Iowa City Press-Citizen: Interim Provost to Shepherd in Strategic Plan

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

By B. A. Morelli
Iowa City Press-Citizen

The man who developed University of Iowa’s new strategic plan set lofty goals but took another job before the plan was formally approved and without a map to execute it.

That is the challenge left for Barry Butler, a longstanding dean of the UI College of Engineering who agreed to step in as interim vice president and provost.

Butler said his goal is to bring to life the plan developed by former provost Wallace Loh, who will become University of Maryland president on Nov. 1.

“I walked in the door pretty much the day after it was approved by the Board of Regents,” said Butler, who took office on Oct. 1 with an annual salary of $350,000.

Butler is expected to hold the office throughout this school year as UI conducts a national search for a new provost, who should be in place next school year, UI spokesman Tom Moore said.

The provost is UI’s second highest ranked official, behind the university president, and oversees the academic portion of UI.

Butler said does not plan to “let the office sit” this year.

The strategic plan, which includes hiring 100 new faculty over the next five years and supporting a higher student enrollment base, may be the biggest item on his plate.

“It’s a plan, but it has to be shepherded along,” Butler said. “(My goal) is moving it along, so as to make it feel alive and make sure the office moves along.”

“Wallace did a great job in going through multiple iterations. It really is a good plan,” he said.

In addition to moving forward on the strategic plan, Butler will also make key hires, including a new College of Education dean, work on a tuition plan and budget for next year, and help develop UI’s next major fundraising campaign.

At the time of Butler’s appointment as interim provost, UI president Sally Mason said he was selected in part because of his “long tenure and deep understanding of the university.”

“We will benefit from continuity in our mission in the Office of the Provost as well as continuing progress in the initiatives we have launched,” Mason said in a statement at the time.

Butler, who grew up moving around in a military family, lives with his family in rural Johnson County.

He joined the UI faculty in 1984 after earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in aeronautical engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1979 and 1981. Butler was named dean of engineering in 2000, after a year of serving as interim dean. In his college, which will be led by Alec Scranton in his absence, he has increased the amount of money from research grants and student enrollment.

His research focus is in the area of reactive flow analysis and modeling and he is a leader in supporting the advancement of wind energy and wind energy research.

Faculty Senate President Ed Dove said faculty are supportive of Butler being appointed interim provost.

“I think faculty think he is an appropriate choice. He is the kind of person who can (execute the strategic plan),” Dove said. “Those that know Barry will know he is a very capable person and a very good manager.”