Inside Iowa Lakeside Laboratory


From VISIONS magazine, summer 2018

By Carole Gieseke

A Conversation with Mary Skopec

Mary SkopecMary Skopec, executive director of Iowa Lakeside Laboratory, is a native Iowan. She grew up in Cedar Rapids and received three degrees from the University of Iowa (BS and MS in geography and an interdisciplinary PhD in environmental science). She worked as a supervisor for water quality monitoring for the state of Iowa through the Department of Natural Resources and has taught environmental science classes at the University of Iowa.

What’s indispensable about Iowa Lakeside Lab?
I think the main thing about this place is that it’s this total immersion learning environment. So, when we look at nature, when we think about the complex environmental issues that we’re facing today, oftentimes we try to reduce them to their bits and their pieces. And the thing about being in Lakeside is you can’t do that. You have to think about it in all its complexity, all at the same time. I think that’s really indispensable, because I think it’s really hard to approach these complex global and regional problems without being able to think big. Lakeside gives students the ability to do that.

And you can’t escape it. From sitting in the dining hall having conversations with faculty and students about what they saw that particular day – and just the fact that you have to deal with those issues as you’re out sampling or you’re trying to catch that animal – it just engulfs you. And I think that’s really valuable in a small setting, so you’re getting this incredible faculty interaction. Lakeside provides this really high-quality, in-depth mentorship. It’s almost like an internship at the same time that students are taking the class. It’s different than just reading the material and listening to a lecture. It’s  experiencing, it’s having conversations with faculty the entire time you’re here, and I think that’s kind of stripping it back to how education used to be. You can’t hide from your professor here!

How important is the multi-disciplinary aspect of this place?
I think it’s critical. When I look at where the interesting things are happening in research, it happens in the seams, where geology and biology intersect. I think that as the disciplines have matured, where those things come together – that interdisciplinary nexus – is where the greatest explosion in knowledge is happening. Because suddenly we’re seeing those feedback loops, and we’re thinking more holistically about these things that obviously do interact in nature. They don’t live in their own little discipline.

The other thing I think that’s really great about Lakeside is there aren’t very many places in Iowa where you can go and have a high-quality lake, lakes that are struggling in terms of water quality, prairie, upland grassland areas, wetlands, forested areas, savanna. I don’t know if there’s any place in Iowa where you have that diversity of habitats all in one location.

The scientific and academic communities probably understand the importance of this place, but why should the average Iowan care?
I always tell people that this is their legacy. This is Iowa’s natural heritage in a nutshell. If you think about understanding where we’ve come from and where we’re going, Lakeside and the Okoboji region and Dickinson County really encapsulate that. Because we’ve modified our landscape so intensely in the state of Iowa, this is really a glimpse back into our coveted natural heritage, I think. And if you want to see Iowa in all its glory, it’s here. That’s not to take away from other places in Iowa. I grew up in eastern Iowa and there are some phenomenal places, but glacial landscapes, wetlands, lake landscapes, it’s all right here, and I think that, again, that’s your heritage. If you’re from the Grand Canyon area, that’s really showy, but this is OUR heritage. People should care about that because it is inherently Iowan; it is a landscape that is precious and rare, and we all should spend some time here.

People feel transformed when they come here. Certainly, people come to West Okoboji and they boat and they enjoy the water quality, but people come here to Lakeside and I think they feel transformed by this landscape, that it sort of speaks to who we are as Iowans. People have been inhabiting these lakeshores for a very long time, with good reason. They’re phenomenal. We’re connected through time and space, and I think people should care about that.

What are the Lab’s most pressing needs?
I think probably the most pressing need is the ability to move into those other three seasons, and not just summer. We have buildings that are heated and cooled, but most of our buildings do not have that. So it’s really difficult to think about bringing students up here and doing any other classes when we don’t have enough spaces that can handle people in the winter months. We’re a little bit limited in housing. If we double up, we’re at about 90 [in the summer]. In the winter time, maybe 50 in the Brown Motel and the Green Motel [because they’re heated]. We need to get fully modernized and weatherized so we can be 24/365.

What else do you want people to know?
I like that we have students from all over Iowa coming together, meeting each other, talking about what they’re doing. It gets them out of their comfort zone and moves them to a place where you can’t hide; you have to interact with people and get your nose out of your phone.

Lakeside Lab forces you to be a little more social. I think that happens here more than in most classrooms. Conversation is sort of a lost art, and we preserve that. It’s a good thing. Lakeside Lab has been around for over a hundred years. My goal is to make sure we’re around for at least another hundred. Biological field stations are not always the most glamorous thing … but I do really believe it is the quality of education these students walk out with that separates them from their peers.

Another thing I love about this place is that all the giants of Iowa natural heritage, of natural history, are here. Thomas Macbride, Samuel Calvin, all the greats walked around here. This is where they said, ‘Yep, this place is pretty awesome and we’re gonna build this field camp.’ I just love that connection in history with those folks who were so brilliant and visionary.

It’s just extraordinary that they said, ‘We should protect this piece of land.’ You look at West Okoboji – every square inch is developed except for this, and that’s pretty phenomenal.

Why is this place important to Iowans?
This is your heritage. If you never go to Yosemite, if you never go to Yellowstone…this is Iowa’s national park equivalent. It is amazingly preserved, and that’s rare in this state.  Lakeside is this little hidden gem. I think it needs to be a little less hidden, and we encourage people to come see us.

Faculty Spotlight: Alex Braidwood

summer2018-lakeside4Alex Braidwood, an assistant professor of graphic design in ISU’s College of Design, probably isn’t the first person you’d think of when you think of a professor at a biological field research station. But he is one of Iowa Lakeside Laboratory’s most enthusiastic proponents.

“It’s a wonderful place, isn’t it?” Braidwood said. “You’re surrounded by nature, and it’s a really fascinating space where it’s isolated but not remote. Right? There’s a big grocery store seven miles away, so you can get the things you need there. But it feels like you’re
somewhere else.”

Braidwood runs the Artist in Residence program for the Lab, and he teaches classes like Acoustic Ecology and Science + Data Design Visualization. He says he relishes the  interplay between the arts and sciences.

“That’s the thing that keeps me going back,” he said. “If it was just a bunch of scientists who were closed off and thought art was just about making things pretty, there would be no place for me up there.” But he relishes the conversations “where the scientists want to know more about what artists do and artists want to know more about what scientists do.”

Braidwood’s main focus with his acoustic ecology class is to record nature sound. Several times during the two-week summer class, students rise at 4 a.m. and go as a group to a prairie or wetland to record what he calls the “dawn chorus,” when migratory species are incredibly active, when everything is waking up. Later, students download the data to their laptops and create audio postcards that tell a story.

He says teaching classes at Lakeside and teaching classes on the Ames campus are  completely different.

“It’s not even the same. I mean, I’m an instructor and there are students, but it’s really intense. The students are in one class at a time while they’re up there because the classes meet Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and you’re OUT, you’re out in the world.

It’s a really focused learning experience because you really are committed to this like morning, noon, and night. They want to devote two weeks to doing this.”

Braidwood’s first involvement with Lakeside was as one of its artists in residence. His project that first summer was to make music out of the data collected by the GLEON buoy. Today, as the director of the Artist in Residence program, Braidwood helps attract artists from all over the country, ranging from composers to installation artists to printmakers. He calls the program a conduit for what can happen in the intersection between art and science in Iowa.

“The artists I bring up for the residency get in conversations with the science students and science professors; they go on field trips, they learn collection methods, they look through microscopes. And there’s something that happens that’s like ‘the thing we have in common is that we love nature,’ and ‘the thing we have in common is that we want the world to be a good place to live in,’ and ‘the thing we have in common is we want to understand how things work.’ It just opens the door to these really like amazing conversations.”


Iowa Lakeside Laboratory History

Iowa Lakeside Lab is a national model for immersive, field-based research and education. The Lab was founded in 1909 by botanist Thomas Macbride and his colleagues from the University of Iowa, for “the study of nature in nature.”

Macbride chose the site for its natural diversity. From east to west, Okoboji marks a transition between ecoregions, from the eastern deciduous forest to the Great Plains.  From north to south, Okoboji signals a shift from the recently glaciated landscape of the Minnesota lakes region to the much older and more dissected landscape of the Little Sioux Valley and ultimately the Missouri River Valley. Macbride’s placement of his Lab meant students could study the components of most major Midwestern ecosystems  within an easy hike or ride from the Lab grounds.

Ownership was held at first by a private stock company, the Lakeside Laboratory Association. In 1936 the Association deeded the station to the state of Iowa, “to be held in trust for the accommodation, promotion, support, and maintenance of scientific studies and research,” and the Lab began to be utilized by Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa as well as by the University of Iowa. Notable Iowa State professors began to teach at the Lab, including John Dodd (algology, for 32 years), Martin Ulmer (parasitology), and Lois Tiffany (mycology/fungi, the only female professor at that time).

A major construction program took place in the mid 1930s, when the Civilian Conservation Corps built five stone laboratories, four student cabins, a bathhouse, and other amenities. The most noteworthy constructions – the stone buildings – were built with massive, glacially deposited granite boulder walls topped with cedar-shingled roofs and arranged in an arc around the highest hill with the open end facing the lake.

Additional buildings were added in the 1960s and ’70s. The Waitt building opened in 1998, providing a modern Water Quality Laboratory, additional classrooms, and staff offices.

In 2006 Lakeside was designated a Regents Resource Center, expanding both its audience and its mission. Today the Lab is a place where people of all ages and backgrounds can “study nature in nature.”

— From and from the book The Iowa Lakeside Laboratory: A Century of Discovering the Nature of Nature.


100 Years of Research

Research has been the backbone of the Iowa Lakeside Laboratory since its creation in 1909.

Today, Lakeside Lab has a treasure trove of information and research opportunities: water quality of the Iowa Great Lakes and surrounding watersheds, taxonomy and ecology of diatoms, prairie restoration, and conservation biology and ecology of prairie plants and animals. Here are a few specific examples:

  • The GLEON buoy (Global Lake Ecological Observatory Network) is part of a global water-quality and weather-data-gathering project located on West Okoboji. Information can be accessed from anywhere in the world.
  • In conjunction with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Iowa Lakeside Lab faculty and student researchers use sonar techniques to map the aquatic vegetation along the margins of the lakes for the Iowa Great Lakes Vegetation Mapping Survey.
  • Researchers are currently investigating how the micronutrient iron contributes to harmful algae blooms so that blooms can be better understood, monitored, and perhaps prevented.
  • The Cooperative Lakes Area Monitoring Project (CLAMP) provides long-term monitoring data on regional lake conditions and educate local citizens about lake ecology.
  • In partnership with the State Hygenic Lab, Lakeside provides water-testing services and educates citizens on how to better care for Iowa’s natural lakes. Waitt Water Quality Laboratory chemist Dennis Heimdal and other researchers are looking at data that’s been collected here for 20 years.

“When the students are out in the field doing the classwork, they’re also collecting information,” Mary Skopec, executive director of Iowa Lakeside Lab, said. “We recently found a document that shows the algae collected in 1915, and in it, it says there were 200 different species of algae that were discovered at Okoboji. So, there’s this long history of data that goes way, way back 100 years, and every successive class and researcher coming in can build on that. We have at any one time 20 different researchers that are running around doing collaborative things here during the summer months.”

How can I experience Lakeside?

Take a Class
Lakeside gives students a unique educational experience: small, full-immersion, field-oriented courses. Each summer, Lakeside offers 15-20 university courses. Most courses meet all day (8 a.m. to 5 p.m.), Monday through Friday. Course enrollments are usually limited to 11 students. Weather permitting, students normally spend at least part of each day doing fieldwork.

Summer 2018 courses include acoustic ecology, animal behavior, glacial geomorphology, field archaeology, ecology of algae blooms, environmental nonfiction, paleolimnology, ecology and systematics of diatoms, ethnobotany, and more.

Students from any college or university can take classes at Lakeside. Visit to view a complete list of classes, to register, and for scholarship opportunities.

Visitors are welcome at Iowa Lakeside Laboratory on West Okoboji Lake. During the summer months, a variety of public programs are offered, including science seminars, family programs, artist lectures and exhibitions, adult nature weekends, guided hikes, a kids’ day camp, and more.

Lakeside’s buildings and natural areas are actively used for university classes and community outreach programs, especially in the summer. Buildings can be rented by non-profit community groups when not in use for Lakeside purposes. Lakeside can accommodate up to 92 guests: 47 in cottages and hotel-style units with private baths, heat, and air conditioning; and 45 in unheated cabins served by separate bath houses.  Lakeside’s facilities are not available for weddings and private parties.

How to get here
The Lakeside campus is located on Highway 86 north of Milford, in northwest Iowa. As you get close on Highway 86, look for the silver water tower on the west side of the road. Lakeside’s entrance is marked by stone gates that are normally open. When you arrive, please check in at the North Office. There is plenty of free parking.


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.

Before & After

Check out some great event-planning tips from our ISU Alumni Center team. This piece was written by Bry Cain, ISU Alumni Center Program Assistant. For more tips and assistance planning your wedding or event at the ISU Alumni Center, call Brooke, Bry, or Angela at (515) 294-4625 or visit

Do you ever walk into a venue, see a blank slate, and have trouble picturing what the venue could become? We’ve been there and we want to help! Below we have a before photo and several after photos to help you envision what you could create with the ISU Alumni Center as your wedding ceremony and/or reception venue!

First up, wedding ceremony locations –

Eggerling ISU Traditions Garden

There are three different directions you can face your ceremony within this garden to avoid the sun in guests’ eyes, to maximize shade, etc. — all depending on the season and time of day.


empty garden


garden after


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garden after2

Mente Boyd Reception Area


empty MB


MB after
MB after1

Next, we’ll explore the wedding reception spaces –

Reiman Ballroom


empty ballroom


Ballroom after


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View More:


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Ballroom after2


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Cy’s Lounge & Burnet Alumni Living Room


building photos


Cys after

Newlin Terrace


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If you have an upcoming wedding and want to consider transforming a space in the ISU Alumni Center into a memorable event space that will look and feel fantastic for your wedding day, give our event coordinators a call today.

We can be reached at (515) 294-4625, or toll-free at (877) 478-2586. And be sure to ask about your ISU Alumni Association member discount, too.

See you at the Center!

‘If you want to see Iowa in all its glory, it’s here’


From VISIONS magazine, summer 2018

By Carole Gieseke | Photos by Jim Heemstra

For more than 100 years, students and researchers have been traveling to Iowa Lakeside
Lab, a 147-acre campus located on the shores of West Okoboji Lake, for a total-immersion learning experience. Lakeside Lab’s natural environment and diversity of habitats is a hidden gem for the state of Iowa. Owned by the state and operated through the Board of Regents, Iowa State faculty and students can expect to get their hands dirty, their feet wet, and their noses sunburned while they’re tackling big, complex, global and regional problems, one tiny piece at a time.

Three days at Iowa Lakeside Lab: A Field Journal



Today is Tuesday, June 20
2017, and photographer Jim Heemstra and I arrive mid-day at the Iowa Lakeside Lab
campus on Little Miller’s Bay. It’s a three-hour drive to West Okoboji Lake from Ames, and we’re hungry.

We call Lori Biederman, an assistant professor in Iowa State’s Department of Ecology, Evolution & Organismal Biology – she’s been the contact person for our visit – and she tells us to go ahead and make ourselves at home in our rooms at the Brown Motel. The doors are unlocked.

It’s not long before we hear the clanging of a bell, a signal that lunch will be served in 15 minutes in the dining hall.

Soon, students and faculty noisily arrive, deep in conversation and obviously well ingrained in the daily routine. We’ve arrived here five weeks after the first summer classes began in mid-May, and small groups of students are immersed in their studies ranging from archaeology to soils, algae to ornithology. About 30 students are here at Lakeside this week, plus researchers, professors, and staff.

Lunch is pre-plated and served through the kitchen window; choices are limited, but the food is tasty and diners can add salads, dessert, coffee, and other food items to their trays. Groups form at large tables near the dining hall’s large lake-view windows. It’s a glorious, clear, sunny day. I’m glad we’re here.

After lunch, Lori takes us to Waitt Hall
to say hello to Mary Skopec, director of Lakeside Lab. We talk about our goals for the next three days – to see and do as much as we possibly can while we’re there, to hang out with each of the classes, venture out onto the lake, get some great pictures, and try to understand what makes this place so special. We develop an itinerary, but Mary warns us: You can’t predict the weather here, and sometimes the best-laid plans are likely to change.

The woman knows what she’s talking about.


At 1 o’clock we head to the Field Archaeology site,
where state archaeologist John Doershuk is overseeing nine students who are in Week 2 of a real-life archaeology dig at a nearby state park. The students are meticulously excavating 1-meter squares of earth, each about 21 inches deep, to see what remains of an area that was once inhabited by Native American ancestors from the Prairie Lakes Woodland phase, about 1,500 to 1,800 years ago.

The layers are carefully measured and the soil removed, 10 centimeters at a time. Earth is scooped into buckets, then poured into a fine sieve. Items found are documented, and the soil is tested. The process takes four to five days for each square meter. This class is  four weeks long.

Much of what the students are finding near the surface was deposited here recently, since the area became a state park. Doershuk sifts through a few animal bones, nails, and bottle caps lying on a picnic table, laughingly categorizing the items as belonging to the “prehistoric 7-Up culture group.”

But in all seriousness, he says, this area is a “placeholder for human behavior.” As they’ve dug deeper, the students have uncovered beautiful fragments of pottery, 1,500-year-old chert, and a hide scraper.

Students represent a variety of majors – anthropology, archaeology, history, English, environmental science. For Ben Anstoetter, an Iowa State cultural anthropology major, this is literally his last class before graduating in August. He hopes to someday conduct ethnographic research for companies.

Later in the afternoon,
we tour campus with Lori. Eleven of Lakeside’s 37 buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Key among them are five stone labs built in 1935 and 1936 through the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC); each is named for an Iowa scientist: Thomas Macbride, Bohumil Shimek, Samuel Calvin, Joseph Bodine, and ISU’s Louis Pammel.

Of the 147 acres that make up the Lakeside Lab campus, most is natural land. The campus can be divided into three sections: 1) the ecological studies campus, 2) the residential campus, and 3) the teaching campus.


Inside one of the stone labs,
graduate students in the Ecology and Systematics of Algae class are studying what they collected this morning on Spirit Lake. The contents of the watery samples are dotted onto microscope slides, and amazing images come up on computer screens.

“What we’re looking at with the microscope is 3.7 billion years old,” explains the professor, Kalina Manoylov.

Students in this class have come from all over the country to study here. Each day, they go out on one of Iowa’s great lakes and collect live materials from different habitats. Researchers here have been studying these same locations for more than 100 years. Katie Johnson, a University of Georgia graduate student, shows us pictures of diatoms through the research-grade microscope. A field book from 1915 sits nearby. Johnson’s research project is comparing the community composition of today with that of 100 years ago.

On the other side of the room,  Kristin Briggs from Florida International University in Miami is holding a pipette filled with lake water, squeezing it gently onto a glass slide. One of her university professors sent her here to learn more about algae, she tells us. is is a world-renowned research site. Her graduate work is focused on Everglades restoration.

“I want people to love algae like I love algae,” she says.

In another stone lab,
we see evidence of the Soil Formation and Landscape Relationships class, but no people. Turns out, they are on an overnight field trip to northeast Iowa. We move on.

We meet one of the two artists-in-residence here this summer. Brian Schorn of St. Helen, Mich., is working on 3-D art inspired by the randomness, order, and chaos in the environment. And using a fair amount of prairie grass.

Continuing on, we get a taste of some of the wonderful collections that are hidden away in the back rooms of each of the historic buildings. Here’s the herbarium, with plant samples dating back to 1919. We plan to come back tomorrow when we have more time.

Down by the lake we see the Main Cottage, the only original structure from the late 1800s. The nearby dining hall was moved to Lakeside in the early 1900s.

“Every building has a history,” Lori tells us.

It’s late afternoon,
and time to get out on the lake. We jump on the pontoon boat used by Lakeside classes  and researchers and head off. Our destination: the GLEON buoy. GLEON stands for Global Lake Ecological Observatory Network, and the buoy inspires innovative science by sharing and interpreting water quality and weather data on West Okoboji.You can access the information from anywhere in the world. This little nondescript buoy  floating in the water is apparently a very big, scientific deal.

It was nice to be out on the water.
But soon we’re back on land, hopping into a ranger vehicle. Lori is driving us to a prairie, AKA the “north 40,” and we’re bouncing around like crazy, threatening to be bucked out.

The ecological studies campus occupies more than three-fourths of the land mass at Lakeside, including the entire northern portion. The northwest part is being restored to prairie. Another 23 acres to the immediate east is reconstructed prairie, planed in 2002-03. A second-growth woods of box elder and other trees separates these areas from West Okoboji Lake and the residential campus to the south.

Lori proudly shows off the vast prairie, with its wide variety of unique, native species. Actually, “geeking out” would not be too strong a description. She’s obviously passionate about this place, and it’s infectious.

Our first day is almost over,
but not before we have dinner in the dining hall and attend an evening lecture titled “Weather Whiplash” in Mahan Hall, a facility built in 1961 and renovated in 2003. Tonight Amy Burgin, a professor at the University of Kansas, is talking about weather’s impact on the glacially created Iowa Great Lakes and presenting other fascinating research findings, to not only the students and faculty here at Lakeside but also a number of folks from the community.



It’s early morning,
and Jim and I walk down to the lake to take some pictures of the sunrise. Jim says, “Wow, it looks like rain in the west. Look at that cloud above your head.” Before I can even respond, it begins to pour and we race, old-person style, up the hill. Ugh, talk about weather whiplash.

Dripping, we sit on the protected porch of the Brown Motel, watching the rain and listening to the thunder, thinking this is not a good thing. We’re supposed to be going out on the boat this morning with the algae class to collect samples, but this storm cell looks big. It’s probably going to rain for a while.

Right now, it’s almost breakfast time and the algae class outing is two-and-a-half hours from now, so we will see what happens. Meanwhile, we watch a pair of newborn fawns play on the lawn under the watchful eye of their mother.

Cautiously optimistic, we meet with faculty at breakfast. All the outdoor classes are canceled, they tell us. Everyone is working in the labs this morning. Very disappointing. Hoping it clears off this afternoon. Everybody has out mobile weather apps, comparing radar.

“That’s field work. Whatever comes, we take,” Kalina Manoylov says matter-of-factly.

But this is our only full day here, and we need to make it count.

So, off we go, tromping through the wet grass,
to more fully explore the collections in the back rooms of the stone labs. In one room we  find a faunal collection. Wooden cabinets are filled with shelves of animal bones, by category: mandibles, skulls, turtle shells, and other bones.

In another cabinet, painted gunmetal gray, is a collection of “Insects in Alcohol.” Inside are tiny vials of liquid with insects inside. Cardboard boxes, tackle boxes, wooden boxes – filled with who knows what treasures? Soil core samples. Old canning jars filled with liquid and preserved fish and other stuff I can’t identify. Tools, an old microscope, aquarium, scales, a soil-moisture meter. Some of these things seem new; other stuff looks like it came from 1965, and some looks as though it’s been here since 1920. It probably has.

Flora of Iowa botanical samples are shelved in the Bodine Lab. Catalogued in 1944, some of the Lakeside Herbarium samples date as far back as 1887. In the King Lab, we strike gold: the late Lois Tiffany’s mushroom collection. An ISU distinguished professor of ecology, evolution and organismal biology, Tiffany (’45 botany, MS ’47, PhD ’50) was a giant in the fields of mycology (fungi) and botany, so this is really exciting. We open cabinets and drawers to find samples of giant puffball, mycenastrum, echinodontium, and many more fungal species. Some are preserved in liquid in jars, but most are dried in plastic boxes. An extraordinary collection.

In another cabinet, we find wooden drawers filled with the insect teaching collection. There’s a strong smell of mothballs. My favorite collections are the butterflies — each one is meticulously preserved and looks as if it could fly away at any moment. Another drawer houses cases of preserved moths — also beautiful. I chuckle over the irony of using moth balls to prevent the moth collection from being destroyed…by moths.

We check in on the classes,
all working indoors until the rain decides to stop. In Shimek Hall, perhaps the most beautiful of all the stone labs, the ornithology class is getting a taxidermy lesson. Using scissors, knives, borax, cotton batting, and cornmeal, students quietly work under the guidance of professor Neil Bernstein to make deceased birds look lively and natural.

In the Calvin Lab, the archaeology class is cleaning up the artifacts they found yesterday at the state park site. They’d clearly rather be digging, but the rain has forced them indoors. They wash the samples, label them, and leave them to dry on paper-towel-lined
cookie sheets. They’ve found a piece of Sioux quartzite at level 7 and a bone fragment from a large deer or perhaps an elk at level 5.

Professor Doershuk tells us, “Every square we open [at the archaeology site] will give us another peek into the whole area. The trick is going from bits and pieces to the behavior that created it. That’s the challenging but fun part.”

Suddenly, the sun appears through the windows, and the whole lab lights up.

“Let’s gear up and head to the site!” Doershuk says.

It has finally quit raining.

While the class groups head to their field sites,
I sit down with Lakeside Lab director Mary Skopec for an in-depth discussion about the unique opportunities Lakeside provides to the state of Iowa.

After dinner and a walk,
Jim and I eagerly connect with Neil Bernstein’s ornithology class. The group is on the north side of the Lakeside camps, setting up mist nets to catch and band birds. The idea is to set up  these find nets — stretching from about 8 feet in the air down to about 2 feet off the ground — on the edge of a wooded area where birds have congregated during the day. As dusk approaches, the birds will fly out of the area and get caught in the nets, allowing students to record information about each bird, including weight and other characteristics, and to place a tiny tracking band around its left.

I’m excited to see the birds up close. But first, we wait.

Bernstein says dryly,” All we do is wait. This is real biology .”

And then, a flurry of activity. We have our first bird! It’s a song sparrow. One of the students, Serena, carefully bands the bird – her first. The group looks at the bird’s characteristics up close as Bernstein holds it gently in his fist.

The next bird is a yellow warbler. The bird struggles and becomes tangled in the net. Finally freed, we see that he already has a band. Bernstein describes him as a student records the capture in a field journal:

“Band number 2170. Banded last summer. Recaptured male warbler. Neotropical migrant. Migrates to South and Central America.” And, Bernstein adds, because he has now been caught twice in the mist net, this bird is “spectacularly unlucky.”

Our next bird is a male goldfinch. Then a gray catbird with a black crown and a bad attitude. And then a tiny common yellowthroat.

The ornithology class generally catches 8-15 birds during a typical sunrise or sunset period, Bernstein says. Tonight is average; they catch a dozen birds.


We leave the ornithology students
still recording bird information, and meet up with a different group to go out on the lake to watch the sunset. This is the best weather we’ve had all day, and everyone is relaxed, joking, and enjoying the scenery. There is no data to record, no lessons to be learned. The sunset is spectacular.

But before we’re back to shore, we can already see thunderclouds forming to the west. Another storm is coming.



The next morning,
there’s another rain delay, and I’m officially panicked. This is our last day here. Jim and I were scheduled to go out with the algae class at 9 a.m., but that’s been pushed back — again. We cross our fingers for a break in this blasted weather pattern.

Meanwhile, the soils class, taught by ISU professor of agronomy Lee Burras, has returned from its field trip to the Paleozoic Plateau area of northeast Iowa, near Decorah. Back in the stone lab, the small class is comparing ancient rock with glacial sediment, discussing glaciers and rifts, and taking a close-up look at core samples collected as a group. They compare the color of the soil, which changes depending on the amount of water it contains, with the Field Book for Describing and Sampling Soils. This particular sample has a high amount of clay.

Burras has been teaching at Lakeside for 13 summers.

“I love teaching these field classes,” he says. “Iowa State has been involved with Iowa Lakewide Lab for a long time.”

At 10 a.m., in the middle of the soil core discussion,
my phone rings. The algae class is in the boat, waiting impatiently for us to go out on the lake. The storm has passed. We run to the dock.


The class this morning is headed to the Triboji Canal
to collect algae samples. No sample represents the whole lake, Professor Manoylov tells me. They collect samples in the canal, at the center of lake, at the edge right o of a dock, and other places. Samples come from the same areas each time in order to track changes in the four Okoboji lakes.

When we arrive at our first sample location mid-lake, the students pair up into three teams of two, each with a job to do. Reaching off the side of the boat, one group scrapes algae off of a buoy and take measurements: dissolved oxygen, temperature, pH. Another group puts water from a turkey baster into plastic bags, carefully labeling each bag. Another checks the turbidity (clearness) of the water. Th e three teams work simultaneously, quickly and efficiently. You can tell they’ve done this dance before. Everything will be labeled and ready to analyze when the group gets back in the lab.

What will today’s algae be like? The rain will have disturbed it, and the pH will probably be neutral. Fertilizers run into the lake when it rains, so that has an e ect on the water quality.

We’re on the move again – wow, that all happened really fast. We go into the canal, where the water is calmer and relatively shallow. Manoylov says the canal is very unique in terms of algae. There’s a lot of phytoplankton here. The teams again do their collection, and then they’re finished.

On the way back to campus,
I talk to a graduate student from Florida who just began a master’s program. He tells me his professor suggested he spend the summer here in Iowa, so he enrolled in the four week diatom class and then added another four-week class to study algae. “The diatom class is really well-regarded,” he says.

Before we make it back, the boat dies twice. Apparently this happens all the time. e driver calls someone and does a bit of McGyvering, and the boat engine sputters to life. We make it back to the dock.

11:30. Back on land.
The soils class is outside taking more core samples. It’s suddenly very sunny.

Professor Burras encourages one of the students to drive the truck to the field site. (“It’s a field class!” he says enthusiastically. “Everyone needs the experience of driving the big truck!”) The process of core sampling is loud and dirty.

Once a sample is extracted from the site, the students measure “horizons,” look at a color sample book, and describe the soil’s shape, color, depth, and morphology. Burras asks the students to evaluate if soil would be good for growing corn. What else? How can we offer information that’s useful to other people?

Kata McCarville is one of the soils students, but she’s also a teacher at Upper Iowa University. She brought one of her geology classes here to Lakeside last spring. This soils class, she says, is professional development for her.

“It’s been an amazing class,” she tells me. “A phenomenal opportunity.”


It’s been a phenomenal opportunity
for me, too. Our time at Lakeside has flown by. Jim and I say our goodbyes and head back to Ames. Three days here was not enough.

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.

What’s next?

Check out some great event-planning tips from our ISU Alumni Center team. This piece was written by Bry Cain, ISU Alumni Center Program Assistant. For more tips and assistance planning your wedding or event at the ISU Alumni Center, call Brooke, Bry, or Angela at (515) 294-4625 or visit


After saying “Yes!” and answering the easiest question of your life, a newly engaged couple is faced with one of the hardest questions: “Where?”

Picking a wedding venue is arguably one of the most important decisions you’ll make in the planning process, as the environment and the staff can really make or break the experience of the wedding for both the newlyweds and the guests. To guarantee the best experience we’ve created a handy PDF guide for you to take with you when you visit prospective venues. Download a free copy here!

We’ll start with the obvious here: availability.

It’s best to go into the venue with a date range or a season in mind. Going in with a specific date often leads to disappointment. You’ll have better success, and maybe even score a discount, if you’re willing to host your wedding on a Friday evening or the Sunday of a holiday weekend.

Next, what does the rental include?

Is this a reception-only venue or can you host both the ceremony and the reception in the same location? Is it an option for them to be outside? If so, is there a back-up plan? Will there be any other events booked on your day? If so, will they provide signage to direct your guests? What time are you allowed to get in to decorate and what time do you have to be out? Will you have to do any setup? Is there a bridal suite or groom suite you can utilize?

Okay, let’s talk money.

When is a deposit due? When is the final payment due? Do they charge tax? Is there a cleaning fee or other service fee? Are there additional fees or add-ons? Is there a fee if you need to change your date or cancel the wedding?

Lastly, vendors and logistics.

Are there approved vendors you must use? Do they have recommended vendors that can give you a discount? Is there an in-house catering service and is there a minimum? Is there a kitchen that a caterer can utilize? What’s the capacity of the venue? Do they offer any on-site coordination? Who will be your point person the day of the wedding? Are you able to meet with them? Is there parking on-site? Will guests be charged for parking? Do they offer any décor services and are there any décor restrictions?

Don’t forget:

Check out the whole venue – the bathrooms, the dressing rooms, the lobby, and even the kitchen! Take photos and save them in a folder named after the venue to help keep them all straight. Venues can start to blend together after three or four. Once you decide on a venue, make sure to get everything in writing! The date is not yours until you have a signed contract and most likely a deposit sent in as well.


Of course we want Cyclones everywhere to choose the wedding venues right for them, but we’re a little biased toward one in particular that we’d love you to consider.

How does the ISU Alumni Center stack up when it comes to the categories above? Here are some highlights:

  • The Alumni Center has both indoor and outdoor ceremony & reception areas for your use! We also won’t book any other events on your wedding day. This allows us to always have a weather backup location if needed.
  • We have an approved list of caterers, and they are all fantastic! We do this because we want to guarantee you have the best experience possible.
  • We have a huge parking lot on site! Where else on a university campus can they say that?
  • We have event staff that will do all the set-up and tear-down of tables and chairs, empty trashes, coordinate with vendors, and more. You get to simply enjoy the day!
  • As a non-profit, we are tax exempt. If we don’t pay tax, you don’t pay tax! We also don’t have any service charges or additional fees. The price you see is the exact price you pay.

Contact us today at (515) 294-1710 for more detail and to schedule a venue tour!

We look forward to seeing you soon,


Career Question Dropbox: Taking risks


Here’s the latest question from the ISU Alumni Association’s new Career Question Dropbox. To get YOUR career question answered, simply submit it online.


THE QUESTION, asked by a 2013 graduate of the College of Engineering: What risks do you wish you had taken when you first started your career?

The ISU Alumni Association’s own Julie Larson ’84, who recently retired after 34 years at the Alumni Association, had this to say:

“I’ve thought and thought, and I can’t think of a risk that I wish I would have taken. I took the risk of coming from Iowa City to Ames — where I really didn’t know anyone — to work for the YMCA. After working two years at the YMCA, I took the risk to go back to school full-time to get my master’s degree. After I started at the ISUAA, I was married, had a family and loved my job. I was very satisfied in my career. I don’t regret not pursuing more education or career advancement.”

Mike Todd ’03 ’05, who majored in engineering at ISU and now works as a science teacher, also feels like he’s taken a lot of risks:

“I’m a fairly high-level risk taker when it comes to my career, as I’m always trying things out. So I would recommend that to anyone (and I do to all my students). Try things you don’t think you’ll like and you will surprise yourself. Take on challenges that you are worried about being successful at. Don’t worry about your image in the short term; you’ll learn a lot from the experience and have more skills in the long run.”

We also asked construction engineering alum Dave Rahe ’06, who offered this great piece of advice:

“I wish I would have sought a mentor outside of my profession when I started my career. I have recently been blessed with mentors outside of the construction industry and the different perspectives they bring to our conversations has been enlightening for me.”

Great topic; thanks for asking! Do you have a career question you’d like to ask us? If so, submit it here!

Living the Gymnastics Life


Southerner-turned-Iowan Haylee Young says her gymnastics career took off when she landed in West Des Moines and met Triad Gymnastics’ Tom and Donna Moretti, Chow’s Gymnastics’ Liang Chow, and Iowa State head coach Jay Ronayne. After four years competing for Ronayne’s Cyclones and graduating with a degree in public relations, she will serve as an ISU volunteer assistant coach for the 2019 season.

From VISIONS magazine, summer 2018

By Kate Bruns

Jay Ronayne vividly recalls the first time he met Haylee Young.

“She was probably around 13 years old, but she was so little she seemed like she was about eight,” Ronayne remembers of the bubbly blonde who introduced herself to him at West Des Moines’ Chow’s Gymnastics in 2010 as a friend of Cyclone gymnast Milan Ivory.

Young, Ronayne would learn, was a top-flight gymnast who had moved to West Des  Moines from Woodstock, Ga. Before moving to Iowa and training at Chow’s and at Triad Gymnastics, Young trained with Ivory, then a freshman on Ronayne’s Cyclones team, in Georgia. Young knew almost nothing about Iowa when she first got to the state, she says – but Ivory was her connection to the Cyclone program. And ever the gregarious kid, the future public relations major didn’t consider herself too young to start networking.

So a year later, when Ronayne started hearing the buzz about a “kid at Chow’s who’s really good,” it wasn’t necessarily a huge surprise when he realized the kids were one and the same.

“As soon as I saw her do gymnastics, I knew there was something special about her,” Ronayne said. “So we started recruiting her pretty heavily. When there’s a great gymnast in Iowa, we want her to stay in Iowa.”

From Young’s perspective Iowa State was an easy choice, just as Iowa has been an easy state to embrace as home.

“I committed when I was a sophomore [in high school],” she said. “I was recruited by  Iowa, Ohio State, a lot of Midwest schools…but once I visited here I really didn’t look around too much. My big thing was I wanted to go somewhere I felt comfortable with my coaches – get along with them and have them care for me as a person, and that’s the feeling I got.”

Now, more than eight years after first meeting Ronayne, Young (’18 public relations) is set to start her own career as a collegiate gymnastics coach. She plans to start learning the ropes from Ronayne by serving as a Cyclones volunteer assistant for the 2019 season.

Young, who has spent her life in the gym — including training twice a day from ages  10-14 for elite gymnastics — has experienced some incredible highs throughout her collegiate and pre-collegiate career. As a club gymnast she qualified for the Junior  Olympics nationals three times and in 2014 ranked among the nation’s top 10 in the floor exercise. As a Cyclone, she was a 2015 Big 12 all-around champion, 2018 floor champion, and qualified for the 2017 NCAA championships as an all-around competitor. She was a stalwart in meets and consistently posted some of the highest scores by a Cyclone  individual in the past decade.

For Young, those individual achievements are hard-earned and will always be cherished. But she says she has fallen in love with NCAA gymnastics because of its team spirit.

“It’s the hardest work I’ve ever done,” she says of her time at Iowa State. “It’s more  pressure than you can ever imagine, but it’s been the most fun time in my gymnastics career. Beating Iowa in the Cy-Hawk series by .025, which is as close as it can get, was a super-cool moment. This year we beat West Virginia twice, which was really big for us.  This entire year was a big high – we ended [the season ranked] 24th in the nation.”

Ask Young about the biggest highs in her college career, and she’ll rattle off those team accomplishments first. It’s several bullet points down the list before she remembers to mention she qualified to represent the best of the nation’s best at the 2017 NCAA  championships.

“Obviously making nationals last year was a big high in my career,” she says, “but while it was a fun meet it was nothing like it would have been if I’d had my teammates on the  floor with me. Our team is literally like family.”

“The weird thing about our sport is that it is truly an individual sport, and even classified by the NCAA as an individual sport,” Ronayne says. “But we [at Iowa State] treat  everything as all about team, and Haylee has embraced that from the day she walked on campus.”

The Cyclones, who despite a tremendous 2018 season were placed in a brutal NCAA regional this spring, saw only junior vaulter Meaghan Sievers qualify for the NCAA championships this year – ending at the NCAA Minneapolis Regional both Young’s collegiate career and her dream of qualifying as a team for the national championships.

“I was super hungry to train hard and bring them all,” Young says. “But we had a tough regional. We had a really tough regional. There were some other regionals where I looked at the scores and thought we could have done it. But, you know, right place, right time.”

“With the draw we had at Minnesota with the depth of the field we were up against, it was a lot of pressure on [Haylee],” Ronayne says. “She handled it incredibly gracefully. She made one little mistake on bars, one little mistake on floor, and that added up to her missing [nationals] by a tenth. It was a rough couple of days right afterward of ‘I wish,’
but she’s a pretty tough young woman. To miss qualifying as an individual was heartbreaking to her, but even more heartbreaking to her was the fact that we didn’t have an opportunity to qualify as a team.”

Young will go down in Iowa State history as one of its most popular student-athletes. Whether it’s because she’s following in her friend Shawn Johnson’s footsteps as an inspiration to Iowans or because of her “refuse to lose” attitude that has vaulted the Cyclones into the win column on many Friday nights in Hilton Coliseum, there’s just something about Young, Ronayne says. It will benefit her as a coach just as it helped make her a one-of-a-kind student-athlete.

“She’s highly social, which is great for a team dynamic. She’s highly competitive, which is great for any sport. And as a performer, she loves to show off,” Ronayne says. “She’s just got ‘it,’ whatever ‘it’ is. From the moment she stepped on campus, she became the face of our program. She’s a great ambassador for our university.”

Young says she has moved forward into life after competitive gymnastics with no regrets about her time as a Cyclone. Her relationship with the fans, many of whom are young girls who remind her of herself as a kid; the lifelong friends she has found in her teammates; and the career calling she has found in coaching have all been life-changing experiences.

“I don’t want gymnastics to not be in my life anymore,” she says. “After having the experience I had as an NCAA athlete, I want to be an NCAA coach as well.”

“She’s going to be great,” Ronayne says of Young’s coaching prospects. “She’s great at motivating people and she’s extremely passionate about the sport. She’s a gymnastics junkie. She’s been studying it her whole life.”

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.

(Your event here)

Uelner Executive Board Room

By Bry Cain

While the ISU Alumni Center is the forever home of Cyclones everywhere, many people who visit don’t realize we can also use the building to host your events! Both alumni and friends can rent the ISU Alumni Center for an event of their choosing – and members get a special discount!

The professional event coordinators at the ISU Alumni Center (Brooke, Bry, and Angela) have done a wide range of events — from weddings to memorials, tailgates to career fairs, graduations, meetings, showers, conferences, and holiday parties.

One of our building’s biggest draws is the art and memorabilia we have. If you haven’t been here for an event, you NEED to stop by the next time you’re in Ames. We have ISU fun facts lining the walls, and there’s donated art memorabilia on every floor. Many of our items are things you won’t see anywhere else! A few of my favorites are the Spirit of Iowa State mosaic mural, the pillars in the Eggerling ISU Traditions Garden, and Cyclone Tower.

building photos

Spirit of Iowa State, by Clint Hansen ’87

The Spirit of Iowa State mural can be found on the third floor in the Mente Boyd Reception Area; the Eggerling ISU Traditions Garden is located on the northwest side of the building; and Cyclone Tower is outside the building on the west side in the Slater South Garden. On football gamedays you’ll see it spin and play music. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to see the lighting effects and hear the thunder!

Print2018 marks our 10th year in this beautiful building donated by ISU alumni and friends, with special thanks to Roy & Bobbi Reiman. Since we opened, we have done more than 5,400 events in our 10 rental areas. These events have resulted in more than 290,000 guests through our doors!

Will your event be next? Call us at (515) 294-4625 and we will take it from there!

Bry Cain is an ISU Alumni Center Program Assistant. For tips and assistance planning your wedding or event at the ISU Alumni Center, call Brooke, Bry, or Angela at (515) 294-4625 or visit

Meet your wedding planner!

Stay tuned to the ISUAA blog for some great event-planning tips from our ISU Alumni Center team.

And for assistance planning your wedding or event at the ISU Alumni Center, call Brooke, Bry, or Angela at (515) 294-4625, email, or visit


Left to right: Angela Horner, Brooke Lents, Bry Cain

Meet the Alumni Center team

Your wedding planner is going to be your right-hand man (or woman!) as your big day approaches. Because of this, it’s extremely important that your planner is someone you know and trust. That’s why, today, we’re kicking off our latest event-planning series by introducing Cyclones everywhere to our three Alumni Center Event Coordinators. They have more than 28 years of experience in the wedding industry!

Brooke Lents

lentsbrookeWhile Brooke was a student at Iowa State University, she started her first job in events, which would lead to many years of rewarding experiences. She was a member of the summer conference staff for the ISU Department of Residence, where she worked with all the summer conferences that stayed in ISU’s residence halls. She switched over to catering events for Hickory Park, and eventually moved to the position of catering director at the Holiday Inn and Suites Des Moines Northwest before she found the perfect job at the Alumni Center.

She loves the different clients and variety of events with which she now gets to work. Learning from this client about what’s most important to him or her is one of Brooke’s favorite parts of the job. The people by whom she is surrounded, both clients and coworkers, are what keep her motivated — as well as the high she gets after coordinating a couple’s perfect wedding day! After the drive home, she loves playing with her little toddler. who helps Brooke relieve any stress from the day.

Get to know Brooke:
  • What was your first car? 1988 Buick Century
  • Most unusual item in your desk/purse/backpack? A cell phone from 2005. I have a 2-year-old, so we have dug out old cell phones for her to play with!
  • What’s on your Bucket List? watching ISU play for a national championship
  • Strange phobias? popping noises, like a balloon popping or opening a tube of biscuits
  • Favorite sound? the Cyclone siren
  • Movie that always makes you cry? Marley & Me. It was one of the first movies my husband and I watched when we were dating. He thought I would like it because I love dogs. I bawled. A lot. Ha!
  • Worst song to have stuck in your head? If I tell you, then I will get it stuck in my head and I will be mad.
  • Is there a song that you know all of the words to? There are many songs, but the first one that came to mind was “Ice Ice Baby.”
  • Favorite children’s book? Hop on Pop
  • Biggest pet peeve? my husband biting his nails
  • Food that you have never liked (and will never like)? mushrooms
  • Favorite place on Iowa State’s campus? It’s really hard to pick! I would probably have to say the Gerdin Business Building. I spent a lot of time in that building and when I walk in there now, the smell of the building takes me back to college. It makes me think of my friends and all our classes in there. It makes me miss college!

Bry Cain

wisecup_bryannaBry graduated from ISU in 2017 with a degree in event management and marketing. Her first job in events was an internship coordinating weddings and events, as well as marketing, for Arnolds Park Amusement Park in Okoboji. After that, she started on the student event staff for the Alumni Center, where she moved up to the intern position and, with a little good timing, was able to apply for and be hired into a full-time position after graduation. She also has experience in coordinating concerts and working with floral arrangements and other décor — all experience she gained before starting at the Alumni Center. Scrolling through Pinterest, Instagram, and email subscriptions are what help her stay on top of all new and upcoming event trends. When asked about her favorite part of events she said: “Satisfied clients!” She loves to watch the client relax more and more throughout the planning process and the event and knowing that she helped them feel confident. When it comes time for her to relax, she loves to walk her Golden Doodle puppy or play volleyball.

Get to know Bry:
  • High school superlative? best smile and second in prettiest eyes
  • What’s on your Bucket List? Travel to all seven continents. I already crossed off skydiving, bungee jumping, and canyon swinging!
  • Strange phobias? Empty pop cans. Yuck!
  • Worst song to have stuck in your head? “Friday,” Rebecca Black
  • Is there a song that you know all of the words to? Anything Britney Spears or Shania Twain!
  • Favorite infomercial product? Or infomercial product you have been suckered into buying? A watermelon slicer with tongs. Just don’t do it.
  • Favorite Olympic sport to watch? All the summer Olympic sports, especially sand volleyball!
  • If you could only shop at one store for the rest of your life which would you choose? Target – no question.
  • Food that you have never liked (and will never like)? PEAS.
  • Favorite YouTube video? “Walk on the Wild Side” animal videos
  • Favorite place on Iowa State’s campus? Lagomarcino courtyard
  • Guilty pleasure music/TV show? all things within the “The Bachelor” franchise
  • Describe the perfect pizza? (crust type & toppings) Ooooh…I would love to combine stuffed crust pizza with Jeff’s Pizza Smotherella Sticks with garlic dipping sauce. Anyone else hungry?
  • Go-to karaoke song “Wannabe,” Spice Girls

Angela Horner

hornerAngela has worked in food and beverage for the majority of her 15-year career, from baking cupcakes and cakes for weddings to a hotel restaurant that led her to first “official” job in events at the Courtyard and Residence Inn Austin (Texas) Downtown. While in Austin, she decided it was time to move home to Iowa. She landed the program coordinator position at the ISU Alumni Center, was promoted to Alumni Center event manager, then stepped down to a part-time event coordinator position after her first child was born. She knew she had to stay in the events world, even after having a child, because she loves seeing people enjoying themselves at an event she helped plan. Loving what she does keeps the motivation flowing and the lists coming. When Angela’s not making lists, she loves to browse Pinterest to stay current with trends. When it’s time for some down time, she loves to read and work in her garden.

Get to know Angela:
  • What was your first car? 1989 Chevy Cavalier Z24
  • Most unusual item in your desk/purse/backpack? toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Favorite smell? warm vanilla sugar
  • Favorite sound? babies
  • Something you have always wanted to learn how to do? Farm.
  • Worst song to have stuck in your head? “Barbie Girl,” Aqua
  • Favorite children’s book? Bunny’s Book Club
  • Favorite Olympic sport to watch? swimming, volleyball, and gymnastics
  • Food that you have never liked (and will never like)? chicken-fried steak
  • Favorite YouTube video? any with baby goats
  • Favorite holiday? Thanksgiving
  • Guilty pleasure music/TV show? “McLeod’s Daughters”
  • Favorite Disney movie and song from that movie? Moana, “We Know the Way”
  • Article of clothing that you are embarrassed to say that you have owned/worn? MC Hammer pants


We’d love to learn more about YOU!

For more information about booking your next event with us, please call (515) 294-4625 or email We look forward to working with you to plan your special day!

Catching the entrepreneurship bug at Iowa State


From VISIONS magazine, summer 2018

By Betsy S. Hickok

For a young man who grew up dairy farming, Geert Boelen has found a novel way to diversify his future farm business.

Boelen may have come a long way from his childhood home, but farming has been a  constant. Eight years ago, he and his family relocated from a dairy farm in the Netherlands to one in Brooklyn, Iowa. With his agricultural focus, he decided Iowa State was the perfect place to pursue a higher education.

Besides his major in agricultural business, Boelen is taking advantage of the university’s  unique minor in entrepreneurship – and participating in Iowa State’s Agriculture  Entrepreneurship Initiative, created in 2005 to inspire students to think outside the box as they envision careers in agriculture. At the initiative’s core is the student incubator
program, which provides resources and mentoring for around 15 students each semester as they develop business plans and concept pitches.

As a participant, Boelen alighted on the tasty idea of cricket-farming after hearing a  podcast titled “Are edible insects the future of food?” He is now in the research and  development stage of a business cleverly called “One Hop Shop,” which raises crickets for human consumption. He and his co-founder, Darian Davis, have a business goal to provide restaurants in Ames and beyond with specialty-flavored whole crickets, and ultimately to become the most efficient and sustainable cricket farming operation in the  United States.

Boelen’s idea is one of many incubating in the multi-pronged Agriculture Entrepreneurship Initiative, in which students network with entrepreneurs; pursue coursework, workshops and internships related to entrepreneurship; and work toward graduating with viable business plans. The program is focused as much on generating new ideas as on teaching entrepreneurial thinking, whether graduates seek to initiate startups or simply bring a fresh perspective to existing businesses. Boelen said, “I have been very fortunate to participate in the Student Incubator program. Being in the same room with like-minded people and getting immediate feedback on new ideas helps me tremendously.”

The potential for the Agriculture Entrepreneurship Initiative to diversify and grow Iowa’s economy is not lost on organizations such as the Iowa Farm Bureau, which is the largest source of private support for the program. Since many of the students are  preparing to return to family farms and agribusinesses, the initiative can help re energize rural Iowa – and the state’s economy – by infusing farming operations and agribusinesses with entrepreneurial energy, knowledge, and leadership.

For the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the Agriculture Entrepreneurship  Initiative is among its key priorities for the Forever True, For Iowa State campaign, reflecting an entrepreneurial energy that is widespread across campus. For example, the Ivy College of Business not only offers its minor, but the college has also established the first entrepreneurship major in the state and the eighth entrepreneurship doctoral degree in the nation. Initiatives such as the CYstarters Summer Accelerator in the Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship and CyBIZ in the Ivy College of Business are also winning the university a national reputation for educating future innovators.

Such programs are preparing a whole new generation of professionals ready to hit the ground running – or at least hopping, in the case of Boelen. “The mentors I have through this program have helped me immensely during the semester,” he said. “They’ve  supported me and questioned me to better myself as an entrepreneur and as a person.”

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.

‘A True Passion for Iowa State’


From VISIONS magazine, summer 2018

By Carole Gieseke

Julie Larson has tiny feet, but she has very big shoes to fill.

After working for the ISU Alumni Association for 34 years, Larson (L)(MS ’84 higher ed) is retiring in July 2018.

No more Big 12 spirit rallies. No more 50-year class reunions. No more board meetings,  Senior Week, fundraising visits, Honors & Awards ceremonies, or Cyclone Centrals. No more early-morning-workoutsand-grabbing-a-Starbucks before 8 a.m. management team meetings. It’s time for a well-deserved break.

With 34 years of service to the Alumni Association – plus additional years on campus with the YMCA and Financial Aid Office – it would be easy to focus on Larson’s longevity, but her lasting legacy is much more about quality than quantity.

She started out as an adviser to the Student Alumni Association (now Student Alumni  Leadership Council) on March 22, 1984.

“Truly, working with students is why I came to the Alumni Association,” she says. “That was a true joy.”

Under Larson’s leadership, the SAA program quickly became a standout among student alumni programs nationally. And it was during those years that she left an imprint on students’ lives – and created lifelong relationships.

Cyndi (Murray) Bonus (L)(’85 consumer food science, MEd ’92) first met Larson when she interviewed for a position on Senior Class Council. Larson was a new staff member at that time, but she impressed Bonus with her ability to work with each individual student’s personality and work style.

When Bonus decided to return to Iowa State to earn a master’s in education, Larson served as her mentor – and, coming full circle, Bonus became Larson’s graduate assistant.

“Working side by side with her and gleaning all I could about working with the students was priceless to me,” Bonus says. “Iwatched her maintain close and personal contact with countless alumni.

“Julie embodies true passion for Iowa State University.”

Later, Bonus served on the Alumni Association’s Board of Directors, and her husband, Ken Bonus, is a current Board member.

Larson’s job title has changed many times over her 34 years with the organization. As director of student and career programs, she served as adviser to ISU’s Parents’ Board, worked closely with the Family of the Year program, helped create the Cyclone Alley student section for ISU basketball games, and implemented a strong alumni career resources program. As director of outreach and events, she oversaw all on- and off-campus events for the ISU Alumni Association, including alumni clubs, Young Alumni Council, reunions, special interest societies, Des Moines outreach, career resources, gala and golf fundraising events, spirit rallies and other athletics-related events, the OLLI program, and ISU retirees. She coordinated the Honors & Awards program, oversaw Alumni Days, planned receptions for Iowa community presidential visits, coordinated the Alumni Relations Council, and supervised six staff members. When the Association moved into the Alumni Center 10 years ago, Larson helped create and implement policies for the new facility.

Scott Stanzel (L)(’95 journalism & mass comm) met Julie in 1992 as a student ambassador, and as a senior he served as chair of the newly created Student Foundation Committee of SAA.

“Julie had the unique ability to simultaneously provide sound guidance and insights to  students while also giving them plenty of room to make their own decisions about the
mission of their SAA committees and activities,” he said. “That meant a great deal to student leaders, as it provided a true opportunity to grow and learn.”

Stanzel’s family became ISU Family of the Year in 1994, and he later served on the Alumni Association’s Board of Directors, ultimately serving as chair of the Board.

In her most recent position as chief of staff and director of development, Larson has had the opportunity to reconnect with former students, Board members, and other alumni as she raised endowment funds for the Association. By the time she retires on July 5, she will have helped raise about $2 million.

“It’s rewarding to think that I’ve contributed in a small way to help sustain the Alumni Association for the future,” she says.

Jeff Johnson (L)(PhD ’14), Lora and Russ Talbot Endowed President & CEO of the Association, has worked with Larson for 18 years.

“She’s like a mini-alumni association,” Johnson says. “She’s an institution. She’s had an amazing journey, from student affairs to alumni relations professional to fundraiser.  Everyone she meets, she makes them feel so special, and Iowa State continues to benefit from that.”

Larson, whose husband, John, recently retired from a position with ISU Facilities Planning and Management, says she’ll miss working with the Alumni Association staff  and alumni, but she’s looking forward to the opportunity to travel and spend more time with her grandchildren.

“This was a dream job,” she says. “I truly can’t imagine doing anything else than what I’ve done. I’ve loved my job for 34 years. How many people can truly say that?”

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.