The University of Iowa

In the news: University of Iowa dean envisions expanded global reach

January 13th, 2020

University of Iowa International Programs Dean Russ Ganim stands Jan. 3 in the department’s conference room in Iowa City. “The more we can do to make our university community look like the world itself, the more we benefit our students and our state,” said the recently appointed dean. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Vanessa Miller, The Gazette

As a child of Spanish-speaking parents who met on the U.S. border with Mexico, Russ Ganim grew up longing to learn their “secret code.”

He did, and in expanding his lexicon, Ganim expanded his world — inspiring what would become a lifelong pursuit of cultural awareness and understanding that on New Year’s Day propelled him to his new position leading the University of Iowa’s Department of International Programs.

“It was sort of a natural transition,” Ganim, 59, said after describing a meandering journey of cultural immersion that’s taken him to 22 countries and in 2011 to the UI, where he’s been serving as director of its Division of World Languages, Literatures and Cultures. In that role, Ganim partnered and traveled with Downing Thomas — the previous UI International Programs dean — to set up programs and arrange partnerships.

Their trips to China, Japan, Korea and Russia established the footing Ganim said made his step into Thomas’ shoes “natural.”

“I had a lot of experience and was able to form a lot of relationships across campus,” said Ganim, who also is a French professor and served as chair of the Department of German; chair of the Department of French and Italian; administrative head of the American Sign Language Program; and chair of Asian and Slavic Languages and Literatures.

“Thanks to all of that,” he said, “I felt that this was a challenge that I was ready to take on.”