Over the month of April, the College of Veterinary Medicine at Iowa State hosted the three dean candidates. The three candidates are Spencer Johnston, Daniel Grooms and Pat Halbur. Halbur is also the current interim dean of the college.
Take a look at coverage of each candidates open forum, and look for coverage of the announcement of who will be the next dean coming soon.
First College of Vet Med dean finalist holds open forum
Dr. Spencer Johnston participated in an open forum Thursday as the first of the four finalists for the College of Veterinary Medicine dean position.
Johnston opened his forum by discussing his own history. He is from Greensburg, Pennsylvania and has attended or worked at five different college or universities, including Pennsylvania University, Michigan State University, Virginia Tech University and the University of Georgia in two stints, which is where Johnston currently works.
"What I take the greatest reward in [after my experiences] stepping back and helping others solve problems, by planting seeds and watching the programs and individuals grow," Johnston said.
In his presentation, Johnston outlined the vision that he would bring to the college as a dean. His vision touched on topics such as a culture of respect, work and life balance, research, the diagnostics lab, veterinary education and students specifically.
Even with all of his points, Johnston emphasized his desire is not to rework the college as a whole.
"I think it would be a huge mistake for anyone coming in here to be a dean to try to reorder and reprioritize [the strategic priorities]," Johnston said.
One of the top points of Johnston's vision was promoting a culture of respect within the college. He pointed to a number of issues a lack of respect can cause, such as ignoring others and selfishness.
"We have to be very careful that we don't have a systemic disrespect occur, where the the institution starts to ask too much of people, and then people feel disrespected themselves, and a breakdown occurs," Johnston said.
Work-life balance is another aspect Johnston found to be essential for a successful college. He said he wants the College of Vet Med to be looked at as desirable because of a favorable work-life balance.
Johnston was not shy to point to areas of his own background where he has less experience, which is in the area of research.
"I don't have an extensive background in high-level, USDA funded, [National Institute of Health] research, that's just a given," Johnston said.
He said he would rely heavily on the dean's advisors for this topic, a group of advisors that he sees as a strong support system.
A topic for the College of Vet Med that has been of importance is the funding of a new Veterinary Diagnostic Lab which needs $124 million to complete. Johnston said being apart of this new project would be an exciting opportunity.
In Johnston's current position at the University of Georgia, he was on the design team for a new teaching hospital for their veterinary medicine college. Johnston would want to bring some of the aspects of that design to the building plans of a new diagnostics lab.
These aspects include efficiency, biosecurity, interaction areas and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) status.
Another focus of Johnston's vision was students, specifically in the area of diversity. He cited data from the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) that ranked the diversity of the vet med colleges across the nation.
Based on that data, Iowa State's College of Vet Med ranks far below the United States average of "presence of racially and ethnically underrepresented students at U.S. colleges of veterinary medicine" with a presence of 7.4 percent compared to a national average of 17.4 percent.
"The vision would be that we try to move that number up to at least the national average, and we do that with recruitment and partnering with other universities," Johnston said.
Johnston also said reaching out to high schools earlier, putting summer programs in place and engaging with students organizations can also advance this goal.
Currently, Johnston is the department chair for the small animal medicine and surgery department at the University of Georgia's College of Veterinary Medicine.
Three more finalists for the College of Vet Med dean will be announced throughout February, with three more open forums happening on Feb. 6, 12 and 19.
The forums each are from 3:15 to 4:15 p.m. in room 2532 in the Veterinary Medicine building. There is an online form for feedback after each forum and paper forms at each forum.
While Johnston has been to a number of universities in his career, he isn't looking to keep moving around.
"I figured I have one more move left in my career," Johnston said.
Second College of Vet Med finalist holds forum
On Wednesday afternoon, the second of three nominees competing for the position of the Dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine held an open forum with faculty, students and staff.
Daniel Grooms, former department chair of large animal science at Michigan State University (MSU), sparked the opening of his forum by revealing a little bit of his personality.
Grooms did not open with a presentation for the audience to see. Instead, he had a discussion rather than a lecture.
“I hate going and listening to lectures, so I told myself as I evolved, why would I want to lecture people?” Grooms said.
He then pointed out some familiar faces in the crowd, and introduced them to the crowd. A former student from MSU that now works with ISU was present at the forum. Grooms then moved on by introducing himself and his past.
Academically, he holds multiple degrees, including but not limited to a Ph.D. at Ohio State, a Bachelor’s Degree in Animal Science from Cornell in 1985 and both graduate and undergraduate professional teaching experience. Since 1997, Grooms has been a faculty member at MSU with the official title, ‘beef cattle research and extension’.
Personally, Grooms grew in a rural community in Ohio. His father was an agriculture teacher while his mother was a nurse. Grooms’ mom ended up directing a nursing program in Ohio, which introduced Grooms to more than the rural life he previously lived. He primarily worked on infectious diseases in cattle, and focused a lot on the dairy industry.
Very active in agriculture, Grooms showed leadership in many local organizations. He was a leader in FFA, involved in 4-H and heavily engrossed in team sports. When Grooms was in college he was an athlete, playing for the Cornell football team.
When Grooms was in college he had many mentors guiding him. Three mentors that Grooms has all happened to at some point be deans, inspiring him to do the same.
“Boy, you know, that’s something I aspire to do,” Grooms said after explaining the impact that the deans had on him.
As a potential future dean at Iowa State University, Grooms had a few main points that he stressed in the forum. In particular, he had one goal that he stated was very important to him.
“The main goal of the dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine, whether it is here at Iowa State, Michigan State or Ohio state, is really to help the whole organization succeed, but especially the faculty, and especially the students as well,” Grooms said.
To Grooms, success throughout the Iowa State University and the College of Veterinary Medicine is pivotal.
Another angle that Grooms discussed was leadership and the style that he possesses. Mainly from his experience with teams in football and sports, Grooms learned that for him, teamwork is the best way to lead.
“I’m a believer in team leadership. I basically build a team around me and we make decisions as a team,” said Grooms.
Grooms then stated that if Iowa State University was looking for a dictator as a dean, then he is not the right fit.
“I will not be a dictator. If you’re looking for a dictator in a leadership position, I’m the wrong person,” Grooms said.
Following that statement, Grooms said, “If you are looking for somebody that will work hard to create effective leadership teams that can make joint decisions for the best of the college, for the university and society in general, then I would strive to do that.”
Another main aspect of Grooms discussion was vision. Beginning the topic of vision, Grooms told the audience that the College of Veterinary Medicine is already doing well.
“You know what? You guys have done a pretty good job of putting together a strategic plan for the next five years,” said Grooms.
Grooms then began to stress that partnership is a necessary virtue for a successful education and college.
“The future of Veterinary Medicine education is going to rely on strategic partnerships,” Grooms said.
Furthering partnership, Grooms went into detail about diversity and how it is crucial to a successful college. As a land-grant university, Grooms said that he was impressed with Iowa State.
“What I see here is a culture, a commitment to the ideals of land-grant universities,” Grooms said. “My goal is to help the organization and people move forward.”
Third College of Vet Med dean finalist holds open forum
Dr. Patrick Halbur, current interim dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine, participated in an open forum Monday as the third and final finalist for the college’s dean position.
Halbur began the forum by sharing information about himself. He is an Iowa native, grew up on a farm and is very passionate about agriculture.
“Last night, people mentioned to me that I ate really fast. That’s because I had lots of brothers and sisters,” Halbur joked.
Halbur holds a veterinary medicine degree, a master’s of veterinary pathology and a doctorate of veterinary pathology. All of his degrees are from Iowa State.
In regards to Halbur’s vision for the future of the college, he thinks they will need to do some things differently.
Class sizes in the college have increased significantly, and Halbur believes the college can no longer do that due to lack of space. Besides growing class sizes, the college has also increased it’s tuition substantially. He believes increasing tuition is the easy way out, and the college can’t do that anymore.
“The things we did to generate revenue that got us here won’t get us where we need to be,” Halbur said.
Halbur brought up the strategic plan the Vet Med recently released, and explained he found some gaps within the plan.
Areas Halbur believes the areas the strategic plan lacks in are diversity, mental health, economic impact, space and budget. He would like to shine a brighter light on diversity and mental health, focus more on the economic impact Iowa State has on the rest of Iowa, increase space on site and adopt an “aggressive budget” instead of a “fiscally stable budget.”
Halbur also expressed some thoughts he referred to as his “big ideas.”
His first big idea is to raise Vet Med’s budget from $105 million to $150 million in five years.
Secondly, he acknowledged the college will continue to raise tuition, but he would like to see that difference replaced with scholarship dollars.
Thirdly, Halbur would like to see Iowa State awarded with the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity award, because Vet Med currently ranks dead last in diversity among the other 30 veterinary medicine colleges in the nation.
“I’d like to be able to compete for that in a few years,” Halbur said. “Wouldn’t that be a great story to go from the bottom to winning?”
Halbur’s last big idea was to “quit saying no to China and Brazil.” There are opportunities there to build a veterinary diagnostic lab, and he believes Iowa State should help them and leave an impact in that part of the world.
Student success, student debt, mental health, diversity, legislative work and fundraising are the six things Halbur believes the next dean should start working toward from day one.
Halbur closed the forum by explaining he hopes his sincere passion for the Vet Med college is apparent, and he believes the students should always stay front and center in decision making.
“If I could pick my legacy, it would be that Iowa State is the place to go if I’m a veterinarian wanting to hire practice-ready graduates,” Halbur said.