Education

Kent State opts for interim over University of Iowa past provost

Fuentes was finalist for the job

Dr. Montse Fuentes, the Provost of the University of Iowa, addresses the crowd during the University of Iowa Carver Coll
Dr. Montse Fuentes, the Provost of the University of Iowa, addresses the crowd during the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine Class of 2023 White Coat Ceremony at Hancher Auditorium in Iowa City on Friday, Aug.16, 2019. (David Harmantas/Freelance)

IOWA CITY — A week after former University of Iowa Provost Montse Fuentes spoke to the Kent State community as a finalist to become its next provost, the Ohio university on Tuesday morning announced it’s going in a different direction — choosing its interim provost instead.

Melody Tankersley officially will assume the post as senior vice president and provost of Kent State University on Nov. 1 — after having served on an interim basis since 2019.

She had been named a finalist in the national search, along with former provost and interim president of Dalhousie University Teresa Balser, and former UI Provost Fuentes — who was reassigned in July after just one year on the job.

In stepping down as UI provost, Fuentes signed a settlement allowing her to serve as “special assistant to the president” and continue earning her $439,000 provost-level pay through at least June 30, 2021 while focusing on her research and UI strategic planning.

That appointment is “at will” and held “at the discretion of the president,” who earlier this month announced plans to retire once a new president begins.

Fuentes can stay on as a tenured UI professor after her special assignment ends — at a reduced salary, according to the settlement.

Although UI Interim Provost Kevin Kregel confirmed for The Gazette that Fuentes still has a role in the campus’ strategic planning, he said “her focus has shifted a bit due to the ongoing challenges of the pandemic.”

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She now is charged with assessing COVID’s impact on other higher education institutions and evaluating how they’re navigating the pandemic. Such information aims to inform Iowa’s planning through the COVID-shifted landscape, according to Kregel.

When Fuentes was asked during her public presentation as a finalist for the Kent State job why she wanted to leave Iowa, she said, “I’m looking for the opportunity to have complete alignment with my core values — my commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion,” according to audio the Kent State student-run KentWired.com provided to The Gazette.

“I’m very excited about the prospect of joining Kent State, where I feel like there is complete alignment with those values,” Fuentes said during the Oct. 20 public presentation.

Fuentes has declined to talk with The Gazette about her reassignment or settlement.

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

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