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Finalists for open VP position visit campus this week

BY EMILY BUSSE | NOVEMBER 09, 2009 7:20 AM

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After a year of searching, UI officials will welcome four final candidates to campus this week to vie for a position in UI President Sally Mason’s cabinet.

The hopefuls are aiming to be named the UI’s vice president for Strategic Communication — a job that has been left vacant for eight years.

One candidate each day, from today through Thursday, will visit campus to meet with Mason and her vice presidents, as well as give a presentation at a public forum.

The position existed under former President Mary Sue Coleman, but budget cuts forced officials to eliminate it. Though the UI is facing financial woes yet again, officials said they need the position to help the university with its strategic goals and external communication.

“I don’t know of any university or major organization that does not have a vice president or chief of communication,” UI Provost Wallace Loh said. “It’s one of the most absolutely critical positions.”

While neither Iowa State University or the University of Northern Iowa have a specific administrative position for “strategic communication,” they employ a vice president for extension and outreach position and an assistant vice president for university marketing and public relations, respectively.

The first candidate to visit campus, Paul Allvin from the University of Arizona, will give a presentation at a public forum from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. in S-401Pappajohn Business Building.

The university received more than 250 applicants over the summer and in early fall before narrowing them down to the four finalists, according to an e-mail from David Kieft, the UI’s strategic initiatives coordinator.

Allvin served as the editor-in-chief of the Arizona Daily Wildcat and executive director of the Associated Students of the University of Arizona while an undergraduate at the university.

He later worked as director of communications for Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano and served as the national director of communications for the Make-A-Wish Foundation before joining the university.

He served as the University of Arizona interim vice president for external relations from 2006 to 2007 before entering his current position of associate vice president for communications.

The university plans to release the name of each candidate 24 hours before her or his arrival in Iowa City.

The position calls for someone to “advance the university’s mission and goals,” according to the UI’s website, and whoever is chosen will lead communication for the entire university, Moore said.

“[We need] somebody who is the interface between the [UI] and the world beyond, meaning the media, the public, legislators, and so forth,” Loh said. “That’s not the job of the president.”

Emeritus Professor Jude West is currently serving interim in the position. Although Moore said it is not technically a brand-new position, hiring a new person means it’s always subject to a little change.

“I imagine the position will evolve,” Moore said. “The new people [would] make the role their own … [but] it’s difficult to predict which direction they will take.”

Moore, who is serving as interim spokesperson for the university, said he will continue in the role at least until the new hire starts. At that time, they will discuss any changes to the entire communication team.

Though Moore said he did not have access to an exact cost for bringing the candidates to campus as of Sunday night, he said the entire process of searching for the four finalists and getting them to campus was “relatively inexpensive in comparison to other searches” because they did not hire a national search firm.

Instead, UI staff and faculty conducted the search and advertised the position primarily online.

Officials are now focusing on the four final candidates, and Loh said the chosen person’s arrival next year will fill a gap in the university.

“You have to have somebody who tells the story of the institution,” Loh said.


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