a science and technology university or solely an economic development engine. "We will be a leading engineering, biosciences and physical sciences university, and we will help Iowans improve their lives through outreach and development but we will not sacrifice any of the university's educational strengths," he emphasizes.
"We need to do more to provide funding to help students pay for education"
In his installation remarks, Leath noted the generosity of Iowa State University alumni and friends who pledged gifts for student scholarships in the most recent comprehensive fundraising campaign, which concluded in 2011. "We as institutions have to do more to provide funding to help students pay for their education," Leath said in his address.
The call for additional private funding for financial aid is part of Leath's first priority: to insure that ISU continues to provide a high quality educational experience. He noted that ISU is known as a caring university, one that is committed to helping students achieve their goals before and after graduation.
"My first priority is to continue to be true to this brand and this culture, and to continue improving our retention, graduation and placement rates, which means keeping the academic and student service programs strong," Leath said. "But just as important, we must be accessible. And being accessible means being affordable."
To address the problem of growing student debt, Leath announced a four-part plan:
* Hold down costs by continuing efforts to run the university more efficiently. He pledged support for the proposal before the Board of Regents to freeze tuition next year for resident, undergraduate students, and he said student fees would not be increased next year. Student fees support such benefits as reduced rates for concerts and athletic events, free use of the CyRide bus system and recreation facilities.
* Provide better financial counseling for students and families. Iowa State University is providing more information to students about their existing debt and what it will be after graduation.
* Be more creative in helping students to find lower-cost paths to a four-year degree. More students are coming to Iowa State having already earned college credits, and 20% of new students are transfers from community colleges.
* Maximize revenue streams other than tuition to support academic programs. The state's share of support for Iowa's three public universities has dropped nearly 50% over the last 30 years. Leath thanked Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, the legislature and the Board of Regents for reversing that trend this fiscal year.
Another major priority for his administration will be developing partnerships
"I want Iowa State University to be known as the 'partnership university.' More than that, I want us to be known as the university that gets it right when it comes to partnering with others," Leath said. "One size does not fit all. We need to listen; we need to be more demand-driven in developing our programs and services."
He noted this applies in particular to ISU's role in Iowa's economic development. He applauded existing ISU programs devoted to strengthening business and industry, but he wants to initiate a more integrated approach that maximizes the university's potential. "I've asked members of my senior leadership team to develop an economic development framework that will better assist Iowa companies and communities to prosper and grow," Leath said. "Efforts will concentrate on the three state focus industries of biosciences, advanced manufacturing and information technology."