Success, safety, and sustainability
Parent Times recently spoke with UI president Sally Mason about goals for the biggest first-year class in University of Iowa history.
What did the University do to prepare for record first-year enrollment?
We began planning once we saw our application numbers rising, establishing a special enrollment management committee in the spring. Over the summer, we added course sections, hired more teachers, and created new housing options.
Even with this growth, we’re still one of the smallest universities in the Big Ten. We’re committed to providing every student the opportunities of a major university in an environment that’s personal and supportive.
To what do you attribute this fall’s growth?
We want to make an outstanding UI education accessible to more students, so we’ve set targets for larger enrollment. The fact that we’ve been so successful says great things about our university and our state. Students and families know we offer a top-notch experience at an affordable cost.
We admit every Iowa undergraduate who meets criteria established by the Iowa Board of Regents. But as Iowa’s college-aged population declines, we’re also admitting many more international students and attracting more students from out of state. Once they graduate, some of these students will stay in Iowa to work and raise families.
This fall’s class is also among the University’s most diverse, no?
More than 12 percent of first-year students from the United States identify as members of minority groups—up from 10 percent last year—and more than 8 percent of the class comes from abroad. This class also is among our most academically accomplished.
What’s the University doing to help students succeed?
We’re developing more opportunities for students to connect through living-learning communities, unique first-year seminars, and other academic and student-life programs, and we’re also looking out for students who show signs of trouble. We want to make sure students go on to graduate, and parents are essential partners in this effort—they encourage students to explore options, make choices that advance their goals, and seek help when they need it.
The University has also stepped up efforts to help students make safe choices.
Yes, especially with regard to alcohol use. Our intention is not to ban alcohol from the University community, but we want to encourage students who choose to drink to do so safely, legally, and wisely.
We’ve expanded a successful alcohol education program and launched an online health assessment that includes a follow-up with students who may be at risk for alcohol-related problems. We’ve also forged a campus-community Partnership for Alcohol Safety to develop joint solutions.
As teachers, mentors, and parents, we need to set an example for our students. That’s one inspiration for a new “Think Before You Drink” initiative around home football games. We’ve implemented regulations for safer tailgating and enhanced enforcement of existing laws.
How does the University’s focus on sustainability mesh with economic pressures?
Sustainability makes good financial sense. Greener buildings are generally less expensive to run, and projects like our new Energy Control Center help us monitor power use and cut waste.
Sustainability has become a theme in practically everything we do, including academics. We’re taking the long view and imagining what kind of a world we want our children to inherit, providing them with the knowledge and skills to carry on the work we begin today.
How have students responded to this emphasis?
With amazing energy, initiative, and insight. Today’s students show an inspiring tendency to think beyond themselves when confronting environmental and social challenges.
Universities exist to expand human knowledge, solve problems, and prepare new generations to do the same. I’m struck by our students’ readiness to do just that.
In other challenges, how has the University weathered the economic recession?