Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Montserrat (Montse) Fuentes, dean and professor in the College of Humanities & Sciences at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia, has been named the University of Iowa’s new executive vice president and provost. She will begin on June 28.

Fuentes succeeds Sue Curry, who has served as interim executive vice president and provost since April 2017. Curry began serving after Executive Vice President and Provost P. Barry Butler became president of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida.

Montserrat Fuentes
Montserrat Fuentes

Since joining Virginia Commonwealth University in 2016, Fuentes has served as dean of the College of Humanities & Sciences and professor of statistics in the college, as well as professor of biostatistics in the School of Medicine. In addition, she served on the University Council, the Academic Affairs and University Policy Committee, co-chaired the University Strategic Planning Committee, and was a member of the University Budget Committee and the Steering Committee for Budget Redesign.

“Dr. Fuentes brings to us impressive skills in fostering interdisciplinary research and academic programs across colleges and departments. This makes her uniquely positioned to lead this great university to the next level in national and international recognition,” says UI President Bruce Harreld. “Dr. Fuentes is also deeply committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and in particular to supporting first-generation students, which are all critical priorities for us.”

Before her time at Virginia Commonwealth University, Fuentes was head of the Department of Statistics and James M. Goodnight Distinguished Professor of Statistics at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. Prior to that, she served as director of the Network on Statistical Methods in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences (STATMOS), a National Science Foundation-funded center to promote multi-institutional and interdisciplinary research training at the interface of statistics and atmospheric and oceanic sciences, with 200 members and 21 affiliated institutions. Fuentes has authored more than 100 scientific publications and served as principal or co-principal investigator on more than 20 research grants, with total funding of more than $25 million. 

Fuentes received BS degrees in mathematics and statistics and in music and piano from the University of Valladolid, Spain, in 1994, and a PhD in statistics from the University of Chicago in 1998. She completed postdoctoral studies in environmental sciences at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in 1999. She is a first-generation college student.

“During my campus visit, it was clear to me that the University of Iowa is a special place where faculty and staff build lasting relationships and care deeply about making a difference,” says Fuentes. “Higher education changed my life, and I’m excited to join a university that is transforming the lives of its students, the state, and in many disciplines, the world.”

Fuentes was one of three candidates to participate in public forums on the UI campus in January and February. The search was led by Gail Agrawal, dean emerita of the College of Law and F. Wendell Miller Professor of Law, and Teresa Mangum, director of the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies and professor in the departments of Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies and English. 

“In a field of very strong candidates, the search committee was impressed by Dean Fuentes’ extraordinary combination of talents,” says Mangum. “She is a razor-sharp researcher and scholar who is also passionate about students. She is a warm and generous listener who has a stellar track record of inspiring her colleagues to work with her to turn good ideas into action. She values both disciplinary expertise and cross-disciplinary collaboration. And she sees diversity, equity, and inclusion as the best path to the future. I, personally, am thrilled that I’ll have the opportunity to work with her in the coming years.”

Fuentes’ research interests include big data; brain-imaging analysis; statistics for spatial data; uncertainty analysis; computer models; and interdisciplinary applications in neurosciences, environmental sciences, and health sciences. She says she’s motivated by a desire to address scientific and societal problems in brain imaging, weather forecasting, climate change, air pollution and human health effects from pollution, as well as studies of pregnancy and pregnancy outcomes for both mother and child. 

“We heard from the faculty across the colleges that they wanted a strong intellectual leader, and Dr. Fuentes will bring that leadership to the campus,” says Agrawal. “Conducting a provost search is daunting in many ways but also very reaffirming. The strength of our candidate pool, and thoughtful and engaging questions from our faculty and staff, demonstrate the caliber of our institution and the dedication of those who choose to be here.”

Fuentes will receive an annual salary of $435,000. Her appointment must be approved by the Board of Regents, State of Iowa.