University of Iowa president Bruce Harreld is mixing business with pleasure on his trip to California for the Rose Bowl game.
In an interview Wednesday with Radio Iowa at the downtown Los Angeles hotel where he is staying, Harreld says one of the first things he’s done is meet with alumni.
“Had dinner with about 50-55 of the medical community who live out here in California. Renowned physicians, orthopedic surgeons, neurologist, cardiologists, not only talking about U-I Healthcare, but what is happening with the university going forward. And a lot of the turnaround in U-I Health Care has been with their support — so it’s thanking them,” Harreld says.
Harreld was meeting Wednesday with alumni from the various colleges and the U-I is also holding some recruiting sessions in California. He says the national attention the football team has gained this season is a big plus. “It helps us all the way around, it helps us in recruiting, it helps us in philanthropy, helps us tell our story,” according to Harreld.
Harreld admits the controversy over his hiring and his non-academic background comes up when he talks with parents or prospective students.
“They’ve questioned my business background –am I going to reinvest in the core of the institution, particularly academically — questions about what my focus will be, and I’ve been telling them, look this is a remarkable institution that is classic liberal arts institution and we’re doubling down on that. We’re doubling down on faculty salaries, recruitment of faculty,” Harreld says.
He says this football season is a good example of how our “reactionary society” can overreact to things, wanting to fire the long-time coach after last season. Harreld says it is kind of like the overreaction to his hiring. He says the football staff includes some wonderful members of the Iowa family who are doing things the “Iowa way” with high integrity.
“So, I think we need to just catch a breath. Part of the same people are trying to look at me in the short term and say ‘wait you don’t have any experience or background.’ Give me a break, I’ve got a lot of experience in academics, I’ve taught for six- and-a-half years at another institution,” Harreld says. “I haven’t had this job per se, but I’ve had a lot of time for reinvestment in the right things.”
Harreld says people need to look at the long term picture. “I think this season football wise has taught us a lesson, which is let’s back up here and try to get our sea legs, of what are we trying to get done. What are our values, and trying to do it the right Iowa way,” Harreld says.
The U-I is seeking $4.5 million from lawmakers and the governor in the next legislative session in January that Harreld says will be put toward improving the faculty. He says he has laid out the case for the money. “I’ve told that story, I’m going to continue to telling that story. The legislature will do what they need to do — they have other issues in the state, a lot of other fiscal issues. But even if they don’t give us that support, I still need to find a way to reinvest in the core, and the faculty are the critical core right now,” Harreld says.
Harreld took over as the new U-I president in September of this year, replacing Sally Mason, who retired.
Photo by Joe Danielson