Creating a sustainable future

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Iowa State program is improving the lives of rural Ugandans, one person at a time

Since 2004, Iowa State’s Center for Sustainable Rural Livelihoods has made an impact on nearly 60,000 people in Uganda’s Kamuli District – one of the poorest regions of that East African country – by improving access to clean water, nutrition and health for mothers and infants, school gardens, livestock and entrepreneurial activities, and crop and livestock extension programs.

Last summer, VISIONS editor Carole Gieseke and photographer Jim Heemstra spent six days in Kamuli District, visiting schools, farms, homes, and nutrition centers. Their timing allowed them to shadow Iowa State service-learning students and attend local-level planning meetings. Here’s just a glimpse of this truly remarkable program.

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BETH BALWANA’S YOUNG SON, SIMON, was failing to thrive. At a year old, he was thin, malnourished, ill.

The future for this small boy living in Uganda’s rural Kamuli District was uncertain. And then Beth learned about an organization that changed his life – and hers.

The ISU College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ Center for Sustainable Rural Livelihoods had  established eight Nutrition Education Centers (NECs) at homes throughout the district. A friend told Beth the NECs would provide services that could help Simon and the rest of her children: nutrition education, healthy food preparation, and other tools that could improve the family’s health and sanitation.

After 6 months, Simon’s health improved. Today, he is a healthy, happy, active boy. During our visit to the family’s home, Simon climbed on the photographer, gleefully touching the cameras and running barefoot through the yard.

Beth and her husband, also named Simon, have much to be grateful for. Trainers at the NEC not only provided cups of thick, nutritious porridge to feed to their malnourished son, they also provided the seed needed to grow the ingredients for the porridge. Beth returned to the center each week for training and was accepted into a livestock extension program to learn to raise chickens. The resulting poultry project has added much-needed protein to her family’s diet, and income from the sale of eggs and birds has allowed them to pay school fees and repay the poultry loan.

Through a translator, Beth told us she is grateful for the support from the ISU-Uganda Program. “There is a change in our livelihood,” she said. “We were not well. ISU-UP gave us trainings and knowledge. Our children are healthy.”

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Establishing a sustainable presence
The Center for Sustainable Rural Livelihoods (CSRL) has been working together with the people of the Kamuli District since 2004. The center and its partners have addressed hunger and poverty through agriculture, nutrition, and youth education. As a result, the lives of thousands of families have been improved.

The project began in 2000 when Gerald (’62 agricultural business) and Karen (’08 honorary) Kolschowsky encouraged Iowa State to get involved in grassroots antipoverty and sustainable agriculture programs in the developing world. The couple funded start-up activities that included visits by College of Agriculture and Life Sciences faculty and staff to countries in Africa and South America, with the goal of developing a system for improving food security for the local people that could be readily replicated elsewhere.

The country of Uganda and its impoverished Kamuli District was chosen because of its potential for great impact and its relative lack of attention from Western aid workers. Uganda exhibited significant signs of poverty, food insecurity, and malnutrition. Its overall human development was among the lowest in the world.

First initiatives in the fledgling program included Ugandan farmer case studies, food security in communities affected by HIV/AIDS, animal breeding and production, and a Ugandan school garden program. Through the years, the Kolschowskys’ program funding has allowed Iowa State flexibility in ways the project could advance, and it has since expanded to include a service-learning program for Iowa State students (along with students from Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda), community boreholes to provide a fresh and convenient water source, school lunch programs, expanded nutrition education, and youth entrepreneurship.

In October 2011 Iowa State began to explore the idea of registering as an independent non-governmental organization (NGO) in Uganda in order to reduce bureaucratic complexity. The NGO, officially named the Iowa State University-Uganda Program (ISU-UP), was approved in November 2013. The program is staff ed year-round by Ugandan professionals and administered by Iowa State faculty and staff .

Healthy and proud
Like Beth Balwana, smallholder farmer Madinah Nabirye began her connection with ISU-UP when a prenatal nurse at the local health center suggested that she would benefit from the services of a nearby NEC. A nutrition trainer there told her that, as she was in the early stages of pregnancy, she was “in the right position to take porridge,” and she continued to consume high-calorie porridge throughout her pregnancy and as she breastfed her newborn. When the baby turned 6 months old, he also began taking the nutritious porridge and is currently a healthy, curious 2-year-old.

Madinah showed us her farm, a garden filled with cassava plants, maize, orange-flesh sweet potatoes, and other diverse crops. She received seed from the NEC to grow ingredients for the porridge.

As we walked down the red dirt path separating her family’s land from the neighboring farm, Madinah exuberantly shouted greetings to people on the road – friends and neighbors traveling by foot and by bicycle. The translator – ISU-UP staffer Moureen Mbeiza – told us Madinah is happy to show us her farm. She is proud that people came all the way from Iowa to visit her.

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Life-changing experiences
Not long aft er the launch of their sustainable livelihoods project in Uganda, Iowa State leaders and their Makerere University counterparts folded an undergraduate service-learning component into the program goals. In 2005 when the service-learning program was developed, higher education experts observed that many study-abroad opportunities for U.S. students focused on Western Europe or other developed countries; however, an estimated 95 percent of the world’s population is expected to live in less developed areas in the next 50 years. Especially for students in agriculture and global resource systems majors, an opportunity for a hands-on experience in a developing country would be invaluable.

“The Makerere/ISU student collaboration is very intentional,” explained Tom Brumm, the Mary and Charles Sukup Global Professor in Food Security in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and associate professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering. Brumm, who serves as associate director of the CSRL, is a faculty leader for Iowa State’s student service learning program in Uganda, and he’s been traveling with students to the Kamuli District for the past eight years.

In addition to learning about the human and agricultural challenges in sub-Saharan Africa, for six weeks each summer students from the two universities work together, live together, travel together, and learn about each other’s cultures. Together, the students teach school children in classrooms and work with them in school gardens. They form bi-national teams and work together on a variety of projects.

The following fall semester, ISU students spend time on presentations and reflection.

Brumm said, “The first session when we get back, when classes start in the fall, we do a ‘go-round’ and ask the students two questions: ‘What do you do differently than you did before you went on this trip?’ And ‘What do you notice about American society that you didn’t notice before?’

“I cry, listening to these young people talk about how their perspective has changed, what is now important or not important, how they’re acting differently and trying to live their lives differently because of this experience,” Brumm continued. “It is so profound. And it happens every year. If I didn’t have any other reason to be involved in this program, that would be enough.”

The ISU service learners we met in Uganda last summer were hard-working, articulate, and grateful to be part of the program.

“A lot of times people go to countries that are underdeveloped and do what they call ‘voluntourism,’ where they volunteer to help out with certain things but they don’t really know the culture. They don’t know the importance of why they’re there,” observed Allie Wilson, a senior in animal science and global resource systems. “It’s easy to find a program that’ll take you to Africa, but it’s difficult to find a program that introduces you to the people living there and lets you live with them and learn with them.”

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School gardens cultivate food, knowledge
The symbiotic relationship between the school garden program and the school lunch program is a joy to behold.

As ISU and Makerere service learners are heaping dirt mounds with African hoes and planting orange-flesh sweet potatoes in the mid-day sun, primary school pupils are harvesting amaranth from a nearby field. The amaranth leaves will be cleaned, boiled in an enormous
pot over a wood fire, and served to students for lunch this day, along with orange-flesh sweet potatoes from an earlier harvest.

Later this afternoon, when classes dismiss for the day, many of the pupils will join the service learners in the field.

“I think the school gardens are amazing,” said Shana Hilgerson, an ISU junior in animal science, “because when we get the pupils out there to be involved, they’re running back and forth hauling water and they’re smiling and they’re happy and they’re just so excited to be out there working with us.”

And they’re learning, too: They’re learning about agriculture, and they’re taking that knowledge home to their parents to apply to their own small farms.

For some, the lunch they’re served at school – with many ingredients coming from the school’s own gardens – is the biggest, or perhaps only, meal of the day. So the nutritional quality and caloric content has to be high. Program guidelines ensure it will be. And, to come full circle in the process, school children participate in the harvesting of the vegetables, the preparation of the food to be cooked, and the cleanup of the dishes.

Boreholes (deep wells) are located near schools and throughout the district, thanks to funds donated by Iowa Staters to the CSRL. Boreholes provide a safer, more convenient alternative to fetching water from the river. Water is used for cooking, drinking, and hand-washing. The boreholes also ensure that the school gardens will survive in times of drought.

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The students are gone, but life goes on
When the university service learners go back to their own homes, schools, and jobs at summer’s end, the projects they have directed and observed during the summer months are still going on, thanks to the work of the year-round ISU-UP staff.

Nearly a dozen staff members, with skills ranging from community nutrition to agronomy to security, maintain each of the programs and reach out to the people of the Kamuli District much like ISU’s county extension specialists in Iowa.

Yvette Nikuze is a livestock extension specialist for ISU-UP, where she works to integrate livestock production, health, and market access for smallholder farmers. Yvette has a bachelor’s degree in animal health and production from Busoga University and worked with another agricultural NGO before joining the ISU-UP staff.

She introduced us to Rebecca Kyewankamalileku, another mother who initially connected with ISU-UP through the nutritional services she acquired for one of her children at a NEC. She subsequently began a poultry project that has improved her family’s health and finances.

“We didn’t used to eat eggs,” Rebecca said through our interpreter. Rebecca and her husband have nine children, with another on the way. The family’s small chicken facility was spotless and filled with healthy, noisy hens.

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Working together
Two of the key practices of the ISU-UP are its focus on partnerships and its sensitivity to understanding local culture and issues.

“We meet regularly with the leaders, residents, and beneficiaries of the programs in Kamuli – at all levels and in all programs,” said Gail Nonnecke, Morrill Professor, Global Professor in Global Resource Systems, and an associate director for the CSRL. “The overall goal is to make sure that the programs have valuable input from the participants. This participatory approach has been an excellent method to determine the needs, what works, and if there are any challenges.”

Having NGO status provides flexibility in adapting to local situations and responding to local needs, says Denise Bjelland, managing director for the CSRL.

“The NGO allows us to enjoy good rapport with people so that we can render assistance to those who are most in need and tailor assistance to their needs. It gives us the ability to communicate at all levels, from the neighborhood leaders to the top levels of government. It also facilitates the recruitment of experts and highly motivated staff .”

Registering as an NGO has provided greater ease in conducting business in Uganda – think banks, auditing firms, accountants, architects, and attorneys.

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Empowering women and youth through entrepreneurship
Lydia Abwin has her future mapped out: attend professional school, grow vegetables, rear chickens and pigs, start a beekeeping business, make and sell high-quality handcrafted items for extra money. Nowhere in her future plans does she mention getting married or starting a family. Lydia is an independent 18-year-old woman living in Kamuli District.

Her entrepreneurial spirit may have come, at least in part, from her participation in the Entrepreneurial Club at Namasagali College, another program of the ISU-UP. Some of the money she has raised from her activities has already allowed her to continue her schooling.

The Entrepreneurial Club trains secondary school students with life skills they’ll need after they graduate: skills such as money management, gardening and larger-scale agricultural pursuits, producing and marketing craft products, creating business plans, beekeeping, and more. In the group’s garden, located adjacent to the Nile, students are growing eggplant, tomatoes, grain amaranth, and other high-value crops. Right now, 45 pupils are members of the club, and it is growing in popularity. With the money they earn, some pupils are able to buy shoes and school materials.

One of the club’s graduates, David Waiswa, received training on raising poultry from the youth entrepreneurship program. From his sales, he was able to purchase a “lawn mower” – what we would call a weed-whacker – with which he can make additional money by helping other farmers manage their weeds.

“I managed to buy this machine and run my activities all with one flock of birds,” David told us. “I will get a second flock of birds soon.”

Entrepreneurial activities are also encouraged through the Nutrition Education Centers. Every Wednesday at the Naluwoli Field House, women gather to make crafts with brightly colored beads, patterned cloth, and natural raffia. The crafts program aims to provide life skills for mothers who arrived at the NECs seeking nutritional advice, and the outcome is additional money for the family’s budget. The crafts are sold at a local market in Kamuli.

“The mothers feel they own this – it’s theirs,” says Laura Byaruhanga, a community nutrition specialist with ISU-UP. Each woman contributes a fee for materials and receives a percentage of the profits.

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Saving lives
If there’s one program that is the heart and soul of the CSRL, it’s the Nutrition Education Centers. Eight centers scattered throughout Kamuli District have offered life-saving nutrition education to hundreds of mothers and infants.

“When you see the babies come in half dead and they come back to life, you’d never believe they’re the same child,” said Dorothy Masinde, senior lecturer in Global Resource Systems, associate director of nutrition education for the CSRL. “You can’t believe babies can be so malnourished. When we opened the first NEC, we had more than 100 people.”

The porridge served at the NECs is nothing less than a miracle cure. And the ingredients are sustainable. Masinde explained that the NECs don’t off er a ready-to-use powder but instead emphasize that the ingredients can be grown at home.

“We teach that the solution to your children’s problem is in your garden,” she said.

For Beth Balwana, Madinah Nabirye, Rebecca Kyewankamalileku, and so many other women in Kamuli District, the NECs were not just a solution for their children’s nutritional health but became a jumping-off place to learn about livestock projects, family planning, entrepreneurial activities, and more. The NECs are a community gathering spot where all families are welcome to train and learn.

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‘This is why we’re here’
A new residential training center is currently under construction in Kamuli District, representing a strategic decision to make a longterm investment in the area. In addition to providing an important new venue for Iowa State and Makerere student and staff activities, the facility will also serve as a community training and demonstration center, allowing the program to better serve its stakeholders in Uganda.

“[The new construction] signals to Ugandan citizens that we intend to be a long-term partner in development, and it will enable us to attract the very best people to our program from Uganda and Iowa,” Bjelland said.

On our last night in Kamuli District last summer, we sat outside with a group of Iowa State students and talked about their experiences in the service-learning program. As our discussion meandered from the surprisingly difficult field work to cultural differences to breeds of Ugandan cattle to the ease of making friends with Makerere students, one name kept coming up: Simon.

Some of the students met Simon, the young boy who had been severely malnourished as a 1-year-old, at the beginning of their stay in Kamuli District.

“When we met Simon, it was the first time everything really clicked for me,” Hannah Schlueter, senior in global resource systems, said. “It was like, this is why we’re here. This little boy. His family. The fact that we were able to help him and do all this. It’s incredible.

“On days when you’re working in the field and you think, ‘I could have studied abroad anywhere else and I chose here’ – and then you go and see these little kids and you see the smiles on their faces and the food in their hands, you know that we played a part in that and I think that’s just really special.”

KI0A3003 copyBONUS: View more beautiful photos from Jim’s and Carole’s travel to the Kamuli District at

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.

Five Things

Happy Monday, Cyclone Nation! Here are five things to put on your Cardinal & Gold radar this week:

1) Shortly after we published “Five Things” last Monday, the Iowa State campus was hit with a really major thing: President Steven Leath is leaving the university this spring, bound for a new role as president of Auburn University.

Leath, who has served as ISU’s president since January 2012, has grown the university in significant ways over the past four years: Enrollment has climbed to more than 36,000; the ISU Research Park has doubled in size; and a $1.1 billion fundraising campaign was launched this fall. Leath has, however, spent the academic year facing public scrutiny over what a recent Associated Press report describes as a potential “penchant for mixing personal and professional interests,” questions about which began largely in October when the AP reported that Leath had damaged a university airplane he was piloting.

Despite the criticism he has faced, Leath says he leaves Iowa State proud of his accomplishments, filled with fond memories and goodwill:

“Janet and I have made lifelong friends here in Iowa and have had many great experiences,” Leath said in a letter to the campus community. “We will always consider ourselves Cyclones and have great affection for this university and its beautiful campus; it is a very special place. Our appreciation for the Cyclone family is beyond words, and we found this extended family of students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends to be the greatest joy of our time at Iowa State.”

The Iowa Board of Regents is expected to name a search committee for Leath’s permanent successor today.

allen2) Permanent successor is a question mark, but the interim successor may already be determined. Pending approval of the Regents today, former ISU provost and former president of the University of Northern Iowa Ben Allen will begin leading the university as interim president on May 9. Allen, a former dean of ISU’s College of Business, was a popular figure at ISU before he left to become UNI president in 2006. In his seven years at UNI, however, he was forced to make a number of tough budgetary decisions that made him less popular in Cedar Falls.

3) While there is about to be a major change at the top for ISU, athletics director Jamie Pollard is hoping there won’t be any changes coming soon at the top of ISU’s men’s and women’s basketball programs. Steve Prohm and Bill Fennelly have recently agreed to contract extensions through 2022, Pollard announced Friday.

“We have two of the premiere college basketball programs in the nation, and each is led by a very successful and talented coach,” Pollard said. “Securing contract extensions with Steve and Bill solidifies the future of both programs for our institution, fans, and student-athletes.”

rotunda4) Twenty-five Iowa State undergrads will be at the State Capitol tomorrow to showcase their research during the annual “Research at the Capitol” event — 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. in the Rotunda. The event is designed to highlight the importance of research to the undergraduate learning experience, as well as the depth and variety of research being done. See a list of the project that will be on display here.

5) We need a digital communications professional — a videographer and photographer with social media experience — to join our staff team at the ISU Alumni Association! Is it you? Is it someone you know? Check out our latest job opportunity, share the link, and apply online by April 5.


Five Things

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

1) Well, March Madness is officially over in Cyclone Country, as both the women’s and men’s basketball teams ran into opponents that were firing on all cylinders in their respective first halves Saturday. The women launched a comeback bid that fell short in their first-round game against last year’s national runners-up, Syracuse, on Saturday morning; the men fell behind hot-shooting Purdue early in their second-round contest Saturday night but came all the way back to take the lead late in the second half before falling just short of another Sweet 16, 80-76.

It was an emotional postgame for men’s head coach Steve Prohm, who choked up talking to reporters after the game about the journey he’s taken over the past two seasons with Monte Morris & Co.

“These seniors have been amazing,” Prohm told the media following Saturday night’s loss. “This senior class has been to four-straight NCAA tournaments. They’ve won 20 or more games every season, [and] three Big 12 tournament titles. And then you’re saying goodbye to two of the best three-point shooters to ever come through here and then, with all respect to Jamaal Tinsley and Jeff Hornacek, probably the best point guard ever to come through this school. And they did it the right way, and they represented this program the right way. You have to continue to recruit guys that can do that.”

In the meantime, we appreciate the suggestions that are already rolling in from fans to help Cyclones everywhere survive next season:


2) If you’re going to jump a spot in the U.S. News and World Report rankings, it might as well be from 2 to 1. And that’s exactly what’s happened for ISU’s graduate program in ag and biosystems engineering, as the publication released its latest rankings March 14. Now that deserves a “Cyclone Power” cheer.


3) In case you missed it: The College of Human Sciences recently published a feature on its website about the service learning project being done by students in an introductory apparel construction class: creating clothing for needy children in South Africa — a great practical application, the students say, of their skills. Read the full feature online here.

4) So what’s happening on campus this week? Besides school getting back in session after Spring Break, it’s also time for the Pearl Hogrefe Visiting Writer Series. Authors David Anthony Durham and Benjamin Percy, the latter a former ISU faculty member, will present “(Un)Natural Histories: From Fantasy to Historical Fiction” at 8 p.m. Thursday in the Memorial Union Sun Room. The authors also will discuss the writing process and answer questions during an afternoon session. “From Fantasy to Historical Fiction: Two Novelists on the Craft of Writing” will be at 2 p.m. in the Sun Room.  Both events are free and open to the public.

Also this week: Melissa Michelson and Brian Harrison will present “How to Change Attitudes toward LGBT Rights” at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Memorial Union Sun Room. Michelson and Harrison are co-authors of “Listen, We Need to Talk: How to Change Attitudes toward LGBT Rights,” which explores how identity and communication affect attitudes about LGBT policies like marriage equality, employment non-discrimination legislation and transgender rights. The talk is free and open to the public.


5) The ISU Alumni Association is headed to Omaha April 13. Register online by April 6 for a free event that will bring Omaha area Cyclones together and bring them up to speed on what’s happening on campus.

VISIONS Winter 2017: The Administration

Changes at the top

With the departure last summer of Warren Madden, (L)(’61 indust engr) the long-time senior vice president for business and finance, there’s been a series of changes in senior leadership at Iowa State.

During Madden’s 32 years as vice president, ISU’s enrollment increased nearly 50 percent, the campus grew to more than 13.8 million square feet of building space, and the university budget increased from $268 million to $1.4 billion. ISU President Steven Leath (L), in a letter last spring to the Iowa State community, wrote, “I recognize it would be very difficult to find someone as capable as Warren to manage all of the components of what has become a very large, diverse, and complex office. Therefore, I have decided to split this office into divisions: the Division of University Services and the Division of Finance.”

As a search commenced for the VP for university services, Leath tapped his chief of staff, Miles Lackey (L), to assume the role of chief of staff/chief financial officer. Lackey, who came to Iowa State in 2012 at age 32, had served as director of financial relations for the University of North Carolina System and was a legislative aide to former U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole. At Iowa State he’d been, as he oen joked, “chief of stuff,” taking the lead on projects to streamline the resource management model and budgeting system in addition to coordinating the day-to-day functions of the president’s office.

In what can only be described as a perfect storm, Lackey’s wife, Tara, gave birth prematurely to their twin sons on March 23 and Lackey was named chief of staff/chief
financial officer on March 24.

“It was like drinking through a fire hose,” he said of those first few months with a new job and expanding family. (Daughter Reagan turned 2 years old in July; twins Emmerson and William spent 84 days in the hospital but are now healthy and at home.) “It was a hectic period, but I’m starting to feel more in control.”

With a full plate and a number of different hats, Lackey says his number one priority is “to ensure that we are achieving transparency in the budget process and making sure that we are adhering to best practices when it comes to accounting for resources here and making sure they are being used in the most efficient and effective way possible.”

He takes the land-grant model seriously and says, in fact, that the land-grant mission “is really one of the things I love about working here, serving the people of the state.” He won’t even to try to replace Warren Madden, he says. “I certainly wouldn’t try to fill his shoes,” he says. “He was here for 50 years! But what I hope that I can do is just really apply a lot of the sound advice that he provided to me and try to do a good job and leave this institution in better shape than when I found it.”

Kate Gregory (L), a retired Navy rear admiral, also admires Madden’s institutional knowledge and work ethic – and that’s important, because she took on much of his management role in July when she became ISU’s first senior vice president for university services.

“You can’t do anything at Iowa State without seeing, in big and small ways, what Mr. Madden put into place during his tenure here,” Gregory said. “Mr. Madden is an incredibly generous man,” she continued. “He has offered to help me and Iowa State in any way possible, and for that I’m tremendously grateful and I take him up on that at every opportunity. But I think the best advice he gave me was the fact that there are great people in university services and that I should rely on and listen to them.”

Gregory retired from the Navy last year, serving most recently as chief of civil engineers and commander of the Naval Facilities Engineering Command (2012-15). She says her military experience has uniquely prepared her for her new role at Iowa State.

“In the military, I was accustomed to working in large, complex organizations that had a lot of different interests and things that needed to get done – and universities, in my short experience, are very much like that,” she said. “Iowa State is a very complex organization; it does a huge variety of things, and it all needs to happen for Iowa State to succeed in its mission. So I think there’s a very close parallel between what I did before and what I do now.”

Like Lackey, Gregory says she’s grateful to be working at a land-grant university. “Working at Iowa State was a dream, not something I ever really thought was possible,” she said. “I feel exceptionally lucky to be here.”

As relative newcomers to the Iowa State campus, both Gregory and Lackey say they already feel at home here, and they have established their own campus traditions. Gregory says she runs on campus early in the morning, soaking up inspiration as she runs by the historic buildings. Lackey walks around Lake LaVerne most evenings with his family, often stopping at the benches near Christian Petersen’s Fountain of the Four Seasons.

“We’re indoctrinating our kids,” Lackey says. “They all have the Cyclone gear.”

Gregory says, “I think it’s impossible to walk across central campus and see the Campanile and the blue sky and the trees and not just feel great about being at Iowa State.”



  • Facilities Planning and Management
  • Business Services
  • Environmental Health and Safety
  • Public Safety
  • Reiman Gardens
  • University Museums
  • WOI Radio Group


  • Finance
  • Treasurer’s Office
  • University Financial Planning
  • University Relations
  • Ombuds Office
  • Internal Audit


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.

One Thing


One thing is on our mind this Spring Break week: March Madness!

The Iowa State men’s basketball team has done it again. Saturday night in Kansas City, the Cyclones won their third Big 12 tournament title in the past four years, making 2017 tournament Most Outstanding Player Monte Morris the winningest individual in Cyclone history and the all-time Big 12 tourney career steals leader.

Check out photos from a weekend to remember here and watch highlights of ISU’s epic 80-74 championship game win over West Virginia here.

Last night, we learned that the Cyclones are Milwaukee bound as the No. 5 seed in the NCAA tournament’s Midwest Region. They will take on No. 12 Nevada Thursday night in the late game at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

The Alumni Association and Athletics Department are currently working together to coordinate fan activities in Milwaukee, but in the meantime just sit back and enjoy this video from Selection Sunday at Hilton Coliseum and get all the information you need about tickets and games on’s NCAA tournament central website.

Even if you can’t travel to Milwaukee to cheer on the team in person, the Alumni Association will connect Cyclones everywhere in the spirit of tourney time with gamewatches (stay tuned to our online events calendar for details) and our Cyclones Everywhere Bracket Challenge.

The Cyclone women didn’t win their Big 12 tourney, but they have been on a serious roll and currently sit firmly on the NCAA tournament bubble. ISU finds out its fate tonight as ESPN airs Selection Monday at 6 p.m. CT. Tune in to find out what’s next. And we’ll keep you posted, too.

Go, Cyclones!

VISIONS Winter 2017: Off-Campus Development


Campustown: Everything old is new again

When VISIONS last reported on Campustown redevelopment in the fall 2014 issue (“Campustown reborn”), the name of the game was construction. Huge, blocks-long work sites were framed by construction fences and filled with heavy equipment.

Two years later, the word is booming: booming with new housing as well as office and retail space. And booming with activity, day and night.

offcampusdevelopment2New apartments such as The Foundry and 23 Twenty are helping to ease some of Iowa State’s student enrollment growing pains. The Kingland building at Lincoln Way and Welch Ave. houses the Iowa State Daily, ISU News Service, and the ISU Foundation Call Center on the second floor of the three-story building, with Kingland Systems’ offices on third floor and CVS Pharmacy located at street level.

Stroll the streets of Campustown – in both the new and historic areas – and you’ll find more to do, more to buy, and more to eat. New retailers and restaurants include Starbucks, Barefoot Campus Outfitters (for ISU gear), Potbelly Subs, Campustown Spirit (more Cyclone gear), Fuzzy’s Tacos, Insomnia Cookies, an expanded Arcadia Bakery & Café, Portobello Road boutique, Indian Delights Express, TJ Cups bubble tea, a skate shop, and other continuously evolving businesses.


Research Park: Developing the future

When the $12 million, 42,000-square-foot Economic Development Core Facility opened last June at the ISU Research Park, it brought together all of Iowa State’s economic development services in one open, easily accessible location.

This is one-stop shop supports expansion of high-value companies that attract top talent to the Research Park and to the state. Two such companies – Boehringer Ingleheim and Vermeer – recently opened major new buildings at the park, joining Workiva’s recently added state-of-the-art operation.

“Early on, I made it a priority to double the size of the Research Park [from 220 acres] – and that development is moving full steam ahead,” ISU President Steven Leath said in September. “Commercial development and amenities including Ames Racquet and Fitness Club, a new restaurant, health clinic, and new recreation trails are progressing quickly. But we’re not done growing the size of the park!”

ISU Research Park’s Phase 3 expansion is adding 200 acres and will integrate more resources to attract businesses, entrepreneurs, researchers, and employees. New buildings will feature media-rich shared workspaces, including conference rooms, offices, classrooms, and labs that can be utilized by park tenants, ISU faculty, students, and third parties. The new park setting will feature a Hub Square commons area, anchored by the Economic Development Core Facility, where people can gather, enjoy recreational activities, get inspired, and share ideas.

The Economic Development Core Facility, funded through an appropriation from the Iowa General Assembly, is the first building to be completed in the ISU Research Park’s next major expansion phase. The facility is on the edge of the new developable land that will support another 1 million square feet of offices and labs.

“It’s our goal that over the next five years, Iowa State will be one of the top five universities nationally in startups,” Leath said.


  • Economic Development Core Facility houses office and collaboration space for the
    Small Business Development Center, ISU Research Foundation, CIRAS, CyBIZ Lab, Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship, Office of Intellectual Property and Technology Transfer, Cultivation Corridor, Iowa State Economic Development & Industry Relations, and other units, as well as providing event and meeting space.
  • Vermeer Applied Technology Hub houses public-private collaborations that advance economic development and innovation.
  • ISU Startup Factory, located in the Vermeer hub, is an intensive, 52-week program that provides participants with formal training, resources, and access to a network of business mentors, advisers, counselors, and investors.
  • CyStarters is an affiliated 10-week summer entrepreneurship program housed at the new Core Facility.
  • Boehringer Ingleheim Vetmedica Inc. has a new facility at the park and will double its workforce in Ames.
  • Workiva, a company that started with 10 employees in 2008, now has 450 employees in its 120,000-square-foot facility.


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.

Five Things

Good morning, #CyclonesEverywhere! Here are five things to put on your Cardinal & Gold radar this week:


1) In case you missed it, the Alumni Association launched a new website and a new rallying hashtagcry last week, focused on our mission to tell the stories of and provide connections for Cyclones everywhere. Find out more at or use the hashtag #CyclonesEverywhere.


2) Speaking of hashtags, you might have to juggle your #CyclonesEverywhere this week with your #HiltonSouth, as the Cyclone men’s basketball team heads to Kansas City for the annual Big 12 tournament. We’ll be attempting to keep you apprised of the latest fan information on our website at, so check back often for the latest on spirit rallies on the main Power & Light District stage and other activities for Cyclones.

The week of festivities in KC actually starts Tuesday with our “Celebrate State” mixer at Union Horse Distilling Co., and continues Wednesday with the ISU Alumni of Kansas City’s tourney kickoff party at Kelly’s Westport Inn. And that’s all before the Cyclones even pick up a basketball. The Cyclones will go for yet another win over Oklahoma State Thursday morning at the Sprint Center, and the Alumni Association and athletics department will be on hand for the pregame fire-up starting at 9:40 a.m.

See you in Kansas City!


3) Tonight, as Women’s History Month kicks into high gear, Iowa State plays host to its Women’s Leadership Lecture featuring veteran NASA astronaut Kathryn Thornton. The free, public lecture starts at 8 p.m. in the Memorial Union Sun Room.

4) Iowa Public Radio recently did a story on Iowa State’s efforts to shift the agriculture workforce and ag education to better reflect the nation’s demographics and diverse approaches to farming.

“When I started doing this a long time ago there was some people who weren’t happy that we were recruiting people that didn’t think like them into agriculture,” agronomy department chair Kendall Lamkey told IPR. “But in the end, that that’s how all fields move forward, is bringing in people who don’t think like we do.” Listen to the full story online.

5) You are likely already aware that it’s Women’s History Month and maybe also that it’s National Frozen Food Month — but did you also know it’s National Peanut Month? Celebrate by boning up on Iowa State alum George Washington Carver’s 300+ uses for this month’s legume of honor.

Have a great week! Go, Cyclones!

VISIONS: Enhancing the campus aesthetic


As if the Iowa State campus wasn’t already gorgeous enough,* the university just completed a three-year, $3 million central campus beautification effort.

Projects included landscaping and tree trimming, improved building entries and first-floor hallways, and meeting/gathering spaces. Two project highlights are the renovation of the Hub patio and construction of a decorative wall north of the Memorial Union, both completed in 2015.

The $272,000 Hub patio renovation removed a retaining wall and extended the outdoor patio area, with seating, shade canopy, tables with umbrellas, and brick entrance columns.


A curved 43-foot-wide wall engraved with the “Iowa State University” nameplate has quickly become one of the most popular spots on campus to take a photograph. The wall, located between the MU and the Campanile, is landscaped with a front bed of annual flowers and behind with flowering shrubs and perennial flowers.

“We didn’t have any place on central campus that identified Iowa State University,” said associate vice president for facilities Dave Miller (L)(’75 elect engr), who proposed the idea for the wall. “I think this could become [a place] where students and alumni will want their picture taken.”

Another campus beautification project improved the plaza area surrounding the Fountain of the Four Seasons, just outside the Memorial Union. The new area includes stone benches, pavers, additional sidewalks, and landscaping.

Last spring, 8,700 flower bulbs – all but 200 of them daffodils – bloomed on campus. The bulbs were planted in a handful of locations the previous fall by campus services teams. The perennials are another piece of the presidential beautification initiative.

In a separate project, the university is creating a landscaped green space and plaza between Jack Trice Stadium and Reiman Gardens. The $11.5 million project began last summer. The plaza will include a water feature, with formal and informal gathering spaces. Work on the plaza landscaping will continue this spring, with completion scheduled for fall 2017.

* In an informal survey of the digital Buzzfeed Community, voters ranked Iowa State’s campus as one of the most beautiful in the entire world.


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.