University of Iowa interim provost tapped as NIH adviser

Sue Curry will split time as fellow in the UI Office of the President

Sue Curry, UI interim provost
Sue Curry, UI interim provost

IOWA CITY — Sue Curry, interim provost at the University of Iowa the past two years, is moving on to a new role this summer after Monserrat Fuentes becomes the UI provost and executive vice president on June 28.

Curry will shift to an administrative role in the Office of the President, splitting her time in the coming year between research, supporting major UI initiatives and serving as senior adviser for preventive services for the National Institutes of Health.

Curry — known internationally as an expert in behavioral science and in translating research findings into health policy — will focus her NIH work on identifying and advancing areas of prevention research, according to the UI.

She’ll also advise on strategy and coordination between the federal institutes and prevention-related partners, though she won’t be directly involved in research or grant funding decisions.

The National Institutes of Health — which operates under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as the largest biomedical research agency in the world — plays a massive role in supporting UI research annually.

In the 2018 budget year, the NIH provided more funding for research and scholarly activities across campus than any other external entity — at $180.4 million, up $40 million from the previous year.

As Curry takes on her new roles, she’ll retain her status as tenured faculty in the UI College of Public Health, where she served as dean from 2008 until her interim provost appointment in 2017.


Her UI administrative fellowship will pay $150,000 a year. While she holds the NIH appointment, which has not yet been finalized, the government will support half her salary.

In a statement Thursday, Curry called it a pleasure and honor to serve UI, and said she’s glad to stay on in this new capacity.

UI President Bruce Harreld thanked Curry for her service as provost and praised her new association with the NIH.

“We are proud that the NIH is recognizing her scholarship and expertise,” he said in a statement. “And we are fortunate to retain such a dedicated advocate for faculty and research.”

Curry was elected to the National Academy of Medicine in 2010, is a member of its board on Population Health and Public Health Practice and serves on its governing council.

In a message to campus in May — with the end of her provost stint in sight — Curry reflected on her time in the position, which included hiring four collegiate deans and a new director of the Stanley Museum of Art.

“It has been inspiring to meet so many outstanding individuals who want to come to the University of Iowa — even in the face of fiscal constraints and other challenges — because we offer the opportunity to lead in a culture of excellence,” she wrote.

Curry also led a “UI 2020 Initiative” meant to study “reasonable organizational changes” and possible restructuring. But the project incited criticism and fear of a predetermined breakup of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the largest on campus.


In response to those concerns, Curry instigated a second phase to the initiative that eventually produced few ideas or recommendations and found, “This was probably not the best time to ask the UI community to think long-term.”

Curry referenced some of those challenges in her message to campus, noting her involvement in “several initiatives that brought together colleagues with very different perspectives and ideas about how best to move forward.”

“In every case, I have seen those individuals give their time and energy to engage in difficult but constructive conversations — and arrive at decisions everyone is willing to respect,” she wrote.

Curry identified her wishes for the university, “chief among them that we had more resources.”

“But let’s stop to remind ourselves what an extraordinary job we do with what we have,” she wrote.

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11:43AM | Thu, September 26, 2019

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