Montana State University chancellor Mark Nook made his case for taking over as the new president at the University of Northern Iowa Thursday.
Nook says higher education has been questioned recently as people ask about its value. “There is a value proposition, a public good to higher education that has been lost in a lot of the conversation. And as a public institution we have to step up — especially the leaders, Nook says. He says the value of a liberal arts education itself has also been questioned, but he says it’s the type of education that employers want their prospective employees to have.
“What they really need is they need somebody that can communicate effectively to clients and can communicate effectively to colleagues,” Nook says. “They need people who can work together in teams. They need people who have critical thinking skills that really know how to solve problems that they have never seen before, that aren’t in their area of education.”
Nook says UNI and other schools need to continue to provide students a diverse education in what they teach, and tenure is one tool that helps faculty do that.
“How can we engage those conversations and make sure that as we engage them — without trying to mindwash but at least engage those conversations — faculty have to have a protection. Tenure is that,” Nooks says. “That doesn’t mean it should be a job for life. Faculty that don’t do their job, that aren’t in the classroom when they should be in the classroom, that are teaching things outside the syllabus, those are things that we need to have serious conversations about.”
Nook was asked how UNI can differentiate itself from other schools. “UNI educates Iowans for Iowa. No one else does that. No one else does it. There’s no other school, no other groups that bring in the same percentage of Iowa students to their institution and return those students to their state,” Nook says.
He says UNI has to tout the return the state gets on the money it puts into the school. “We create the next group of leaders in Iowa, we create the next group of business leaders and lawyers — yeah they go somewhere else to get that degree — but they wouldn’t be successful without that program here,”according to Nook.
Nook says UNI is different from others schools because it is not student centered, it is student success centered. “We’re focused on their success. And not just in their educational pursuits, their professional career and their personal life. And building a sense of community beyond out borders. It’s about what we do with our community,” Nook says.
Nook is the last of the three finalists to visit the campus. The Board of Regents is expected to chose one of the three to be the next president at their meeting on the Cedar Falls campus next week