Q and A with UI President Sally Mason

BY DI STAFF | JUNE 14, 2012 6:30 AM

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The Daily Iowan sat down with President Sally Mason on Wednesday to talk about the upcoming residence hall, her trip to Asia at the end of June, and plans for the new UI Children's Hospital.

DI: President Mason, I know you plan to take a trip with a few other administrators to Asia in the next few weeks. Do you plan on taking any language or culture classes?

President Sally Mason: I'm actually getting lots of information about the people that we're going to be meeting with, places that we're going to be visiting. We'll be doing events, we'll be meeting lots of alumni, some current students who happen to be home for the summer, some of our students who happen to be over there on various study abroad and internships, and I'll be graduating a whole group of M.B.A.s in our Hong Kong M.B.A. program on July 1.

I'm afraid I won't have time to [take language courses] although I'll try to pick up a few key words. We have business cards made that are written in Mandarin, and we'll use those while we are over there.

DI: The state Board of Regents were presented information on the new Children's Hospital at the last meeting and approved the first towers most recent construction costs. When do you expect the regents to approve the other two buildings?

Mason: That's a long way off. We really have a lot of work to get done. Obviously, reconfiguring all of the parking and building the new Children's Hospital, that's huge projects. That's at least the next five years of projects there. What they were shown was really a 25-year master plan, how it could look in the future, and a lot of that will depend on how the hospitals business is going, how the funding streams are going, what the cost of construction is, will go very slowly depending on what our situation is.

DI: It's been four years since the flood of 2008. How far has the University of Iowa come, and what do you hope to see happen this year? What kind of progress do you anticipate for the buildings that are expected to be completed in the next year? Do you think the university community is at all changed from the flood four years later? Why/Why not?

Mason: Tomorrow, four years ago, was the day the waters peaked here in Iowa City, and things got really bad. We lost so many buildings and so much square footage. We had 2 million square feet of space on this campus that were affected by that flood. We're at the point where much of this has been recovered — that's the good news.

Now, four years later, we've come a long ways. There's a lot that's been recovered, but there's still a lot more to do. The Art Building West was just reopened this past semester. Thank goodness for that — that's a really good piece along the way. We will start the construction projects now on the rest of the IMIU. The IMU has been up and functional, but those bottom two floors you've never seen them. But the construction on those floors and the back side of the IMU that will get started this year as well. Old Hancher Auditorium should come down this year. It will be a slow process, it has to come down very carefully, there's a lot of asbestos in that building, so we have to be very careful about how we take that building down. It won't be as simple as just blowing it up and hauling it away.

It'll have to come down very carefully. At the same time we'll begin the site preparation for the new Hancher and we'll begin the site preparation for the new music building. The banks on the corner of Burlington and Clinton streets, those will start to disappear this year, and we'll prepare for the new music building. Similarly, over by Art West, we'll start preparation for the new art building. So you'll see a lot of things moving.

DI: Von Stange, director of UI Housing and Dining said living-learning communities will be the main focus for the new residence hall. Why do you think this is, and how does this reflect the university? How have we seen students benefiting from living in the communities?

Mason: This is one of the efforts that we've made to improve student success and student retention. We know that living learning communities have been very successful. We know that the sooner a freshman makes connections with other students and becomes friends with other students, the easier it is for them to adapt to life away from home, life away from family, and the easier it is for us to make sure that we for our students' success is graduation. So the student retention and student success piece, that's very much why we do living learning communities.

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