UI long-term future of the UI discussed at open forum


The UI Academic 2020 Initiative committee and community have worked together to discuss the future of the UI through public open forums.

By Emily Wangen

As the University of Iowa looks to reconsider its academic structure, one faculty member suggested remembering the purpose of an education throughout the process will help everything else fall into place.

After two open-forum meetings this fall, the Academic 2020 Initiative held its final open-forum meeting for the second phase Tuesday at the Medical Alumni Auditorium in the General Hospital. Faculty senators also discussed the initiative’s progress at their meeting in the Old Capitol Senate Chamber Tuesday evening.

The initiative began in January when then-Provost P. Barry Butler charged the UI Council of Deans with identifying changes to the UI’s academic structure. The first phase involved conducting listening sessions with constituent groups throughout the spring 2017 semester.

The Phase 1 report was submitted to interim Executive Vice President and Provost Sue Curry in September. It included recommending possibilities for the reorganization of academic units.

UI President Bruce Harreld said in a May interview with The Daily Iowan that the initiative is about ensuring the UI continues to evolve to address the needs of modern times.

“I think over the last 20 years, our academic structure hasn’t changed at all,” Harreld said. “And yet a number of other institutions have continued to evolve theirs. So the question is: Is ours perfect, right now, for the 21st century? I think that’s what Barry was trying to poke at.”

The initiative is now in the second phase, which focuses on gathering input from the UI community regarding ways to optimize the UI’s academic future. The 2020 initiative committee’s Phase 2 report, which will contain recommendations and strategies for implementation, is set to be delivered to Curry in the spring 2018 semester.

UI Pappajohn Education Center Director Tom Rice facilitated the forum and opened discussion to community members in attendance.

The discussion revolved around three questions: How should the UI distinguish itself, how can the UI best serve the state and its people, and how can the UI become a national leader in addressing the challenges of the 21st century.

Rice said the last open-forum meeting had much more participation than the first one with the inclusion of passing out note cards and pencil for attendees to answer the questions posed during the forum.

“We asked for ideas, and not a whole lot of people generated ideas,” Rice said.

One topic of discussion during the Tuesday forum was ways to reach those outside the UI community and included many ideas from attendees of different backgrounds, with one attendee suggesting using the university education system to fuel the process of connecting to different age groups.

Internal medicine Professor Donald Macfarlane said during a UI Faculty Senate meeting Tuesday that the UI should state the purpose of an education and keep that at the forefront of its decisions, and everything else will stream from that.

“If we put all of that on top, we will increase the probability the individual will have a fine career, a fine family, and will create a great community,” Macfarlane said. “That pretty well encompasses what we’re trying to achieve.”

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