INSIDE IOWA STATE
June 29, 2001
Geoffroy: No. 1 land-grant goal is the right one
by Anne Krapfl
Gregory Geoffroy becomes Iowa States 14th president on July 1. Before he
begins his leadership post, Inside Iowa State asked for some of his early
thoughts on the university.
In late January, the presidency of Iowa State University probably looked
pretty good to you. What are you thinking about your new job
Im still very excited about it and looking forward to July 1, when I arrive
and officially take over. Iowa State is clearly one of the nations finest
land-grant universities, and in spite of the current budget challenges, I do
believe that the long-term prospects for the university are very
How can we (faculty and staff) help you in your transition to Iowa
Keep optimistic about the future and keep looking ahead. In spite of these
difficult budget challenges, I think there are many exciting opportunities
to pursue. I want to spend a lot of time meeting Iowa State people, so the
first month is going to be a lot of getting to know you kinds of
Iowa State begins this new fiscal year some 210-plus positions lighter
than it was 18 months ago (the result of two years of operating budget cuts
from the state). What do you say to those employees who still have jobs and
probably are juggling a few more duties?
I think its important that we try to recover those positions as soon as the
economic situation turns around. But at the same time, we need to focus on
trying to be more efficient in everything we do at the university. But that
must be done without overloading the remaining members of the faculty and
the staff. The university needs to identify its highest priorities and focus
on those, and reduce activities that are of lesser importance.
There has been talk of a self-assessment at Iowa State in the next year
or so, with an eye for retooling and reducing the number of programs it
offers. Can you say more about your hopes for that process?
This process is being driven by a directive from the governor. He has asked
for a detailed organizational review of all of state government. He has
granted to the regents autonomy in conducting a similar assessment of the
regents institutions, so each institution will undergo such an examination,
probably with the assistance of external consultants, and focus on ways to
improve efficiency, effectiveness and accountability. We'll be part of that
effort. My thinking is that we will want to do that with a broad-based
advisory committee of faculty, staff, students and administrators. We've
begun to think about putting such a group together, and that will unfold
over the summer.
Should Iowa State still be gunning to become the country's best land-grant
school, or would you recommend a different goal to faculty and
Absolutely. No question about it. It's the right goal for the university
because of Iowa State's very strong land-grant mission. We should strive to
be the very best we can in achieving every aspect of that mission.
How does Iowa State continue to improve, in spite of its smaller
It's not as easy to do as when budgets are better. But to improve, you simply
have to identify the highest-priority programs and activities and focus on
strengthening those and doing those as well as possible. It means we may
have to narrow the scope of our ambitions a little. And there might be areas
where we could be more efficient by combining activities, maybe with some
selective trimming. At the same time, as we receive new resources (tuition
income, state appropriations, private fund raising), we have to invest those
selectively in our highest priority areas and look for opportunities to
reallocate resources and make sure those are used well.
University presidents are called upon more and more to be their schools
lead fund-raisers. How do you feel in that role?
I like it very much, especially since private fund raising is so important
in supplementing the resources provided by the state and through tuition and
fees. Through the fund-raising enterprise, I will have the opportunity to
work with people who have a real fondness for Iowa State. It's also a
wonderful opportunity to sell the university, to talk about the really
terrific things that are going on and the future prospects. I find fund
raising to be very stimulating and fun.
Does fund raising detract from leading?
Not necessarily. I think there's no one else who can do it. The foundation
staff assists and plays an important role, but ultimately, major donors are
going to want to see the president.
Regarding leading, a president must assemble a good team of vice presidents
and others who report to the president to insure that the presidents vision
and goals are achieved and that the campus is managed well and run
efficiently. The president should not be a micro-manager of the campus.
What's at the top of your to do list between now and the winter holiday
I really want to focus on doing what we can to start building larger numbers
of strong academic programs at the university, and that means looking for
opportunities for that to occur. One initiative that must remain front and
center is the plant sciences initiative. That is very important for the
university and it will remain a priority. I've got several ideas for some
other areas we'll want to talk about and see how they fit. The ultimate goal
needs to be to build strong academic programs that are aligned with our
land-grant mission. Strong academic programs have great faculty and great
students. If you have those, everything else falls into place.
Rumor has it that you keep a wireless computer handy. Is this
That's correct, all the time. The only computer I use is a laptop. I take it
everywhere with me home, on the road, to the office, although I don't carry
it with me to meetings. I check my e-mail frequently when I'm traveling, and
several times a day when I'm in the office. I plan to use the same kind of
system when I get to Iowa State.
Can a student receive just as good an education online as in a lecture
The short answer is It depends. I think that the level of interaction on the
Internet is such, that a student can learn effectively from online courses
if those courses are well-structured, involving online chats with other
course participants and frequent
e-mail dialogue with the professor, etc. In some cases, you could argue
online courses could be much more effective than a student sitting in a
lecture hall with 400 other students and just listening to the professor
On the other hand, if you compare an online course with a small seminar of,
say, 15 students that get together three times a week to discuss important
topics, it's going to be hard for an online course to duplicate that
experience. It depends on what you're comparing and the effectiveness of the
communications both among the students in the course and with the
Online courses are a way to provide access to education to students who can't
come to campus. For the right courses and the right students, it can be
What role can research play in an undergraduates education? Have you
involved undergraduate students in your research programs in the
All students benefit from hands-on training and use of what they learn in
the classroom. Be it internship programs, or the opportunity to work with
faculty on research programs, all really provide the direct excitement and
real-world application of what students are learning in the classroom. I
very strongly believe that those kinds of experiences terrifically enrich
the undergraduate educational experience.
I've probably had 75 undergraduates work in my research group over the years.
My research required a lot of my direct involvement with the graduate
students, undergraduate students and post-doctoral scholars on the team. As
provost and certainly as president, it really hasn't been possible for me to
have that kind of program and I miss interacting with them in that setting.
It was just a lot of fun.
What are a president's opportunities for interacting with
You have to seek them out. At Iowa State, the President's Leadership Class is
a wonderful way to meet students, and there also are the regular meetings
with student leaders. But I intend to find lots of opportunities to interact
informally with students. For example, one of my goals is to eat in every
place on campus where one can eat, and use that as an opportunity to have
informal interactions with people. I'll look for all kinds of occasions to do
things like that. I think it's important to interact with members of the
university community in these kinds of less-structured environments, as well
as the more structured ones.
What do people seem to have more trouble with, spelling your name
correctly or pronouncing it correctly?
They have more trouble pronouncing it, but it also is misspelled a fair bit.
Kathy and I have both been impressed that almost everyone at Iowa State has
pronounced it correctly.
Have you checked the progress on The Knoll? How will you and your wife
use the facility?
I didn't get inside during our last visit (June 7-9). We really intend to
open The Knoll as much as possible to the university community, and seek
opportunities to have people over to the house. Certainly it will be used
for fund-raising events. It really is a university facility and we want to
treat it like that.
We've never lived on a campus, either as students or with my university jobs.
It will be fun.
Ames, Iowa 50011, (515) 294-4111
Published by: University Relations,
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