University of Iowa spent hundreds of thousands on searches for recently departed leaders

UI misses window for no-fee searches for provost, dean

The Pentacrest on the campus of the University of Iowa including the Old Capitol Building (center), Macbride Hall (top l
The Pentacrest on the campus of the University of Iowa including the Old Capitol Building (center), Macbride Hall (top left), Jessup Hall (bottom left), Schaeffer Hall (top right), and MacLean Hall (bottom right) in an aerial photograph. (The Gazette/file photo)

IOWA CITY — For the searches that netted the University of Iowa’s recently departed diversity head, provost and College of Liberal Arts and Sciences dean — all of whom started last June — the institution paid a combined $417,096 to one search firm.

Isaacson-Miller Inc. — which in recent years has facilitated a multitude of larger UI searches — in 2018 landed the contracts to help fill those high-profile UI vacancies. If successful, the agreements promised to pay the firm more than $100,000 each.

All three of the contracts stipulated that if a person Isaacson-Miller helped UI hire left within a year for any reason other than death or disability, it would reopen the search for no additional fee.

Because the university’s short-lived Associate Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion TaJuan Wilson lasted just six weeks — starting on June 28, 2019, and resigning Aug. 9 — the search firm notified the university it would conduct another diversity search “for no additional professional fees.”

The university, though, just missed its one-year window for fee-less searches for a new provost and College of Liberal Arts and Sciences dean. Former Provost Montse Fuentes resigned one year and 17 days after her June 28, 2019, start, and former Dean Steve Goddard was replaced one year and two months after his June 1, 2019, arrival.

Both Goddard and Fuentes remain on the UI staff — with Fuentes continuing to earn her provost-level salary of $439,000 for a year as “special assistant to the president,” and Goddard making $251,370 as a computer science professor.

Wilson, after resigning last August, was allowed to continue earning his $224,000 vice president-level pay while he worked on a “special assignment” and looked for another job, which he eventually found at Georgia Southern University.


UI officials have not disclosed details about why the three leaders either resigned or were replaced.

The university in March launched another search to replace Wilson atop its diversity, equity, and inclusion division. And UI officials have said they plan to keep Interim Provost Kevin Kregel in place for “at least two years to provide stability.”

The university has not yet launched a search to replace Goddard, with Associate Dean Sara Sanders now serving as interim.

UI officials have not answered questions about whether the campus will use an outside firm once it does launch new searches for a new provost and liberal arts dean.

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