At the end of 2013, I finished a most rewarding experiences by serving as Interim Provost at Upper Iowa University, a school which although based in Fayette, Iowa, provides remarkable educational opportunities to students at some twenty sites in the United States, as well as at campuses in Hong Kong and Malaysia.
The photographs accompanying this post were taken by Daphne Barness, a senior at UIU whom I met through Elissa Wenthe, a member of faculty in the Department of Art and a colleague with whom I very much enjoyed working. Coming from Ossian, Iowa, Daphne will graduate this year with a double major in Psychology and Art, two interests she will integrate in graduate school as she pursues an advanced degree in Art Therapy, with the ultimate goal of working children in a hospital setting. One of those students who combines an extraordinary academic record with challenging and extensive volunteer and leadership activities, Daphne has had her work exhibited in a number of venues, including the Art Haus Gallery in Decorah, Iowa. When she agreed to take a number of photos for me, I was delighted because I knew her photos would demonstrate what a gem of a campus University Upper Iowa is.
The opportunity to become a part of Upper Iowa—indeed, to become a peacock, which is UIU’s mascot—came as a result of my membership in the Registry for College and University Presidents, an organization that provides institutions with interim leadership. The advantage of such leadership is that an institution gains both an experienced person to work with the institution through a time of transition and an opportunity to engage in planning and thus to make deliberate and thoughtful decisions.
Upper Iowa appointed an Interim Provost because its top priority in 2013 was to find its next president, which it did in April of 2013 by naming Dr. William Duffy President of UIU. Having retired from the military, Dr. Duffy had come to UIU o serve as Vice President for Academic Extension—that part of UIU that serves students through online classes and at sites as close to Fayette as Cedar Rapids and as far away as Mesa, Arizona. And Upper Iowa not only serves a large number of students at various military bases, it is recognized for its commitment to students who are serving in the military.
Dr. Duffy came to Upper Iowa from Middle Tennessee State, where he had been instrumental in developing that University’s extended offerings. When Upper Iowa went through the presidential search, some resisted selecting an internal candidate, but the knowledge of Upper Iowa University that Dr. Duffy brought to the presidency, together with his commitment to serving diverse students, his commitment to educational quality, and his operational abilities made him the right choice as the school confronted the challenges all schools face of determining strategies for the years ahead.
Everyone knows—because everyone keeps saying it—that these are challenging times for higher education. I won’t bore you with the reasons, but what one notices are schools that scramble to figure out how to make it through a time of declining enrollments and increased competition. Many schools fall over themselves—literally—trying to enter the online or the extended campus model. Part of UIU’s strength is that it has been offering such opportunities for years, has an enviable record of success in that area and thus has the experience and vision to do so for years to come.
And not only that—Upper Iowa University’s hometown of Fayette, Iowa, distinguished by its not having a stop light, is the home to close to 1,000 residential students, many drawn from outside the United States. This campus is everyone’s ideal of what the small college should look like, boasting a Division II athletic program and providing students an array of opportunities, including an extensive array of study-abroad classes.
During my time at UIU, I experienced, again, the fun of collaborating with dedicated people to ensure students an educational experience that prepares them for something after college. For a University such as UIU, trying to look like every other small college just does not make sense. As I left Upper Iowa, the University had taken steps to focus its offerings, especially in the area of pre-professional preparation. Having named a member of its faculty to serve as Interim Provost and to Chair the search for an ongoing Provost, UIU will shortly begin a search for that person; and I encourage anyone interested in such a position to take a look at Upper Iowa University.
Thanks, again, to Daphne Barness for the wonderful photos--and to everyone at UIU for a wonderful year.