IOWA CITY — The fourth and final contender to become the University of Iowa’s 22nd president is the only on-campus finalist — UI College of Education Dean Daniel L. Clay.
Clay, who’s 53 and originally from Minnesota, has been with the UI since 2016 — making him among the most tenured deans on campus. Before Iowa, he was dean of the University of Missouri College of Education — a role he held about six years.
The other three presidential finalists are women: Hari Osofsky, dean of Penn State Law and the Penn State School of International Affairs; Barbara Wilson, executive vice president and vice president for academic affairs for the University of Illinois System; and Wendy Hensel, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Georgia State University.
None of the finalists are racial or ethnic minorities, and the Board of Regents didn’t provide The Gazette with demographic details about the 79 people who applied for the job.
“There isn't demographic information on the pool of candidates, as it wasn't collected by (the search consultant), and it would be inappropriate to speculate,” board spokesman Josh Lehman told The Gazette in response to questions about the applicant pool. “Other than the finalists, we won’t reveal any information about applicants."
Clay’s two-day on-campus interview is scheduled for Thursday and Friday. He’ll participate in a 3:30 p.m. public forum Thursday, during which community members can pose questions online and after which the community can provide feedback.
Clay was educated in psychology and counseling — earning a bachelor’s degree from the College of Saint Scholastica in Duluth in 1989 and a master’s from the University of Missouri in 1991.
He earned a doctorate in counseling psychology from the University of Missouri in 1994 and participated in a management development program at Harvard University in 2008, according to his curriculum vitae.
Clay spent his early academic employment as an assistant clinical instructor at Michigan State University and then assistant professor in the Department of Neuroscience at the University of North Dakota.
Before Clay returned to the UI as its College of Education dean, he was an assistant professor and then associate professor in the UI Department of Psychological and Quantitative Foundations from 1997 to 2006.
During those early UI years, Clay took on his first administrative roles as director of the UI counseling psychology doctoral program and was an administrative intern in the UI Office of the Provost.
After spending a year at Western Illinois University, Clay took a professorship at Auburn University, where he served as an interim associate department head and then associate dean for administration, research and innovative programs for that campus’ College of Education.
Clay in 2010 jumped to the University of Missouri to serve as its College of Education dean.
While in that role, Clay expanded his career path and experience into the business world — earning a master’s of business administration degree from Missouri in 2015. He later would start and help lead several businesses.
In fall 2015 — when race-related protests erupted on the Missouri campus, garnering national attention and resulting in the resignations of the system president and flagship chancellor — Clay announced he was taking a yearlong “special assignment” to help the institution achieve enrollment goals in international markets through a “Mizzou K-12 Online” program, which today is at the center of a lawsuit alleging deception and fraud.
Well before he could complete that assignment, which was supposed to go through Sept. 1, 2016, Clay in January 2016 was named among 15 finalists to become president of the University of North Dakota.
In his application letter for that job, Clay reported starting three companies, “serving as CEO of all of them,” including a joint venture with the university and investors “focused on technology and education.”
He signed that letter, among his academic titles, “Interim CEO, International Education Associates, LLC” — although incorporating documents don’t list Clay in any capacity.
On the same day Clay was named a North Dakota presidential finalist, he was scheduled to visit the UI as a finalist to become its next College of Education dean.
On Feb. 8, 2016 — before North Dakota named its new president in March — the UI announced Clay’s hire, with a start date of July 1, 2016.
In that announcement, UI touted Clay’s nationally-recognized scholarship, successful entrepreneurship, and business start-ups, both inside and outside education.
Clay’s starting salary was $305,000. Today, he’s making a base salary of $322,935, according to UI records.
In a statement, at the time, Clay said, “My wife, Kelly, and I moved to Iowa City right after we married and our three sons were born there. This is a unique opportunity to return to a place that is special to both of us. My new role will enable me to expand my academic entrepreneurship experience and vision not only for the college but campuswide.”
In his CV provided Wednesday for the UI presidency, Clay lists several of his business endeavors — including co-founding Malum Terminus, a UI-based startup in 2017 offering software to identify and mitigate risks, and founding “Mizzou K-12 Online,” which has been renamed “Mizzou Academy.”
Registration documents for “Mizzou K-12 Global” dated Feb. 26, 2016, list International Education Associates and Zac March as owner.
March unexpectedly retired from the online education program in 2019 — shortly after a Brazilian education firm sued the University of Missouri for bad faith in the Mizzou K-12 Online operation, according to media reports.
That lawsuit is ongoing, and the Kansas City Star recently reported of the thousands of students who enrolled in the Missouri program — pitched as a pathway for international students to high school diplomas in hopes of eventually bringing them to campus — fewer than 10 have gone on to attend MU.
The University of Missouri has denied wrongdoing.
Since arriving at UI, Clay in his CV reports increasing gross tuition revenue by more than $2.6 million since 2018 and undergraduate enrollment by 34 percent.
He reports hiring 35-plus new faculty; initiating, planning and funding the $8 million Lindquist Center renovation; and earning recognition three times from the Iowa Quality Center and Gov. Kim Reynolds for performance excellence.
Among his leadership roles since returning to Iowa, Clay has served on Reynolds’ Iowa Ed Tech Task Force and presently is serving on the university’s IT review, Path Forward and master planning committees.
He’s also a member of the board of directors for the Hawkeye Council with the Boy Scouts of America and a member of the Johnson and Washington County United Way chapters.
In late 2018, Pam Ries, a former director of UI REACH — a College of Education-based transition program for students with cognitive and learning disabilities — sued the UI for age and gender discrimination, unequal pay and retaliation, specifically at the hands of Clay.
Ries, who was 63 at the time, reported receiving positive reviews from Clay’s predecessor — former Dean Nick Colangelo.
But, according to the lawsuit, Clay “would not engage with Pam and avoided meeting with her to discuss UI REACH.”
A year after he arrived, Clay told Ries he’d observed problems with UI REACH and was demoting her — although he didn’t provide specifics, according to the lawsuit.
Ries reported receiving the option to retire or be terminated.
“Pam did not resign her position, she was fired,” according to the ongoing litigation.
In November 2017, she had filed a civil rights complaint against Clay and the UI, in which she reported a “younger and less qualified male” was hired to replace her.
“Dean Clay also demoted other older workers in the College of Education and replaced them with younger workers,” according to Ries’ lawsuit. “Pam was paid $25,000 less in her position as the director of UI REACH than the less-qualified male is being paid.”
That lawsuit is ongoing and is scheduled for a jury trial in December.
Vanessa Miller covers higher education for The Gazette.
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