David Spalding had a long career in business before getting into the world of academics. Spalding has held positions with Chase Manhattan Bank, First National Bank of Chicago, GE Capital Corporate Finance Group, Lehmen Bros. and the Cypress Group, a private equity firm he co-founded. He then spent eight years at Dartmouth, most recently as senior vice president and senior adviser to the college’s interim president. Spalding began his job at Iowa State at the beginning of the fall semester. 

What attracted you to Iowa State?

I think there are a couple of things. One, a threshold issue is the geography was good for us. My wife is from Rock Island, Ill. This gave us a chance to get closer to family. Secondly, one of the first things I did was I went to the Iowa State College of Business website, and I was impressed with what I saw there. In particular, what I watched was President Leath’s inaugural address. I was struck by his vision, his enthusiasm, the way he really made the land grant mission feel very much like a mission of today. It’s easy, at a distance, to put the land grant mission in a historical context. But he puts it very much in a context for 2013, for the 21st century. 

What are your goals in this position?

Really looking to support our faculty, to enhance the great research that goes on here at the College of Business. Looking to enhance the student experience both in and outside the classroom, and then finally to strengthen our outreach in the state of Iowa. I think President Leath, with bringing that land grant mission to today’s world, is thinking about ways that we can go out into the state of Iowa and work with businesses to enhance job opportunities here and improve the state economy. 

How do you plan to engage the business community in Des Moines?

That’s very important to us. I really plan on being closely involved with the Des Moines business community. As part of the interview process, I had a chance to have a couple of dinners with business leaders in Des Moines, and I was struck with the vitality of people in the Des Moines business community and the support of business leaders there for Iowa State, and the College of Business in particular. I’m really looking forward to taking advantage of their insights into the skills they need from our graduates, as well as issues we can help them with.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the college?

I think we’ve got a number of opportunities to build on the strong momentum that we have here. ... But clearly we are going to need resources for that, and some amount of that I think will come from increased student enrollment, which is happening. But some amount of that will continue to come from the generosity of our supporters and donors.

President Leath, when he hired you, said you could take the business programs to the “next level.” What is the next level?

I think it’s continuing to strengthen the faculty. I think this has been a trend here of strengthening the faculty as a college of business over the last 20 years. I think we need to continue to do that as we look to hire additional faculty. We need to then support these outstanding scholar-teachers and what they do, and the research that they do and the teaching that they do. And then we need to work to enhance the student experience. One of the ways we are looking to do that at this point is we are establishing a new experiential learning center, which is designed to give more of our students the opportunity to participate in hands-on projects with businesses. 

Why did you leave the business world for academics?

Really, I’d had a 29-year career in finance in New York City, and I very much enjoyed that, but I felt it was a time in my life where I wanted to give back. One of the areas I have a passion for is higher education. I’ve really seen the value in my own family in terms of what higher education can do for individuals, in terms of helping provide a better way of thinking, opening new horizons, opening new opportunities for people. And then once I came back to Dartmouth, I saw even more of that in my eight years there, in terms of the impact that my college education had on our current graduates as well as our alumni. And so it’s something I believe passionately in, and something that I really felt being the dean of the College of Business here at Iowa State would enable me to get more actively involved in on a hands-on basis with the faculty and students who are on the front line of that experience.