Mason calls UI "stepping stone" for those looking to transition to new careers


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University of Iowa President Sally Mason said the university's role as a gateway to future leadership positions could reflect positively on the school given the number of administrative openings on campus.

The UI has lost four deans recently — though a new dean for the Tippie College of Business has been chosen and searches for deans at the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Carver College of Medicine, and the College of Engineering are either underway or coming to a close.

Mason told The Daily Iowan on Thursday that departures based on career advancement can speak well of the university as a "training ground."

"If it ends up their last career move [to stay at the UI], so be it," she said.

As new individuals fill the open dean spots at the UI, officials said, the transition does not affect workflow in the school or department.

David Johnsen, the dean of the College of Dentistry and the head of the search committee for the new liberal-arts dean, said the number of open positions this year is above average.

"I don't think this has been alarming. It's happened this year for different reasons," Johnsen said. "The fact that we have this number of searches is unusual, but I think it's largely coincidental."

UI spokesman Tom Moore said a typical dean remains in that position for seven to eight years before moving on to another role in or outside the university.

"And for every case where there is a turnover, there's a lot of longevity, too," he said.

Johnsen said the university's structure prevents challenges as deans settle into new positions.

"I think at this university things are fairly decentralized. Colleges and departments have a lot of autonomy," he said. "The culture here is such that there is an awful lot of continuity."

Mason said new deans only face transition troubles if problems had existed previously in the college.

"[There are negative effects] only if there were problems to begin with — only if there were issues," Mason said.

The president said she foresees no adjustment difficulties for Sarah Gardial, the new dean of the business school, given the strength of her administrative and academic experience.

"The big questions for her are going to be: We've got a strategic plan in place, do we want to tweak it?" Mason said. "What are the kinds of things — once she's here for a while and she learns what the possibilities are — that she wants to do to leave her own mark on the college?"

Though Johnson said there may be differences in the roles individual deans undertake, he said constant communication at the UI allows the entire network of officials to stay knowledgeable about any adjustments.

"We're all adapting to change all the time. I think the deans meet often together, so we're always well aware of what deans are doing and thinking," he said. "We have a good sense of where the administration is going. I think this is such a huge place that overall, people have to and tend to communicate pretty well."

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