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Third University of Iowa president finalist visits campus

IOWA CITY — The third finalist in the search for a new University of Iowa president visited campus and held a public forum Monday.

Wendy Hensel is currently the chief academic officer at Georgia State University — but says she has a Big Ten background — having graduated from Michigan State. She started her career in law, and took a job teaching law that she thought would be short-term until she decided what she wanted to do. “And it was not long before I realized that I had found my professional passion for the rest of my life. I love students. I love the mission of higher education,” Hensel says.

She says that would continue to be her focus at the UI. “Students should be at the center of literally everything that we do. They’re the reason that we are here and their success is instrumental to our success,” according to Hensel. “I believe strongly, as I think all of you do too based on what I’ve heard today, that it is a moral imperative that anybody that we admit as sufficiently talented to be at this university — that we commit to get them through to graduation.”

Hensel was asked about what appears to be a divide between the campus and the rest of the state on issues such as free speech. “We can come back to a respectful position in which everybody is on the team. Right now it feels very much like it is us and them. It’s the polar opposite. There’s very little in the middle, and I would pledge as president to commit to developing that relationship on a serious basis, ongoing and in advance of these serious disputes,” Hensel says.

She was also asked about how she would deal with the Legislature and some of the bills targeting the universities. Handel says the first thing is not to stand up and say “No” to everything, but to find the issues where you can softly debate and talk about them. “If you take away tenure for example. That would be one that we’re never going to agree that it is acceptable to do that. That’s just fundamental to higher education, it allows the research enterprise to take on questions that otherwise would not be politically palatable,” she says. “Certainly in this environment it’s not hard to see how that might happen. most of it we can discuss as friends with data and common goals in mind”

Hensel will spend today on campus meeting with more groups. The fourth and final candidate for the president’s job will be announced and visit campus later this week. The next president is expected to be hired on April 30th.

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