Kaleidoquiz: How It All Started

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Kaleidoquiz ’73 goes on the air. Photo courtesy Iowa State University Special Collections.

By Craig Spear

In the winter of 1968 the Vietnam War was heating up, LBJ was President, Laugh-In aired for the first time on TV, and Planet of the Apes opened at the Varsity Theater on Lincoln Way.

The Beatles’ latest hit, Hello, Good Bye, was playing on the radio. Spooky and Chain of Fools were climbing the charts.

The university was run by gray-faced bureaucrats, women had to be in their dorms by eleven, and Don Smith, “a bearded, motorcycle riding” ag student (in the words of the Bomb) had recently been elected student body president.

Strains of 60s-style radicalism were rippling through our conservative land-grant campus. There were occasional “sit-ins.” And Smith, scourge of the administration, promised to drag Iowa State “kicking and screaming” into the 20th century.

I was an English major in my sophomore year and co-manager of KISU, the student-run radio station located then, as now, in the basement of Friley Hall, a few doors down from the “T-Room” – a snack bar hideaway popular with us radio rats.

KISU (formerly KMRI) had been on the air since 1949. The studios were cluttered and shabby. Second-hand radio gear, constantly in need of repair, was crammed in every available corner.

Nevertheless, it was a haven for tinkerers, music lovers, and aspiring DJs like me. What’s more, despite our modest accommodations, we served a sizeable closed-circuit radio audience of some several thousand students living in nine university-run dormitories.

The preceding few months, starting in the fall of 1967, I had been circulating an idea among my 12-member board of directors for an audience-participation radio contest. The premise was simple: broadcast some quiz questions, award points to listeners with the right answers, and string the competition out over a long weekend.

The idea wasn’t original with me, but it had only come to my attention the previous summer during a meet-up with an old high school friend at a Cedar Rapids pizza parlor.

Phil York, then a student at Lawrence College – a small liberal arts school in Appleton, Wis., had, like me, signed on with the campus radio station. We were both new to broadcasting and had a lot of rookie radio stories to share. But one story in particular stuck with me.

At the close of spring semester in 1967, the Lawrence station hosted a campus-wide trivia contest. This came on the heels of a similar broadcast the year before. The weekend-long competition, as Phil described it, became a campus obsession. A record number of Lawrence students took part. That weekend radio event turned out to be groundbreaking in other ways, too.

Campus trivia competitions had been around for a long time. Intercollegiate “academic bowls” were common on college campuses. Many were inspired by the long running GE College Bowl, a Sunday morning network television show dating back to the 50s. Then too, daytime television quiz shows, like Jeopardy, which hit the air in 1964, were well-known to TV viewers.

College competitions were often staged in student unions or campus gymnasiums. Quiz Masters emceed, teams of trivia experts hunched around cafeteria-style folding tables, and on-lookers cheered them on.

James deRosset, a Lawrence senior math major, apparently attended one of those quizathons at his girlfriend’s campus in nearby Beloit. Unimpressed, deRosset returned to Appleton in the spring of 1966 with a plan to organize an on-campus trivia contest of his own.

As the story goes, deRosset shared his ideas with roommates who, as luck would have it, worked at the campus radio station. Somehow, out of those late-night brainstorming sessions, the idea of hosting a campus-wide trivia contest over the college radio station first came to light. College radio—social media of its era—would play host to a “virtual” campus trivia contest.

That same year—1966—and apparently by coincidence, Williams College, an elite northeastern private school, also began hosting a campus radio trivia contest. It was an abbreviated affair—lasting only 8 hours—and aired at the end of spring and fall semesters. Owing perhaps to its east coast locale, the contest drew the attention of major media outlets like the New York Times and the Boston Globe.

Determining who gets credit for hosting the first college radio trivia contest has long been debated. The distinction is probably academic. Or, in the words of one observer, “trivial.”

Following that consequential summer meeting with Phil York, I began pondering whether such a radio contest would work at Iowa State. There were several points in our favor: KISU had a large, loyal residence hall audience. Every listener was a potential player. The contest could easily be folded into our regular, ongoing music programming. And maybe most important, the structure of the university residence hall system created natural rivalries among individual houses.

Not everyone agreed. Lawrence and Williams—small, community-based private colleges—attracted only a few hundred players. Our carrier-current signal reached 10 times that many.

There were doubts if ISU residence hall students, so widely dispersed, could be drawn into a competition with one another. And if they could, would there be sufficient enthusiasm to sustain a weekend-long contest?

Despite some skepticism, our management team eventually, cautiously, agreed to take on the project.

We mobilized our staff, signed on volunteers, assembled a talent roster of 16 DJs to host 42 hours of programming, and prepared for a February launch. I asked two volunteers to compile trivia questions on 3×5 index cards.

(Looking back, this part of the contest was the one least thought through. I hadn’t anticipated the possibilty of challenges to our questions or answers. No one thought to appoint a Quiz Czar with authority to settle disputes. This was another of several critical oversights that would fuel the pandemonium that awaited us just a few weeks away.)

Finally, there was the matter of a name. What would the contest be called? I wanted something unique and descriptive. Something that would differentiate us from generic “trivia” contests. Something that would resonate with listeners. A long list of “possibles” were rejected. One name seemed to stand out: Kaleidoquiz.

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Vintage Kaleidoquiz poster. Courtesy Iowa State University Special Collections.

As the launch date approached, we began airing promos and teasers. Our stack of 3×5 index cards grew to a couple hundred. After several weeks of preparation, we were finally ready.

On February 9, 1968, at 6:30 in the morning, a recorded contest intro hit the air—“It’s time to play…Kaleidoquiz!” The morning shift DJ opened his microphone and read the first Kaleidoquiz question. Something to do with Robert Goulet and Clarabell the Clown, as I remember.

A handful of us, hovering over the announcer’s shoulder, waited for two incoming listener lines to blink. Nothing. Finally, a single call. A record request.

More music, a station break, and the contest intro aired again: “It’s time to play…” The announcer offered up another quiz question. Another long pause. Finally, a single phone line sputtered to life. The first-ever Kaleidoquiz player had come up with the right answer!

“What do I win?” he asked.

After an hour or two, listeners began to get the hang of it. Quiz questions aired every 10 minutes. Occasionally, 50- or 100-point bonus questions were thrown in the mix. Callers were given the length of a single record to phone in answers and score points for their house.

As morning wore on, the now-familiar contest jingles were airing at steady, rhythmic intervals. “It’s time to play…” Call volume, slowly, but noticeably, began to build.

Around noon, the first signs of a scary momentum began taking hold. Incoming phone lines flashed furiously and relentlessly. Scorekeepers behind the studio plate-glass window acted out a panicky pantomime as they struggled to keep up with phone calls.

Phone company records would later show 35,000 dial-ins attempted that first day.

By early afternoon, dorm residents could no longer get dial tones. Frustrated callers heard only scrambled cross-talk on their receivers. Desperate to get through, more callers jammed the lines.

Kaleidoquiz was trending.

By late afternoon classrooms across campus had emptied out. Absent phone service, university offices began closing, unable to do business.

By early evening the first contingent of phone company representatives showed up at our studios—stern-faced and disapproving.

There was talk of shutting us down. Negotiations ensued. Finally, conceding the obvious, it was agreed seeing it through was the best course of action.

We imposed a two record time limit, and one caller per house. Pressure on the network eased. The phone system began to right itself.

Meanwhile, over the ceiling-mounted monitors, “It’s time to play…” was heard yet again. Another round of trivia questions hit the air.

Across campus, Friday night plans were scrapped. take-out pizza orders soared. Residents settled in for all-nighters. KQ roared into the night.

At midnight Saturday, 42 hours later, nearly two days after the first Kaleidoquiz questions were broadcast to an unsuspecting audience, KQ finally came to a climactic close.

Meeker House, with 1845 points, was declared the first Kaleidoquiz winner. Kimble House and Wilkinson House battled to second- and third-place finishes.

Two days later, KISU co-manager Bill Monroe would tell an Iowa State Daily reporter, with some understatement, “We had no idea it would be so popular.”

Fifty years have passed since that first Kaleidoquiz weekend rocked the ISU campus. KURE, the campus radio successor to KISU, celebrated the 50th anniversary with another KQ broadcast this past March.

Over that time, any number of student radio-based trivia contests have popped up, fizzled, and occasionally persisted, on college campuses across the country.

Lawrence College, arguably home of one of the first campus-based trivia contest (by 22 months) abandoned live radio broadcasts for a web-based version of the game a decade ago.

Williams, known for its biannual competitions, continues to host trivia contests at the end of each semester.

All of which makes Kaleidoquiz, as now aired by KURE, perhaps the largest and longest-running college radio based trivia contest in America.

Over several decades, hundreds of thousands of Iowa State Students, sometimes spanning more than one generation, have played the game. Thousands more have listened in. KURE’s KQ Director, Isaac Bries, calls Kaleidoquiz an Iowa State tradition rivaling the once preeminent—and now defunct—Veishea in popularity.

Looking back, it may seem odd that a campus trivia contest, launched during the tumultuous 60s, hearkening back in many ways to a quaint, less aware era of panty raids and phone booth stuffing, would survive the societal changes of the past half century and still remain as popular as ever.

But good ideas have a life of their own. From 3×5 note cards to laptops and Google searches, the essential elements of Kaleidoquiz are still in fashion: an out-sized challenge, a competitive group of friends, and a slightly off-kilter sense of humor.

As radio promotions go, 50 years is a good run.

 

spearCraig Spear (’71 distributed studies), the originator of Kaleidoquiz at Iowa State, is a writer and producer living in San Francisco, Calif.

 

Cy’s Suitcase: May/June 2017 Edition

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A Message from Shellie

There are only two kinds of people in the world: the Irish and those who wish they were.

I am often asked about my favorite place I’ve visited. Each trip has been amazing and every destination has offered different qualities. I used to say Prague was my favorite spot, but last year Italy took the top. It was exactly like I had imagined: the landscape, the food. the wine. Then, in April, I was fortunate to take a trip to Ireland. I had never been and had heard so many good things about this magical land.  My expectations were high, which isn’t always a good thing. But it didn’t disappoint. Ireland is now up there with Italy as one of my favorite destinations. If you have never been, please make an effort to go. Why did I like it so much? It is so green (and wet, although the rain stops as quickly as it starts), the towns are charming, there are redheads everywhere, but mostly it was the people. They are so friendly and seem so happy. It also helps that they speak English. Like the saying above says, although I have no Irish in me (which, because of my red hair, surprises everyone to learn) after visiting there I WANT to have Irish descendants. So I am going to check my ancestry again.

I guess it is the scenery, the food, and the people that make trips for me. That’s my list, but it may not be yours. When I choose trips each year I of course put the passengers first and think about where they want to go. What is the “hot spot?” What is a tried and true location? What place is safe? This has never gotten easier over the years. We put a lot of time into choosing just the right destinations for our travelers. Sometimes we get it right, and sometimes we don’t.

We must have done something right in 2017 because our traveler numbers have increased significantly. Either my selections were really bad last year or I did a really good job for 2017. I would be remiss if I didn’t give some credit to Heather Botine, my awesome assistant travel director who has done great things for the program since she began her new role last fall.

We are excited about the future of travel and we hope you are, too. If our 2018 trips aren’t going where you want to go, please let us know. We can maybe hook you up with one of our current travel operators to go on a separate departure — or maybe we will add it for 2019!

Have a great summer!

shellie

May your thoughts be as glad as the shamrocks. May your heart be as light as a song. May each day bring you bright, happy hours. That stay with you all the year long.” – old Irish blessing


Travel Tips

Be flexible
When traveling there are always delays and things that inevitably go wrong. Patience is extremely important when traveling. This is something I have had to work on myself. Since I can’t control the weather or the flight crew, I might as well just get a coffee and relax.

Make a list
About a week before each trip, I make a list of items I don’t want to forget. I now use my phone for this, but grabbing a notepad and writing things down as you think of them will work just as well. I know I have to write it down when I think of it, or I will forget it!

Pre-plan your outfits
It’s easy to just throw your favorite clothes in, but unless you figure out what you are wearing with what, you may end up with all black outfits. Remember, you will be wearing these outfits in photos that you will be keeping forever.

Learn common phrases in the local language
A simple “please” or “thank you” and “I’m sorry” in the local language goes a long way.

Make photocopies of important documents
Keep an extra copy of your passport with you. I have pictures of mine on my phone as well. I know of people who have lost theirs while traveling, so always be prepared.

Bring portable chargers and extra batteries
Nothing is worse than being out and about to take pictures and your camera dies, which for many is now your phone or iPad. Batteries drain quickly while on trips, so be prepared and have an extra with you. And on that note, make sure you have enough memory on your phone for pictures. I have had those instances where you are ready to take the best breathtaking photo and you get that annoying message that you don’t have enough storage. There are solutions to that. Ask your kids – or grandkids. They will know how.

Carry on essentials
I learned the hard way last summer why it’s important to have a well-packed carry-on. My luggage was lost for almost a week, so I hosted a cruise with one pair of underwear (yes, I washed them every night) and the same outfits. Keep underwear, a comfy pair of shoes (if you aren’t wearing them already) an extra shirt (I always wear a cardigan when traveling so I have a few items to interchange with if my luggage is lost), toothbrush, medications, and my laptop. I also bring lotion and lip balm, as plane cabins are very dry.


Shellie’s Shopping Secrets

Last year my luggage was missing for almost a week when I was hosting a cruise. I had very little in my carry-on bag because I hated carrying a heavy bag. Since then I have purchased this bag off of ebags.com. It not only comes in ISU colors, but you can stick it under your seat or above your head so you won’t have to check it at the gate. And it has wheels! I think this is THE most valuable travel item I own. I was recently boarding a plane in Chicago when we were told all carry-ons had to be checked to our final destination. But not mine, because it goes under the seat. It was very tight and I had nowhere to put my feet, but it was a short flight and my luggage was with me.

 

 

Career calling

Legendary point guard Monte Morris reflects on a long career that has enriched him and his university

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Elite college basketball players rarely have four-year careers anymore — a fact that makes Monte Morris’ choice to spend four years at Iowa State University one of the most meaningful things he’s ever done.

For Morris, a four-year career meant becoming only the second member of his family to earn a college degree. It meant besting seemingly unbreakable records held by an ISU and NBA legend. It meant becoming so completely immersed in the nation’s college basketball fraternity that, when beating Kansas coach Bill Self on his home court, he gives you a high five during the game.

“I want people to know that even though I struggled at first, I didn’t cut corners,” Morris says. “I didn’t want to leave this place because it’s like home. I was as loyal to this university as it was to me, and I learned a lot, saw a lot. I’m blessed and thankful that I came to Iowa State.”

Growing up in Flint, Mich., Morris spent a lot of time as a gym tagalong with his basketball-coaching single mother, Latonia. In those gyms is where he first met Flint native and Michigan State legend Mateen Cleaves, who remains a close friend and mentor to Morris today. It’s also where he met former ISU star Jeff Grayer, another Flint native who was persistent in telling the young Morris how good he’d look in the Cardinal & Gold gear Grayer was always donning. Both Morris and his mother were skeptical about what Ames had to offer. Until, that is, they saw it for themselves.

“My mom always said we weren’t going down here because ‘What’s in Iowa?’ But they just kept calling,” Morris recalls. “So I went. And after seeing the campus and meeting the people it was literally two days after we got back that I told my mom this is where I wanted to be. I came back with all the gear and Grayer was like, ‘There you go.’ I committed on my birthday in 2012.”

To say Morris committed to Iowa State and has never looked back would not exactly be accurate. He faced dark times during his college career. His home city faced a devastating crisis in 2014 when it was revealed that the city’s drinking water was severely contaminated. He lost his grandfather, with whom he was extremely close. And in 2016, Morris’ former Cyclone teammate and close friend Bryce Dejean-Jones was shot and killed. But he leaned on teammates and friends during those times and became even more grateful for his support networks at home and at Iowa State.

But in 2015, Morris’ foundations were shaken by the news that Fred Hoiberg was departing Ames for a job with the Chicago Bulls. “I honestly thought about transferring,” he admits. “Coach Fred taught me how to be a pro and how to live life in Ames under the microscope. He was just a cool guy. I wondered if the new coach would let us do the same things Coach Fred did.”

But now, Morris says, he hasn’t spent a minute regretting his eventual decision to trust in Steve Prohm.

“He’s someone who’s been good for me in my life, both on the court and spiritually,” Morris says. “I love his kid, Cass, and [Coach Prohm and I] have grown together over the past year and a half.”

During his four years at Iowa State University, Morris says he’s embraced the complete college experience — including football Saturdays with friends, classes and community service, discovering his passion for the fashion industry and even bowling. And yes, making lifelong friendships with teammates like Georges Niang — someone Morris says inspired him to improve his diet and exercise habits, DeAndre Kane and Melvin Ejim — elder statesmen who helped Morris mature quickly during his freshman season, and Naz Mitrou-Long — someone Morris describes with one simple phrase: “If I had a kid, I would want him to be just like Naz.”

“I’m so glad I stayed. There’s nothing I will regret here at this university,” Morris says. “I did everything I wanted to do here.”

“Everything” includes two very prominent achievements on Morris’ list that couldn’t have happened without a senior season. In January 2017, he was able to change his phone’s screen saver from a picture of the number “665” — the Iowa State career assist record that was formerly held by now-New York Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek — when he surpassed it at Vanderbilt. In February, he also surpassed Hornacek’s career steals milestone.

“I wanted to go somewhere where I could leave my legacy,” Morris says. “But I also wanted to come somewhere where my spot wasn’t just going to be thrown at me, where I could work for minutes and get rewarded for it. And that’s exactly what I’ve been able to do here.”

And in May, Morris will walk across the stage in Hilton Coliseum as a liberal studies graduate — something he hopes will help him pursue his future career goals of working in both the fashion and sports broadcasting industries.

“My mom wasn’t able to get her degree because she had me when she was [a student-athlete] at Grand Valley State,” Morris says. “Without a father figure around my mom took so much on her shoulders. She worked overtime hours so I could get things for Christmas and for my birthday, when things were rough and I didn’t even know how rough they were. Now I just want to give it all back to her.”

Earning his college degree, Morris says, was one of the ways he felt like he could pay back his mom.

But, despite her heartfelt desire to see him come back to ISU for his senior season, she never pressured him. Latonia Morris, who still lives in a home piled with bottled water in Flint, is the ultimate example of a strong woman, her son says. She’s Iowa State’s biggest fan, traveling to many Cyclone games and storing every one on her DVR so she can break down film with her son. (“When I broke the career assists record at Vanderbilt, I also fouled out,” Morris remembers, laughing. “She didn’t say anything about [the record]; she just said ‘Stop fouling, stop going over guys’ backs.’”) She’s been a loving and steady influence on her son, who has achieved at college basketball’s highest levels with her support.

But she also, Morris says, never forced a basketball into her son’s hands.

“I think basketball, they say, sometimes can find you,” Morris says. “[Mom] had me at the gym a lot but she never forced me. The game definitely found me. I think it called on me.”

Iowa State is all the better for Morris’ answer.


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.

World Food Prize puts Iowa in the international spotlight

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When Keegan Kautzky was a freshman at Iowa State, he was signed up for a study-abroad experience in Italy that was cancelled because of the September 11th attacks.

Liz Beck (L)(’74 history, MA ’77), then the head of the ISU Honors Program, told Kautzky (L)(’04 political science) at the time that if he wanted to start learning about global issues he didn’t need to travel to Europe. He just needed to intern at the World Food Prize in Des Moines.

“So that’s what I did,” Kautzky said. “I met Norm [Borlaug] and Ambassador [Kenneth] Quinn, and it changed everything and the rest of my life. And it’s fascinating because it was in my backyard that I could make a real difference and interact with world leaders and tackle these issues; it wasn’t just in traveling globally on a study-abroad. It was 30 minutes from campus and 25 miles from my hometown.”

Thus began Kautzky’s 15-year adventure with the World Food Prize and its many facets: state and global youth institutes, the Iowa Hunger Summit, the Borlaug Dialogue, and World Food Prize laureate program.

Today Kautzky is a director of national education programs along with fellow Iowa State graduate Libby Pederson Crimmings (’04 art and design). They travel “non-stop” for months every year, organizing and facilitating youth institutes in 21 states, a program that has seen exponential growth.

“Nine years ago [the youth institute program] was [only] in Iowa, with about 55 to 60 students who participated, and now we’re in 20 more states with about 10,000 students participating nationally,” Kautzky said. It’s conceivable, he said, that in the next fi ve years, the program could scale up to reach a million students in 50 states.

The World Food Prize youth institutes are culminations of year-round work by high school students across the nation. In Iowa last year, about 6,000 students were involved in school- and community-based service-learning activities, research projects, and papers, and of those students about 300 came to the day-long Iowa Youth Institute on the ISU campus in April, hosted by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Each fall, during the Borlaug Dialogue event week – which attracts leaders from all over the globe who come together to discuss the many possible solutions to solving world hunger and poverty – a three-day Global Youth Institute engages 200 high school delegates from the state youth institutes and internationally.

The students chosen for that event are not necessarily the school valedictorians, Kautzky explained. “It’s the students who are the most passionate,” he said. “They have just incredible promise; they want to work hard and make a difference in their community. A big part of what we’re trying to create through those youth institutes is a way to engage broadly all students with these issues and to identify kids that really care. There’s a
lot of energy, a lot of ideas, a lot of passion.”

“Dr. Borlaug’s idea was that we need to create a way not just to engage and educate but to identify those passionate young people and then help them see the pathways and how they can use their interests to make a real difference in the world,” Crimmings added.

In addition to the youth programs and Borlaug Dialogue, the 12-person staff of the World Food Prize Foundation also facilitates an annual Iowa Hunger Summit, an Iowa Hunger Directory, World Food Prize internships, special events, and more.

Catherine Swoboda (L)(’08 agronomy, MS ’10 crop production & physiology) has been a big part of the planning and execution of those events. From 2011 through the end of 2016, Swoboda worked first as the World Food Prize director of Iowa and Midwest education programs and most recently as director of planning for the Borlaug Dialogue. So she knows what it takes for a small staff to pull off local, international, and international events – sometimes simultaneously.

“This is a small staff that works yearround to plan those events. And when I reflect on what that’s like, I guess the thing that really comes to my mind is the tremendous sense of mission here,” she said. “It’s really amazing what you can accomplish with a small team when they’re devoted to the mission.”

Swoboda, now a lecturer in ISU’s Department of Global Resource Systems, was born and raised in Des Moines. She became involved with the World Food Prize in high school.

“It was really stunning to be a part of the World Food Prize staff ,” she said, “and it really wasn’t until then that I had an appreciation of the regard with which such leaders from all over the world hold our state, and the respect and admiration that they have for our state’s legacy in terms of agriculture and humanitarianism.”


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 from rainy Ames! Here are five things to know that will get you up to speed on Iowa State this week:

1) Today is the last day of the Steven Leath administration at Iowa State, as former ISU provost and University of Northern Iowa president Ben Allen becomes interim president until a permanent successor for Leath — who is headed to Auburn University — is named in October. On Friday, the Iowa Board of Regents announced that it had hired AGB Search from Washington, D.C. as the firm to assist with the selection of the next ISU president. AGB will be paid $110,000, plus expenses, for its services assisting with the search. AGB will work with the official search committee, which was announced April 20. The search committee is expected to meet for the first time later this month.

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2) This weekend 5,093 Iowa State students participated in commencement ceremonies, marking an increase of nearly 500 graduates over last year’s record-breaking spring class. Welcome to our newest alumni!

3) Also this weekend the Iowa State softball team, under the direction of first-year head coach Jamie Trachsel, swept Kansas to finish fifth in the Big 12 standings — the Cyclones’ best finish since 1994 — and earn a berth to the conference championships. ISU will take on Oklahoma State and Baylor Friday in the opening round of the Big 12 tournament in Oklahoma City.

4) Speaking of sports, the Iowa State women’s golf team opens play at the NCAA Lubbock Regional this morning in hope of earning a berth to the national championships May 19-24 in Sugar Grove, Ill. The men’s team starts its NCAA run next Monday, May 15 at the regional in Austin, Texas.

5) It’s officially summer break here at Iowa State now that graduation has come and gone, but spring is definitely still in the air. Check out the latest “Postcard from Campus” video and take a virtual tour of springtime on the most beautiful campus in the world.

Have a great week — and a great summer. We’re starting our summer hours today, so please note that we’ll be closed at 4 p.m. daily starting today until Aug. 11.

 

Five Things

Happy Monday to Cyclones everywhere. Here are five things to put on your radar this week as we start the month of May:

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1) It’s Finals/Commencement Week already! The Graduate College ceremony is Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at Hilton Coliseum; the Veterinary Medicine ceremony is Saturday at noon at Stephens Auditorium, and the undergraduate ceremony featuring commencement speaker Dennis Muilenberg (’86 aero engr) — chairman, president, and CEO of The Boeing Company — will begin at 1:30 p.m. in Jack Trice Stadium. (In the event of inclement weather, which we’ve had in spades for the past week, the event will be moved into Hilton Coliseum — but you’ll need tickets from a grad.) The Dean of Students’ Office will also once again be hosting Lavender Graduation for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, and ally community.

Congratulations to all our very-soon-to-be alumni. Follow all the excitement of commencement throughout the week online via hashtag #cyclONEgrad.

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2) April has now officially ended, so make sure to take a few minutes to log your participation in “Cy’s Days of Service” — our worldwide service initiative for Cyclones everywhere. If you participated in a community service project, a regular volunteer initiative, or even a board or committee that serves the community, please log the hours your spent during the month of April and help us accurately reflect the impact of Iowa Staters during April 2017. (Oh — and send us your best photos, too, please!)

3) We hope you’ve been enjoying “Cyclone Stories” on our new CyclonesEverywhere.com website. Our latest stories are of Syria-born artist and architect Mohamad Hafez (’09 arch), NBA Development League Rookie of the Year Abdel Nader (’15 liberal studies), and the ISU women’s basketball stat crew, which traveled to Dallas in April to serve as official statisticians for the Final Four. You can also go back and meet all the previously featured Cyclones in our Cyclone Stories archive. “Cyclone Stories” is our way of helping keep you up to date on how Cyclones everywhere are making a difference. If you ever have a suggestion of a newsworthy Cyclone who would make a great feature, be sure to contact us. You can email Kate Bruns (’99 journalism) at kbruns@iastate.edu.

4) The NFL Draft was this weekend, and no Cyclone names were called. But three signed free agent contracts: Jomal Wiltz, Jhaustin Thomas, and Nigel Tribune.

5) The spring hiring spree continues at the Alumni Association: We have a new job posting this week for a full-time Graphic Designer. Apply online by May 12.

 

The future is about feeding the world, but it is more than feeding the world

FK_casual1An essay by Fred Kirschenmann, a distinguished fellow at ISU’s Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture

The question “How are we going to feed 9 billion people by the year 2050?” now routinely appears in the popular press. Posing the question in this way, important as it is, implies that if we just figure out how to produce more food, we can solve the problem of hunger. There are several problems with this assumption.

First, as I wrote in a column in our quarterly Leopold Center newsletter, scholars had already pointed out in 2012 that we were producing enough food to feed 10 billion people, yet almost a billion were chronically hungry. It certainly suggests that we have to come to terms with the fact that solving the hunger problem is not simply a matter of producing adequate amounts of food. Hunger is caused by an array of problems including poverty, inequality, food waste, food access, and ignoring the issue of the “right to food.” In this regard, the amount of food we produce that is wasted is particularly troubling. By some estimates, today we waste at least 40 percent of the food that we produce. The good news is, many people in the food system are beginning to deal with this problem.

Second, posing the problem of a growing human population as simply a feeding challenge ignores another reality – the “carrying capacity” of the planet. For the last several centuries, we have lived in a culture that assumes nature is mostly “out there” and nature is simply a collection of objects from which we humans are largely separate, and therefore we can make nature do whatever we want in our own interests. However, humans are actually an integral part of nature. We can only thrive and be healthy as long as the rest of nature is healthy.

As Aldo Leopold stated almost 100 years ago, nature’s health should be defined in terms of her capacity for “self-renewal.” The Earth’s capacity for self-renewal is dependent upon a balance of interrelationships of all of life. For that reason, nature never tolerates a “density” of any species. All species are interdependent and must be limited in ways in which they contribute to the self-renewing capacity of the whole. Humans are not exempt from this law of ecology.

This suggests that Wendell Berry’s insight regarding problems is exceptionally relevant. To define a problem as a single tactic phenomenon – like solving the hunger problem by simply producing more food – fails to recognize that singular problems are actually a “pattern of problems” and we have to address the interrelated pattern and “not just some handily identifiable and simplifiable aspect of it.”

Consequently, as author Donald Worster asserts, the “limits of growth” concept involves both the amount of economic growth and the growth of the human population on the planet. It is for these reasons that we must now abandon our fetish for economic growth. Regenerating life on Earth must have a higher priority than producing as much as possible. While economic well-being is important, it will always be dependent on the self-renewing capacity of the resources on which economic growth depends. If we are interested in a healthy, well-fed human population, we need to redefine growth in terms of the wealth of nature, rather than the wealth of nations.

References:
1. Leopold Letter, Vol. 24, No. 4, winter 2012
2. Worster, Donald, 2016; Shrinking the Earth: The Rise and Decline of American Abundance, New York, Oxford University Press
3. Berry, Wendell, 1981; “Solving for pattern,” Chapter 9 in The Gift of Good Land: Further Essays Cultural & Agricultural, San Francisco, North Point Press

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.