Higher education

University of Iowa changes leadership strategy

Public invited to participate in reorganization discussion

The Old Capitol Building between Jessup Hall (left) and MacLean Hall (right) on the Pentacrest on campus of the Universi
The Old Capitol Building between Jessup Hall (left) and MacLean Hall (right) on the Pentacrest on campus of the University of Iowa in Iowa City on Wednesday, April 30, 2014. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette-KCRG TV9)

IOWA CITY — About 18 months after University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld established two teams to oversee progress on its strategic plan, he’s replacing the two with one that annually will identify critical tasks, develop work plans and collaborate on actionable objectives around four focus areas.

Interim Executive Vice President and Provost Sue Curry and Senior Vice President for Finance and Operations Rod Lehnertz, who headed one of the now defunct teams, will co-chair the Path Forward Steering Committee.

The committee — which will include leaders from across the university, including Harreld — is charged with advancing and implementing the UI five-year strategic plan. The old teams were organized by short- and long-term goals, while this new committee will split into work groups focused on four strategic areas: student success; research and discovery; engagement; and diversity, equity, inclusion and collaboration, according to the UI Office of Strategic Communication.

The announcement comes at a time of change and reorganization across the UI campus, which over the last year has suffered deep financial blows in the form of state funding cuts. Lawmakers during the last Legislative session agreed to slash support to Iowa’s public universities for the 2017 and 2018 budget years by more than $30 million collectively.

Harreld said his university needs to invest $155 million to $165 million over the next five years to achieve its strategic goals. About one third — $55 million to $60 million — will come via reallocated resources and efficiencies, and Harreld has proposed raising resident undergraduate tuition 7 percent in each of the next five years if lawmakers don’t help with the remaining two-thirds.

Another aspect of the UI response to changing tides across academia is its “Academic Organizational Structure 2020” initiative, which administrators launched in the spring. The project’s stated goal is to review the UI academic organizational structure in hopes of helping the institution become “a more forward-looking, nimble university that focuses our limited resources in support of academic excellence.”

But some faculty fear it’s careening toward a breakup of the university’s College of Liberal Arts and Science — the school’s largest college — as a recent summary of the initiative’s first phase reported finding disadvantages “where colleges were over-large and disparate in the assortment of academic units.”


The university is inviting the UI community to participate in the initiative’s second phase by sharing input on a website and by offering a series of open forums — the first on Monday, followed by two next month, on Dec. 4 and 5.

Graduate College Dean John Keller, among those leading the initiative, has told The Gazette the hope is to return a final report to the provost’s office by spring. Phase three of the process will involve decisions and implementation.

The new Path Forward Steering Committee will begin implementing its mission sooner.

At the start of every calendar year, each of its work groups will identify up to five critical tasks outlined in the UI strategic plan, craft work plans with actionable objectives, and collaborate across the campus to accomplish goals.

The groups will have to produce annual progress reports.

Although the university has scrapped its initial two “path forward teams,” which were titled the “operations team” and the “strategy implementation team,” it reported in April they had a successful first year. The operations team, which focused more on short-term objectives, specifically reported success in implementing new policies and initiatives.

“We came together as a campus and declared where we wanted to be in five years,” Interim Provost Curry said in a statement. “We must continue working together to realize that shared vision. I am proud of the work we have already accomplished, and I am excited to see what innovative strategies we develop as we move forward.”


Here is the schedule for the University of Iowa’s reorganization forums:

3:30 to 5 p.m. Monday — Iowa Theater at the Iowa Memorial Union, 125 N. Madison St., Iowa City.

6:30 to 8 p.m. Dec. 4 — 100 Phillips Hall Auditorium, 16 N. Clinton St., Iowa City.


11 to 11:50 a.m. Dec. 5 — E331 GH, Medical Alumni Auditorium, 220 Hawkins Dr., Iowa City.

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

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.