IOWA CITY — A nationally known behavioral neuroscientist with experience as professor, dean, and provost at major research institutions — most recently Ohio State University — is the third finalist for the job of 21st University of Iowa president.
The state Board of Regents on Sunday announced Ohio State Executive Vice President and Provost Joseph Edward Steinmetz will visit the UI campus Monday as the third of four candidates for the UI presidency.
He, like the other two candidates unveiled so far — Oberlin College President Marvin Krisolv and Tulane University Provost Michael Bernstein — will spend his day in Iowa City meeting with faculty, staff, and students before participating in a 4:45 p.m. public forum in the Iowa Memorial Union.
The board will release the name of the final candidate Monday morning. He will be on campus Tuesday and also will participate in a public forum.
Regents are collecting feedback on each candidate on a confidential website set up by the search firm hired to facilitate the process. The board plans to interview each candidate on Thursday before announcing a final selection that day.
Steinmetz became Ohio State’s chief academic officer July 1, 2013, but arrived at Ohio State in 2009, first serving as vice provost for arts and sciences and executive dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Under his leadership, according to his Ohio State profile, five independent colleges of arts and sciences were unified into the largest arts and sciences college in the country. Before arriving at Ohio State, Steinmetz served as dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Kansas from 2006 to 2009. And prior to that, Steinmetz spent 19 years at Indiana University, where he was executive associate dean for the College of Arts and Sciences and chair of the Department of Psychology.
Throughout his career, including during his most recent stint at Ohio State, Steinmetz has functioned as a professor in psychology and neuroscience and has a long list of awards, professional affiliations, and publications to his name — including recognition in 1996 by the National Academy of Sciences.
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Earlier this year, Steinmetz was considered a finalist to replace University of Texas President Bill Powers until he decided to pull out of the running, according to media reports. His decision “not to pursue this opportunity,” a spokesman told the Austin American-Statesman in February, left Texas with three top options to replace Powers, who departed under some controversy.
In the end, the University of Texas hired its sole finalist for the job — after its first choice declined to accept another presidency, and Steinmetz told the Ohio State student newspaper that he was “happy with the position I have here.”
“It was a huge decisions,” Steinmetz told The Lantern in March, adding, “I don’t want to take any position anywhere unless I know I can make a difference in that particular position.”
Steinmetz has some personal experience with and knowledge of the University of Iowa. In 2013, he served as an external member of a committee formed to review the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
And one of his two sons last year earned a graduate degree from UI in the same field as his father, according to the Columbus Dispatch. His other son, according to the newspaper, is an assistant principal of an elementary school in Bloomington, Ind., and his wife, Sandy, teaches special education.
William Brustein, Ohio State vice provost for global strategies and international affairs, told The Gazette Steinmetz is a “wonderful” and “respected” leader who has made diversity, access and affordability, and research among his top priorities.
Brustein said he and his colleagues haven’t necessarily been surprised by Steinmetz’s candidacy for the presidency in both Texas and Iowa.
“He’s so good at what he does,” Burstein said. “When we heard about the Texas thing, we knew it was just a matter of time before someone was going to pluck him up.
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Although Burstein didn’t discuss specifics about Steinmetz’s decision to pull out of the running for the Texas job, he said, Ohio State did all it could to keep him. And, he said, the University of Iowa seems to be a better fit for Steinmetz, who is from Michigan and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Central Michigan University and a doctorate from Ohio University.
“He understands the Midwest, and he understands the great Big Ten universities,” Brustein said. “When it comes to Iowa, it’s a culture he’s much more comfortable with and understands and thinks his experience has really prepared him for.”
Brustein also commented on Steinmetz’s sense of humor and relatability.
“He makes you feel so at home,” he said. “But, again, we don’t want to lose him.”
Steinmetz’s research interests include neuroanatomical and neurophysiological substrates of learning and memory; the effects of alcohol on neural and behavioral function; and behavioral models of fetal alcohol syndrome.
Ed Wasserman, a UI psychology professor, said he knows Steinmetz and believes the candidate “knows this university very well” and is “extremely interested in this job.”