President Mary Sue Coleman's late August schedule is bursting with receptions, discussions, and speeches that are part of welcoming students to campus. "We will make every effort to ensure your success," she writes in a letter sent to first-year students during their first week on campus. "As you begin settling in to new quarters and making new friends, locating your classrooms, and opening your textbooks, I wish you the best of luck in all your endeavors at The University of Iowa," she adds. Parent Times had the opportunity to visit with President Coleman about a number of topics that make for an exciting start to the University's last semester of the century.
In fall a young Hawkeyes fancy lightly turns to thoughts of football, of course! Iowa students have a great opportunity to see Big Ten athletics all year long, but its especially fun every fall. How will this fall be different?
It has been a big year already, because we were selecting basketball and football coaches. These are high-profile sports and our highest revenue-generating sports. So getting the right kind of people in those positions is absolutely key. I believe were really fortunate at Iowa because we have superb athletic directors in Christine Grant and Bob Bowlsby. They are extremely well known nationally and have been leaders in issues of athletic integrity. We looked for people who understand the importance of academics in an athletes life, who will run programs with integrity, and who will win. But we have to keep at the top of our minds that we have huge responsibilities for our students, both in their academic preparation and in their physical health. One of the things about having a great medical center on campus is that we can pay a lot of attention to issues of sports injuries and the health of our athletes.
In every interaction I have had with both Kirk Ferentz, the new football coach, and Steve Alford, our new basketball coach, I am extremely impressed with their understanding, their high standards, and their concern for their athletes. So we can look forward to the season with maybe some rebuilding, but also some excitement! I would like to issue an invitation to parents to come to campus whenever they can to participate in games with us.
This summer we saw an unprecedented interest in womens athletics when the U.S. team played China in world cup soccer and filled the Rose Bowl with fans. It had to be inspiring to Iowas women athletes to see that stadium filled for a womens sport! Do you see ways that we can leverage this interest for Iowas teams?
In womens athletics we truly had this spectacular event with the World Cup and the attention it drew. We see signs of progress for womens teams. Weve been at the forefront of Title IX, with Christine Grant and her staff, for a long time, promoting the equality of womens athletics with mens.
Now, for the first time this year, we are offering season tickets in womens basketball, womens volleyball, and womens softball. Weve never had them before. We think this is a maturing of these sports and a sign of increased fan support for our women athletes. And our teams are terrific! Im always thrilled when I go to these events to see young families and children participating. This is just another way that the University can be a tremendous service to the community. Another point: The pipeline is extremely important. Young girls participating in sports need to know when they see this great success that they, too, can participate, can go to college and get scholarships in all kinds of sports. We are very interested in making sure that happens.
Recently the University announced a record year for research support by government, foundations, businesses and industries, and other funders, totaling $259.5 million. Does this affect undergraduate students, and if so, how?
There are innumerable ways in which undergraduate students benefit from research funding: working in a research lab in a summer job or during the year, doing a research project, or getting involved in a professors research. One of the initiatives from the provosts office is to encourage more students to work with professors on research projects. Its the same idea as an internship. And its all across campus, the social sciences and humanities as well as engineering and science. For example, students can do projects in the arts funded by the National Endowment for the Arts.
One of the great advantages of studying at a research university is for students to be there at a time of discovery. When they are there when the discovery is made, they can participate in the excitement. Faculty members are ecstatic when undergraduates are involved at a time like that. This big increase in funding is going to provide even more opportunities for undergraduates to get hooked up with a project and get some front-line experience in science and discovery. I think its enormously valuable. And its not a separate activity from their classesits totally integrated with textbook learning.
When you think about it, what is the advantage of coming to a big research university? Its the breadth of opportunity that we offer undergraduates. The doors are wide open for students to come in and participate. I cannot imagine a better way to use your time as an undergraduate, to get involved in a project and help discover something that no one else knows. I did research when I was in college. But there are a lot of places that you cannot be involved as an undergraduate. Smaller colleges never will have our facilities for research or the large number of academic fields we cover.
Is there anything else youd like to say to parents about their students college experience?
Id like to encourage parents to stay engaged with their children, to ask questions. Theres nothing quite so important as the interest of a parent in what their child is doing. I think parents have a huge influence on their children. I also think they can have a huge influence in helping their child stay safe. Questions can help a young person think about the decisions he or she is making, especially in regard to alcohol consumption.
This seems like a small town and a safe place, but that doesnt mean you can abandon caution. You always need to be cautious.