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IOWA CITY -- Public research universities must show individual stakeholders -- be they graduates, politicians, taxpayers or tuition payers -- how the institution benefits that person's life, to demonstrate the return on investment such universities provide, the third finalist to become the University of Iowa's vice president for strategic communication said Wednesday.
That's especially true now, as the role of public universities in society has been questioned in the past 30 years, John Diamond, 58, said.
"There's nothing more important in terms of describing what we do than talking about our role as a partner, resource and catalyst to the public good," Diamond said.
Stakeholders want public universities to produce results, act in relevant ways, be accountable for the funding they get and provide a return on investment, be it educational. societal or financial, he said.
The challenges of the university are to address legitimate concerns and dispel myths and effectively communicate and demonstrate their role, Diamond said. When the university does this through communication, engagement and advocacy, what results are relationships, resources and reputation, he said.
"You are able to convince people and help them understand the benefits of what research universities do and the relevance to them and their lives," he said.
A public institution that is publicly accountable must recognize that its credibility is on the line in situations where there might be a crisis, Diamond said. Transparency is in the institution's best interest, and it's the right thing to do, he said.
"The consequences of not being transparent and accountable are far greater than transparency is," Diamond said. "It's critical that you have multiple and redundant ways of addressing the communication needs of any potential stakeholders."
Diamond, the associate vice chancellor for university relations at the University of Arkansas, was the third and last finalist to visit campus in the past week and a half to interview to become the UI's vice president for strategic communication.
The two other finalists are Jeff Iseminger, interim vice president for university advancement and marketing at Minnesota State University in Mankato, and Joseph A. Brennan, associate vice president for university communications at the State University of New York at Buffalo.
UI Vice President for Student Life Tom Rocklin, a co-chairman of the search committee, said he expects the committee will send its thoughts and recommendations to UI President Sally Mason late this week or early next week, with Mason making the decision after that.
Mark Braun, Mason's chief of staff, has filled the job on an interim basis since the former vice president, Tysen Kendig, left in December.