Inside Iowa Lakeside Laboratory


From VISIONS magazine, summer 2018

By Carole Gieseke

A Conversation with Mary Skopec

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Faculty Spotlight: Alex Braidwood

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Iowa Lakeside Laboratory History

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


100 Years of Research

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

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

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

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

How can I experience Lakeside?

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

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

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

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

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

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


This article was originally published in VISIONS magazine. To receive the full issue delivered to your mailbox four times per year, become a member of the ISU Alumni Association.

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


From VISIONS magazine, summer 2018

By Carole Gieseke | Photos by Jim Heemstra

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

Three days at Iowa Lakeside Lab: A Field Journal



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

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

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

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

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

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

The woman knows what she’s talking about.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It has finally quit raining.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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



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

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

Burras has been teaching at Lakeside for 13 summers.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

This article was originally published in VISIONS magazine. To receive the full issue delivered to your mailbox four times per year, become a member of the ISU Alumni Association.

Living the Gymnastics Life


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

From VISIONS magazine, summer 2018

By Kate Bruns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This article was originally published in VISIONS magazine. To receive the full issue delivered to your mailbox four times per year, become a member of the ISU Alumni Association.

Catching the entrepreneurship bug at Iowa State


From VISIONS magazine, summer 2018

By Betsy S. Hickok

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This article was originally published in VISIONS magazine. To receive the full issue delivered to your mailbox four times per year, become a member of the ISU Alumni Association.

‘A True Passion for Iowa State’


From VISIONS magazine, summer 2018

By Carole Gieseke

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Julie embodies true passion for Iowa State University.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This article was originally published in VISIONS magazine. To receive the full issue delivered to your mailbox four times per year, become a member of the ISU Alumni Association.


A season to believe


From VISIONS magazine, spring 2018

By Kate Bruns

With its ups and downs, twists and turns, there was something powerful about what happened in the Iowa State football program in 2017. In the face of seemingly  insurmountable obstacles, the team overcame. Through leadership, belief, and grit, it overcame. It trusted the process. And the process, as Matt Campbell famously declared Oct. 7 in a jubilant, crowded Norman, Okla., locker room, started loving it back. For the third-year Cyclones head coach, it’s just the beginning.

“The biggest thing we learned [this season] is that belief occurred within our walls,”  Campbell said. “In 2017, we created belief. It was about who wanted to sacrifice and take leadership value into our football program. The next step is creating winning, and I think you saw that start to happen in 2017.”

And now, a quick look at exactly what did happen in 2017 – one game at a time.

Sept 2: Iowa State 42,
Northern Iowa 24
Iowa State debuted its 2017 team before a sellout crowd under the lights at Jack Trice Stadium with QB Jacob Park leading the offense, former QB Joel Lanning leading the defense, and the Cyclones winning handily thanks in large part to two first-quarter TDs on interception returns.

Sept. 9: Iowa 44,
Iowa State 41 (OT)
Cyclones fans weren’t quite sure what to make of the team’s performance in a 44-41  overtime loss to Iowa in the Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series – a thrilling game, no doubt, but not necessarily a strong defensive performance by either squad. Iowa State took a 38-31 lead with 4:36 to play on Park’s fourth touchdown pass of the game but was unable to hold off the Hawkeyes for the remainder of the quarter; Iowa forced overtime with a 46-yard touchdown pass with just 1:09 left in regulation before sealing the victory in OT.

“That was one of only two games in which we played badly on defense,” senior end J.D. Waggoner would go on to say after the season ended. “I’d like to have that one back.”

Sept. 16: Iowa State 41,
Akron 14
Campbell & Co. took the show on the road for the first time Sept. 16, traveling to familiar territory for the Ohio native and former MAC Coach of the Year: Akron. Fellow Ohio  native David Montgomery, a Cyclone sophomore running back, rushed for 127 yards and a touchdown and caught five passes in the win – signaling great things to come.

Sept 28: Texas 17,
Iowa State 7
In what would end up being Park’s final game as a Cyclone, the Iowa State offense  sputtered on a Thursday night at Jack Trice Stadium. Park would go on to announce Oct. 6 that he was taking a leave of absence from the team to deal with some personal health issues. He remained on the roster all season but was ultimately granted a release from
his scholarship in December. Despite the game’s negatives, the Cyclones did see promise in a new-look defense but were unsure how to move forward with confidence. That’s when the Cyclones head coach stepped in.

“The challenge after the Texas game was that there was an imbalance in our football program,” Campbell said. “I had to fix it.”

Oct. 7: Iowa State 38,
No. 3 Oklahoma 31
Coming off the disappointing home loss to Texas, concerned eyebrows raised across the country at the announcement that third-string signal-caller Kyle Kempt, a fifth-year senior transfer who had never played a down at either of his previous two schools, was going to start at quarterback for the Cyclones. On the road. Against the nation’s third-ranked team.

The rest, of course, is history. In a win that redefined the Cyclones’ season and perhaps even the future of Iowa State football, Iowa State was triumphant in Norman for the first time since 1990. Kempt, who was 18-of-24 for 343 passing yards on the game, connected with senior Allen Lazard for the game-winning touchdown on third and long with 2:19 to play that solidified Lazard’s legacy as the Cyclones’ greatest all-time receiver. It was a come-from-behind victory that Campbell says started well before the first snap in Norman.

“The week leading up to the Oklahoma game was the turning point in our entire football program,” he said. “Those Tuesday and Wednesday practices, I’ll never forget. Tuesday it rained, and that was one of the best practices we’d had all year. On Wednesday, Joel Lanning stepped back into quarterback for a period of practice and you just felt the team come together. We said we’re going to move forward together and not on an individual basis; that was really powerful for us.”

Oct. 14: Iowa State 45,
Kansas 0
The Cyclones were on “letdown watch” Oct. 14 as they returned home to take on Kansas on a rainy afternoon in Jack Trice. After a 37-minute weather delay, the Cyclones took their field and delivered anything but a letdown, pitching a shutout paced by 10 tackles from Lanning.

Oct. 21: Iowa State 31,
Texas Tech 13
For the first time since 1960-1961, Iowa State recorded a fourth-straight road victory when it spoiled Texas Tech’s Homecoming and improved to 3-1 in Big 12 play for the first time since 2002. Lanning and Willie Harvey led the way on defense with 14 tackles apiece as Kempt moved to 3-0 as a starter, connecting on 22-of-32 passes for 192 yards and three touchdowns.

Oct. 26: Iowa State 14,
No. 4 TCU 7
It was Homecoming in Ames as the Cyclones faced another top-5 opponent for the chance to move into a tie for first place in the Big 12 and secure bowl eligibility for the first time in five seasons.

Marcel Spears picked off Kenny Hill’s pass with 1:16 left to play to seal the third-ever Cyclone win over a top-5 opponent – and second that month. “We played harder for longer,” Campbell said postgame. “It was really rewarding to see.” It capped a perfect October that vaulted Iowa State into the national spotlight – a light Campbell says his team took on with grace.

“We’re such an instant gratification society with Twitter and social media. We had started to talk about lessons of handling success in the summer – that it was going to be a huge indication of the future of Iowa State football,” Campbell said. “A lot of my own growth has come from learning how to shut the noise off, because if you don’t know how to do it, how will your kids ever do it?”

Nov. 4: West Virginia 20,
No. 14 Iowa State 16
The Cyclones’ winning streak finally came to an end in Morgantown, W.Va., where an early 20-0 Mountaineer lead proved too difficult for the Cyclones to overcome.

Nov. 11: No. 12 Oklahoma State
49, Iowa State 42
Another sellout crowd was on hand at Jack Trice Stadium, looking to will the Cyclones  back into the win column against the Cowboys. The shootout ended in a controversial loss for the home team, however, when wide receiver Marchie Murdock and OSU’s A.J. Green tumbled to the ground in the end zone after both getting their hands on a pass from Cyclone quarterback Zeb Noland in the final minute of the game – a tie ball that was ruled an interception. Iowa State fans were furious about the call. Little did they know, it wouldn’t be the angriest they’d get in 2017.

Nov. 18: Iowa State 23,
Baylor 13
The Cyclones grabbed their fourth road win in five tries during a trip to Waco.  Montgomery piled up 158 yards of offense, including 144 rushing yards, to lead Iowa State to a grind-it-out victory that kept the Clones in theoretical contention for a berth to the Big 12 title game.

Nov. 25: Kansas State 20,
Iowa State 19
Trips to Manhattan (and occasionally Kansas City) to take on Kansas State haven’t exactly been friendly to Iowa State in recent history, and an almost improbable collapse in their last game at KSU ultimately led to the firing of head coach Paul Rhoads.

This season, the Cyclones came into Manhattan ready to get the purple monkey off their back. They  controlled the tempo of the somewhat ugly contest and were in a favorable position with a 6-point fourth-quarter lead as they tried to milk the clock on a drive. On third-and-6, a pass intended for Lazard was not caught after a KSU defender hugged him tightly as a golden hankie struck his feet. The pass interference call would result in a first down for the Cyclones. Except that it didn’t. In a move that remains unexplained, head official Reggie Smith directed officials to pick up the flag. Kansas State would end up getting another offensive possession and scored, giving them a victory that left Iowa State fans and players both perplexed and irate.

Campbell endured sleepless nights in the wake of the loss.

“One thing we talk about all the time is ‘control the controllables,’” he said. “And in this situation, we didn’t.”

Dec. 30: Iowa State 21,
No. 19 Memphis 20
The Cyclones headed into the 2017 AutoZone Liberty Bowl with several rather large chips on their shoulders. From the pain and frustration of the Kansas State loss to the blatant disrespect displayed by Memphis players when they flipped Iowa State’s helmet upside-down for press photos in the lead-up to the game, the Cyclones had something to prove Dec. 30 in Memphis, Tenn.

Getting the win in the Liberty Bowl would end up taking some toughness and, once again, an ability to rise in the face of questionable calls from the officials.

Driving late with a 21-20 lead, Montgomery appeared to hit pay dirt, but the officials ruled he had fumbled prior to crossing the goal line. Several excruciating minutes of official review later, the Tigers were awarded a touchback.

“We were in the huddle [during the review] and I remember [Campbell] coming up and telling us, ‘I hope we don’t get this call,’” Waggoner remembered. “I was like, ‘What are you talking about?’ But I understood where he was coming from. At Kansas State we were placed in the same situation and it didn’t go our way. He said, ‘I want to know if this team’s learned from our mistakes, if we can finish it.’”

The Cyclone defense stood tall.

“We just kind of anchored down and said, ‘Look, we’re not gonna let this happen again,” Waggoner said. “All they needed was a field goal, but we were able to make a fourth-down stop to get off the field and that was a pretty awesome way to end it. It was.”

“It felt great,” Murdock added. “It was only right for us to send our seniors and our fans out with a W. And that’s what we did.”


171229-libertybowl-245-mattcampbellfileLed Iowa State to an 8-5 season and named Big 12 Coach of the Year after being picked ninth in most league preseason polls. The Cyclones were ranked in the AP Top-25 for the first time since 2005 after it defeated two top-five teams for the first time in ISU history. On the week of his 38th birthday, Campbell agreed to a new six-year contract extension worth $22.5 million.

Known for: Being famously dubbed “good as gone” on Twitter by ESPN pundit Kirk Herbstreit after the Cyclones beat TCU – a prediction that drew an angry reaction from Cyclones everywhere. After Campbell inked a new contract with ISU Nov. 27, Herbstreit
publicly acknowledged he was wrong and called Campbell “rare” and “impressive.”

His 2017 highlight: “Honestly, it was coaching the seniors. They love football and they love Iowa State. A lot of them had been through really hard times. But it was a group that had a spirit about itself, had the ability to overcome adversity consistently. That was really fun to watch. Those were the guys who really led a lot of change in culture within our walls that I thought was really powerful.”

The 2017 game he wants back: “Kansas State. Or Texas. Kansas State. I was probably as mad at myself as I was at anybody after that game, because I felt like I’d taken the mentality that I was going to let someone take the game from us instead of thinking about how I was going to step up and finish it.”


Waggoner_JD17LibertyBowl_6A 2017 second-team all-Big 12 and first-team academic all-Big 12 selection at defensive end from Dallas, Texas, who tasted senior success after a tumultuous Iowa State career that included struggles with injuries and coaching changes

Known for: His signature celebratory highkick after making big plays – including a down linemen-best 42 tackles in 2017.

His 2017 highlight: “After Kyle took that last knee at the Liberty Bowl. I just kind of collapsed to the ground, because finally we had done it.”

The 2017 game he wants back: “Kansas State. That was the most upset I’ve ever been in my life, I think.”


Murdock, Marchie_Iowa_2017_2A graduate transfer from Arlington, Texas, who played at and earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois before inking with Matt Campbell in 2016. In 2017 he emerged as one of Iowa State’s top receiving threats, finishing third in receptions (41), receiving yards (513), and touchdowns (5).

Known for: Catching what would have been a game-tying touchdown in the final minute of ISU’s home game vs. No. 14 Oklahoma State – a catch that was also made by OSU cornerback A.J. Green and ruled an interception. “If it’s a tie ball…possession is to the offense… ROBBED,” Murdock famously tweeted Nov. 11.

His 2017 highlight: “I want to say a three-way tie between beating Oklahoma, beating TCU, and beating Memphis. If I had to pick one of the three it’d probably be beating Oklahoma, because of the way we won, but the TCU game is probably a close second because it was at home and we rushed the field.”

The 2017 game he wants back: “Oklahoma State. I think if we would have won that game we would have gone into the Kansas State game thinking a lot differently.”


One of the biggest stories of the 2017 Iowa State season – and, in fact, the 2017 college football season – was Joel Lanning. In what defensive coordinator Jon Heacock described preseason as “one of the most impressive things that a player could do,” the Ankeny native moved from quarterback to middle linebacker for his senior campaign.

What Heacock couldn’t have predicted at the time, however, was just how impressive Lanning would be – not just in terms of his unbelievable success as a defensive player, but also the fact that, of 934 total snaps he would go on to play during ISU’s regular season, 45 of them would come on offense and 124 on special teams. His nomination for the Paul Hornung Award recognizing college football’s “most versatile player” was for obvious reasons. The fact that he didn’t win it was a head-scratcher.

That said, individual recognition has never been that important to Lanning – though he certainly did collect a thick stack of All-America and all-Big 12 awards in 2017. Matt Campbell praised Lanning all season long as the consummate team player, noting “we’re a better football team with Joel Lanning on the field.”


It stands for “Greatest of All Time,” and it’s exactly what Allen Lazard is on Iowa State’s long list of celebrated wide receivers. The only player in school history with four 40+ reception and 500+ receiving yard seasons, he made the catch heard round the world to secure the win at Oklahoma. He broke five school records during his ISU career, which ended in style when he snared a Liberty Bowl-record 10 receptions for 142 yards as bowl MVP Dec. 30 in Memphis, Tenn.


For all the talk of offensive weapons on the Cyclone roster, the breakout performance of the season didn’t come at the wide receiver spot. Or even the much-discussed  quarterback spot. It was sophomore running back David Montgomery, who raced into the record books as a first-team All-American with 1,146 rushing yards.

“We had a lot of great leadership, but there’s probably nobody that’s pumped as much life and blood into our football program than that young man has,” Campbell said. “He’s the one who, in so many ways, captured the heartbeat of this football team. He doesn’t say it; he does it. It’s never an ego situation with David. It’s about what he can do for his team to make the team the best it can be.”


Kyle Kempt was one of the feelgood stories in all of college football in 2017. We all know it by now: The native of Matt Campbell’s hometown was a benchwarmer at Oregon State and then at Hutchinson Community College. He was third on ISU’s depth chart as a walk-on when he was called up to start at Oklahoma Oct. 7 and promptly proceeded to make history.

And in February, Campbell learned that his petition for an extension of eligibility for  Kempt was granted by the NCAA. So Kempt isn’t done yet as a Cyclone; he’ll be back for 2018.

“It is a thrill for me to be able to represent this great university for another year,” Kempt said.

This article was originally published in VISIONS magazine. To receive the full issue delivered to your mailbox four times per year, become a member of the ISU Alumni Association.


A conversation


Get to know Wendy Wintersteen, Iowa State’s 16th president

VISIONS met with President Wintersteen in Beardshear Hall on Dec. 8, 2017. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

VISIONS: You grew up in Kansas and went to school at Kansas State University. How did you end up at Iowa State?
WINTERSTEEN: I was thinking that I would go to grad school, and I thought I’d go to  Oregon State (laughs). But then I applied for two jobs. One was here at Iowa State,  working for Extension in integrated pest management, and one was at New Mexico State University on the rangeland caterpillar. And then I got the job at Iowa State University. So, I was given an opportunity that was, for me, an incredible opportunity. I graduated in 1978, and I started in January 1979 over in the Davenport Extension Office. I worked in
seven counties, from Clinton County down to Lee County, and worked with the most
wonderful farmers and their families.

Why did you stay at the same institution for 38 years? How did you stay motivated and passionate?
It’s really about Iowa State University and [the state of] Iowa and the partnerships that we have, with our stakeholders, with our students and our alums, and how you care about your faculty and staff. I had opportunities to leave over the years … but I looked around and looked at the partnerships and still felt that I had a lot to give here at Iowa
State University and wasn’t interested in leaving. I love Iowa State. I have my “forever
true” button on.

How long have you been seriously thinking, “You know, I’d really like to be president of this university”?
I really didn’t give it a thought until Steve Leath announced his resignation. It had really been special to me when [former ISU president] Greg Geoffroy, way back when, had mentioned my name, and I thought, well, NO! That’s not right! (laughs deeply) I thought, you know, I’m too young … I’m not ready for that.

So, it’s been fairly recent.
And the reason is because, in searches like this, you never know who will be in the pool, and I decided that I wouldn’t be happy if I didn’t put my name in the hat.

It was a good pool. You had strong competition.
I think so, too. But, again, I knew I could, if it went either way, I could still be the dean. I just thought it was important to have somebody at this time that knew and understood Iowa State University and understood [the state of] Iowa. So, I just felt compelled and I was excited about the opportunity to do it.

What’s one thing about this job that keeps you awake at night?
You know, we have a number of challenges in front of us. The budget is uncertain for the coming year; I think that is an important issue. And then, where we are in the discussions about the campus climate – have we really helped everybody understand what it means to reach out to somebody that is different than themselves? How do we get our students to that place? To understand that it’s important to value differences.

Talk about university size and managing growth.
I think we’re at a good size. And what has been important about the growth at Iowa State University is that it has increased the diversity of our student body. Twenty-four percent of our students are international or multicultural students from the United States; that  provides for all of our students a better set of opportunities, and so I think that is just a  tremendous value. So, I think this is a good size for us. I think we’ve managed the growth in enrollment pretty well. We would like to be able to reduce the faculty/student ratio. Certainly, our facilities are running at full capacity, but we are taking appropriate steps. You talk to each of the deans, and this is something they work on every day. We have a  great plan to look at how we increase our graduation rates.

How many red jackets are in your closet?
I don’t have enough! (laughs) There just are not enough red jackets!

What’s your favorite insect?
(No hesitation) Right now it’s the monarch butterfly. Iowa State is partnering with other entities to preserve the butterfly through the Iowa Monarch Conservation Consortium. We have support for research from those groups, support to ask private landowners to  provide land that could be habitat for the monarch butterfly. We’ve had great conversations, and we’re making progress. If Iowa leads the way on this, I think we can save this important insect and save its iconic migration back and forth to Mexico.

What else would you like people to know?
I was being very sincere at President’s Council when I said I care and we should all care.  And I think we do. And how we demonstrate that is important. I think that really is something we need to be known for at Iowa State, that we care about our faculty, staff, and students. That we care about each other, that we work together to accomplish our goals and to serve our students and the state.

James Autry is my favorite author. He wrote The Servant Leader, and one of the things he says in his book is that leadership requires love. I believe that deeply. There will be things we have to face, but we’ll do it together. We can do it all together.

Wintersteen on…

…the budget
“We are having numerous conversations about the budget. Of course, there simply are a lot of unknowns at this point. The Board of Regents is working through its process to determine the tuition increase. We know that the Board of Regents’ proposal to the Legislature is about new dollars to support student financial aid at Iowa State University and the other Regent universities. I think that shows the commitment to assist students and their families with any tuition increase. We also know that Iowa State had a very tight budget last year. For the most part, our faculty and staff did not receive salary increases. I’m making that a priority to address in this coming year. We work in a competitive market, and we have excellent faculty and staff.”

– From a Nov. 27, 2017 interview with Inside Iowa State

“We knew fairly quickly that [7 percent] was a number that wasn’t very well received in Iowa. It was jarring to students and to their families.”

– From an interview with the Des Moines Register on Jan. 16. Presidents from Iowa’s three public universities proposed annual tuition hikes over the next five years of 7 percent at ISU and the University of Iowa. In the Register interview, Wintersteen  predicted next year’s tuition rates will increase at least 3.5 percent and that the Board of Regents would not approve a 7 percent tuition hike. A final decision will be made by the Iowa legislature in April or May.

…being the first female president at Iowa State
“We went to the Homecoming football game with [interim president] Ben and Pat [Allen], and we visited all the tailgate tents. We walked along and stopped and visited with so  many people, but what was life-changing for me was the number of women who came
up and hugged me and thanked me for serving as president. To be a role model for young women, for their children, they thought that was important. And I think it is  important. We all need role models, and you know, I’m the 16th president – we were  formed in 1858 – and we now have the first female president. So, it’s a big deal. It was  nice to see the outpouring of support from people I don’t even know.”

…the student experience
“We have to always be committed to an extraordinary student experience. I want every student to be able to succeed at Iowa State. They have to work hard; they have to earn it, but we need to be making sure they have the opportunities to reach their full potential. That’s our obligation. ¶ We’re proud of where we are in terms of graduation rates, but those graduation rates are not where they should be. We need to be more successful  there. [We must provide] that extraordinary student experience, where more and more students are able to successfully graduate and go forward. ¶ It’s also about research, innovation, entrepreneurship, and economic development. We do this every day, and we’re going to do it even better in the future.”

“We’re not bringing back VEISHEA. It wasn’t President Leath who took away VEISHEA. It  was the people that came into town and misbehaved [and some of our own students]. Those people took away VEISHEA. So, what I think [senior VP for student affairs] Martino Harmon and [Talbot ISU Alumni Association endowed president and CEO] Jeff Johnson and other leaders have done, working with student government, is create a set of events throughout the year now. [These events] give students an opportunity to celebrate, an opportunity to be part of the planning and leadership of a big event that gives them a new set of experiences that will help them in their future careers, and an opportunity to raise money for the student organizations they’re a part of. That all exists, and it will  continue to be refined and improved upon. And when students have an opportunity to
participate, lead, carry out something like that, that’s a learning experience.”

…the importance of alumni in the life of the university
“We have a great Alumni Association, and people love being engaged in the Alumni  Association. I’ve always thought it was fabulous how the alumni board of directors is elected. That shows a level of commitment by alums. They know their set of  responsibilities that come with that seat, and they take it very seriously. You can see it in the outcomes that they achieve. ¶ It’s important to begin working with alums immediately [after graduation]. By having our young alums become engaged with us, they may go up and down with how they participate as their life changes and they have children and their job gets bigger, but when you connect early, then I think you connect forever.”

…the 21st century land-grant university
“When I think about the 21st century land-grant university, I believe that our missions are still as relevant today as they were back in 1858 and when the very special pieces of legislation were passed to support the Morrill and Smith-Lever Acts. I think those missions are still in place. I think it’s critically important that we have our Extension programming out in the state, that we have a diverse set of programmatic areas that we work in. ¶ I think the work we do in all three missions – teaching, research, and extension – continues to evolve, and how we reach and connect with Iowa citizens and with our students, how we connect nationally and internationally, continues to evolve. But the core stays the same, and in the end it’s about the relationship we have with people, it’s how we communicate with them, and it’s the trust that we’ve built together really to achieve some very great things.” ■

Statements are from Wendy Wintersteen’s Dec. 8, 2017 interview with VISIONS magazine
unless otherwise noted.


Just call him the president’s spouse

Life for Robert Waggoner (L) since Oct. 23, 2017, has been a whirlwind.

That was the day his wife, Wendy Wintersteen, was named president of Iowa State  University.

“Around that time there had just been the hurricanes in Texas and Florida, and I told people that we’d just entered our own personal Category 5,” he says, laughing. “But as each week went by it decreased and decreased, and now we’re just in a tropical storm. That’s our current life.”

Waggoner and Wintersteen met in the state of Kansas when they were still in high school. They married in 1984. Waggoner is a 1981 graduate of Drake University, with a degree in psychology. He worked in sales and marketing in his family’s business before pursuing his dream job: dreams.

“I decided that I wanted to write a book on a niche area of psychology called lucid dreaming. Lucid dreaming means that you realize within the dream that you’re dreaming,” he said.

He joined the International Association for the Study of Dreams, and he published a book, Lucid Dreaming: Gateway to the Inner Self, in 2008. That book has been translated into multiple languages and is currently in its 10th printing. He followed it up with a second book, Lucid Dreaming, Plain and Simple: Tips and Techniques for Insight, Creativity, and Personal Growth in 2015, co-written with author Caroline McCready.

Waggoner had to make a speedy transition to the president’s spouse, his new official job title. On Oct. 23, he says, Wintersteen was on the phone with the Board of Regents,  accepting the position.

“She gave a date that was literally about 10 days later, and I was in the background thinking, ‘We will not be ready!’” he said. “So, thankfully she thought about it for 30 seconds after she hung up and called them back and asked for one more week.” Wintersteen started her job on Nov. 20.

But now he’s ready to embrace his new role, one that, for 160 years at Iowa State, has been held by women.

“For the most part, I see the demands of the role are roughly the same [for a male]: to act as someone who supports their spouse, supports the president, supports the university, supports the students, faculty, and staff, and in many degrees is involved in social  functions. But it is a little bit different, I think, being a man in this role, because my wife is the first woman who’s been a president of Iowa State University. So, in that sense I’m aware that I’m setting precedents.”

Waggoner has experience, serving as the dean’s spouse for 11 years, during which he traveled, met with alumni and donors, visited project sites, and attended events for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. He said he plans to reach out to all parts of the campus and the Ames community, making the historic president’s residence available for events.

“We’re happy to have events here, because we know for many people, coming to The Knoll is a special time,” he said. “I think things will be a bit more active here [in The Knoll].”

Wintersteen says her husband is ready to step in to his new role.

“Robert is very serious about his role,” she said. “He was engaged in conversations with [former interim first lady] Pat Allen very much during that month we had with them. He’s in great conversations with [former first lady] Kathy Geoffroy; he and [former first lady] Janet Leath have had a conversation. He’s very serious about it. He wants to do a good job.”

Waggoner says he’s excited about the challenge to support the new president.

“You know, we’ve been here at Iowa State University throughout Wendy’s entire career,” he said. “We feel very much at home here. We’ve come to love Iowa State and the students and the faculty and staff. It’s truly a phenomenal university.”

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.



Madam President


Wendy Wintersteen is the first ISU graduate and first internal candidate to be named president of Iowa State University in more than 50 years. She’s also the first woman to hold the top administrative spot in ISU’s 160-year history. And she is forever true to Iowa State.

By Carole Gieseke

Wendy Wintersteen’s journey at Iowa State University has been slow and sweet.

She arrived 38 years ago, fresh out of college, as an integrated pest management specialist for University Extension. Her journey led her from hands-on field days in eastern Iowa to a PhD program to an academic appointment in the Department of  Entomology. From there, she climbed the ladder in the College of Agriculture (now Agriculture and Life Sciences) to the very top: She became dean of the college in 2006.

And then, on Oct. 23, 2017, after a nearly six-month national search involving three other finalists, Wintersteen (L)(PhD ’88 entomology) was named Iowa State’s 16th president. She started officially in her new role on Nov. 20.

Wintersteen grew up in rural Kansas, with two sisters, a love of insects, a mom who supported her passions, and a dad who taught at a community college.

Her parents farmed outside of Fort Scott in southeast Kansas, but a combination of drought and low cattle prices led the family to move to Hutchinson, northwest of Wichita. Growing up in Kansas, which Wintersteen describes as “a much wilder place than most of Iowa,” nurtured her love of insects and the outdoors.

“My mother helped me build this little insect zoo,” she says. “I was very young, and just have such a vivid memory of her willingness to do that with me. You know, my mother was a great lady. [I also remember] collecting cicada skins off trees and [finding] spiders in the basement…we had a wonderful childhood.”

As an undergraduate at Kansas State University, Wintersteen visited the Iowa State  University campus and a corn insect laboratory. (She remembers thinking, “Wow, Iowa! We’re going to Iowa!”) And although Iowa State wasn’t her first choice for graduate school, she was offered a job at ISU Extension and found that she thrived in that  environment.

“What I always will remember is that Extension at Iowa State University is a very caring community. They welcome individuals to that community and help you grow as a professional,” she said. She had “extraordinary mentors” and encountered many other caring professionals – including the late Al Seim, an Extension crop production specialist
who worked out of the Ottumwa area office and always called her “My Kansas Sunflower.”

“I could almost cry thinking about some of these people, because here I was, a young woman who really didn’t know very much, and they helped me learn what it meant to be a member of Iowa State University Extension,” she said. “And what they also taught me is that you have to work with farmers, community members, and youth where they are. Because it’s not about telling a farm family, a farmer, or a business what they need to know; it’s about hearing what they need.”

By 1988, Wintersteen had earned both her doctoral degree in entomology and the rank of assistant professor at ISU, and she was leading pesticide management programs for the state.

Bob Dodds (’77 ag ed, MS ’85), assistant vice president for the county services unit of ISU Extension and Outreach, was a county director back in the late 1980s when he first worked with Wintersteen, and he gained an appreciation for her leadership style early  on.

“One thing that I’ve always appreciated about Wendy is it didn’t matter whose idea it was,” Dodds said. “It didn’t matter if you were the dean of the college or if you were the county director, all ideas were welcome. If it was a good idea and Wendy thought it was a good idea, you would be amazed how quickly it was implemented. And she always said, ‘Number one, how can I help you? And number two, what do we need to change to make it better?’ [She said that] to me so many times. Also, she always took your phone call [or] called you back. And you didn’t have to be the president of the university to get that call.”

Her strong management skills did not go unnoticed. She became director of Extension to Agriculture and Natural Resources in 1997, and by 2002 was a senior associate dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS).

That was the year Iowa State hired its ninth dean of agriculture – and the fi rst female to hold that role. That new dean, Cathie Woteki, immediately recognized Wintersteen’s strengths and contributions to the college. “Oh, most definitely,” Woteki said. “She was already serving as the executive associate dean to the dean of agriculture. She had a wide range of knowledge and insights.” (Woteki would go on to serve six years as undersecretary for research, education & economics and chief scientist for the USDA; she recently returned to ISU as a faculty member in the Department of Food Science and  Human Nutrition.)

In 2006, Wintersteen herself took the reins of the college, becoming its dean and the director of the Iowa Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment Station, roles she would hold until November 2017.

During her tenure as dean, she helped raise more than $247 million in donor support for College of Agriculture and Life Sciences students, faculty, and staff . In those 11 years, undergraduate enrollment grew by 90 percent, and the college’s placement rate for  recent grads was consistently 97% or above. Th e college’s Agricultural Entrepreneurship
Initiative has prepared students who have started companies and has created hundreds of jobs. And for four of the last five years, ISU’s agriculture programs have been ranked in the top 10 among thousands of universities worldwide.

Edan Lambert, a senior in animal science, had the opportunity to interact with Wintersteen as the 2017 CALS Student Council president and as a member of the Dean’s Student Advisory Committee. She describes Wintersteen as “genuine, caring, fearless, independent, and selfless.”

“There are so many times when she speaks that I find myself sitting back, laughing,  intently listening, and saying over and over again, ‘I just love this woman,’” Lambert said.

Brian Meyer (L)(’83 journ/mass comm), director of communications for CALS, has worked with Wintersteen for 16 years. He calls it a “good stretch.”

“I just think the world of her. She’s the best boss I’ve ever had,” Meyer said. “She always  believed in the team effort. She built a team when she became dean in 2006. She’s very  direct, in a way that gets to the heart of things. She really does want to make  progress in  whatever way possible, and she has that ability to bring people along and work towards  that. I think that kind of marks her style.”

Wintersteen’s name was mentioned as a replacement for President Gregory Geoffroy when he retired in 2012, but at that time she believed she was too young and  inexperienced for the top position.

But when Steven Leath (L) announced in May 2017 that he was leaving to become president of Auburn University, Wintersteen began to give it some thought.

“I love Iowa State, and I felt like I was a good candidate at this time,” she said. “I decided that I wouldn’t be happy if I didn’t put my name in the hat. I was excited about the opportunity.”

As an internal candidate for the Iowa State presidency, Wintersteen knew there would be advantages – and disadvantages. No internal candidate and no Iowa State graduate had risen to the rank of university president here for more than 50 years. (W. Robert Parks, president from 1965 to 1986, was an Iowa State professor, dean of instruction, and vice president for academic affairs before being named president; James H. Hilton,  president from 1953 to 1965, was a 1923 Iowa State grad.)

Wintersteen’s colleagues warned her that it would be tough. Though she was a popular dean with an exemplary track record, she had weathered a few controversies: an  appearance of having political ties to “Big Ag,” a dispute with the Harkin Institute, and, most recently, the defunding of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture.

The four finalists for president each participated in a public forum in October, and  Wintersteen’s crowd in the Memorial Union’s Great Hall was the largest, with about 300 people in attendance.

“I do not believe, given the challenges facing us, that we have time to wait for someone to  come in from the outside and spend one or two years learning about the situation,”  intersteen told the audience. “I believe I am a compelling candidate…because I do understand the situation. I understand the challenges we are facing.

“I am forever true to Iowa State,” she said. “It’s my turn to ‘lean in.’”

In the end, the obvious advantages of being an internal candidate won out.

“One enormous strength is, because her career has been at Iowa State, she has such a deep knowledge of faculty, [not just] within the College of Ag, but also contacts throughout the university,” Woteki said. “She has an in-depth knowledge of the work of the university, and she has a way of listening and really comprehending and grasping the issues that people are trying to bring forward.”

Meyer said Wintersteen possesses a deep love and commitment to the institution. “We’ve had some great presidents and deans, but she really, truly came from this grassroots place of being a field specialist for Extension, very literally working on the ground with Iowans, and seeing the value of the mission first-hand and as a young person. I think she just grew to love Iowa and grew to love the university. And I think that’s reflected in her actions and how she cares about what happens here. The roots go very deep with her, in a way that maybe we haven’t seen in a president for a while.”

Talk to anyone who’s worked with Wintersteen, and eventually they will all say the same thing: She’s an excellent listener.

Her old Extension colleague Bob Dodds says, “She has a very unique ability to listen. She hears what you say, and even when you may not say it well, she understands. Not a lot of people can do that. She hears what you say and can fill in the blanks. She can do that
very, very well.”

Meyer describes her listening ability, saying, “She’s empathetic. I really believe she does listen incredibly carefully to people. It’s not about her. She loves the institution. She wants things to move forward.”

She listens to students, too. Lambert says, “She listens. There is no better leader than one  who listens to the concerns and fears of those they lead. Additionally, she acts on the  concerns and fears she hears to the best of her ability. I saw her in action several times during CALS multicultural student forums. She intently listened to story after story of how her very own CALS students were feeling alone, alienated, and not welcomed on campus, in clubs, and in classrooms. She took these stories to heart, made changes within CALS, and held several other multicultural student forums.”

Strategic listening is one of Wintersteen’s top goals.

“I have to go out and listen,” she said. “I want to hear people’s stories. Hearing people’s stories really helps me learn. And it’s not about a question-and-answer discussion; we do that and we’ll always do that, but I want to sit down and just hear what people want to  share with me. It’s not about responding so much as it is valuing the story and  understanding what their experience has been. So, I think we’ll be doing listening  sessions on campus, and then I’m going to go out and do that in the state as well, because I want to hear what Iowans have to say.”

AT HOME IN THE KNOLL: In January, President Wendy Wintersteen and her husband, Robert Waggoner, visited The Knoll as it was being prepared for their move-in day later in the month. The Knoll has undergone many repairs, expansions, and updates over the years. In the past year, a four-season room was added to the south side of the home, along with new stairs and a wheelchair-accessible ramp to the front door, projects initiated by former President Steven Leath and first lady Janet Leath. Tuck pointing of the exterior walls wrapped up in December, and the roof is due for replacement this spring. The home’s boiler will be replaced in the summer. On Oct. 19, the state Board of Regents gave Iowa State permission to begin work on an evolving list of improvements estimated to cost up to $750,000. Four days later, Wintersteen was named Iowa State’s 16th president and dramatically pared back the project to $150,000. “The suggested list of improvements was extensive. Given the budget situation at Iowa State, it simply wasn’t appropriate,” she said. The Knoll was completed in 1901, with additions made in 1922, 1967, and 2001.

Back in the early days, when Wintersteen was an extension specialist in eastern Iowa, she drove a Volkswagen Beetle – she’s an entomologist, after all. She had been used to the
pancake-flat plains of Kansas, but in Eastern Iowa, near the Mississippi River, the roads are curvy, hilly, and harder to navigate. That took some getting used to. And so, one thing Wintersteen depended upon was a compass that her father had given her as a gift. She carried it with her always.

Brian Meyer told us this story. “I like that as a metaphor,” he said. “She always had this compass of which way to go, literally and figuratively. She was meeting with a lot of  people and had this gift from her father that was guiding her along in her early career. That carries through today: She’s got a strong compass; she’s committed, and she knows where to take the institution.”

There’s a lot of positive energy surrounding this new president, both on campus and among the university’s alumni and friends. Rich Degner (L)(’72 ag & life sciences  education, MS ’77) worked with Wintersteen for many years in his role as CEO of the  Iowa Pork Producers Association.

“President Wintersteen utilizes a servant style of leadership philosophy,” he said. “I have had decades of watching her in action, and she truly cares about the Iowa State University community and the citizens of Iowa. She provides a calming influence when dealing with difficult societal issues. She is an accomplished fundraiser for Iowa State University. She is one of those rare people widely known by her first name. Many people in the agricultural community, certainly in Iowa, and beyond know her simply as ‘Wendy.’”

Students, too, are offering praise for Wintersteen’s leadership. Edan Lambert, the 2017 CALS Student Council president, said, “As the new ISU president, I am looking for her to stay genuine and independent. This goes hand in hand with her leadership style, but she is just a normal gal. She is funny, genuine, and caring but yet a role model and mentor.”

Jeff Johnson (L)(PhD ’14 education), the Lora and Russ Talbot ISU Alumni Association endowed president and CEO, applauded Wintersteen’s approach to alumni relations.

“I’m looking forward to working with Wendy in her new capacity with the university,” he said. “She understands that alumni relations starts during the student days, continues with graduation, and never ends. Wendy has already given Iowa State 38 years of her life. Some incredible relationships have been built over this time. She’s in a new role, but you can bet she’s not a new Wendy. She knows us, and we know her. This is a great time for Iowa State and for alumni.”

“I was delighted about her being named the first woman president of Iowa State, and also so thrilled that the Board of Regents had recognized her leadership,” Woteki said. “She’s a great choice. I think she’s going to be one of the great presidents.”


Meet the Prez

After 38 years at ISU, Wendy Wintersteen is Iowa State’s newest president

Age: 61

• Bachelor’s degree in crop protection, Kansas State University, 1978
• PhD in entomology, Iowa State University, 1988

At Iowa State since 1979, leaving only briefly (1989-90) to serve as acting
National Pesticide Education Program leader for the U.S. Department of
Agriculture’s Extension Service in Washington, D.C.

ISU administrative experience:
• Endowed dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, 2006-2017
(the first endowed dean at Iowa State)
• Director of the Iowa Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment Station
• Senior associate dean of CALS, 2002-2005
• Associate director of Iowa Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment Station,
• Director of Extension to Agriculture and National Resources at ISU (1997-2000)
• Coordinator of pesticide management and pesticide applicator training programs
• Extension specialist in the Davenport and Des Moines areas, working with
farmers on integrated pest management

ISU academic experience:
• Professor in the Department of Entomology, 1996
• Assistant professor of entomology, 1988

• Carl F. Hertz Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award from the American
Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers, 2016
• Named an Alumni Fellow by her alma mater, Kansas State University, 2007
• Member of the Entomological Society of America and the American Association
of University Women

• First-year salary as president of Iowa State is $525,000
• Contract is for five years, with incremental salary increases and a deferred
compensation package

Family: Husband Robert Waggoner

This article was originally published in VISIONS magazine. To receive the full issue delivered to your mailbox four times per year, become a member of the ISU Alumni Association.


A (Cyclone) golf life


By Kate Bruns

In 2012, Nick Voke emailed about 50 American collegiate golf coaches to see if anyone might be interested in working with an up-and-coming Kiwi. Voke, who grew up in Auckland, New Zealand with parents who couldn’t tell a hook from a slice, had used the sticks Mum and Dad reluctantly purchased to golf his way into the World Junior Golf Championship and was now facing the potential of turning a childhood hobby into a fruitful career.

Five years later, Voke (’17 kinesiology & health) found himself golfing in New Zealand once again – this time in the Asia-Pacific Amateur Golf Championship, where he rubbed elbows with some of golf’s biggest names while serving as an ambassador for the host country. Voke’s father, who still doesn’t know a draw from a fade, saw his son in his element: as one of the country’s biggest sports stars, surrounded by cameras and crowds, representing New Zealand at press conferences and publicity events.

“He said he was a proud chap,” Voke remembers, “which was quite nice to hear.”

The golden-headed lad Voke’s father remembers schlepping to youth golf meets had transformed into a soon-to-be pro. It happened 7,940 miles away, thanks to a reply to one of those hopeful emails.

Andrew Tank, then in his second year at the helm of the Iowa State men’s golf program, offered Voke a scholarship. Without having ever set foot in Ames, Iowa, Voke accepted – and tucked an extra dose of blind faith in his golf bag.

Today, Ames has become a special place to Voke. It’s not only a place he considers a home away from home, but a place he’d someday like to call a long-term home. It’s a place where he rewrote the Iowa State golf record books, where he earned academic all-Big 12 accolades while studying kinesiology and health, where he overcame a potentially career-ending injury after a freshman-year longboarding accident, and where he found the coaches — Tank and assistant coach Chad Keohane — he says will be his mentors for life.

“What’s allowed me to succeed has just been having coaches who were so honest and open and willing to do things to help you succeed,” Voke says. “If you combine the facility we have here and the coaches, I haven’t seen a better combination in America. It truly is a phenomenal place to develop.”

Voke’s impact on the Iowa State golf program was immediate, as he broke ISU’s rookie scoring mark and notched four top-10 finishes as a freshman. And once he recovered from his accident, things only got better for Voke on the course. He left Ames as an honorable-mention Ping All-American and ISU’s all-time career stroke average leader (71.89). As a senior, he led the Cyclones to a national championship berth by shooting a jaw-dropping, school-record 61 as the NCAA Austin Regional individual medalist.

“That was the second time we made it to nationals in four years, and what a great group of guys to share that with,” remembers Voke, who seems more gratified by the team achievement than by the individual performance that turned heads across the country. “That was probably the pinnacle of my time [at Iowa State].”

As Voke prepares to move from a collegiate amateur to a touring professional, he reflects with great admiration on the unique team aspect of the college game. “College golf is very cool. You take all your own individual ambitions and funnel them toward a collective purpose,” Voke says. “If we’re all collectively doing our thing to better the program, then that’s the ultimate thing. My favorite Greek proverb reminds us that society grows great when wise men plants trees whose shade they’ll never see. If in 10 or 20 years’ time we can understand that we were an influential part of helping the program rise, then that’s our great responsibility.”

Voke sees the Iowa State golf pro-gram as well-positioned to become one of the nation’s best, not just because of the proverbial trees he and his teammates planted but because of the leadership of the program and the quality of university it represents.

“[Iowa State] is a place where, if you put your head down, do the best you can, you can have a happy day. The community packs Jack Trice, it packs Hilton, it support all sports. They genuinely love this place – they support the athletic pursuit to be the best, the academic drive, and the desire to improve not just individual students but also to improve society. The culture is special.”

img_7998Voke finished in a tie for 10th Oct. 29 at the Asia-Pacific Amateur, an event he would go on to say was officially his last as an amateur golfer. In November, he finished just out of qualifying at the Tour Q School second round at TPC Craig Ranch in McKinney, Texas, so he now plans to make his professional debut on the Austalasian Golf Tour in 2018.

“It’s a good place to learn the trade and almost like an apprenticeship to become a tour professional,” Voke says of the Australasian. “There aren’t a lot of big purses, but it’s certainly a good stepping stone.”

Voke says there are many paths he can follow to achieving his ultimate dream of playing on the PGA Tour, leading with his long-consistent reputation for strong ball-striking and iron play.

“The best way to describe my game right now is that it’s pretty solid,” Voke says. “I know that if I putt and drive well, I’ll shoot well. I’ve had a big emphasis on those two components lately.”

And along the way, no matter where he is, Voke knows he can rely on the support of the Iowa State community – even in the middle of rural Japan, where an opponent’s caddy recently remarked on the Cyclone emblem emblazoned on his golf bag.

“Wherever I go to compete, I hear ‘Go, Cyclones’ from the crowd,” Voke says. “It gets me pretty pumped up and excited. If you’re proud to be a Cyclone, they’re always happy to cheer for you.”

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.

The Landowners

Who owns the 200,000+ acres of prime Iowa land that helped finance the beginnings of Iowa State University? ISU Extension and Outreach is connecting with landowners and telling their stories.

Here are three of those stories.


Butcher Family

Bob Butcher (A)(’74 animal science) of Holstein, Iowa, attended the ISU Extension and Outreach Land-Grant Legacy celebration at the Clay County Fair in 2016 thinking it might be interesting. What he didn’t know was how involved he would become in the project.

“I thought, ‘Well, I’ll just see what this is about.’ They were talking about different farms that were legacy farms, and they said, ‘Come back and look at the map of where all these farms are.’ So, I went back there thinking maybe I’d know somebody or at least a neighboring county, but the closer I got, I’m like, ‘There’s Hwy. 20, there’s 59, and that’s kind of where we are,’ and I got closer and closer, and then I was looking at the township map and we’re three down and two over and it was just unbelievable! The whole section lit up where we live.”

The Butcher family has owned land-grant parcels in Ida County since 1901 when Bob’s great-grandfather, Robert L. “Jake” Butcher purchased the land.

Bob’s father, Robert, and mother, Betty, raised pure-bred hogs on the farmland, then added a dairy herd and sold milk. They had two chicken houses, selling both the eggs and the chickens.

“We were diversified,” Betty said. At age 90, she’s still regarded as the best cook in the family.

Bob and his two sisters, Renea Ogren (’80 home ec ed) and Ronda Edwards (’85 dietetics), grew up on the farm.

“It was a typical farm,” Bob says. “We had cows and chickens.”

“And lambs and a big garden,” Renea adds.

“Dad was progressive.”

Both siblings give credit to 4-H and to Iowa State. The Butchers are Cyclones through and through: Bob has four children, all of whom graduated with ISU degrees – Katie Merrill (A)(’02 logistics), Wendy Weber (’04 elem ed), Andrew Butcher (’08 ag studies), and Ben Butcher (’10 ag studies). He has eight grandchildren and is married to Connie Butcher.

Bob and his two sons run a cattle operation, and he’s also president and CEO of Community Bank in Holstein. Long involved on the 4-H Foundation Board and with other community projects in Holstein, Bob also took the lead in bringing together landowners in Ida County to help ISU Extension and Outreach identify the land-grant parcels in their area.

“We invited all the landowners in Ida County that owned legacy land, and there were lots of them,” Bob said. “We probably had 50 or 60 people there.”

Ida County is the first Iowa county to have all of its land-grant landowners identified.


Maxwell Family

Helen Logan Maxwell’s father instilled in her that if you had Iowa land you’d probably never go hungry.

Helen’s family owned land in Iowa’s Woodbury County, but didn’t farm it themselves. They lived in the town of Moville, where her father, Charlie Logan, was a local banker. He purchased the land after the Great Depression and paid farm workers to
raise crops, hogs, and cattle.

Helen (L) attended Iowa State, graduating in 1951 with a degree in child development. She met Earl “Doc” Maxwell (L) on campus; he earned a DVM in 1949, and the couple married in 1951. They settled in Moville and bought land from Helen’s father. Doc set up a veterinary practice, while Helen kept the family’s books and worked in the local bank.

They had four children – Stee Maxwell (L)(’78 DVM), Chantry DeVries (L)(‘78 English & history), Tad Maxwell (L) (’80 ag biz), and Reed Maxwell – and were named ISU Parents of the Year in 1977.

But despite the family’s close connection to Iowa State, it came as a total surprise that the land that had been in the family for more than 70 years was a part of the university’s land-grant legacy.

“We got a call from Iowa State saying they wanted to come up here,” Helen explained. “They wanted us to get the deed out because they thought we might be one of the ones” who owned a land-grant parcel.

And, in fact, the first page of the abstract recited the Morrill Act.

“It’s right in the deed, and that’s the first we ever knew of it,” Doc said.

“They were really excited to see it right in the deed,” Helen continued. “We didn’t have a clue. If my father was alive, I’d know a lot more. I think my dad would be real proud that he purchased this farm.”


Doolittle Family

For Pam Holt Doolittle, who went to Iowa State some 50 years ago, it was one thing to know she was attending a land-grant university, but quite another to own a piece of its history.

“You knew and you always heard it was a land-grant college, but you never really knew what it meant,” she said. “It’s been interesting finding that out, and to now be part of it is really neat.”

Pam (’67 sociology) married Dennis Doolittle (attd. ’62-66), whose father, Don, owned the first land-grant parcel deeded in Hamilton County. Dennis farmed the land beginning in 1969. Son Eric graduated from Iowa State in 1996 in ag business and took over the farming business that year.

“I never wanted to be a farmer,” Eric said. “I went to Iowa State, and halfway through college I decided to farm. I guess once you live in town for a while you realize how much you want out of it. That’s kind of how I felt.”

Eric’s younger brother, Grant, graduated from Iowa State in 1999 in liberal studies and is a physician in Ames.

Krystal Doolittle, Eric’s wife, did not attend Iowa State, but she’s become an integral part of the ISU Extension and Outreach Land- Grant Legacy project. An active advocate for agriculture, she’s provided stories, photography, and videography for the project’s website.

“When the Extension staff came out and met with Eric and me and Eric’s uncle and grandfather, I snapped some pictures and asked if I could write a blog post about it because I thought it was kind of a neat story,” Krystal said. “Then they said they were looking for somebody who is a part of one of the land-grant farms to help tell the story, so it worked out really well.”