University of Iowa business college pursuing 'market and audience research'

Consultant would help grow its reputation and attract talent

The Pappajohn Business Building on the University of Iowa campus in Iowa City. (The Gazette)
The Pappajohn Business Building on the University of Iowa campus in Iowa City. (The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — The University of Iowa’s evolving Tippie College of Business, which is shifting into a period of transition, is looking to re-up its market and audience research help.

With Dean Sarah Gardial leaving in March for Nashville’s Massey College of Business at Belmont University, UI last week issued a call for proposals “to provide market and audience research services” for the business college, which offers among UI’s most popular degrees and majors.

“Our research objectives are to determine the position and value of the University of Iowa in the minds of key constituencies and to enable evidence-based decisions as it pertains to our portfolio of programs,” according to the request for proposals.

What a consultant would do

A consultant’s research and findings will guide UI administrators’ pursuit to grow the campus’ “reputation and attract talented students from a global talent pool.”

Among other things, a chosen consultant will conduct audience and market research for the campus via surveys and interviews and then analyze and summarize data, including from their findings, U.S. Census data, and Department of Education statistics.

In responding, bidders must describe a “demonstrated understanding of the changing world of public higher education,” which the university and its business college have been navigating for years — recently dropping its full-time MBA program, expanding part-time and specialized offerings, and debuting unique services, such as “executive coaching” for some of its graduate students.

Bidders must submit proposals by Dec. 19. An initial agreement will last one year and could be extended annually for a total five years.

Strong numbers for business programs

Although the UI business college’s full-time MBA program waned in popularity in recent years — with enrollment dropping from 140 in 2010 to 53 in 2017, prompting its elimination — undergraduate business majors and other graduate programs remain among the strongest on campus.

More than 3,100 undergraduate students are enrolled in the college this fall, about the same as last year. And more than 1,500 graduate students are enrolled in Tippie, along with 914 professional MBA students this fall.


The UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences remains the largest on campus, but business is the most popular undergraduate-sought degree. The top primary programs of study chosen by entering first-year students are business and pro-business.

Business college achieves ‘gold standard’ in accreditation

In July, the Tippie College of Business announced it had maintained and extended for another five years its accreditation with the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, or AACSB International. The college has held the accreditation since 1923, according to Gardial, who in a statement called it “the gold standard among business schools worldwide.”

When Gardial made those comments, she had not yet been chosen to take over as dean of the Massey College of Business, which she said has aspirations to continue growing programs and enrollment by more deeply engaging the surrounding community.

“For the Massey School of Business, specifically, this suggests increased industry presence and partnerships, as well as stronger alumni engagement,” Gardial said in an October statement. “I believe my skills and experience can help them move toward those aspirations.”

The search for a new business dean

In replacing Gardial, who has been at the university since 2012, the university has appointed a 16-member search committee co-chaired by management and entrepreneurship professor and department executive officer Amy Colbert and College of Engineering Dean Alec Scranton, who also is leaving his position next year.

Other members include Jack Evans, a Tippie College alumnus and local businessman, and several Tippie students and faculty.

The committee is using search firm Witt-Kieffer to help in its hunt, with hopes of hiring a new dean in time to start in fall 2020.

Serving as interim dean will be senior associate dean Amy Kristof-Brown, once Gardial leaves in March.

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