Meant to be a Cyclone


Here we go again.

The words came quickly to Cyclone running back Mike Warren’s head when he learned Paul Rhoads wouldn’t be back to coach him in 2016. The redshirt freshman and son of two Army officers had grown up in a perpetual state of transition, moving from North Carolina to Hawaii to Germany and everywhere in between, rarely staying in one place more than two years of his life. Iowa State, Warren thought, was a place that could stick. But now, after less than two seasons in Ames, he questioned if he’d truly found a home after all.

But then home found him.


“Do you remember me?” Matt Campbell asked Warren as the two shook hands on a warm September evening at Toledo’s Glass Bowl. Of course Warren remembered Campbell; he had wanted to join Campbell’s Toledo squad a few short years ago, but then chose to follow his position coach Lou Ayeni – the man who had recruited him – when Ayeni was offered a gig at Iowa State. With family living in Oklahoma and Texas and a chance to play in the Big 12 Conference, Warren knew he wanted to follow Ayeni to Ames. Ayeni believed in him and the two had already forged a tremendous bond. That was his guy; he had to stick with him. Iowa State was a great opportunity; he had to seize it.

But he really liked Matt Campbell; Campbell, he says, has great integrity, is selfless and family-oriented. Of course he couldn’t have forgotten the energetic, up-and-coming coach who had seen his potential and enthusiastically offered a scholarship to the Army Brat from Lawton, Okla.

“It’s funny, because when I first started talking to Mike he didn’t want to talk to me,” Ayeni remembers. “He’s a quiet guy, but we had an instant connection because we both have similar mindsets of being very driven. We share a passion and a drive in a day and age when kids want everything given to them and nobody wants to work for anything anymore.”

Warren worked especially hard that night of Sept. 19, when he earned his first career start and rushed for 126 yards in the Glass Bowl, but his team lost in double overtime. Heartbreak. Frustration. Disappointment. The Cyclones had now lost two games in a row that they had been expected to win, and the season was instantly shrouded in negativity.

On the other side of the stadium, the fans stormed the field and enveloped in a sea of blue and gold the Rockets’ 35-year-old head coach. After earning his second-straight victory over a power conference team, Matt Campbell was about to become a household name in college football.


2015 was an up and down year for the Cyclone football team, ending with a major down that resulted in the emotional dismissal of Rhoads after seven seasons. But 2015 was a personal “up” for Warren, who came into the season with quiet expectations of playing time and ended it as the nation’s top freshman running back. He raced for 1,339 yards – the most ever by an ISU rookie – and was named Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year, the Associated Press Big 12 Newcomer of the Year, and a first-team freshman All-American.

Off the field, Warren spent 2015 settling into a routine. He had made friends, had decided to major in kinesiology, had adopted a pretty mundane schedule of “study, football, sleep, repeat.” But he liked it. There was just something about Ames that, to him, felt like home.

What Warren never knew – what he couldn’t have known – was that while Iowa State was starting to feel more and more like home to him, it felt like home to someone else he knew: Matt Campbell. Campbell fell in love with Iowa State the year before, when the Rockets came to Ames to play in ISU’s Homecoming game. That day in October 2014, Iowa State got silently scrawled onto the list of dream jobs in Campbell’s head.

So when Campbell seized the opportunity to take his dream job on Nov. 28 and announced he would retain Ayeni as an assistant, Warren breathed a deep sigh of relief.

“It’s almost,” Warren says, “like it was meant to be.”


Michael Warren was born to Curtis and Barbara Warren on the very first day of 1996, the year Cyclone Troy Davis would end up rushing for 2,185 yards and finish second on the Heisman Trophy ballot. Twenty years later, Warren’s eyes light up as he talks about Davis, fresh off the news that the two-time Heisman Trophy finalist would be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2016.

“I’ve watched almost all of his highlight tapes,” Warren says. “He’s a really special player. He had the will and the want – he wanted to be great, and he never gave up.”

Knowing ISU has that history of success running the football and that Campbell is eager to embrace it, Warren admits he’s given a thought or two to the idea of reaching the big 2K.

“You can’t set the bar too low,” he says, smiling. “You’ve got to make your goal almost intangible so that you’ll work harder to reach for it. Coach Ayeni always says to always be better than you were the day before, and I’m determined to do that.”

“Mike’s got great vision,” Ayeni says. “He’s fast enough to run around you and tough enough to run through you. The thing about Mike is that he wants to be a great player, and that makes it fun for me; it makes it fun to coach him.

“Running the ball, Mike’s a natural. I’ve told him that he’s gotta put that armor on him – he’s gotta live in that weight room this summer. If he can improve as a blocker and improve in the pass game, he’ll go from good to great.”

Warren knows his outstanding freshman season helped put Ames on the map, but also put a target on his back. He will use this offseason to bulk up; he wants to spend less time soaking in the cold tub after games, and he knows he needs to be harder to bring down this season.

On the field, that is. Off the field, there’s no bringing Warren down now.

He’s happy to be home.


— Kate Bruns

Ryan Fransen: A Boarder without Borders


Ryan Fransen (Photo by Jeff Urbahn)

Most Iowans enjoy the slow melt of winter into spring, but the change in seasons is a little more bitter than sweet for members of the Iowa State Ski and Snowboard Club. While Spring Break is a time many students spend racing toward warmer climes, Ryan Fransen – an ISU freshman in mechanical engineering – grabbed his snowboard and headed for Lake Placid, N.Y.

Competing during his first year of college in his first-ever United States Collegiate Ski & Snowboard Association national championship, Fransen – who had won three gold medals in regional competition – became Iowa State’s first-ever snowboarding All-American, qualifying for second-team honors after he finished 10th overall – 16th in the rail jam, 20th in slope style, 14th in border cross, and 12th in giant slalom – out of approximately 150 collegiate snowboarders who competed March 8-12 at the site of the 1980 Winter Olympics.

As a top-10 finisher, Fransen is in elite company. The top 10 competitors from every event hailed from either Sierra Nevada College, located in the mountains on Lake Tahoe, or Westminster College in Salt Lake City. Those schools have coaches and organized practices. They also have mountains. And then there’s Fransen, who is from, well, flat ole Iowa.

“I started sledding when I was a little kid growing up in Cedar Falls, Iowa,” Fransen says. “I had a plastic snowboard from Wal-Mart, I think. Then, when I was in seventh grade we moved to Dubuque. In middle school, about half the kids spent their weekends at Sundown [Mountain Resort], which was only about a half-hour drive.”

Soon, Fransen found himself snowboarding at Sundown a lot. He picked it up pretty quickly but it was never competitive, he says; it was just fun. Today, his training regimen remains equally casual: Fransen says he goes to Seven Oaks Recreation in Boone, Iowa, about once a week for casual riding. Casual riding at seasonal ski resorts is really all there is for a snowboarder in Iowa. But Fransen clearly has a natural talent, and he was motivated by the success he found earlier this month in Lake Placid. He says he looks forward to continuing to ride and to be involved in the Ski and Snowboard Club next year – with hope, he says, of returning to national competition in 2017.

“My goal by the end of college is to finish in the top three,” he says.

For something that started out as, to quote Fransen, “a really easy way to get friends together for a social event,” snowboarding has definitely become a passion.

“Within snowboarding, everyone is really supportive of each other,” he says. “It’s a really positive atmosphere when everybody’s rooting for each other and encouraging each other to push themselves. I love being around it.”

As for how he handles the upcoming warm months, Fransen says he will try to relate other recreational hobbies to snowboarding so he can keep up on tricks of the trade. But, he says, that doesn’t mean skateboarding. He’s never been a big fan.

“Apparently I do a little better,” he says, “when the board is actually strapped to my feet.”


— Kate Bruns

Full Circle

Change agent Amy Popillion. (Photo by Christopher Gannon/Iowa State University)

Change agent Amy Popillion. (Photo by Christopher Gannon/Iowa State University)

The future that Amy Popillion envisioned as a kid growing up in small town Iowa could not be more different than the life she is living today.

The senior lecturer of human development and family studies at Iowa State never could have imagined pursuing a career in academia. Her aspirations as a child did not reflect an expectation to go to college, so she saw herself graduating from high school and working as a waitress or secretary. College just wasn’t part of the equation.

It’s not that Popillion lacked confidence in what she could achieve, but an environment of abuse and alcoholism severely limited her view. Popillion credits a handful of people – including a favorite high school teacher – for helping her see that her vision of the future did not need to become her reality.

Today, Popillion (’94 sociology, MS ’97 human development and family studies, PhD ’00) strives to be that same positive influence for her students – a way to pay it forward. It’s a personal and professional philosophy that is a testament to the challenges she has overcome as well as a tribute to those who have made a difference in her life.

Making Iowa State home
The path to teaching at Iowa State started with Popillion’s decision to transfer here as an undergrad. A first-generation student, she still remembers the feeling of moving from a community of 500 to a campus with then 25,000 students. It was overwhelming, but exciting to shed the skin of her small town.

“For me, coming to college from a small town really gave me a chance to start over,” Popillion said. “I had a desire to do something different; I just struggled a little bit to get there.”

Popillion thrived in her new environment. When it came time to graduate, she applied to graduate school and never left ISU. She found a natural fit in the field of human development and family studies, earning her master’s and PhD. Her classes taught her about family dynamics and challenges and a lot about herself.

“My classes always felt very personal, because I could see myself in those classes,”
she said.

In that same vein, she encourages students, many who are aspiring teachers, in her children’s literature course to develop teaching methods and tools that will help their future students grow as individuals.

“I always tell my students that books are tools to reach children in a variety of ways. I talk a lot about the importance of children being able to see themselves through the books that teachers share. Part of that requires teachers to have a personal connection to the students in their class,” Popillion said.

Peeling back the layers
Popillion didn’t have a personal connection with a lot of her teachers, and she understands why. She did well academically, but she had a bad attitude, acted out in class, and hung around a group of friends that often found trouble. Popillion says most teachers in middle and high school labeled her as a problem. In fact, she clearly remembers being told, “You will not make it in college with your behavior.” But one teacher was willing to look past the rough exterior.

“Mrs. Bachman upheld that idea of what I see as a teacher’s responsibility to look past the surface and really see the individual needs of a student,” Popillion said. “She was very accessible to students. She was very respectful, but would also joke around with students. She really had her finger on the pulse with what was going on in the lives of her students.”

And for Popillion there was a lot going on in her life that Joyce Bachman, a high school history teacher, didn’t judge.

Home didn’t always provide the structure or stability that Popillion needed during her formative years. Growing up she witnessed a lot of violence and experienced physical and psychological abuse. Popillion started smoking and drinking to cope with the ugliness in her life. She found herself in a lot of negative relationships and developed an eating disorder.

It’s part of her life that she shares in class or when speaking to student groups, not as an excuse or for sympathy, but because she wants others to see the positive that can come from poor choices and bad situations in life. Time and therapy has helped Popillion heal, but that wouldn’t have been possible without people, such as her grandmother and Bachman, helping her find direction.

“When you peel back the layers, you find students are dealing with a lot of different issues and yet they’re navigating their way and going to school at the same time,” Popillion said. “I always try to find ways to use my experience to help others. It’s important for me to give back and connect with my students on a personal level.”

Popillion credits Bachman for challenging her, seeing through her “don’t-messwith-me” attitude and holding Popillion accountable for her actions. Bachman helped Popillion realize college was a path to a better life, while at the same time making it clear that Popillion had to change if she wanted to be successful in college. It was the structure and support that Popillion needed.

“I think there were some people in my life who didn’t know what to do with me. Mrs. Bachman didn’t let me walk all over her, but at the same time she didn’t hold it against me,” Popillion said. “At difficult points in my life, she was someone I could turn to for support, advice, and encouragement.”

A chance meeting brings it all full circle
Popillion regrets never having the chance to truly thank Bachman for her guidance. Bachman died in 1998, at age 58, from cancer. But Popillion has since found another way to thank her mentor that might not have been possible without a little divine intervention.

Two years ago, Popillion was walking across campus when she stopped outside
of Lagomarcino Hall to introduce herself to a prospective student and her mother. It’s something Popillion has always done to make students feel welcome and create a connection, especially if one of those students might one day walk into her class.

On this particular summer day, that prospective student was Claire Denniston. When Denniston mentioned that she was visiting from a town not far from where Popillion grew up, it didn’t take long to piece together that she was Bachman’s granddaughter.

“I think I immediately started crying. I got choked up and teary eyed. I may have even hugged her,” Popillion said, recalling that moment that still stirs emotions and gives her chills.

Through her tears, Popillion expressed her gratitude for the impact Bachman had on her life. It’s a moment that Denniston also remembers well.

“I never dreamed that I would meet anyone who had known my grandmother, let alone had such a strong relationship with her,” Denniston said. “I’ve heard about my grandmother as I’ve grown up, but hearing from Amy about my grandmother put her in a different light.”

After that initial meeting on campus, the two reconnected last fall when Denniston, an elementary education major who plans to follow in her grandmother’s footsteps, took Popillion’s children’s literature class. Outside of class they would meet so Denniston, who was just four years old when her grandmother died, could hear more stories.

“I’ve always heard that my grandmother was an unselfish and giving woman, but hearing it from family could have been biased. Hearing how she helped Amy solidified my grandmother’s persona in my mind. Because I don’t have strong memories of my grandmother, it is great to hear positive things about her and strive to become as giving as my grandmother was,” Denniston said.

Getting to know Denniston has brought Popillion’s relationship with Bachman full circle and given her the chance to say thank you in a way she never thought possible.

“Mrs. Bachman gave me so much. Getting to teach her granddaughter and share memories with her is really important to me,” Popillion said. “I just feel it’s a way to honor Mrs. Bachman and honor her memory. Even though she’s not here today to see, I just feel like she knows.”

About the writer: Angie Hunt is a communication specialist for Iowa State’s News Service

Five Things

Here are five things to put on your Cardinal & Gold radar this week.

1) Welp, March Madness is over in Ames. The Iowa State men’s basketball team bowed out of the Big Dance Friday with a 84-71 loss to top-seeded Virginia in the round of 16. A roughly 3/4 Cardinal-clad crowd was on hand Friday evening at the United Center in Chicago to cheer on the Cyclones, who found themselves in an early hole from which it proved impossible to dig out.


The game was the last for senior All-American Georges Niang, who despite foul trouble led all scorers with 30 points in the contest and exited the court blowing kisses to the ISU crowd. His 2,228 career points rank second all-time in school history, his 118 NCAA tourney points are the most ever by a Cyclone, and his illustrious career and positive spirit have solidified his status as an Iowa State legend.

“Words can’t really describe him. He’s the fiercest competitor I’ve ever played with,” junior guard Matt Thomas said of Niang. “He works his ass off, gets in the gym…he’s a leader in the locker room. I’m gonna miss playing with him.”

2) This week, another candidate will interview for ISU’s College of Human Sciences dean post. Cheryl Hanley-Maxwell, associate dean at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Education, was on campus last week. Tomorrow, the committee will interview Laura Jolly, a professor of textiles, merchandising and interiors at the University of Georgia, Athens. (Her open forum will be held tomorrow from 4-5 p.m. in 0210 Bessey.) And a third candidate will be announced Thursday; he or she will interview on campus April 5-6 (open forum scheduled for Tuesday, April 5 from 4-5 p.m. in 0210 Bessey.) For the latest information on the search to replace Pam White, visit the CHS website.

johnson3) The campus is gearing up for a visit this week from futurist Brian Johnson, who will give a lecture Tuesday and host a town hall Wednesday. “Technology in 2025: Designing the Future” is set for 8 p.m. Tuesday in the Great Hall of the Memorial Union. The town hall meeting “What’s the Future of the American Dream?” is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday in the MU Sun Room. The town hall meeting is part of a yearlong study of the future of the American dream timed to overlap with the 2016 presidential campaign. Learn more about Johnson’s visit online.

4) Also going on this week is another of the ISU Alumni Association’s free virtual networking events. Spend your lunch break on Wednesday networking online with Iowa Staters. The text-based chats (7 minutes with each alum) are designed to be a fun, easy way to make connections. It’s not too late to register, so check it out now. Hope to “see” you online Wednesday!


5) Friday is April 1, which means Cy’s Days of Service officially gets underway this week. Will you be doing community service this month in honor of your alma mater? Learn more about Cy’s Days, register a project, find a project to join, or report your service hours on our website.

One Thing


Here’s what to put on your Cardinal & Gold radar this week, friends: The Iowa State men’s basketball team is in the Sweet 16 and headed to Chicago this week!

The Cyclones were in control from the jump Saturday at the Pepsi Center in Denver, as they cruised past 12th-seeded Little Rock, which had upset No. 5 Purdue two days earlier, to put themselves in the coveted sweet spot. Senior All-American Georges Niang led the way for the Cyclones for the fourth game in a row, scoring 28 points and snaring six boars en route to a 78-61 victory.

“That’s the best offensive team we’ve played all year, and I thought their defense was even better tonight than we expected,” Little Rock head coach Chris Beard said. “We played a very, very tough schedule this season, so when I say something like ‘that’s the best team we’ve played all year,’ hopefully that will bring a little merit. That’s a team that can win the regional and play in Houston.”

“Coach Hoiberg, we’re coming for you,” Niang told the TNT cameras before jogging off the court in victory Saturday night. Niang and his teammates will play in front of their former coach, now head coach of the Chicago Bulls, Friday at the United Center. The Cyclones take on top-seeded Virginia at 6:10 p.m. CT for a chance to advance to the Midwest Region final.

Get travel and ticket info for this week’s journey to Chicago on our website at, and stay tuned for information about fan event info.

Go, Cyclones!

The yin and yang of an Iowan’s career in China


Growing up on an Iowa farm, the idea of becoming a veterinarian was a realistic career goal for Polly (Knaack) Murphy (L)(DVM ’89, PhD ’94 veterinary pathology). After all, Murphy – Reinbeck High School class of 1982 valedictorian – was good at science and liked animals.

But heading strategy and business development for Pfizer, a multinational pharmaceutical corporation, in China? That would have been a stretch, she acknowledges. However, that’s exactly what Murphy has done for the past two years – following a bi-coastal American career.

beijing2“I’ve always liked challenges,” said Murphy. “Always sought out opportunities that looked fun. Still, I had no idea I’d end up in Beijing, population 20 million.” Reinbeck, by contrast, has 1,700 residents.

After Murphy earned her doctor of veterinary medicine at Iowa State, she only practiced for a short time before working as a pathologist for a drug company. She made the move to the business side of that industry, in part, because a project was cut when “people on the business side decided it wasn’t worth the expense because it lacked market value. We scientists said, ‘If they really understood this, they’d support it.’”

That new career path eventually led her to China with her family, which includes her husband, Marc, and two high-school age sons. Her spouse was enthusiastic about the move. The boys? Not as much. But they’ve adapted and grown to appreciate the experience.

“It’s hard to describe what it’s like to live in China,” she said. “In some ways, our lives seem totally ordinary as we go to work, school, shopping, and do other normal, everyday life activities.”

She said they live in a gated community, similar to neighborhoods in California or Florida – with a mix of expatriate families and Chinese. Their home is about the same size as ones they had in the U.S., though not as nice.

“Our boys go to an international school (about 80 percent of the students are Asian) across the street from our home,” she said. They ride their bikes to school.

“I find it ironic that the lives we live here are more like the one I was raised with in Iowa than anywhere else we’ve lived,” she said.

As in the Midwest, the school is the community center, and much smaller than the ones her kids attended in California and Pennsylvania, with K-12 under the same roof.

“The general area where we live and shop is small enough that you almost always see someone you know, which is not something we have had in the U.S.,” Murphy said.

She said she found it a bit odd that residents prepay for their utilities using a card and then load credits into a meter for each of water, gas and electricity.

“Since my husband is very diligent about this, we haven’t had the experience I’ve heard from other expats of unexpectedly having no water/gas/electricity. When this happens, you have to wait until business hours to replenish.”

Because Pfizer is a multi-national company, the official language is English. However, below the senior levels in Beijing, there are many people who don’t speak English. She said her management team was led by someone who didn’t speak Mandarin for more than 10 years, so her team speaks English relatively well.

“I like to learn, and China presents an endless flow of opportunities to learn both business and culture. After two years in China, I feel like I have at least some understanding of the culture and industry here. Without being able to read and speak Mandarin fluently, there’s always a sense that whatever I think I know is only the tip of the iceberg.”

Murphy said her Beijing commute takes between 45 minutes and two hours depending on the traffic. Fortunately, she’s provided a car and driver because of her senior position, so she can work en route. The family car is a tuktuk, a 3-wheeled electric vehicle “that is really a metal box on a motorized tricycle.

“We use it to get around our neighborhood, although Marc does have a license and we can use the company car on weekends. Still, driving here is an elaborate game of chicken, so he doesn’t like to go too far from home with the car.”

Murphy said her husband – a native of Wisconsin – is thriving. He plays hockey and will be starting a job this fall at a private hospital as a psychologist.

She said Beijing’s smog can be a problem. But it’s manageable for her and her family because their home, school, and her workplace all have air filters. On bad days, they wear masks. No fan of the wind in Iowa, she now views it as a blessing because it blows away the polluted air.

Though many things seem normal and mundane about China, she said there are constant reminders – both physical and cultural – that they are far from home.

“My way of framing it is that it’s as if we all look at the world through a triangular prism,” she said. “The U.S. sees the flat side and the Chinese look at the point.”

Communications can be a challenge.

“In the States, there is effectively one truth, but in China you can see two different things at once and both are true (think yin/yang). When I first got here I sometimes felt like I was losing my mind, because I’d sit in a meeting and we would all agree that ‘the sky is blue.’ And the next day I’d be in a meeting with my boss and someone would say ‘the sky is green.’ Huh? Didn’t we all align yesterday that the sky is blue? It felt like people were being dishonest.

“What I’ve come to understand is that Chinese is a contextual language. If there are no context words, then what a Westerner sees as ‘reality’ can shift based on what context is later added. The consequence of working in this culture means I ask more questions than I ever thought possible. The beauty of this shift in my behavior is that asking more and better questions is a skill that is helpful in any culture, including back in the U.S.”

Murphy values her family’s China experience.

“As I tell the boys, one of the things I like about living in China is that it turns everyday life into an adventure.”

Brian Clark is a freelance writer from Madison, Wis.

Five Things: The “Fluttering By” Edition


Here are five things to put on your Cardinal & Gold radar this week:

1) March 14 is national “Learn About Butterflies Day,” so why not plan a visit to the Christina Reiman Butterfly Wing at Reiman Gardens, where you can see more than 800 butterflies? Can’t make it to Reiman Gardens for an in-person visit? Read RG butterfly curator Nathan Brockman’s blog or download the RG butterfly app.

2) Have you heard of the “Butterfly Effect?” Andy Andrews’ popular motivational video about how all of our choices can affect future generations is not only motivational and thought-provoking, but also is rife with references to Iowa State, the state of Iowa, and some of Iowa State’s most successful alumni. It’s 10 minutes of your time that won’t go to waste on YouTube.

3) The World Wildlife Fund recently reported some encouraging news about butterflies overwintering in Mexico — the population this year grew to cover 10 acres of forest, up from fewer than three acres during the last three winters. It’s evidence, experts say, that efforts to increase the population of pollinators in North America may be paying off. Those efforts include last year’s establishment of the Iowa Monarch Conservation Consortium at ISU, which aims to develop a science-based approach to fostering habitat in rural landscapes that does not hinder agricultural production.

Consortium goals for 2016 include refinement of habitat maintenance strategies, creating more habitat in Iowa, and a continuation of efforts to evaluate milkweed species and companion plants at the ISU Research and Demonstration Farms.

“These monarch population numbers are encouraging,” said Sue Blodgett, chair of the ISU entomology department. “The overwintering numbers for 2015-16 provide us time to develop and implement long-term habitat conservation strategies that will provide the foundation for a resilient monarch population.”

4) The Unified Butterfly Recorder, a mobile app developed by a team of ISU computer engineering students in 2013, continues to garner positive reviews in the Google Play Store. The app offers butterfly researchers and enthusiasts the ability to record data from butterfly sightings, automatically cataloging weather, location, and timestamps.

5) butterflyOn this Spring Break Monday, let us leave you with a traditional Gaelic blessing:

“May the wings of the butterfly kiss the sun,
and find your shoulder to light on.
To bring you luck, happiness and riches today,
tomorrow and beyond.”


Okay, maybe we’re stretching a bit with the Gaelic butterfly blessing, but it was the only way to tie the NCAA tournament into this week’s butterfly theme: the Iowa State men’s basketball team has earned the No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament Midwest Region and will take on the No. 13-seed Iona Gaels Thursday at noon MT in Denver, Colo. We wish them all the luck, happiness, and riches that day and beyond, of course. If they Cyclones advance, they will play the winner of No. 5 Purdue/No. 12 Little Rock on Saturday, also in Denver.

Plans for fan activities and events in Denver are still TBD, but stay tuned to for the latest information as soon as it becomes available. Information about local gamewatches will be available on our online events calendar and of course on our Facebook page and Twitter feed.

Time to dance, #cyclONEnation!


Five Things

Here are five things to put on your Cardinal & Gold radar this week:


1) Despite our less-than-helpful communication about the issue over social media yesterday, we think Cyclone Nation is now aware that the Iowa State men’s basketball team starts its Big 12 tournament run Thursday night at 8 p.m. (ish) at the Sprint Center in Kansas City. The sixth-seeded Cyclones will take on third-seeded Oklahoma in the second game of the 6 p.m. evening session.

If you’re in KC following the Clones, be sure to join us for the ISU Alumni Association Club of Kansas City’s pre-tourney party Wednesday night at Kelly’s Westport Inn (500 Westport Rd., 5 p.m.) and our pre-session spirit rally Thursday afternoon in Room 1501 of the KC Conference Center (corner of Wyandotte and 14th St., 3 p.m.) As the Cyclones advance in #HiltonSouth, more pregame rallies will be held as scheduled by the league office. We will post information as it becomes available at

See you in KC!

2) The state of Iowa is poised to become the site of the country’s 18th regional affiliate of the national Higher Education Recruitment Consortium (HERC), a nonprofit group of more than 700 universities, colleges, research labs, hospitals and government agencies that works to generate a large jobs database to help member institutions recruit and retain the best employees. ISU officials say the creation of the affiliate could provide a big boost to the university’s faculty and staff recruitment efforts — something that is in great demand as President Steven Leath strives to achieve a 16:1 faculty-student ratio. Due to rapid growth and escalating national demand for an Iowa State education, our record enrollment of 36,001 has resulted in what is currently a 19:1 faculty-student ratio.Getting down to 16:1 has to be a long-term goal, Leath admits, as it would take 300 new faculty and zero new students next year to move the needle.

An informational/networking event for the potential Greater Iowa regional HERC is set for Tuesday, March 29.

3) In 2011, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was signed into law. Also in 2011, Angela Shaw ’03 ’06 was an Iowa STATEment Maker honoree as a rising star food scientist at Texas Tech University. Today Shaw, who earned her PhD from TTU in 2010, is back home at Iowa State as an assistant professor of food science and human nutrition. And she’s also — thanks to a three-year, $950,000 grant from the FDA — the person in charge of launching the new North Central Regional Center for Food Safety Training. The center, which will be housed at ISU, will provide guidance to food processors and growers in 12 Midwestern states as specified by FSMA guidelines.

Shaw is eager to embrace the challenge of educating Midwesterners about how to comply with federal mandates and strengthen the U.S. food safety system. It’s a task, she says, that aligns well with ISU’s land-grant mission.

4) A recent feature by WHO-TV takes television viewers inside the cow maternity ward at the Lloyd Veterinary Medical Center. “It’s kind of like a hotel,” assistant professor of veterinary medicine Tyler Dohlman said. “People can drop their cows off when they’re gone.” Learn more about ISU’s “Moo-tel 6,” if you will, by watching the story online.

5) Beating Iowa is always fun. And that’s exactly what the Cyclone gymnasts did Friday night against the favored No. 17 Hawkeyes at Hilton Coliseum — by the skin of their teeth! Five ISU gymnasts earned or tied career highs on individual events as the team netted a season-high score of 196.025. That score beat the Hawks by a whopping 0.025 — but a W is a W, and this one was an instant classic and a true nail-biter.

“Going into the last event we knew it was going to be tight,” ISU head coach Jay Ronayne said. “We were down just a tiny bit. It was head-to-head, we just had to stay on pace with them. It came down to the last competitor.”

Check out highlights from Friday night’s win online, and follow the latest in the Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series scoring here — it all comes down to softball on April 20!

Part of the Cyclone Family


A fan approaches and asks to take a picture to share with his grandson. Two girls a few tables over sneakily snap pictures on their iPhones. Drivers passing by on the street tap their brakes and twist their necks for a view.

All of this activity centers on two young men sitting at a café table, but they’re not at all distracted. This is just a normal morning in Ames.

Iowa State men’s basketball seniors Georges Niang and Nazareth Mitrou-Long have embraced their celebrity status as Cyclones. Both are four-year Iowa State veterans whose bios in the roster are followed by long lists of awards, honors, and impressive career statistics. But off the court, these two players have capitalized on their local prominence, using it as an avenue for interaction and a way of giving back to the community they say has given everything to them.

“They do a great job of being ambassadors for the university, and I think that’s a responsibility you have if you’re going to play at a school like Iowa State,” head coach Steve Prohm says. “Guys like Georges, guys like Naz, they really embrace that.”

And for every interaction they have with fans, Niang and Mitrou-Long feel that they get something back.

“The fans here care for us as whole individuals,” Niang says, explaining that fans ask about their families and studies almost as often as they ask about Cyclone basketball. “They don’t realize how much that motivates our drive to get up every day and be better, not just for ourselves, but for them. The best thing we’ve experienced is seeing the happiness from the fans with us winning and with how we conduct ourselves. We never want to let them down.”

“There aren’t any professional teams in Iowa, so we kind of get treated like that. Love is the word,” Mitrou-Long adds. “It is wholehearted love and people will never truly understand what their support means.”

Niang and Mitrou-Long consider it a part of their duties to help spread that Cyclone love. Both regularly volunteer their time at events in the Ames community and beyond. If you spot them between classes, eating dinner or roaming the aisles of a supermarket, odds are they will be patiently fielding requests from fans with smiles and selfies.

Niang and Mitrou-Long make an effort to interact with fans through social media as well. Their Twitter accounts are used for behind-the-scenes glimpses into their daily routines and as a way to interact with fans far beyond the borders of Iowa. More than a few selfies find their way onto those pages, too. No matter the setting, the guys enjoy interacting with the fans.

“We love activities where we can be active,” Niang says. “We’re all competitive, so when we can participate, it’s the coolest thing. We can interact with fans or people that look up to you in a game setting – like playing softball. That really brings out who they see, and who we are on the court.”

But the community atmosphere isn’t the only thing that makes Ames a special place for Niang and Mitrou-Long. They thrive on the unique atmosphere of Hilton Coliseum as well.

“When you think about it, when we’re down is really when Hilton is the loudest, or when we’re going on a crazy run,” Mitrou-Long says. “I don’t think many places have an atmosphere like that.”

Niang says the crowd support often wanes for other home teams when Iowa State builds big-point leads on their courts. “But our fans really rally around us in that situation. They’re the only fans that I know where if I get scored on three times in a row, they’re cheering to me even louder,” he says. “The passion they have is second to none, and the world is just starting to realize what we’ve had the blessing to experience for four years.”

The sensation of fan support hit full force for Mitrou-Long during one of his first games as a Cyclone. “I remember being so nervous and looking around thinking, ‘Wow, this place is packed, this is more people than I’ve ever played in front of.’ The thing is, once I made my first shot, all the nerves just went away. It was a sigh of relief; it was great,” he says.

That feeling is something that both players share with new recruits. “I tell them you’re not going to find another place like this where good or bad, rain or sunshine, the fans are going to be right there with you. You won’t find a better place than this with a more
family-oriented feel,” Niang says.

And although their time at Iowa State is quickly drawing to a close, Niang and Mitrou-Long don’t plan to leave the Iowa State community behind altogether.

“It gives us something to cherish for the rest of our lives,” Niang says. “All those special moments that we’ve had together, as a team and with people in the community.”

“The people out here treat us like family. We’ve spent four years of our lives here and it’s been surreal,” Mitrou-Long says. “It’s crazy to think that it’s coming to an end soon, but Georges and I will always have an attachment to Ames. We want to be able to come back here and look up to the banners in Hilton and say that we’ve done things that will be remembered in this place forever.”

Cy’s Suitcase: March 2016 Edition

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A Message from Shellie

One of the great things about travel is that you find out how many good, kind people there are.

– Edith Wharton

shellie_marchI have traveled to a lot of different countries. I have seen scenery that looks like postcards. I have eaten some very interesting food – some delicious, some not so much. I have swum in some of the most beautiful waters on Earth. I have stepped out of my comfort zone and ziplined in Costa Rica and crawled through narrow dark tunnels in Turkey. Despite all that I have experienced, it is the people I meet who have changed me the most. It is often  in the countries that have the least that the people are the nicest. They aren’t caught up with the latest fashions, the greatest technology, or who said what to whom. And with each person I meet in some of the poorest countries, you know what I hear each time? “Please come back and visit us.” I love that. There are so many reasons I love to travel, but discovering how many kind people are out there restores my faith in the world.

I was recently fortunate to travel to Cuba and Egypt. The people in both places were so hospitable. I am not sure what I was expecting, but not that. In Egypt, everyone was so excited to see us. There hasn’t been any tourism since the Arab Spring over four years ago. The locals were ecstatic to see a tour bus! I felt completely safe the whole time I was there. I urge you to visit each destination. You won’t regret it.

I am currently putting together our trips for 2017. Be checking our website at for many exciting places for you to visit. And meet some of the kindest people in the world.

Safe travels,

Shellie Andersen ’88, Director of Alumni Travel
Iowa State University Alumni Association

Oceania wins top ratings

marinaMany of you have traveled with us on an Oceania cruise. For those of you who haven’t, you may want to give it a try, especially after they ranked high in an award program through

Two of the large sized ships, the Marina and Riviera, placed 4th and 6th, respectively, as overall winners. Other categories in which Oceania received awards were cabins, dining, embarkation, fitness, public rooms, service, and value.

Travel tips

1) Patience is important. Don’t sweat the stuff you can’t control, like flight delays and cancellations. That is a perk of traveling with us; we help you make those annoyances much easier to deal with by having the tour operator on your side!

2) Stash extra cash. Just in case you lose your card or your wallet gets stolen, stash some extra money (maybe $200) somewhere in case of an emergency.

3) Meet local people. Start conversations with local people. Amazingly, basic English is spoken all over the world — so it’s easier to communicate than you might think. I love talking to the locals to find out how they live. It makes the trip so much richer for me.

4) Pack a scarf. This simple piece of cotton is one of the most useful travel accessories with many different practical applications. It is great to cover you up in the cold airplane or to use as sun protection.

5) Take lots of photos. You may only see these places and meet these people once in your lifetime. Remember them forever with plenty of photos. Don’t worry about looking like a tourist. Are you traveling to look cool? No one cares. Great photos are the ultimate souvenir.

6) Take good notes. My memory is horrible. I often think I am going to remember everything about a trip, but a year later, I don’t remember many of the details. I regret not writing down the people I met, the food I ate, or what I felt in the new experience.

7) Don’t be afraid. The world is not nearly as dangerous as the media makes it out to be. When you travel with the Traveling Cyclones, your guides are locals and will know when a situation is sketchy. Do you know you are more likely to be hit by falling furniture than to die from a terrorist attack? A CIA agent at a travel conference told me that.

About Zika…
Check out some tips from ISU’s Thielen Student Health Center about protecting against Zika virus when you’re traveling this spring.

Interested in alumni travel? Contact Shellie:
(515) 294-9310
(877) 478-2586 (toll-free)