How to run a truly great university: with trust, plus

There are many talented people who work or study at Des Moines University. In this issue of DMU Magazine, you will not only read about these people and their unique talents, but you will gain some insight into how they do what they do. How do you run effective meetings, beat the blues, choose the right shoes and much more?

Amid our lives and interests outside of DMU, our faculty and staff have one thing in common. We are all engaged in making Des Moines University a great place to work and to learn. And how do we do that? Just what goes into operating a great university?

The work we do to enhance the programs and initiatives at DMU starts with the people who came before us. They have given us a solid foundation that we are building upon to keep DMU on the arc toward greatness. That requires that we have highly competent people and the right people in the right positions throughout the organization. It requires that we have a well-defined mission and a well-articulated plan for achieving that mission. It requires that we have the resources necessary to carry out that plan.

You can be assured that we either have all these ingredients or are working hard to get them. For example, we have launched a strategic planning process that will continue through the coming months. But it takes more than people, a mission, a plan and money to successfully operate a great university.

It takes trust.

We must trust each other to have the competency to perform our assigned jobs. We must trust each other enough to be given the freedom and authority to perform our responsibilities, with the knowledge that we are accountable for the outcome. We must trust that we all will always act in the best interest of the University, not to advance ourselves, our department or our college at the expense of the University. And we must trust each other to conduct ourselves in an ethical manner. Societies have laws, games have rules and organizations have policies and procedures – all intended to assure fairness, equity and orderly conduct of our daily affairs.

Our success takes collaboration. Anything we do – planning a new building, formulating a strategic plan, revamping a curriculum – we do better if we get broad input from all interested parties. The phrase “all of us are smarter than one of us” applies to almost every endeavor we undertake at DMU.

It takes focus. In everything we do, we need to keep the mission of the University in mind. We need to continually ask ourselves how a particular proposal or plan of action helps us accomplish our mission.

“We’ve got the right ingredients
for a exceptional University.
But there’s more to the mix
than just people, a plan,
a mission and money.”

It takes patience and discipline. For DMU to be a truly great university, we must keep our eyes on long term goals. We cannot be distracted by what might be gratifying in the short term, but not in the best interest of the University in the long term. Quick fixes or exceptions to a policy “just this once” invariably come back to haunt us.

It takes joy. To do something extremely well, you must enjoy what you are doing. While we at DMU are involved in important work and serious activities, we take joy in guiding students on their professional journeys, in helping our clinic patients gain a greater quality of life, in discovering knowledge in the lab and beyond, and in the powerful, positive force of our drive to do a world of good.

I believe all these ingredients are as important to you as they are to us. Our collective trust deserves your trust – confidence that DMU is an exceptional university that’s only getting better. Our collaborative efforts to reap better results are enhanced by your input and support. Our focus, patience and discipline are sharper with your expertise. And our joy in all our endeavors is an experience we want to share with you.

Is DMU a great university? I certainly think so. And I believe we continue to become greater. It is up to all of us to make that happen – and I trust we will.

Stephen Dengle is interim president of Des Moines University and a DMU employee since 1979, most recently as executive vice president and chief operating officer.

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