TITLE: Installing a New President AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: September 29, 2006 5:36 PM DESC: ----- BODY: Today, my university installed its new president. The installation was high ceremony, with faculty dressed in full academic regalia, a distinguished platform committee, and an appearance by one of Iowa's U.S. senators, who is a UNI alumnus. (Alas, business on Capitol Hill changed his plans at the last minute and limited him to a video address.) As much as universities have changed in the last thousand years or so, we still hold onto some of our oldest traditions and ceremonies. That's a good thing, I think. It creates a sense of purpose and history, tying us to our forebears in the quest to understand the universe. Ben Allen, President of UNI I am excited by our new president. He comes to us from a major research school, a sister institution with which my department has dealt recently. Everyone I've spoken to from his old university, whether staff or administrator, regular faculty to research superstar, has praised his intellect, his ability, and his character in the most glowing of terms. We need a leader of high intellect, ability, and character as we face the many changes that confront universities, especially public universities, these days. President Allen's installation address gives those of us in the sciences reason to anticipate the future. He seems to understand clearly the role that science, math, and technology will play in the world in the coming century, and he seems to understand just as well that a comprehensive university such as ours must play an essential role in educating both capable citizens and professionals prepared to work in a technological world. And his vision takes in more than just the aims of education; he sees the importance of participating in developing our state's economy and to lead in areas where our strengths meet the greatest needs of the public. These include the training of capable teachers and -- perhaps surprising to folks who think of the Great Midwest as only a homogeneous population of old European ancestry -- the integration and development of modern immigrant communities. I feel great hope that the new president of my medium-sized public institution in the heartland of America believes that we can and must become world leaders in the areas of our strengths. As he is fond of saying, good is the enemy of great, and we must ask and answer difficult questions in order to discern where we will excel -- and then carry out a plan to do so. Even greater is my hope in his belief that science, math, and technology are among the areas we must come to lead. Now my department faces a big challenge. At what can we be great? What specialty can we develop that will be world class? -----