Drake tapped as Mason's senior associate

BY LUKE VOELZ | MAY 12, 2011 7:20 AM

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As a microbiology professor, David Drake said, he has a trait inherent to all scientists: an obsession with solving problems.

He said he hopes that drive will translate well to his new position as senior associate to University of Iowa President Sally Mason.

Mason named the Indiana native to the position Wednesday, which will not add on to the salary he receives as a professor. The 55-year-old served a term as president of the UI Faculty Senate from 2009-10.

"What microorganisms cause complex diseases? Why do we have severe early childhood cavities?" he said. "I'm fascinated by that — it's like being a grand detective. The scientist persona goes through all tenets of my life. If students have concerns, how do we interact with them and work to solve them?"

Drake, who started at the UI in 1988, will advise Mason on UI student and faculty issues, develop projects, and promote initiatives. He said one of his primary goals as senior associate will be maintaining close contact with student and faculty government leaders, namely through personal meetings.

His term will start July 1, at a time when student concerns are far from microscopic. The one-year anniversary of the 21-ordinance, which he publicly supported during his time as Faculty Senate president, has bought another round of debate to Iowa City.

"I didn't want to punish students, but when you look at the data — the number of students in the emergency room, close to death, missing class, [the ordinance] is something I wanted to support," he said. "We need to start thinking in terms of welfare of students."

Mason said she plans on asking Drake to be a liaison to the Iowa Chamber of Commerce.

"I feel very fortunate to have senior advisers of that caliber," Mason told The Daily Iowan Wednesday. "Who have got a great sense of the institution and a great sense of the faculty who work here."

Drake said he also wants to work on affordability of college. Given the 5 percent UI tuition increase, he said, he understands financial concerns and wants to focus on putting more of the increased tuition money back into student aid.

"Some people are working two jobs, and if we push higher, they won't be able to come to school," he said. "If you look at the tuition increase, if we raise money, we're doing everything we can to increase student aid."

The problem, he said, is decreasing education support from the state is putting the UI in a difficult position. Gov. Terry Branstad has proposed regent budget cuts for the 2012-13 school year that could total $36.7 million.

"You've only got so many dollars [for state spending]," he said. "And I understand the problem the Legislature has. But we have to make sure we're helping educate young people in the state."

Drake will replace former senior associate Jon Carlson, who said Drake's experience at the UI will serve him well in the new position.

"He's a leading researcher as well as a leading member of faculty committee," he said. "He'll be terrific for the job."

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