Wednesday, September 30, 2020

The University of Iowa is exploring a potential external partnership for the day-to-day operations of the Iowa Hawk Shop and University Bookstore.

“As institutions of higher education across the country explore ways to enhance the quality of the student experience within an environment of limited financial resources, many have experienced success partnering with external entities,” says Bill Nelson, associate dean and executive director of the Iowa Memorial Union. “After careful consideration, the university has decided to issue a Request for Qualifications (RFQL) to identify an external partner to manage the daily operations of the Iowa Hawk Shop and University Bookstore.”

Partnering with a large national provider of college and university bookstore services would offer the university the opportunity to provide more efficiencies and enhance the services for the campus community.

The RFQL process will allow the university to fully evaluate the feasibility of such a partnership. The Iowa Hawk Shop was hit particularly hard by the 2008 flood since it was located in the ground floor of the Iowa Memorial Union. The shop was relocated to the University Capitol Center until its return to the IMU in 2015 and has struggled to regain its financial footing since then due to competition in the online market from large retailers. Many textbooks and course materials have also shifted from hard copy to digital, and students have far more options for gaining access to their required materials. The overall industry has changed, become more competitive, and profit margins have reduced.

“We are committed to our entire Hawk Shop team and to the best interests of our staff, the Iowa Memorial Union, the University of Iowa, and the customers we serve. The expectation for any potential partnership is to maintain the same level of customer service,” says Nelson. “We’re also asking potential partners to prioritize student employment opportunities and our Iowa GROW program because the data are clear: Student employment, when it occurs on campus, has a significant positive impact on student success. We will expect nothing less.”

The RFQL can be found on the University of Iowa eBid site. No final decision has been made and there will be no disruption of service for students, retail partners, and departments during this time. If the decision is made to engage an external partner, a process will be developed for current employees to become part of the new entity or to work with University Human Resources to review their options within the university system.