IOWA CITY — Adding to the growing list of top administrative posts filled with internal candidates, the University of Iowa this week announced its Division of World Languages Director Russell Ganim on Jan. 1 will take over as associate provost and dean of UI International Programs.
Ganim will succeed Downing Thomas, who’s returning to a UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences faculty post Dec. 31 after serving at the international programs helm for a decade.
The hire comes amid widespread turnover atop UI administrative and collegiate ranks, which campus leadership — increasingly — is addressing by looking inward for candidates rather than outward via national searches that can be costly and have, at times, failed to produce successful hires.
The UI, for example, is accepting internal applications for its next vice president for student life, to succeed Melissa Shivers, who is leaving for the same job at Ohio State University.
In his international programs job, Thomas traveled to more than 30 countries. His return to teaching and research, he said, comes at a “good time for me to focus on family rather than have a heavy travel schedule.” UI officials said he and his wife, Joy, are expecting a baby.
Ganim, who’ll earn an annual salary of $236,000 to Thomas’ $172,212, has been leading the university’s Division of World Languages, Literatures and Cultures in its College of Liberal Arts and Sciences since 2011. He also serves as chairman of the Departments of German, French and Italian and administrative head of the American Sign Language Program.
Vying against Ganim for the job was Corrine Peek-Asa, associate dean for research in the UI College of Public Health, and Kenneth Brown, associate dean of the undergraduate program in business for the Tippie College of Business.
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Brown in October also was identified as one of three finalists to lead the University of Colorado-Colorado Spring’s College of Business. That campus hasn’t announced a selection.
Newly released documents also show that Don Guckert, facilities management associate vice president, is pursuing a phased retirement and that the UI last year picked Lynne Finn, the UI director of business and financial services, to succeed Guckert — without conducting an internal or external search, per UI policy.
In a written justification of its decision to skip a search — as is required to bypass the standard process — UI leadership pointed to challenges filling a similar position, along with Finn’s unique skill set, experience and job performance.
“Facilities Management has been engaged in a search for a director, Building & Landscape Services, for approximately 18 months, without a viable candidate pool,” according to a 2018 search waiver justification, provided to The Gazette this week. “This is despite engaging a national executive search firm.
“The position Ms. Finn is filling will have oversight of Building & Landscape Services as well as Utilities,” according to the justification. “It is reasonable to assume that since no qualified candidates exist internally or have been identifiable externally for a smaller scoped FM leadership role, that none will be identifiable for this role either.”
Guckert began his two-year phased retirement Aug. 1, 2018, when Finn also began her succession by stepping in as assistant vice president for facilities management — upping her salary from $145,000 to $207,000. Her salary currently stands at $240,000, according to a UI database.
When she steps in to fully replace Guckert in leading the department, her assistant vice president post will be eliminated, according to UI documents.
The waiver also noted Finn “is a female that is positioned to take over to lead the organization.”
“Female administrators in the Facilities Management role (are) rare,” according to the document, which makes clear, “No other applicants are or would be considered for the position, since this is a unique situation of a critical nature.”
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But the university’s Charter Committees on Campus Planning and Sustainability expressed concern about the lack of search and campus involvement in mapping the Guckert succession, according to a recent faculty review of the UI Office of the Senior Vice President for Finance and Operations.
“Even though Mr. Guckert attends most CPC meetings and remains the committee’s primary F&O contact, the CPC did not know of Mr. Guckert’s pending retirement, and it has never met with or interacted with Ms. Finn,” according to the faculty review.
The committee also reportedly received no explanation for how Finn’s appointment came about, “nor one about who was involved in making it.”
“The circumstances suggest that no national search was initiated,” according to the review. “This contrasts with the hiring of Mr. Guckert, which came after a national search conducted by a committee that included the chair of the CPC.”
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