Education

Final candidate announced for University of Iowa vice president of student life

Danielle Martinez participates in open forum; Brian Lai's forum set for Tuesday

IOWA CITY — The University of Iowa on Monday afternoon unveiled its fourth and final internal candidate to succeed former Vice President for Student Life Melissa Shivers, who left at the end of the fall semester for Ohio State University.

Brian Lai, associate professor and department executive officer in the UI Department of Political Science, will participate in the last candidate forum from 3:15 to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Iowa Memorial Union.

The campus announced his candidacy after Danielle Martinez — the third named finalist — participated in her open forum earlier in the day.

The first two named finalists — Kenneth G. Brown, management professor in the UI Tippie College of Business, and Sarah Hansen, manager of strategic programs in the UI Office of the Provost — participated in forums last week.

UI President Bruce Harreld in the fall announced plans to fill the vice president post from an internal pool of applicants to maintain momentum.

Lai, who earned master’s and doctorate degrees from Emory University, started at UI as assistant professor in 2001 before his promotion to associate professor in 2007. He has served as executive director of the political science department and taken other leadership posts within the unit.

He’s also served in various leadership roles for the wider campus.

Martinez, who’s been associate director of UI Academic Support and Retention for more than a year and was assistant director of the unit before that, took her first UI job in August 2013 as multicultural specialist for the Center for Diversity and Enrichment.

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Originally hired for a three-month appointment, her role was extended to “create strategic initiatives with key campus partners, develop an assessment plan, and provide student support,” according to her resume.

In June 2014, she became UI assistant director of Academic Support and Retention, which coordinates campuswide programs, initiatives and courses aimed at facilitating academic success for undergraduate students and early interventions to keep them on campus.

Martinez, according to her resume, directs the campuswide Excelling@Iowa project — which, among other things, produces actionable data for staff and faculty through predictive analytics. A 2018-19 report shows 7,204 students were in the program, and it had 521 faculty and staff “users.”

In her directorship, Martinez has developed institutional predictive indexes to create models for student retention, GPA, graduation, and progress-to-degree predictions that, according to her resume, “provide unique information to shift policies, programs, and practices to create a culture of student success.”

She’s also provided support for students withdrawing from the institution to ensure they have resources in their departure and information about returning to the institution.

UI staffers participated in nearly 600 student withdrawal meetings in the fall and spring 2018 semesters — most of which involved emotional and mental health issues, according to the 2018-19 report.

Harreld is expected to name a new UI vice president of student life this semester.

Laura McLeran, senior adviser to the president and associate vice president for external relations, will serve as interim until he does.

Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

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