ISU Panel looks to Ag and ISU future

Monday, September 30, 2019
A large crowd of interested farmers and fair visitors attended a special ISU Panel discussion of Ag and ISU future at the recent Clay County Fair.
Photo by Loren Flaugh

SPENCER - The future of agriculture and Iowa State University (ISU) were on the minds of many in a large crowd when the Iowa Soybean Association sponsored a discussion held in the Clay County Fair Event Center Sept. 12.

Panelists were Dr. Wendy Wintersteen, ISU President; Daniel J. Robison, Dean, ISU College of Agriculture and Life Sciences; and John Lawrence, VP ISU Extension and Outreach. Doug Cooper, WHO Radio Farm Broadcaster asked questions of the panelists, opening with “What’s new at Iowa State?”

“We just welcomed back a great group of new students to campus. When I think about what’s new, I think about the new Student Innovation Center that’s going to open next spring. This is a project that was funded by the state legislature and by private donors. It’s an $84 million building with half the cost raised privately.

“This is a place where students will be able to come from all across the university to learn how to create, to innovate and learn what it might be like to learn how to become an entrepreneur. So, that’s what’s new at Iowa State.”

Dean Daniel Robison, who is new at ISU, said, “This is my first time to come to the Clay County Fair. There is no daylight between the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and John Lawrence and the ISU Extension and Outreach Services. We work shoulder to shoulder on everything and that’s what’s important to us and the people of Iowa.

“What’s new at the college? We have a great new group of students and they are full of energy, vision, purpose and so much good that will come from these young people.

“We have a great big day coming Sept. 13th. We will be breaking ground on a new feed mill and grain science center. It’s a $21.5 million project. This will transform our ability to see what happens to all grains that’s grown across Iowa and how they are transformed into products and feeds for animals. This is very exciting for us.”

Lawrence talked about the one new thing is their new program leader for 4-H and Youth Development, Debbie Insler. She comes to us from Florida, but she started her 4-H career in Oregon and Washington. She’s been in 4-H all her life showing livestock and she has an acreage and now she’s going to do great things. Debbie started on the 15th of August representing us at the Iowa State Fair. She did science experiments with the Governor and asked, “‘is it always going to be like this?’”

Later on Cooper asked the ISU panelists to put on their crystal ball and to look at how each one of them prepares for the future for the University and for Iowa.

“Iowa State University has always had a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship. We are building on that culture in new ways. We ask questions of ourselves. What is the better way of doing things? What shouldn’t we do anymore? How do we innovate for the future? That is the set of questions that we address at every level at Iowa State. These conversations are going on right now.

Wintersteen said, “One trend for the future, according to a New York Times article, is that 50 year olds will be coming back to college. Can you imagine there’s going to be things so different than what it was in the past? So, I think we have to be about innovation and creativity.

We’re here on the stage with the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA). The other thing to consider is partnerships like with the ISA. So, there’s going to be a different set of public and private partnerships, if we’re going to get them to help us innovate. Private donors gave us $40 million for the new Student Innovation Center I mentioned earlier.”

Robison talked about the ISA and how since the 1970s they have provided more than $60 million towards the Research Enterprise at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “Something like that is transformative,” Robison stated.

“We have a remarkable Studies Abroad Program at ISU. About 24% of our students will study abroad. That’s twice as much as some colleges are able to do. We think it’s great. We’re going to continue that because it gives them perspective on the places they’ve been. But more importantly, it gives them perspective on where they are from. When they come back, they never think about their home in the same way again. It’s a change for the better when they have perspective. So, we’d like to double the number of students that study away from campus.”

Lawrence talked about how the Ag Extension and Outreach and how they are organized between the country extension offices and the campus. “In 2009, there was a major reorganization and it gave a lot of autonomy to the county and that’s led to great things. We’re having discussions with the county councils and the staff now to rebuild that connection. Another area is how to increase local programming and engagement at the local level. The third area is how to maintain that strong connection between ISU and each county extension staff so we both prosper going forward,” Lawrence explained.

Cooper then turned to the audience for questions. The second questioner asked about Dr. Harold Crawford, the long-time Ag Education professor at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Dr. Crawford retired from ISU in 2012. The questioner asked: What is ISU doing to memorialize Dr. Crawford’s contribution to ISU, Ag Education and the future of Iowa Agriculture?

President Wintersteen replied, “So, we had one of Dr. Crawford’s students help us, Ray Kline, set up the Crawford Student Support Fund. We also have a classroom named after Harold.”

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