A seven-month journey to recruit, evaluate and select the next leader of the University of Iowa ended Friday when Barbara Wilson, a longtime administrator at the University of Illinois, was named the institution's 22nd president, the Iowa City Press-Citizen reported.

The 63-year-old administrator was previously vice president for academic affairs at the University of Illinois. She will begin work at Iowa on July 15. She has a five-year contract that will pay her $600,000 annually, plus up to $400,000 in deferred compensation each year.

"In many ways this is my dream job,” Wilson said during a news conference on Friday. “I was born and raised in the Big Ten. I'm a [Midwesterner] by heart. I'm just thrilled to be part of the next phase of where [UI] is going and I'm excited to meet so many people and to learn much more about the University of Iowa."

Wilson said she is committed to making sure women and people of color assume leadership roles within UI, such as deanships, which often act as pipelines for presidential positions.

"I think I carry a special responsibility to think about leadership more broadly than it has often been thought about of in these institutions, and I'll take that very seriously," she said.

Wilson told reporters she never would have expected to one day be a university president when she was named a professor of communications at Illinois in 2000, the Press-Citizen reported.

She climbed the ranks from that position and was promoted to lead the communications department from 2002 to 2009 and then vice provost of academic affairs, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and interim chancellor before reaching the second-highest position in the Illinois university system in 2016.

Wilson emerged as the top candidate from a pool of 79 applicants. A group of 21 UI members — including students, faculty, regents and staff — executed the interview process alongside AGB Search, an outside firm. Together, they whittled down the applicant pool — behind closed doors — to 12 semifinalists and four final candidates.

The other finalists were Hari Osofsky, dean of Penn State's law school; Wendy Hensel, provost at Georgia State; and Daniel Clay, dean of Iowa's College of Education.