Bruce Harreld calls first year at UI a 'whirlwind'

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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- "It's been a whirlwind."

Bruce Harreld listens to a question during a news conference after being announced as the 21st president of the University of Iowa at the Iowa Memorial Union in Iowa City, Iowa, on Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

That's how University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld described his first academic year at the school's helm.

Since his hiring in November of last year, the former Kraft and IBM vice president took flack for having too little academic experience and too much business experience.

Some worried Harreld would run the UI like a company. At public events, students, even faculty protested his appointment.

Online, a group of students and community members formed Iowans Defending Our Universities. The group believes the Board of Regents, which ultimately picked Harreld, ignored the opinions of teachers and the community.

Brad Pector, a junior at the UI and co-creator of the group, said members still want Harreld out.

"Where he comes from, his background, hasn't supported higher education before,” said Pector. “He hasn't exactly been welcoming of some of the community."

Harreld said these days things have calmed and cooperation has started. He believes the major critics that remain are a loud minority.

"A lot of people have come out of the wood work to help, once they realize I'm not the ogre that's going to slash and burn,” said Harreld. “Somebody said I was going to sell the [Jackson Pollock] mural. Give me a break. Come on."

Looking to the future, Harreld said he's developed some core goals. Some of them; find and better focus university dollars. Retain and attract quality educators. Continue to push up four-year graduation rates. Plus, stabilize and improve the UI's national academic rankings.

"I think, anything we touch we need to do with excellence,” said Harreld. “That isn't to say we need to do everything. But, the things we choose to do."