Iowa State University provost Jonathan Wickert will step back after 12 years

Iowa State University's longest-serving provost is stepping down after 12 years, revealing he plans to resign on June 30.

Jonathan Wickert is one of the nation's longest-serving provosts and is the longest-serving provost among Iowa's public universities. He's also the longest-serving provost in the Big 12 Conference.

Wickert said spending more than a decade in his position was "a good long run."

"Iowa State has been around for over 160 years," Wickert said. "We all pass through it and hopefully leave it a little better than we found it. I’ve been very fortunate to be trusted to help our students at the institutional level.  Now I’ll make a difference in the classroom at an individual level."

Wickert will not leave the university entirely, according to Inside Iowa State, a university newsletter distributed throughout the academic year. He will continue serving as a mechanical engineering professor, President's Chair in Engineering, and provost emeritus.

"Provost Wickert has served Iowa State University with skill, intelligence and dedication," Iowa State University President Wendy Wintersteen said in the newsletter. "Around the region and nationally, he is a recognized leader for his insights and ability. I sincerely appreciate all Provost Wickert has done to support this great university."

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A background in mechanical engineering

Wickert arrived on Iowa State's campus in 2007 as a professor and chair of mechanical engineering after teaching at Carnegie Mellon University for 17 years. He was named dean of ISU's engineering college in 2009 and stepped into the provost role in 2012.

Wickert said being the university's provost is like having a different job every day. One moment might be spent on budgets, the next on student recruitment, a new degree in artificial intelligence, or working with a faculty team on a new research idea.

"What makes being provost very special, compared to other positions I’ve had, is that it encompasses every student and faculty member across the university," Wickert said. "I’ve had the opportunity to work with Extension professionals who literally get their boots dirty in the field. You meet scientists who are among the world’s most distinguished experts. I get to see it all come together to create a great university that punches above its weight."

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Iowa State University Campanile. Photo by Nirmalendu Majumdar/Ames Tribune
Iowa State University Campanile. Photo by Nirmalendu Majumdar/Ames Tribune

Advancing the university

Wickert has been involved in several of Iowa State's innovative projects. He has helped establish the winter class session − Iowa State Online − approved several new degrees and oversaw the construction of the Student Innovation Center. Wickert also helped improve ISU's graduation rate and expanded recruiting for domestic and international students.

The longtime provost has created many fond memories during his time at Iowa State, including chance conversations with faculty and staff and run-ins with prospective students during campus tours.

However, he said nothing beats the memories of shaking hands with students as they walk across the Hilton Coliseum stage at commencement.

Wickert never thought he'd hold the provost position for more than a decade, but he was inspired by Iowa State's leadership and the faculty he worked with.

"President (Wendy) Wintersteen’s vision and leadership were the significant factors in staying so long.," Wickert said. "So too is the ability to work closely with faculty who really understand our land-grant mission. It’s a special job and Iowa State is a special place."

Wickert looks forward to continuing his journey at Iowa State and already has a to-do list prepared.

"What excites me most will be teaching undergraduate students in our new Student Innovation Center and watching how that prepares them for their careers and lives," Wickert said.

The search for Wickert's successor will begin immediately.

Celia Brocker is a government, crime, political and education reporter for the Ames Tribune. She can be reached at

This article originally appeared on Ames Tribune: Iowa State University's longest-serving provost announces resignation