Catching up: With a passionate ISU ambassador

grote_jonFormer Cyclones cheerleader Jon Grote (’08 business management & finance) is a member of the finance office of the Iowa Air National Guard in Des Moines. The Young Alumni Council recently caught up with Jon to find out a little more about his passion for service — of the Guard and as an ISU alum.

1. Tell us a little bit about your family.
I am married to an Iowa State grad and we reside in Huxley, Iowa. She teaches for the Ames Community School District. We are expecting our first child in January, and we are extremely excited and nervous.

2. How did Iowa State help to lead you to where you are now?
With my degree in finance I was able to be hired by the finance office at the 132nd Fighter Wing. Iowa State played a big role in helping me achieve the passion to serve my country and to work where my skills in finance are utilized.

3. What makes you passionate about the Iowa State experience?
While at Iowa State I was not only able to gain a degree, but I was able to meet a lot of people with whom I am still friends with today. I am also married to an Iowa State graduate. If it wasn’t for a mutual friend and my future wife to go back to Iowa State to get her teaching degree, I probably would not be married today. I also enjoyed all the extracurricular activities such as various intramurals, cheerleading, and study sessions at the library. Last, but not least, Coach Paul Rhoads, Coach Bill Fennelly, and Coach Fred Hoiberg make me passionate about Iowa State.

4. How do you continue to be an ambassador for the University?
Besides attending any athletic event that I can, whenever I am asked about Iowa State my answer is inspired and passionate because my experience was awesome and unique. I want to make sure people know that Iowa State is reflected as a tremendous university.

5. What is your favorite Iowa State memory?
Along with meeting my wife while she was at Iowa State, my favorite memory would be receiving the acceptance to attend Iowa State and walking across the stage at my graduation receiving a degree.

Also, who can forget “Big Play Curvey” intercepting the ball for a touchdown in 2005 against Colorado? I think he is still trying to catch his breath.

VISIONS Online Extra: Fireworks and Tortillas

This artwork and poem is a supplement to the winter 2014 VISIONS magazine cover feature on ISU’s student/alumni writers and illustrators. The poem is by Megan White and the artwork by Lyndsay Nissen.

Megan White was born into a long line of an unusual combination of farmers and travelers, which has shaped her life and her writing. Her writing investigates issues of place as well as how writing and art can be used as tools for creating sustainable, diverse, vibrant communities. She received her MFA from Iowa State University and currently teaches at Montgomery College.

Lyndsay A. Nissen was raised in Ames, Iowa, and attended Gilbert High School. In 2008 she received a BFA from the University of California Santa Cruz. She is currently attending Iowa State University to receive her master’s degree in fine art. Her work primarily focuses on the environment in Iowa and the culture of consumption.


“From the toothpaste you use in the morning to the book you read at bedtime, corn plays a part in nearly every aspect of our lives”

I called my mom
to ask about our corn—
hundreds of acres in Missouri
my family manages from the suburbs of DC
corn that paid for my opportunities,
private high school and pearls I didn’t ask for,
lap tops and sailing trips that I did ask for,
I wanted to know about the corn
that I can no longer passively benefit from
“What fertilizers and pesticides do we use?”
“Where do we buy our seed?”
“Where do we sell it?”
“What does it become?”

Right now they’re applying fertilizer, not pesticide.
Yeah, but…
Your grandparents sample the soil
measuring the amount of fertilizer necessary
for each segment of the field
so it doesn’t run into the water system.
They only use what they need.
Most farmers don’t do that.
Your grandparents are progressive, scientific.
Don’t let people make you feel guilty.
Our family is helping the world.
You are an urban forester.
You know better than that.
You know chemicals always end up in the water,
the water I am drinking right now.
I’ll ask what fertilizers we use.

We don’t get our seeds from Monsanto.
We have to get our seeds from a company owned by Monsanto.
Don’t listen to people who don’t know what they’re talking about.
I am here, in Iowa, that’s all anyone ever talks about.
I’ll find out the name of the seed companies we use.
It’s not Monsanto.

We sell the corn to the grain elevator.
Where do they sell it?
To a distributor.
Where do they sell it?
To another distributor or a manufacturer.
What do they make with it?
What is OUR corn producing? It’s not sweet corn!

It makes food for animals and humans.
It makes diabetes.
(She got mad.)
America is the bread basket of the world!
There is no other way to feed the world!
What are we feeding the world? Corn syrup?!
Why wouldn’t you let me eat all those sugary foods
and soda and white bread and fast food?
Why should we produce something
that you wouldn’t let me eat?!
Why are people starving Darfur?
Why are people starving in DC?
Why are people starving everywhere?!
Why are so many poor people overweight and diabetic?

Corn doesn’t cause diabetes
people choose to eat what’s bad for them.
How can our family bring something into the world
that we KNOW is bad for people?
Whether people eat it or not, why would we make it possible?
Corn isn’t just used for corn syrup.
What else do we make with it?
Feed for livestock.
Livestock shouldn’t eat corn,
it turns their muscles into corn,
meat is still corn syrup,
just mixed with hormones.
Fine. Look it up. I’ll look it up.
Corn makes
Corn syrup
High Fructose Corn Syrup
Poyol Sweeteners
Animal Feed
Corn Oil
Citric Acid
Paper coating
trash bags
hair styling products
cough drops
laundry sheets
disposable diapers
sanitary napkins
baby powders
biodegradable packaging
Fine. Fireworks. Let’s make fireworks.
Fireworks and Corn Tortillas?
Yes. ORGANIC Fireworks and Corn Tortillas.
I don’t think your grandparents will agree to that.
But we can talk with them about this when you get home
Let’s talk to them about it now.
This year’s crop has already gone in.
Next year’s crop is coming.

Catching up: With a grateful family farmer


Brianne Streck (’05 ag education and communications) is the grain merchandiser for Flint Hills Resources Ethanol in Arthur, Iowa, and lives on a farm south of Moville, Iowa, raising corn, soybeans, and pigs. Family farming has always been a big part of Streck’s life, so the Oct. 4 tornado that destroyed the home where she grew up was a hardship that brought significant pain but also taught her what really matters this holiday season.

“On any given day, I have so much to be thankful for,” Streck says. “But this year it seems like we have so much more. An EF4 tornado completely destroyed the family farm where I grew up and where we currently farm with my parents. The brevity of life and the insignificance of ‘things’ became clear very quickly. My mom said it best: ‘That’s all just stuff; the important thing is that my family is all here.’

“I continue to be amazed by the strength and the unending support from friends, neighbors, family, and our communities. It is truly great to live and work in rural Iowa.”

1. Tell us a little bit more about yourself.
My husband, Grant, and I have two children: Kadence (4) and Adelyn (2). We bought our first farm in 2011 and also farm with my family. Grant and I are active on the Woodbury County Farm Bureau board and lead the Young Farmer Committee in Woodbury County. We are also Woodbury County 4-H volunteers and participate in various other volunteer organizations.

2. How did Iowa State help lead you to where you are now?
Iowa State provided me with so many opportunities to learn and grow that I couldn’t possibly mention all of them. I think if I had to choose, though, the most important thing Iowa State did was give me the opportunity to meet people and become part of a tight-knit group in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. I continue to network with classmates from Iowa State, and my very best friends to this day are from my time there.

3. What makes you passionate about the Iowa State experience?
At Iowa State, I learned what I needed to obtain a job in a field that I love, met my best friends, and “grew up.” I want others to have that same type of experience — learn a lot but have fun, too.

4. How do you continue to be an ambassador for Iowa State?
In both my personal and professional life, it seems that I have opportunities to get back to the university regularly. Whether it is events held in Ames, or recruiting college grads from Iowa State, I continue to stay in touch in some way. And of course, my family proudly supports the Cardinal & Gold on a regular basis

5. What is your favorite Iowa State memory?
The moments I remember most clearly are walking across campus listening to the Campanile, hearing Hilton Magic for the first time, spending time at the Ag 450 Farm, the sea of students in Cyclone Alley after we first got it started, sitting in food service for hours just talking and laughing with friends, and probably the most important moments — meeting and (a year later) becoming engaged to my husband while tailgating for Iowa State football!

December 2013 Travel Tips

Check out these great travel tips from the December issue of “Cy’s Suitcase,” the official newsletter of the ISU Alumni Association Traveling Cyclones written by director of alumni travel Shellie Andersen ’88.

Fantastic plastic: Pack your shoes in the free shower caps offered in hotels to protect the clothes in your bag.

Along for the ride: If you can’t afford to lose something you are packing, either financially or emotionally, don’t pack it.

Tummy tamer: If you suffer from motion sickness on a plane, ask for a drink that is half ginger ale and half club soda.

Carry on: Never check any of the following: toothbrush, prescription medications, deodorant, or PJs.

Don’t weigh yourself down: Regardless of size, never bring more than two bags. More than that will be hard to manage and more difficult to keep track of.

On a roll: Rolling non-wrinkle items really does save space.

Extra tip: When considering traveling with Oceania, the 2 for 1 deadline is important for cost savings, but maybe not as important as getting the stateroom you want. The staterooms go fast, so book early!

Sit back and relax
Are you afraid of flying? If so, you aren’t alone. Although you understand the statistic that flying is much safer than traveling by car, it doesn’t help. We’ve heard all the crazy comparisons: how we’re more likely to get struck by lightning, attacked by a shark, or hit on the head by a falling coconut than to perish on a commercial flight.

The odds of dying on a single flight with any of the 30 safest airlines are about 1 in 29.4 million, according to, an aviation industry database of accidents. Even though some of you know that, the rationale to all of that gets left on the ground. If those statistics don’t help, try these sources:

    This site lets you check for potential turbulence before your flight.
    Founded by pilot and author Patrick Smith, this website is a witty mix of fact and entertainment.
  • Flying Without Fear
    This straightforward self-help manual is designed as a guidebook for the frightened flier.

For more on the ISU Alumni Association Traveling Cyclones program, visit our website and Facebook page.