Madam President

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Wendy Wintersteen is the first ISU graduate and first internal candidate to be named president of Iowa State University in more than 50 years. She’s also the first woman to hold the top administrative spot in ISU’s 160-year history. And she is forever true to Iowa State.

By Carole Gieseke

Wendy Wintersteen’s journey at Iowa State University has been slow and sweet.

She arrived 38 years ago, fresh out of college, as an integrated pest management specialist for University Extension. Her journey led her from hands-on field days in eastern Iowa to a PhD program to an academic appointment in the Department of  Entomology. From there, she climbed the ladder in the College of Agriculture (now Agriculture and Life Sciences) to the very top: She became dean of the college in 2006.

And then, on Oct. 23, 2017, after a nearly six-month national search involving three other finalists, Wintersteen (L)(PhD ’88 entomology) was named Iowa State’s 16th president. She started officially in her new role on Nov. 20.

A KANSAS SUNFLOWER
Wintersteen grew up in rural Kansas, with two sisters, a love of insects, a mom who supported her passions, and a dad who taught at a community college.

Her parents farmed outside of Fort Scott in southeast Kansas, but a combination of drought and low cattle prices led the family to move to Hutchinson, northwest of Wichita. Growing up in Kansas, which Wintersteen describes as “a much wilder place than most of Iowa,” nurtured her love of insects and the outdoors.

“My mother helped me build this little insect zoo,” she says. “I was very young, and just have such a vivid memory of her willingness to do that with me. You know, my mother was a great lady. [I also remember] collecting cicada skins off trees and [finding] spiders in the basement…we had a wonderful childhood.”

As an undergraduate at Kansas State University, Wintersteen visited the Iowa State  University campus and a corn insect laboratory. (She remembers thinking, “Wow, Iowa! We’re going to Iowa!”) And although Iowa State wasn’t her first choice for graduate school, she was offered a job at ISU Extension and found that she thrived in that  environment.

“What I always will remember is that Extension at Iowa State University is a very caring community. They welcome individuals to that community and help you grow as a professional,” she said. She had “extraordinary mentors” and encountered many other caring professionals – including the late Al Seim, an Extension crop production specialist
who worked out of the Ottumwa area office and always called her “My Kansas Sunflower.”

“I could almost cry thinking about some of these people, because here I was, a young woman who really didn’t know very much, and they helped me learn what it meant to be a member of Iowa State University Extension,” she said. “And what they also taught me is that you have to work with farmers, community members, and youth where they are. Because it’s not about telling a farm family, a farmer, or a business what they need to know; it’s about hearing what they need.”

‘I JUST LOVE THIS WOMAN’
By 1988, Wintersteen had earned both her doctoral degree in entomology and the rank of assistant professor at ISU, and she was leading pesticide management programs for the state.

Bob Dodds (’77 ag ed, MS ’85), assistant vice president for the county services unit of ISU Extension and Outreach, was a county director back in the late 1980s when he first worked with Wintersteen, and he gained an appreciation for her leadership style early  on.

“One thing that I’ve always appreciated about Wendy is it didn’t matter whose idea it was,” Dodds said. “It didn’t matter if you were the dean of the college or if you were the county director, all ideas were welcome. If it was a good idea and Wendy thought it was a good idea, you would be amazed how quickly it was implemented. And she always said, ‘Number one, how can I help you? And number two, what do we need to change to make it better?’ [She said that] to me so many times. Also, she always took your phone call [or] called you back. And you didn’t have to be the president of the university to get that call.”

Her strong management skills did not go unnoticed. She became director of Extension to Agriculture and Natural Resources in 1997, and by 2002 was a senior associate dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS).

That was the year Iowa State hired its ninth dean of agriculture – and the fi rst female to hold that role. That new dean, Cathie Woteki, immediately recognized Wintersteen’s strengths and contributions to the college. “Oh, most definitely,” Woteki said. “She was already serving as the executive associate dean to the dean of agriculture. She had a wide range of knowledge and insights.” (Woteki would go on to serve six years as undersecretary for research, education & economics and chief scientist for the USDA; she recently returned to ISU as a faculty member in the Department of Food Science and  Human Nutrition.)

In 2006, Wintersteen herself took the reins of the college, becoming its dean and the director of the Iowa Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment Station, roles she would hold until November 2017.

During her tenure as dean, she helped raise more than $247 million in donor support for College of Agriculture and Life Sciences students, faculty, and staff . In those 11 years, undergraduate enrollment grew by 90 percent, and the college’s placement rate for  recent grads was consistently 97% or above. Th e college’s Agricultural Entrepreneurship
Initiative has prepared students who have started companies and has created hundreds of jobs. And for four of the last five years, ISU’s agriculture programs have been ranked in the top 10 among thousands of universities worldwide.

Edan Lambert, a senior in animal science, had the opportunity to interact with Wintersteen as the 2017 CALS Student Council president and as a member of the Dean’s Student Advisory Committee. She describes Wintersteen as “genuine, caring, fearless, independent, and selfless.”

“There are so many times when she speaks that I find myself sitting back, laughing,  intently listening, and saying over and over again, ‘I just love this woman,’” Lambert said.

Brian Meyer (L)(’83 journ/mass comm), director of communications for CALS, has worked with Wintersteen for 16 years. He calls it a “good stretch.”

“I just think the world of her. She’s the best boss I’ve ever had,” Meyer said. “She always  believed in the team effort. She built a team when she became dean in 2006. She’s very  direct, in a way that gets to the heart of things. She really does want to make  progress in  whatever way possible, and she has that ability to bring people along and work towards  that. I think that kind of marks her style.”

HOME-FIELD ADVANTAGE
Wintersteen’s name was mentioned as a replacement for President Gregory Geoffroy when he retired in 2012, but at that time she believed she was too young and  inexperienced for the top position.

But when Steven Leath (L) announced in May 2017 that he was leaving to become president of Auburn University, Wintersteen began to give it some thought.

“I love Iowa State, and I felt like I was a good candidate at this time,” she said. “I decided that I wouldn’t be happy if I didn’t put my name in the hat. I was excited about the opportunity.”

As an internal candidate for the Iowa State presidency, Wintersteen knew there would be advantages – and disadvantages. No internal candidate and no Iowa State graduate had risen to the rank of university president here for more than 50 years. (W. Robert Parks, president from 1965 to 1986, was an Iowa State professor, dean of instruction, and vice president for academic affairs before being named president; James H. Hilton,  president from 1953 to 1965, was a 1923 Iowa State grad.)

Wintersteen’s colleagues warned her that it would be tough. Though she was a popular dean with an exemplary track record, she had weathered a few controversies: an  appearance of having political ties to “Big Ag,” a dispute with the Harkin Institute, and, most recently, the defunding of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture.

The four finalists for president each participated in a public forum in October, and  Wintersteen’s crowd in the Memorial Union’s Great Hall was the largest, with about 300 people in attendance.

“I do not believe, given the challenges facing us, that we have time to wait for someone to  come in from the outside and spend one or two years learning about the situation,”  intersteen told the audience. “I believe I am a compelling candidate…because I do understand the situation. I understand the challenges we are facing.

“I am forever true to Iowa State,” she said. “It’s my turn to ‘lean in.’”

In the end, the obvious advantages of being an internal candidate won out.

“One enormous strength is, because her career has been at Iowa State, she has such a deep knowledge of faculty, [not just] within the College of Ag, but also contacts throughout the university,” Woteki said. “She has an in-depth knowledge of the work of the university, and she has a way of listening and really comprehending and grasping the issues that people are trying to bring forward.”

Meyer said Wintersteen possesses a deep love and commitment to the institution. “We’ve had some great presidents and deans, but she really, truly came from this grassroots place of being a field specialist for Extension, very literally working on the ground with Iowans, and seeing the value of the mission first-hand and as a young person. I think she just grew to love Iowa and grew to love the university. And I think that’s reflected in her actions and how she cares about what happens here. The roots go very deep with her, in a way that maybe we haven’t seen in a president for a while.”

LISTENER-IN-CHIEF
Talk to anyone who’s worked with Wintersteen, and eventually they will all say the same thing: She’s an excellent listener.

Her old Extension colleague Bob Dodds says, “She has a very unique ability to listen. She hears what you say, and even when you may not say it well, she understands. Not a lot of people can do that. She hears what you say and can fill in the blanks. She can do that
very, very well.”

Meyer describes her listening ability, saying, “She’s empathetic. I really believe she does listen incredibly carefully to people. It’s not about her. She loves the institution. She wants things to move forward.”

She listens to students, too. Lambert says, “She listens. There is no better leader than one  who listens to the concerns and fears of those they lead. Additionally, she acts on the  concerns and fears she hears to the best of her ability. I saw her in action several times during CALS multicultural student forums. She intently listened to story after story of how her very own CALS students were feeling alone, alienated, and not welcomed on campus, in clubs, and in classrooms. She took these stories to heart, made changes within CALS, and held several other multicultural student forums.”

Strategic listening is one of Wintersteen’s top goals.

“I have to go out and listen,” she said. “I want to hear people’s stories. Hearing people’s stories really helps me learn. And it’s not about a question-and-answer discussion; we do that and we’ll always do that, but I want to sit down and just hear what people want to  share with me. It’s not about responding so much as it is valuing the story and  understanding what their experience has been. So, I think we’ll be doing listening  sessions on campus, and then I’m going to go out and do that in the state as well, because I want to hear what Iowans have to say.”


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AT HOME IN THE KNOLL: In January, President Wendy Wintersteen and her husband, Robert Waggoner, visited The Knoll as it was being prepared for their move-in day later in the month. The Knoll has undergone many repairs, expansions, and updates over the years. In the past year, a four-season room was added to the south side of the home, along with new stairs and a wheelchair-accessible ramp to the front door, projects initiated by former President Steven Leath and first lady Janet Leath. Tuck pointing of the exterior walls wrapped up in December, and the roof is due for replacement this spring. The home’s boiler will be replaced in the summer. On Oct. 19, the state Board of Regents gave Iowa State permission to begin work on an evolving list of improvements estimated to cost up to $750,000. Four days later, Wintersteen was named Iowa State’s 16th president and dramatically pared back the project to $150,000. “The suggested list of improvements was extensive. Given the budget situation at Iowa State, it simply wasn’t appropriate,” she said. The Knoll was completed in 1901, with additions made in 1922, 1967, and 2001.

A STRONG INTERNAL COMPASS
Back in the early days, when Wintersteen was an extension specialist in eastern Iowa, she drove a Volkswagen Beetle – she’s an entomologist, after all. She had been used to the
pancake-flat plains of Kansas, but in Eastern Iowa, near the Mississippi River, the roads are curvy, hilly, and harder to navigate. That took some getting used to. And so, one thing Wintersteen depended upon was a compass that her father had given her as a gift. She carried it with her always.

Brian Meyer told us this story. “I like that as a metaphor,” he said. “She always had this compass of which way to go, literally and figuratively. She was meeting with a lot of  people and had this gift from her father that was guiding her along in her early career. That carries through today: She’s got a strong compass; she’s committed, and she knows where to take the institution.”

There’s a lot of positive energy surrounding this new president, both on campus and among the university’s alumni and friends. Rich Degner (L)(’72 ag & life sciences  education, MS ’77) worked with Wintersteen for many years in his role as CEO of the  Iowa Pork Producers Association.

“President Wintersteen utilizes a servant style of leadership philosophy,” he said. “I have had decades of watching her in action, and she truly cares about the Iowa State University community and the citizens of Iowa. She provides a calming influence when dealing with difficult societal issues. She is an accomplished fundraiser for Iowa State University. She is one of those rare people widely known by her first name. Many people in the agricultural community, certainly in Iowa, and beyond know her simply as ‘Wendy.’”

Students, too, are offering praise for Wintersteen’s leadership. Edan Lambert, the 2017 CALS Student Council president, said, “As the new ISU president, I am looking for her to stay genuine and independent. This goes hand in hand with her leadership style, but she is just a normal gal. She is funny, genuine, and caring but yet a role model and mentor.”

Jeff Johnson (L)(PhD ’14 education), the Lora and Russ Talbot ISU Alumni Association endowed president and CEO, applauded Wintersteen’s approach to alumni relations.

“I’m looking forward to working with Wendy in her new capacity with the university,” he said. “She understands that alumni relations starts during the student days, continues with graduation, and never ends. Wendy has already given Iowa State 38 years of her life. Some incredible relationships have been built over this time. She’s in a new role, but you can bet she’s not a new Wendy. She knows us, and we know her. This is a great time for Iowa State and for alumni.”

“I was delighted about her being named the first woman president of Iowa State, and also so thrilled that the Board of Regents had recognized her leadership,” Woteki said. “She’s a great choice. I think she’s going to be one of the great presidents.”


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Meet the Prez

After 38 years at ISU, Wendy Wintersteen is Iowa State’s newest president

Age: 61

Education:
• Bachelor’s degree in crop protection, Kansas State University, 1978
• PhD in entomology, Iowa State University, 1988

At Iowa State since 1979, leaving only briefly (1989-90) to serve as acting
National Pesticide Education Program leader for the U.S. Department of
Agriculture’s Extension Service in Washington, D.C.

ISU administrative experience:
• Endowed dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, 2006-2017
(the first endowed dean at Iowa State)
• Director of the Iowa Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment Station
• Senior associate dean of CALS, 2002-2005
• Associate director of Iowa Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment Station,
2002-2005
• Director of Extension to Agriculture and National Resources at ISU (1997-2000)
• Coordinator of pesticide management and pesticide applicator training programs
• Extension specialist in the Davenport and Des Moines areas, working with
farmers on integrated pest management

ISU academic experience:
• Professor in the Department of Entomology, 1996
• Assistant professor of entomology, 1988

Honors/awards:
• Carl F. Hertz Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award from the American
Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers, 2016
• Named an Alumni Fellow by her alma mater, Kansas State University, 2007
• Member of the Entomological Society of America and the American Association
of University Women

Salary:
• First-year salary as president of Iowa State is $525,000
• Contract is for five years, with incremental salary increases and a deferred
compensation package

Family: Husband Robert Waggoner


This article was originally published in VISIONS magazine. To receive the full issue delivered to your mailbox four times per year, become a member of the ISU Alumni Association.

 

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A (Cyclone) golf life

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By Kate Bruns

In 2012, Nick Voke emailed about 50 American collegiate golf coaches to see if anyone might be interested in working with an up-and-coming Kiwi. Voke, who grew up in Auckland, New Zealand with parents who couldn’t tell a hook from a slice, had used the sticks Mum and Dad reluctantly purchased to golf his way into the World Junior Golf Championship and was now facing the potential of turning a childhood hobby into a fruitful career.

Five years later, Voke (’17 kinesiology & health) found himself golfing in New Zealand once again – this time in the Asia-Pacific Amateur Golf Championship, where he rubbed elbows with some of golf’s biggest names while serving as an ambassador for the host country. Voke’s father, who still doesn’t know a draw from a fade, saw his son in his element: as one of the country’s biggest sports stars, surrounded by cameras and crowds, representing New Zealand at press conferences and publicity events.

“He said he was a proud chap,” Voke remembers, “which was quite nice to hear.”

The golden-headed lad Voke’s father remembers schlepping to youth golf meets had transformed into a soon-to-be pro. It happened 7,940 miles away, thanks to a reply to one of those hopeful emails.

Andrew Tank, then in his second year at the helm of the Iowa State men’s golf program, offered Voke a scholarship. Without having ever set foot in Ames, Iowa, Voke accepted – and tucked an extra dose of blind faith in his golf bag.

Today, Ames has become a special place to Voke. It’s not only a place he considers a home away from home, but a place he’d someday like to call a long-term home. It’s a place where he rewrote the Iowa State golf record books, where he earned academic all-Big 12 accolades while studying kinesiology and health, where he overcame a potentially career-ending injury after a freshman-year longboarding accident, and where he found the coaches — Tank and assistant coach Chad Keohane — he says will be his mentors for life.

“What’s allowed me to succeed has just been having coaches who were so honest and open and willing to do things to help you succeed,” Voke says. “If you combine the facility we have here and the coaches, I haven’t seen a better combination in America. It truly is a phenomenal place to develop.”

Voke’s impact on the Iowa State golf program was immediate, as he broke ISU’s rookie scoring mark and notched four top-10 finishes as a freshman. And once he recovered from his accident, things only got better for Voke on the course. He left Ames as an honorable-mention Ping All-American and ISU’s all-time career stroke average leader (71.89). As a senior, he led the Cyclones to a national championship berth by shooting a jaw-dropping, school-record 61 as the NCAA Austin Regional individual medalist.

“That was the second time we made it to nationals in four years, and what a great group of guys to share that with,” remembers Voke, who seems more gratified by the team achievement than by the individual performance that turned heads across the country. “That was probably the pinnacle of my time [at Iowa State].”

As Voke prepares to move from a collegiate amateur to a touring professional, he reflects with great admiration on the unique team aspect of the college game. “College golf is very cool. You take all your own individual ambitions and funnel them toward a collective purpose,” Voke says. “If we’re all collectively doing our thing to better the program, then that’s the ultimate thing. My favorite Greek proverb reminds us that society grows great when wise men plants trees whose shade they’ll never see. If in 10 or 20 years’ time we can understand that we were an influential part of helping the program rise, then that’s our great responsibility.”

Voke sees the Iowa State golf pro-gram as well-positioned to become one of the nation’s best, not just because of the proverbial trees he and his teammates planted but because of the leadership of the program and the quality of university it represents.

“[Iowa State] is a place where, if you put your head down, do the best you can, you can have a happy day. The community packs Jack Trice, it packs Hilton, it support all sports. They genuinely love this place – they support the athletic pursuit to be the best, the academic drive, and the desire to improve not just individual students but also to improve society. The culture is special.”

img_7998Voke finished in a tie for 10th Oct. 29 at the Asia-Pacific Amateur, an event he would go on to say was officially his last as an amateur golfer. In November, he finished just out of qualifying at the Web.com Tour Q School second round at TPC Craig Ranch in McKinney, Texas, so he now plans to make his professional debut on the Austalasian Golf Tour in 2018.

“It’s a good place to learn the trade and almost like an apprenticeship to become a tour professional,” Voke says of the Australasian. “There aren’t a lot of big purses, but it’s certainly a good stepping stone.”

Voke says there are many paths he can follow to achieving his ultimate dream of playing on the PGA Tour, leading with his long-consistent reputation for strong ball-striking and iron play.

“The best way to describe my game right now is that it’s pretty solid,” Voke says. “I know that if I putt and drive well, I’ll shoot well. I’ve had a big emphasis on those two components lately.”

And along the way, no matter where he is, Voke knows he can rely on the support of the Iowa State community – even in the middle of rural Japan, where an opponent’s caddy recently remarked on the Cyclone emblem emblazoned on his golf bag.

“Wherever I go to compete, I hear ‘Go, Cyclones’ from the crowd,” Voke says. “It gets me pretty pumped up and excited. If you’re proud to be a Cyclone, they’re always happy to cheer for you.”


This article was originally published in VISIONS magazine. To receive the full issue delivered to your mailbox four times per year, become a member of the ISU Alumni Association.

The Landowners

Who owns the 200,000+ acres of prime Iowa land that helped finance the beginnings of Iowa State University? ISU Extension and Outreach is connecting with landowners and telling their stories.

Here are three of those stories.

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Butcher Family

Bob Butcher (A)(’74 animal science) of Holstein, Iowa, attended the ISU Extension and Outreach Land-Grant Legacy celebration at the Clay County Fair in 2016 thinking it might be interesting. What he didn’t know was how involved he would become in the project.

“I thought, ‘Well, I’ll just see what this is about.’ They were talking about different farms that were legacy farms, and they said, ‘Come back and look at the map of where all these farms are.’ So, I went back there thinking maybe I’d know somebody or at least a neighboring county, but the closer I got, I’m like, ‘There’s Hwy. 20, there’s 59, and that’s kind of where we are,’ and I got closer and closer, and then I was looking at the township map and we’re three down and two over and it was just unbelievable! The whole section lit up where we live.”

The Butcher family has owned land-grant parcels in Ida County since 1901 when Bob’s great-grandfather, Robert L. “Jake” Butcher purchased the land.

Bob’s father, Robert, and mother, Betty, raised pure-bred hogs on the farmland, then added a dairy herd and sold milk. They had two chicken houses, selling both the eggs and the chickens.

“We were diversified,” Betty said. At age 90, she’s still regarded as the best cook in the family.

Bob and his two sisters, Renea Ogren (’80 home ec ed) and Ronda Edwards (’85 dietetics), grew up on the farm.

“It was a typical farm,” Bob says. “We had cows and chickens.”

“And lambs and a big garden,” Renea adds.

“Dad was progressive.”

Both siblings give credit to 4-H and to Iowa State. The Butchers are Cyclones through and through: Bob has four children, all of whom graduated with ISU degrees – Katie Merrill (A)(’02 logistics), Wendy Weber (’04 elem ed), Andrew Butcher (’08 ag studies), and Ben Butcher (’10 ag studies). He has eight grandchildren and is married to Connie Butcher.

Bob and his two sons run a cattle operation, and he’s also president and CEO of Community Bank in Holstein. Long involved on the 4-H Foundation Board and with other community projects in Holstein, Bob also took the lead in bringing together landowners in Ida County to help ISU Extension and Outreach identify the land-grant parcels in their area.

“We invited all the landowners in Ida County that owned legacy land, and there were lots of them,” Bob said. “We probably had 50 or 60 people there.”

Ida County is the first Iowa county to have all of its land-grant landowners identified.

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Maxwell Family

Helen Logan Maxwell’s father instilled in her that if you had Iowa land you’d probably never go hungry.

Helen’s family owned land in Iowa’s Woodbury County, but didn’t farm it themselves. They lived in the town of Moville, where her father, Charlie Logan, was a local banker. He purchased the land after the Great Depression and paid farm workers to
raise crops, hogs, and cattle.

Helen (L) attended Iowa State, graduating in 1951 with a degree in child development. She met Earl “Doc” Maxwell (L) on campus; he earned a DVM in 1949, and the couple married in 1951. They settled in Moville and bought land from Helen’s father. Doc set up a veterinary practice, while Helen kept the family’s books and worked in the local bank.

They had four children – Stee Maxwell (L)(’78 DVM), Chantry DeVries (L)(‘78 English & history), Tad Maxwell (L) (’80 ag biz), and Reed Maxwell – and were named ISU Parents of the Year in 1977.

But despite the family’s close connection to Iowa State, it came as a total surprise that the land that had been in the family for more than 70 years was a part of the university’s land-grant legacy.

“We got a call from Iowa State saying they wanted to come up here,” Helen explained. “They wanted us to get the deed out because they thought we might be one of the ones” who owned a land-grant parcel.

And, in fact, the first page of the abstract recited the Morrill Act.

“It’s right in the deed, and that’s the first we ever knew of it,” Doc said.

“They were really excited to see it right in the deed,” Helen continued. “We didn’t have a clue. If my father was alive, I’d know a lot more. I think my dad would be real proud that he purchased this farm.”

doolittle

Doolittle Family

For Pam Holt Doolittle, who went to Iowa State some 50 years ago, it was one thing to know she was attending a land-grant university, but quite another to own a piece of its history.

“You knew and you always heard it was a land-grant college, but you never really knew what it meant,” she said. “It’s been interesting finding that out, and to now be part of it is really neat.”

Pam (’67 sociology) married Dennis Doolittle (attd. ’62-66), whose father, Don, owned the first land-grant parcel deeded in Hamilton County. Dennis farmed the land beginning in 1969. Son Eric graduated from Iowa State in 1996 in ag business and took over the farming business that year.

“I never wanted to be a farmer,” Eric said. “I went to Iowa State, and halfway through college I decided to farm. I guess once you live in town for a while you realize how much you want out of it. That’s kind of how I felt.”

Eric’s younger brother, Grant, graduated from Iowa State in 1999 in liberal studies and is a physician in Ames.

Krystal Doolittle, Eric’s wife, did not attend Iowa State, but she’s become an integral part of the ISU Extension and Outreach Land- Grant Legacy project. An active advocate for agriculture, she’s provided stories, photography, and videography for the project’s website.

“When the Extension staff came out and met with Eric and me and Eric’s uncle and grandfather, I snapped some pictures and asked if I could write a blog post about it because I thought it was kind of a neat story,” Krystal said. “Then they said they were looking for somebody who is a part of one of the land-grant farms to help tell the story, so it worked out really well.”

 

Iowa State’s Land-Grant Heritage

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Who owns the 200,000+ acres of prime Iowa land that helped finance the beginnings of Iowa State University? ISU Extension and Outreach is connecting with landowners and telling their stories.

By Carole Gieseke

Ray Hansen’s a-ha! moment came during an Emerging Leaders Academy meeting.

Hansen (’83 ag ed, MS ’03), an Iowa State Extension director of value-added agriculture, was listening to an ISU history lecture by retired professor of sociology Gerald Klonglan when his ears perked up. Klonglan was explaining the process of identifying the land granted to support the young land-grant college back in the 1800s. Like so many people, Hansen didn’t fully understand where the land came from and how the profit from the sales came back to Iowa State.

“I understood the land-grant concept and mission, but I had no idea that it was 200,000-plus acres,” Hansen said. “Until I heard Gerald speak, I didn’t realize the massiveness of the land that was used in the land-grant process.”

Hansen pondered this bit of information but didn’t do anything with it for a couple of years, he said, “because I thought I was the only person that didn’t realize how big it was.” But then, during a chance meeting with an Iowa State colleague, an idea was formed to plot the original parcels of land on a map.

The Land-Grant Legacy Project was born.

Our land-grant history
Ray Hansen and his ISU Extension and Outreach colleagues now knew the scope of land involved, and they already had boots on the ground in every county in Iowa State’s Extension offices. They were eager to learn more.

But first, it’s important to understand the basic timeline of Iowa State’s beginnings, because there’s still a lot of confusion:

  • March 22, 1858: Iowa’s legislature established the Iowa Agricultural College and Model Farm.
  • June 21, 1859: Ames is chosen as the site of the new college.
  • 1859: The original college farm of 648 acres is purchased from Story and Boone County landowners (note that this happened BEFORE the land-grant act).
  • July 2, 1862: President Abraham Lincoln signs the Morrill Land-Grant Act, providing parcels of land to the states to create colleges that would provide instruction in agriculture and mechanic arts, based on science and open to all.
  • July 3, 1862: Iowa Gov. Samuel J. Kirkwood calls a special session of the legislature, saying that Iowa needs to be first in line so it can get the very best available land.
  • Sept. 11, 1862: The Iowa legislature officially accepts the provisions of the Morrill Act, the first state in the nation to do so.
  • September 1862 – January 1863: Peter Melendy, appointed by Gov. Kirkwood to implement the selection of the land, travels to northwest Iowa to view the available land parcels (state apportionment was based on the 1860 census).
  • March 29, 1864: Iowa legislature approves the land-grant funds to the Iowa Agricultural College and Model Farm in Ames.
  • Oct. 1, 1868: The first students arrive at the new agricultural college for “preparatory training.”
  • March 17, 1869: Iowa Agricultural College is formally opened for the admission of students; the class contains 136 men and 37 women coming from 55 Iowa counties.

So, that’s the creation story in a nutshell. The part of the story that so intrigued Hansen and his colleagues is the tidbit about Peter Melendy selecting the land. This is a story that really hadn’t been told before.

Brandon Duxbury (MA ’17 history), a graduate assistant and PhD candidate in Iowa State’s Department of History, was brought on the project to research the historical aspects of the land-grant story. Like most people, Duxbury’s knowledge of the land-grant process was limited, and flawed.

“To be honest, coming into it, I had no idea,” he said. “When I heard ‘land-grant institution’ I never even asked myself what it meant. I just assumed the land that campus sits on is the land-grant. Come to find out, it’s a lot more interesting than that. There’s a lot more land involved, and it’s nowhere near the actual campus.”

He learned that Melendy – an Ohio native, cattle breeder, and future mayor of Cedar Falls – was on the original board of trustees for the college and model farm between 1858 and 1862. When Congress passed the Morrill Act, the state of Iowa already had a framework in place, so it was able to act very quickly.

Melendy’s assignment was to evaluate all the unclaimed federal land in Iowa and claim the finest 200,000-plus acres on behalf of the state. He acted fast, spending a month in Ames and Des Moines going over surveyors’ maps and notes to learn what might be the prime agricultural land with the highest values.

“Then he spent two months traveling around northwest Iowa, meeting with federal land agents, meeting with people who had local knowledge of the area, and he selected about 1,240 quarter sections of 160 acres each,” Duxbury explained. “The land he chose represented the best ground at the time, with very specific parameters: high, well-drained slope soils, access to open water, close to transportation. They wanted the first settlers to be successful so they could recruit new settlers.”

Traveling mostly on horseback, the parcels of land he chose were scattered throughout northwest Iowa in counties like Kossuth, Palo Alto, Emmet, Clay, and Ida – 27 counties in all.

Why northwest Iowa? Because much of eastern Iowa had already been settled.

“Melendy did it very fast, because that’s what the governor wanted, and the legislature was in agreement,” said Klonglan (L)(’58 rural sociology, MS ’62, PhD ’63), who is also a retired assistant dean for national programs in the ISU College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and assistant director of the Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment Station.

Within a few years, the land Melendy identified began producing income for the Iowa Agricultural College and Model Farm to fund its infrastructure, buildings, and faculty hires.

The people behind the land
Fast forward to today. While the settlers who moved onto the 160-acre parcels of land in northwest Iowa in the 1800s may or may not have known that their land payments were helping finance the ag college in Ames, today’s current landowners certainly did not know.

“I don’t think when people bought the ground it made any difference to them that it was used to fund Iowa State or that there was any personal connection at that time,” Hansen said. “They weren’t doing it because of that; they were doing it because it was cherry picked as the best ground available. They were more interested in the quality of the land.”

Duxbury went to state archives in Des Moines and to county historical societies and museums in northwest Iowa, uncovering historical documents that tell the history of the land-grant act in these small parcels of land.

“I think the most fascinating part to me is looking at the people involved within the history,” Duxbury said. “That’s what makes history interesting – people can sit down and read a couple of paragraphs on the Morrill Land-Grant Act, but when you start looking at the individuals involved, that’s what gets people connected to it.”

Once the land parcels had been confirmed and plotted on a map, ISU Extension and Outreach staffers began personally reaching out to landowners, county by county, to inform them of their connections to Iowa State’s history and, in turn, to learn more about the history of the land.

“Once we had the map, it kind of added the ‘wow’ factor,” Hansen said.

The first public unveiling of the project occurred in September 2016, when families in 13 northwest Iowa counties – who own all or part of a quarter-section of land that was first leased or sold under the terms of the Morrill Act – shared their family stories at the Iowa Land-Grant Legacy celebration at the Clay County Fair.

Bob Butcher (A)(’74 animal science) of Holstein was at that celebration, and his reaction to learning he owned land-grant land was one of the highlights of the event for Ray Hansen.

“When we go to an event and somebody totally unexpected comes up and starts looking at the map, and they say, ‘Oh, my gosh, that’s my place!’ like Bob Butcher, those are great moments, when they find out for the first time.”

What started with a red square on a map had turned into a celebration of commonality between Iowans who care for the land.

“We want to let these land-owners know about their special connection to Iowa State and land-grant history,” Cathann Kress (A)(’83 social work), then vice president for extension and outreach, said last year before leaving Iowa State for another position. “We also hope they’ll share, for our archives, their history of growing up on this land and caring  for it.”

The Extension and Outreach staff, including regional directors and county staffers, have just begun to scratch the surface of what will be a long-term project that has the potential to bring communities together, engaging a whole new population of Iowans.

“I think it’s been a theme with most of the people we’ve talked to: After they get over the excitement of owning this parcel and understanding its history, they always talk about the legacy of it, with their family who’s owned it before, and what they plan to do with it in the future,” Duxbury said. “It’s like one big community, and they’re very proud of that.”

Additional reporting by ISU News Service and ISU Extension and Outreach


This article was originally published in VISIONS magazine. To receive the full issue delivered to your mailbox four times per year, become a member of the ISU Alumni Association.

Curriculum of opportunity

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By Avery Amensen

Ask a human sciences student what a dream research project looks like, and you may hear the words “leading-edge,” “multi-generational,” “insightful,” and “comprehensive.” Enter the Family Transitions Project, an Iowa State-based research initiative that has focused on the evolution of families since 1989.

The project began as a study of rural families coping with the 1980s farm crisis, a severe recession that impacted the entire U.S. agriculture economy. The study focused on more than 500 adolescents, along with their siblings and parents. Since then, the project has kept up with the original subjects, wherever they’ve ended up, and their romantic partners and children, with researchers collecting information on their social, work, financial, and romantic lives, as well as genetic data. A grant from the National Institute on Aging is currently funding work focused on the original parents in the study.

Olivia Diggs, a second-year graduate student at Iowa State, works with Tricia Neppl, director of the Family Transitions Project, to help collect the data. “I chose to pursue human development and family studies because I am interested in the relationships between parenting behaviors and child outcomes,” Diggs said.

Studies like this are not only unique in structure, but they offer valuable insights. Researchers can assess how the participants’ relationships as couples have evolved and changed over time, helping them decipher why they make the decisions that they do. One of the biggest findings is called the “Family Stress Model,” referring to how economic pressures can impact the quality of romantic relationships, parenting skills, and child developmental outcomes.

Diggs is able to spend 20 hours per week on the groundbreaking project as a recipient of the Ruth and Vincent Mahoney Student Opportunity Fund. Richard Mahoney (L)(PhD ’11) and his wife, Lois Hartman, established the scholarship specifically to provide students with opportunities to pursue internships and research.

Learning opportunities beyond the classroom are a quintessential aspect of the Iowa State experience – yet without scholarships, many students would not be able to participate in them. That’s why student support is a key priority for the Forever True, For Iowa State campaign. Since the start of the campaign, donors have created more than 600 new undergraduate and graduate scholarships. Gifts to the ISU General Scholarship Fund – or to scholarship funds in each college – also make a well-rounded Iowa State experience possible for thousands of students each year.

Having a hands-on research role in such a unique and long-running study is precisely the type of opportunity that could also launch a career for Diggs. After completing graduate school and receiving both her master’s and doctoral degrees, she hopes to become a college professor at a top-tier research institution – where she could one day mentor students like herself.

“Being a Cyclone is about embracing all of the opportunities this school offers,” Diggs said. “It’s about disseminating the knowledge and skills learned here on campus to take the world by storm.”


This article was originally published in VISIONS magazine. To receive the full issue delivered to your mailbox four times per year, become a member of the ISU Alumni Association.

2017: An ISU Year in Review

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Happy New Year, Cyclones everywhere! Let’s have a little stroll down memory lane. Here’s our annual look back at the events that defined the year at Iowa State University: the ISU News Flash Year in Review. Thank you for being part of a Cardinal & Gold 2017:

IN JANUARY…

…the ISU Foundation announced receipt of one of the largest major gifts in university history: an anonymous donation of an equity stake representing majority ownership of the education company Curriculum Associates, LLC to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The gift would later be analyzed and valued at $145 million, providing $5-6 million annually to the college in perpetuity.

…a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held at Geoffroy Hall, a new 784-bed residence hall that is named in honor of Iowa State University President Emeritus Gregory L. Geoffroy (L).

…the College of William and Mary’s Vernon Hurte (A) was tabbed to take over as ISU’s dean of students effective July 3. He succeeds Pamela Anthony, who served as ISU’s dean of students from 2012-2016 before becoming vice president at Southern Methodist University. The ISU campus mourned when Anthony died of cancer Jan. 17 at age 45.

…Iowa State’s largest student-run philanthropy, Dance Marathon, celebrated its 20th anniversary raising funds for the Children’s Miracle Network.

…the ISU Alumni Association launched a new Black College Network Mentor program for African American students and alumni.

…a team of three ISU design and engineering students captured first place at the 26th annual Walt Disney Imagineering Imaginations Design Competition.

…head wrestling coach Kevin Jackson announced he would step down from his position following the 2016-2017 season.

IN FEBRUARY…

…the Iowa legislature passed a de-appropriation bill that administrators estimated would have an $8 million negative impact on the university’s bottom line in 2017-2018.

Lisa K. Nolan resigned her post as ISU’s Dr. Stephen G. Juelsgaard Dean of Veterinary Medicine to become vet med dean at her alma mater, the University of Georgia.

…Virginia Tech’s Kevin Dresser was named Iowa State’s new head wrestling coach.

…more than 570 Cyclones attended the sixth-annual Cardinal & Gold Gala in Des Moines, which raised approximately $80,000 for student and alumni programming and fully funding the endowment that supports first-generation college student scholarships.

…Iowa State alumna Nawal El Moutawakel (’88 phys ed), who chaired the 2016 International Olympic Committee’s Coordination Commission, was part of an IOC team that was recognized with the international 2017 Laureus Sport for Good Award for its creation and support of the 2016 Refugee Olympic Team.

…the ISU Alumni Association sponsored the ISU men’s basketball team’s Senior Night game at Hilton Coliseum and launched “Cyclones Everywhere,” a new rallying cry and commitment to tell the stories and provide the experiences that bond us as Iowa Staters.

IN MARCH…

Steven Leath (L) was appointed the 19th president of Auburn University, ending his five-year tenure at Iowa State. Leath announced that his last day on campus would be May 8. Former ISU dean and provost Benjamin Allen (L) was quickly tabbed to take over as Iowa State’s interim leader.

…the Iowa State men’s basketball team won its third Big 12 tournament title in four seasons, defeating Oklahoma State, TCU, and No. 11 West Virginia to earn the 2017 league tourney crown at Kansas City’s Sprint Center (Hilton South).  Point guard Monte Morris (’17 liberal studies) was named the tournament’s most outstanding player.

…Iowa State was one of 25 schools with both its men’s and women’s basketball teams represented in the NCAA tournament. The men advanced to the second round and the women bowed out in round one to defending national champion Syracuse. Head coaches Steve Prohm and Bill Fennelly (L) each signed contract extensions following the season.

…ISU vice president for extension and outreach Cathann Kress (A)(’83 social work) resigned her position to become vice president and dean at Ohio State University.

…a record number of women participated in the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics’ annual “Ready to Run: Campaign Training for Women” workshop on campus.

…Iowa State held its annual Conference on Race and Ethnicity (ISCORE), which was for the first time named in honor of retired ISU administrator Thomas L. Hill (A).

…Michael Newton (A) was named ISU’s chief of police, replacing retired chief Jerry Stewart.

…the ISU Alumni Association launched a new special interest society for Graduate College alumni during ISU’s 4th annual Graduate and Professional Students Research Conference.

IN APRIL…

…the Iowa Board of Regents appointed the search committee tasked with selecting Iowa State’s 16th president—led by co-chairs Dan Houston (’84 marketing), president and CEO of Principal Financial Group, and Luis Rico-Gutierrez (A), Dean of ISU’s College of Design.

…four Iowa State students were awarded the prestigious Barry Goldwater Scholarship for math, science, and engineering excellence. Iowa State was one of only four schools nationally to go 4-for-4 on having its nominated students selected for the award in 2017.

…the Iowa legislature passed Senate File 510, a budget bill that zeroed funding for ISU’s Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture – a 30-year-old institution created at Iowa State to provide sustainability resources for Iowa farmers.

…Cyclone gymnast and Des Moines native Haylee Young qualified for the 2017 NCAA gymnastics championships in St. Louis, Mo., after notching a top-two individual finish at regional competition.

IN MAY…

…for the second year in a row, Iowa State graduated a record number of students at its spring commencement exercises; 5,093 Cyclones earned undergraduate, graduate, or veterinary medicine degrees May 4-5.

Benjamin Allen (L) began his term as ISU’s interim president after Steven Leath (L) officially left office following spring commencement.

…Iowa State alumna Kim Reynolds (A)(’16 liberal studies) was sworn in as the first female governor of the State of Iowa. Reynolds was the state’s longtime lieutenant governor under Terry Branstad, who left office to become U.S. Ambassador to China.

…Cyclone men’s golfer Nick Voke (’17 kinesiology & health) shot a school-record 61 to earn medalist honors and the Iowa State team shot a school-record 263 (-21) at the NCAA Austin Regional to qualify for ISU’s eighth national championship appearance in school history.

…Iowa State’s Black Cultural Center was officially renamed in honor of the late ISU retiree George A. Jackson. Jackson, who died in 2016 at the age of 75, played a pivotal role in creating opportunities for African American students on campus throughout his distinguished career.

OVER THE SUMMER…

…the Iowa Board of Regents approved a supplemental tuition plan that has added $216 to ISU students’ undergraduate tuition bills for the 2017-2018 academic year. The Regents also approved a new Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree at Iowa State.

…ISU announced a $7 million commitment from the Gerdin Charitable Foundation to fund facility expansion in the College of Business – something Raisbeck Endowed Dean David Spalding (L) described as critical, citing the fact that the college has grown by a whopping 30 percent just since he arrived in 2013.

…ISU’s Team PrISUm unveiled its latest solar car, Penumbra, on a 99-county summer tour that kicked off at the ISU Alumni Center. The $750,000, four-seat passenger car would go on to race in October at the World Solar Car Challenge in Australia.

…All-American point guard Monte Morris (’17 liberal studies) and All-American long jumper Jhonamy Luque (’17 marketing) were named ISU’s male and female athletes of the year, respectively, for the 2016-2017 season.

…Iowa State University became a partner in a new, $104 million research center funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. The Center for Advanced Bioenergy and Bioproducts Innovation was created to study the next generation of plant-based, sustainable, cost-effective biofuels and bioproducts.

…Iowa State also announced a new partnership with Des Moines Area Community College to create the Iowa Cyber Hub, a regional facility designed to create “a critical mass of cyber security education and training in central Iowa.”

…Iowa State head softball coach Jamie Trachsel resigned her position to become head coach at the University of Minnesota after only one season in Ames. She was replaced by Jamie Pinkerton, a former Cyclones assistant who most recently served as head coach at the University of Montana for three seasons.

…the ISU Alumni Association re-introduced its LegaCY Club, with new programs and benefit—including a brand-new children’s book, Cy’s Surprise.

IN SEPTEMBER…

…Iowa State University received a historic gift commitment of $50 million to name its College of Business. The Ivy College of Business, named in recognition of the support from Debbie and Jerry (’53 indus admin) Ivy (L) of Los Altos Hills, Calif., is ISU’s first-ever donor-named college.

…Iowa State’s presidential search committee began discussion of the 64 applications it received for the position.

…the university received gift commitments from Kent Corporation, the Iowa Corn Promotion Board, and Sukup Manufacturing Co. to create a new $21.2 million ISU feed mill and grain science complex.

IN OCTOBER…

Wendy Wintersteen (L)(PhD ’88 entomology) was selected as Iowa State’s 16th president and first-ever female president. Wintersteen had served as dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences since 2006 and has been an ISU faculty member almost continuously since 1979, leaving only briefly from 1989-1990 to work for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. She was chosen from among four finalists who visited campus early in the month. “I love this university,” Wintersteen said at her introductory press conference. “I care about its future. I am just thrilled I’ve been given this opportunity.”

…Iowa State was an October surprise and became the talk of college football, going undefeated in the month with victories over not one, but two, top-five teams. The streak began Oct. 7, when third-string quarterback Kyle Kempt got his first career start at No. 3 Oklahoma and led the Cyclones to a 38-31 victory. Three weeks later, ISU closed out the incredible month with a 14-7 defeat of No. 4 TCU at Homecoming.

Homecoming 2017: Sound the CYren was a tremendous success – with 900 Cyclones marching in the second-annual downtown parade, 7,495 meals being served on campus throughout the week, 1,400 students yelling like hell, and 542 alumni gathering for special reunions.

Iowa State swept the Big 12 cross country championships, winning its sixth women’s title in seven seasons and its first men’s team title since 1994. The Cyclones would go on to sweep the NCAA regionals and finish seventh (men) and 20th (women) at the national championships in November.

…the Iowa Board of Regents tabled its high-profile, ongoing discussion of 2018 tuition rates at the state’s three public universities. Stiff increases were being proposed by leaders, including ISU interim president Ben Allen (L), in the face of flagging state support. The Regents opted to buck the standard operating procedure of reading rates in October so that it could instead wait and react after the Iowa General Assembly considers the Board’s request in January for a $12 million increase in financial aid support. Stay tuned.

…the ISU Alumni Association launched the Cyclone Traditions Challenge on its Iowa State Alumni mobile app as a way for Cyclones everywhere to collect and share memories and experiences of participating in some of the university’s most beloved traditions.

IN NOVEMBER…

…Wendy Wintersteen (L)(PhD ’88 entomology) officially took office Nov. 20 as Iowa State University’s 16th president.

Big 12 Conference Football Coach of the Year Matt Campbell agreed to a new six-year contract worth $22.5 million after leading the 2017 Cyclones to a 7-5 record and its first bowl berth in five seasons.

…ISU chief of staff Miles Lackey (L), senior vice president for university services Kate Gregory (L), and chief information officer Jim Kurtenbach (A)(’90 indus admin) all vacated their executive posts at ISU.

…Iowa State alumnus Paul A. Newman (’78 physics, PhD ’84) of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center was named one of six recipients of the United Nations’ highest environmental honor, the Champions of Earth award, for his efforts to restore Earth’s ozone layer.

IN DECEMBER…

…the Iowa State football team defeated No. 19 Memphis in front of thousands of fans at the 2017 AutoZone Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Tenn., marking the Cyclones’ first bowl victory since 2009.

What’s to come? We can’t wait to see what is in store for 2018. Happy New Year!

The (big) sky’s the limit at French Conservation Camp

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By Steve Sullivan

After hiking a richly forested Montana mountain range, a team from Iowa State gathered around a campfire to make s’mores.

That’s when the moose made its dramatic entrance. The great beast bounded down a path, stopping briefly to glance at the stunned s’more-makers before plunging into a nearby pond.

Wild moments like this make the new Rod and Connie French Conservation Education Camp a dream classroom for ecology-minded Iowa State students.

The camp was established in 2016 through a $4.1 million gift of a ranch owned by Connie French, of Des Moines, and her late husband, Rod, longtime supporters of and donors to Iowa State. The 50-acre former resort is now a learning facility that is preparing students for environmental careers.

At the camp, students “learn about ecology hands-on, in a natural setting. There’s no better way to learn this material,” said Jennifer Schieltz, camp director and lecturer with Iowa State’s Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management (NREM).”

“This is definitely the most hands-on experience I’ve ever had in any of my classes. We’re using methods that professionals use,” said Drew Jaspers, an animal ecology major who was part of the camp’s first class last summer. “The experience has been way beyond all my expectations.”

The camp is about 50 miles west of Missoula and nestled at the foot of the Bitterroot Mountains, part of the Lolo National Forest in western Montana. The forest is blanketed with a variety of tree and plant species. The region has nearly 1,000 named streams, including Fish Creek, which runs through the camp. Fish Creek is home to several fish species, including bull trout and westslope cutthroat trout, both of which are endangered. The forest’s other denizens include wolves, bears, elk, deer, mountain lions and, yes, rambunctious moose.

Overseen by NREM, the camp was launched last summer with two courses: Wildlife Population Methods and Field Ecology. A Forest Fire Fuels Management course and a Fall Forestry Camp are planned for the future. All these courses have been specifically designed for the location and are open to students in any major at Iowa State.

“Most of our students come from the Midwest and are used to flat landscapes and managed environments, and the animals and plants that live around the  region,” said Mike Rentz, an NREM lecturer who co-teaches the Wildlife Population Methods class. “The camp requires them to learn concepts and processes and apply them in an entirely different ecosystem with different landscapes, and animals  and plants they’ve never seen before.”

A typical day involves brief lectures before the students go into the field. They might set up camera traps to monitor wildlife populations, survey ground cover and fallen trees to determine available wildlife habitat, or examine trees to compare a burned population to one that’s unburned. Some of their work will provide valuable information for Montana state officials.

“You’re surrounded by whatever you’re working on that day,” said Collin Alfers, an animal ecology major who was among camp’s first students. “It’s total immersion – as if you have a job in the field you hope to go into.”

 


This article was originally published in VISIONS magazine. To receive the full issue delivered to your mailbox four times per year, become a member of the ISU Alumni Association.