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By Haley Banwart

As part of her internship with Iowa Learning Farms, NASA scholarship winner Rebecca Meerdink traveled across Iowa to educate about sustainable water and land use.

As part of her internship with Iowa Learning Farms, NASA scholarship winner Rebecca Meerdink traveled across Iowa to educate about sustainable water and land use.

Four NASA scholarships; three research projects; two years of interning; one amazing student experience. That sums up Rebecca Meerdink’s college experience.

The senior in environmental science is a four-time winner of the Space Grant Consortium scholarship that gives students the opportunity to experience a personalized research project under the supervision of a faculty member.

Meerdink first learned of the NASA scholarship from her older sister who was also a successful applicant of the award. The scholarship gave Meerdink the oppor- tunity to participate in a series of innovative research projects under the supervision of Amy Kaleita, associate professor in agriculture and biosystems engineering. One such project tested the impact
of LED lights on soybean yields, relating to the efforts of growing plants in space.

Meerdink’s most recent project involves studying the frequencies of nitrate, a substance known for playing a large role in water quality impairments. Her goal is to create a reasonably priced sensor that can take real-time measurements of nitrate levels in fields and streams so farmers can better gauge when to apply fertilizers.

“It is my hope that my work will help increase the data pool for farmers and researchers alike,” she says.

Giorgi Chighladze, an agricultural and biosystems engineering research assistant, has been assisting Meerdink with her research.

“Her work advances our research by using radio frequencies to detect chemical footprints that help identify nitrate response. NASA is doing similar work to detect for water on Mars,” Chighladze says.

Meerdink also had the opportunity to intern with the Iowa Learning Farms during the past two summers and gain hands-on experience. She studied the relationships between land use and water by taking field samples to test water quality.

Meerdink traveled across the state of Iowa with a unique fleet of trailers known as the Conservation Station, making appearances at events such as field days, county fairs and farmers markets. The Conservation Station trio is equipped with creative learning modules, simulators and other hands-on activities that demonstrate the importance of practicing good conservation.

Meerdink was trained to give presentations while using the Conservation Station’s educational activities and tools.

“Using effective communication skills was a good challenge for me,” Meerdink says. “It was always encouraging when the kids were enthused and asked good questions or wanted to know more.”

Based on her involvement with both experimental research and educating others about the environment, Meerdink is looking for a career with a blend of fieldwork and public speaking.

“There is still much work to be done to educate the masses,” Meerdink says. “In order to accelerate progress, research must be done to obtain accurate information, which then needs to be effectively communicated to the public.”

Her first step is graduate school. She’s considering programs in agricultural drainage, cover crops, land management and water quality.



By Barbara McBreen

Gary High wore a graduation robe for the first time in his life when he accepted his bachelor’s degree in industrial technology this May. High received his GED in the Navy 30 years ago.

Gary High wore a graduation robe for the first time in his life when he accepted his bachelor’s degree in industrial technology this May. High received his GED in the Navy 30 years ago.

Five years ago Gary High considered himself computer illiterate, now he’s operating robots and analyzing plastics using complex computer systems.

At 51 years old, he’s considered a “nontraditional” student. High has always worked in jobs that required mechanical knowledge, so pursuing an industrial technology degree made sense. High graduated in May.

“I dropped out of high school in 10th grade and I went from not being able
to answer an email to graduating with
a bachelor’s degree,” High says.

His wife, Dawn High (’01 dietetics), encouraged him to go to college. She was a nontraditional student at Iowa State and understood the challenges and the rewards.

“Gary is motivated,” Dawn says. “When he told me he wanted to go back to school, I said, ‘Let’s figure out how to make it happen.’”

In order to enroll in classes Gary had to check on his GED tests, which he took 30 years earlier while serving in the Navy. When he learned he had passed, he signed up for two courses at Ellsworth Community College. He tried it, liked it and graduated with the first associate degree in engineering from Ellsworth.

“It seemed every time I turned around I was given new opportunities,” Gary says.

Doors continued to open when he came to Iowa State. He started in aerodynamics, but his adviser told him to stick with what he knew. He knew mechanical systems.

His mechanical experience began in 1979 as a boiler technician and fire room supervisor in the Navy. After six years he was honorably discharged and awarded the Sea Service Ribbon and the Humanitarian Service Medal, which is awarded for meritorious participation in military acts or operations of a humanitarian nature. He went on to work as an injection mold operator, truck driver, bulldozer operator and started a trucking company.

David Grewell, professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering, says Gary is an inspiration to other students. The first thing Grewell noticed is that Gary works with his younger peers as a team player. He says that was evident when Gary joined the robotics team, which took third place in the Association of Technology, Management and Applied Engineering competition in 2011.

“He was like a kid on the robotics team, but at the same time he provided the down-to-earth seriousness that kept the group focused,” Grewell says.

“The robotic team caught my interest because it was a diverse group of young students with the enthusiasm to excel at applied technology,” Gary says. “I found the experience satisfying and I made friendships that will last a lifetime.”

That teamwork was also evident in a multi-disciplinary lean management project combining students from Jacqulyn Baughman’s technology systems management course and David Cantor’s supply chain management class. The students evaluated the supply room at the Cardiovascular Unit at Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids. The team’s goal was to improve inventory management and reduce costs.

“It’s all about efficiency,” Gary says. “In this class we tried to eliminate excess inventory because that translates into extra costs.”

Baughman, a lecturer in agricultural and biosystems engineering, says Gary is a leader in many ways and readily shares his knowledge and experience with other students.

“He knows when to lead, but he knows when to step back because the other students need that experience,” Baughman says.

Grewell says Gary’s story is one he’ll never forget.

“He drives from Iowa Falls every day and he is the one student who is in class early,” Grewell says. “Gary is a great success story.”

Gary’s leadership and knowledge
were helpful when Grewell took a group of students to Taiwan for his International Industrial Academic Leadership Experience class. Gary remembers Taiwan from his years in the Navy.

“I was there 30 years ago and it wasn’t developed at all. Today, Taiwan is having an industrial boom,” Gary says.

While he was in Taiwan he talked to his dad using the web conferencing tool Skype. Gary’s dad had just been diagnosed with cancer, so it was important to stay in touch.

“I was computer illiterate when I started college, but my dad was still in the crank phone era and it was amazing for him,” Gary says.

His father passed away in December, but Gary says one of the last things his dad told him was how proud he was of his achievements.


By Barbara McBreen

Scott Thellman is a first-generation farmer in Lawrence, Kansas.The senior in agricultural business started selling hay when he was 15. He’s expanded to include vegetables grown in high-tunnel structures.

Scott Thellman is a first-generation farmer in Lawrence, Kansas.The senior in agricultural business started selling hay when he was 15. He’s expanded to include vegetables grown in high-tunnel structures.

“Growing the future of local agriculture, one plant at a time.”

That’s Scott Thellman’s mission statement for a business he started when he was just 15 years old.

Thellman, a senior in agricultural business, started a haying business with the purchase of a rusty hay rake and baler for $100.

“I saved some of the money I earned from working on a local sweet corn farm and put it into fixing up the equipment that was sitting across from our house abandoned in a field,” Thellman says.

After refurbishing the equipment, Thellman managed to harvest close to 1,000 small square bales on his parent’s land near Lawrence, Kansas. The bales sold quickly, and he realized he had found an underserved market.

“When I look back on my first few years I can’t believe I stayed with it. My old equipment was constantly breaking down. One time, I even had two flat tires on the baler at the same time,” Thellman laughs. “When I started, I wasn’t mechanically inclined, but now I can fix anything.”

After high school Thellman took a year off to concentrate on his business

while deciding where to attend college. He says Iowa State University stood out as one of the premier agricultural schools in the country with a strong entrepreneurship program.

As a freshman, he immediately saw the advantages and potential of the Agricultural Entrepreneurship Initiative. Thellman, who now serves on the initiative’s student advisory board says the program introduces students to successful agricultural entrepreneurs and strategic business and marketing ideas. It also allows students to fashion their own career path with guidance from entrepreneurial mentors.

“The program improved how I make business decisions that affect my overall profitability and success,” Thellman says.

Kevin Kimle, director of the Ag Entrepreneurship Initiative, says Thellman was a student in his class as a freshman. Kimle describes how Thellman had his laptop open one morning before class, sharing information with classmates about recent stock trades he had made.

“It’s so powerful for students to see other students who are practicing entrepreneurs,” Kimle says. “Scott
is an example of the classic story of tinkering with something, finding it works and finding a market.”

Tom Sloan, one of Thellman’s custom- baling customers in Lawrence, says Thellman has gone from using equipment that constantly broke down to technology that monitors inputs and yields. The data was invaluable during last year’s drought.

“I’m getting maximum yields because he’s helping me manage my hay ground,” Sloan says.

Thellman’s Juniper Hill Farms, LLC produces a variety of crops, with recent expansions into certified organic vegetables and small grains. He says expanding into the vegetable market required a new set of skills and business strategies.

One strategic change he’s made in his operation is a shift from price-taking to price-making. He says if you have the right products for a specific market you can set your price instead of taking the prices set by the market.

“We provide square bales, certified organic vegetables and custom baling,” Thellman says. “These niche products are in high demand, which gives us
the ability to negotiate our prices with customers. It really comes down to the relationship you have with your products, your customers and your community.”

A portion of his farm is now USDA Certified Organic. Thellman says the certification allowed him to market both organic and conventionally grown forages and vegetables. Long term the certification will reduce input costs, increase sustainability and grow demand for his products.

Barb Kerr, a customer who buys organic hay, agrees. It was the only USDA Certified Organic hay she could find.

“Scotty’s one of the most serious young farmers I know,” Kerr says. “The organic methods he uses provide better hay and it’s cheaper in the long run. He’s found a way to help his customers and it’s great.”

Thellman began using high tunnel structures in 2010 funded with National

Resources Conservation Service grants. The tunnel extends Thellman’s vegetable growing season.

His goal this year is to expand his market into more restaurants and grocery stores and increase production. At the same time he wants to make sure his products are affordable and available to all members of his community.

“In 2012, we donated over 400 pounds of fresh produce to local food banks,” Thellman says. “Good business means that you truly serve every member of your community, which is a good feeling.”

Online Extra: In his own words: Read Scott Thellman’s thoughts on becoming a farmer in a blog post online.


Jianming Yu, Pioneer Distinguished Chair in Maize Breeding, agronomy
Gretchen Mosher (PhD ’11 industrial and agricultural technology), researcher in food safety and grain quality and director of undergraduate services, agricultural and biosystems engineering
Daniel Andersen (MS ’08 agricultural engineering, PhD ’12), assistant professor, manure management and water quality matters, agricultural and biosystems engineering
Patrick Gunn, assistant professor, cow-calf specialist, animal science

Dan Otto, professor of economics and ISU Extension economist, retired in October
Dennis Shannon (‘69 agronomy), ISU Research and Demonstration Farms, retired in December
Phil Spike (PhD ’75 animal science), professor of animal science, retired in January
Jean Tilley, food science and human nutrition, retired in February

An international consortium of scientists that includes Jonathan Wendel, distinguished professor and chair
of the Department
of Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology, has mapped the genome sequence for cotton in a paper published in the journal “Nature.” The sequencing of the genome will have sweeping ramifications for cotton growers, plant biologists and producers who grow other cash crops. Wendel received the 2012 International Cotton Genome Initiative Award for Outstanding Contributions to Cotton Research at the initiative’s conference in October. For details about Wendel’s research visit www.news.iastate.edu/news/2012/12/20/cottongenome.

Michael Retallick (PhD ’05 agricultural and life sciences education), agricultural education and studies, received the New Teacher Award at the Food and Agricultural Sciences Excellence in College and University Awards Program at the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities annual meeting in Denver in November. The award honors college and university instructors who demonstrate
a commitment to a career in teaching and exhibit meritorious teaching with seven or less years of experience in higher education.

An agricultural educator from Tennessee has been named the new CALS assistant dean
for diversity. Theressa Cooper, former director of Academic Success Programs and Outreach Initiatives at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, began Feb. 1. She will coordinate, manage and implement the college’s existing diversity programs, such as the George Washington Carver Summer Internship program and Graduate Assistant Research Match program. She also will lead efforts to identify new opportunities to enhance diversity and connect with minority serving institutions nationwide. To learn more about Cooper and her position visit www.cals.iastate.edu/news/releases.

Agricultural Business Club: 2012 National Outstanding Chapter, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association (seventh consecutive title); first place 2012 Academic Quiz Bowl
Block and Bridle Club: hosted the 93rd National Block and Bridle Conference in April attended by 500 students; first place yearbook, webpage and first-place outstanding senior
Crops Team: first place crops contest and Ag Knowledge Bowl
Dairy Products Evaluation Team: fourth place 91st National Collegiate Dairy Products Evaluation Contest and third place at the Regional Collegiate Dairy Products Evaluation Contest
Food Product Development: third place AACCI Product Development Competition in Hollywood, Fla.
Livestock Judging Team: first place Sioux Empire Farm Show Livestock Judging Contest; first place Iowa Beef Expo; High Team Overall honors at the Aksarben Stock Show and Rodeo
Meats Judging Team: first place Southeastern Intercollegiate Meat Judging Contest
National Agri-Marketing Association: first in 2012 John Deere Signature Award Competition at the NAMA Agri-Marketing Competition
Soil Judging Team: second place overall at the 2013 National Collegiate Soil Contest hosted by the University of Wisconsin, Platteville
Turf Club: first place 2012 Collegiate Turf Bowl Competition at the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America Education Conference (12th win out of the past 14 years)

Max Rothschild, animal science, and fellow research team members at the U.S. Agency for International Development Bureau for Food Security received a Meritorious Honor Group Award for its outstanding vision, teamwork and dedication in designing and implementing USAID’s programs in support of the Feed the Future Research Strategy, building strong linkages that span USAID’s Missions, Bureaus and partners, especially U.S. universities, CGIAR Centers and the private sector.


By Barbara McBreen

The summer of 2012 was a hot one, but that didn’t stop Bethany Olson from training for competitive cross-country.

Bethany Olson

“You have to love running—whether it’s 100 plus degrees or 21 below—you have to work out,” says Olson, a senior in agricultural business and international agriculture.

As a member of the Iowa State University Women’s Track and Cross Country teams Olson trained hard this summer to reach her mileage total of 85 miles per week. An important goal because she believes cross- country competition is about teamwork.

“If you don’t put your time in, you are letting your team down,” Olson says. “There are no timeouts when you compete in cross country because it’s an individual contribution to the team.”

The teamwork paid off last year when Iowa State University’s Women’s team brought home Iowa State’s first Big 12 Championship trophy. Corey Ihmels, Iowa State University director of men and women’s track and cross country, says it’s because of athletes like Olson.

“The easy part is doing the hard work, the hard part is balance. I ask students to manage life, school, get enough rest and eat well,” Ihmels says. “Bethany is very involved academically and she’s a committed athlete. She’s doing things right.”

Olson’s a team player in everything she does, but balancing all her interests is a challenge. Along with Cyclone athletics, Olson is a member of the Agricultural Business Club, Alpha Zeta, the Honors Program, Collegiate FFA, Lyrica (an Iowa State women’s choir), the Student Athlete Advisory Council and serves as a student ambassador for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

One of Olson’s interests is travel. In grade school Olson listed traveling the world as one of her lifelong goals. She started her college travels in Argentina as part of an agronomy and economics travel course during spring break. The twelve-day trip was packed with farm and ag industry tours along with a few tourist stops.

Olson wrote an 80-page report summarizing the trip and credited Sergio Lence’s connections for making the trip a hands- on tour. Lence, a professor of economics and course adviser, grew up on a farm near Carlos Casares in the Province of Buenos Aires.

“Students like Bethany make the effort of leading travel courses worthwhile and motivate me to continue doing them,” Lence says.

Nathan Johnston, a senior in agricultural business, also went to Argentina with Olson. The two grew up four miles apart from each other near Jewell, Iowa. They both have similar career plans. Johnston says the long-standing joke between them is who will be the other one’s boss.

“In high school we were involved in 4-H, cross country and FFA co-presidents together. We followed each other to Iowa State and both went into the ag business program,” Johnston says. “It’s been great to have a friend like Bethany at Iowa State.”

In June, Olson continued her international studies and traveled to Southeast Asia after being selected to participate in the International Collegiate Agricultural Leadership Program sponsored by the U.S. Grains Foundation and the National FFA. She and Karl Kerns, a junior in animal science, were among twelve students nationwide to participate in a trip to Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam.

The group toured an aquaculture farm on the Mekong River in Vietnam and met with commodity representatives in Saigon. Olson says the experience emphasized Iowa’s global connection to agriculture, especially when they visited the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and Chicago Board of Trade in Singapore.

Both study abroad opportunities fit Olson’s plans to pursue a career in marketing and with an agricultural business or organization that includes international connections.

“I hope to have a career that is focused on furthering the productivity of farmers and their agricultural practices around the world, while helping consumers under- stand that agriculture is an important and necessary part of their lives,” Olson says.

Olson is co-chair of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ Ag Career Day. Her past awards include recognition as a Foreman Scholar and the Branstad-Reynolds Undergraduate Scholar. She was raised on a fifth-generation family farm and graduated valedictorian of the South Hamilton High School Class of 2009


Andrew Paxson grew up enjoying the outdoors in the in Fox River Valley area northwest of Chicago. As president of the student Soil Water and Conservation Club he builds ground water flow models.

By Barbara McBreen

Andrew Paxson spent his summer biking, canoeing, mussel hunting, weeding and educating others about the importance of ecological preservation. It was an intern- ship that fit him perfectly.

“We covered ecology, history, philosophy, economics, botany and geology all in nine weeks,” Paxson says. “The internship helped me understand that I’d like to pursue a career in ecological restoration.”

Paxson, a senior in environmental science, spent last summer as an intern with the McHenry County Conservation District at Glacial Park. It’s an area north-west of Chicago and north of Algonquin, Ill. The 3,500-acre park is located one hour north of where Paxson grew up hiking and enjoying water sports.

“I like to challenge interns with basic questions,” says Tom Simpson, field station ecologist with the McHenry County Conser- vation District. “This summer we had many involved discussions about how and why we do conservation. Andrew was always engaged in the discussion, which helped everyone else participate.”

This summer brought hot, dry weather to most of the Midwest, which made it challenging to work outside Paxson says. At times he was worried about starting fires with vehicles used in the park. As streambeds began to dry up, he also participated in a mussel rescue and survey.

“We were on our hands and knees in the river trying to find these mussels in the mud, it was like finding gold,” Paxson says.

When he returned to Iowa State this fall, he found the drought also dried up his water-sampling job. For the past three years Paxson has taken water and sediment samples from Squaw Creek to measure E. coli. The water sampling not only provided a job, but a basis for his research.

“The data is interesting because we have samples from flood years and from last spring when the creek began drying up,” Paxson says.

Michelle Soupir, professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering, says Paxson’s help with data collection will provide the basis for stream modeling. The project not only measured E. coli in the water, but also in the streambed.

“He went out weekly and collected water and sediment samples,” Soupir says. “We found that bacteria concentrations in the bottom sediment was higher than the overlying waters.”

Paxon’s research focused on plotting
E. coli concentrations in watersheds using geographic information systems technology. The results will be included in a modeling project used to predict E. coli concentrations in streams. He presented his research in poster sessions through the Science With Practice program and at the Research at the Capitol event in Des Moines. Both programs give undergraduate students research experience with mentors and faculty.

Paxson served as president of the Soil and Water Conservation Club Student Chapter from 2009 to 2012, which builds water flow models for educational groups. He also was a member of the Skunk River Navy, a student group that cleans trash out of the river. He also gained practical experience serving on Iowa State University’s Storm water committee.


Brandi Malchow, junior in agricultural biochemistry, hopes to follow in the footsteps of her adviser and mentor Don Beitz .

By Calee  Himes

If Brandi Malchow could major in everything, she would.

After spending a semester at a university without a tradition of agriculture, the junior from St. Cloud, Minn ultimately chose agricultural biochemistry at Iowa State University. It fed her interest in biochemistry that began in advanced biology in high school and her longing to be reconnected with her agricultural roots that were seeded in FFA.

Agricultural biochemistry combines science and math to help further the understanding of human, plant and animal life. With diverse interest areas combined, agricultural biochemistry is a perfect fifit for Malchow, who sees it as a means for “understanding molecular mechanisms of various life processes.”

Malchow loves her major, but is especially thankful for her adviser, Don Beitz, Charles F. Curtiss Distinguished Professor of Agriculture and Life Sciences in animal science and in biochemistry, biophysics and molecular biology. She credits him for helping shape her Iowa State career.

She even aspires to become a “female version of Beitz”, she jokes. Like Beitz, she wants to earn a Ph.D. and become a research professor and adviser. Finding a future that involves helping others is a must for Malchow. She’s especially interested in studying diabetes, Chron’s disease or another pressing health issue related to digestion.

“Brandi is Ms. Enthusiasm,” Beitz says. “She works hard for her grades and is very involved in activities outside the classroom.”

That’s likely because one of the first things Beitz told Malchow was to work really hard, but play even harder.

Malchow took Beitz’s statement to heart.

“Academics and activities are two separate things and both deserve equal time and attention,” she says.

She’s a member of Student Admissions Representatives, the Transfer Ambassador Program, Women in Science and Engineering and is a Cyclone Aide—all of these programs tap into Brandi’s desire to mentor new students and help them navigate their first few semesters of college. And she tutors math, science and Spanish at Woodward-Granger High School.

Malchow’s planning to attend the Emerging Leaders Retreat, an overnight, off-campus retreat for students interested in building leadership skills, and will spend a semester at Louisiana State University in the spring as a national exchange student. She’s always been curious about living somewhere else and is intrigued by the south. She also hopes this experience will expand her network while she’s researching graduate schools.

She enjoys being so involved because it’s a great way to network with people she wouldn’t otherwise encounter in her major. In fact, the Cyclone Aide program is where she met most of her friends.

Malchow sees every day as a new adventure. “Every day is the best day ever,” she exclaims. Whether she’s going over math problems with a student, conducting a campus tour or taking a calculus test, she looks forward to something new and exciting each day.


Darrin Rahn

Darrin Rahn talks as fast as he walks and for good reason – he’s normally juggling meetings, mentoring, working, studying and writing marketing plans.

Interpreting statistical data intrigues Rahn. That’s why he’s combined two majors – agricultural business and marketing. He’s also the go-to person for marketing solutions.

He helped Dakota Hoben (’12 ag business) successfully campaign for president of the government of the student body. And he’s written award-winning marketing plans for both a product development team and the National Agri-Marketing Association competition.

“When I do marketing it’s driven from the quantitative and research perspective, the creative side is just the cherry on top,” Rahn says.

Rahn is well known in the college. In 2011, he was elected to serve as the president of the Agriculture and Life Sciences Student Council. As president he saw how clubs interact in the college and how the college interacts with other colleges.

“It was fascinating,” Rahn says.

He also took the lead on organizing a successful Ag Week, starting with an ad campaign. The “Our Roots Run Deep” slogan was printed on posters and t–shirts to increase awareness about the week’s activities and opportunities available in agriculture. The fall event included a first-time student concert and full-page newspaper advertisements outlining the weeklong schedule, which included free lunches, lectures, entertainment and a food drive.

His interest in figures also helped him in his work with Mike Duffy, an economist who analyzes farmland price trends in Iowa. This year, Iowa land prices hit record highs and Rahn was part of the team that put the data together.

Along with being involved in clubs, committees and mentoring activities, he’s also made the Dean’s list every semester.

“Being involved is what I do,” Rahn says.

Rahn is interested in the consumer end of food production. He says he was inspired by his internship with Hormel Foods Corporation. In June, he started his dream job in Minneapolis at Target as a sourcing business analyst, where he’ll collaborate with global vendors, designer partners and buyers to deliver and source Target store brand products from concept into stores. His long-term career goals are becoming a merchandise buyer or in brand management within the grocery and food product categories.


Maurice Aduto, a senior in natural resource ecology and management, hopes to return to his native South Sudan to aid in the development and protection of the country's natural resources.

You’re 12 years old. You live in a mud hut with a tin roof in a desert. You eat one bowl of grain a day and you live among 70,000 refugees in a place known as “nowhere.”

These are recent memories for Maurice Aduto. It’s also what drives him to seek opportunities and make a difference in his homeland of South Sudan, a country that gained independence in 2011 after a 22-year civil war.

When Aduto was a young child herding cattle with his uncles, brothers and cousins the problems of Sudan’s war seemed far away. His family lived in Chukudum, a village near the Uganda border in east Africa.

The village was known for its fertile land and abundant harvests. Aduto has fond memories of the tranquil valley where he played. He also remembers his British-trained elementary school teachers, who taught him the importance of education.

Things changed in his village as the war moved south. The violence threatened Aduto’s family. The soldiers were killing children.

Many families decided to send their children to Kenya for safety. Aduto was sent and he remembers running for an entire week, evading soldiers and wild animals before reaching the border.

“It was a long journey. We only traveled at night, “Aduto says. “People were dying from lack of water and food.”

When the refugees reached the Kenyan border the United Nations took them to the Kakuma refugee camp. The camp’s name means “nowhere” in Swahilli. Aduto spent the next six years in a dusty maze of refugees from eight nations. To survive he focused on a lesson he carried in his soul.

“In middle school the teacher told us that school is everything,” Aduto says. “The pen is everything. It is the key to your life.”

Aduto and his family spent two years navigating through red tape to get to the United States. When he arrived in Des Moines he was 20 years old and considered too old to attend high school. Aduto persuaded officials to allow him to finish his last year. He supported himself with a part-time maintenance job, survived on $90 a week and graduated in 2007.

One of Aduto’s goals was to attend college. He was inspired by the numerous opportunities he could see in the United States.

“I talked to my high school counselor who helped me find scholarships that fit my status and public universities that I could join,” Aduto says.

Iowa State University’s Multicultural Vision Program offered him a scholarship and a chance. The award is given to high school seniors who demonstrate academic ability and maturity, despite adverse situations. Aduto fit the description.

His first semester at Iowa State was difficult. Aduto knew his grandparents, who had raised him, had died in the war. It suddenly overwhelmed him.

“I felt so bad and I wondered what the point was to be here. I couldn’t focus,” Aduto says. “Then I realized many of the wishes my grandparents gave me had come true.”

He continued and decided to major in animal ecology and minor in forestry. Skills he could take to South Sudan, which is rich in wildlife and natural resources.

Aduto also found a trusted friend and adviser in John Burnett, a student services specialist in the natural resource ecology and management department. Burnett and coworkers helped Aduto return to his village in 2009 to attend reburial ceremonies for his grandparents.

“Maurice’s life is about his connections with his family and his home country,” Burnett says. “He has overcome unimaginable adversity, but he still maintains those connections.”

With the help of Burnett, Aduto became a U.S. citizen on Oct. 14, 2011, just 47 days before returning to South Sudan. This time Aduto returned to oversee a reburial ceremony for his father, who had been killed by robbers in the spring of 2011.

On July 9, 2011, the Republic of South Sudan celebrated its independence from Sudan. As president of the South Sudanese Student Association at Iowa State, Aduto helped exiled residents register to vote and cast their votes in the election, which was held Jan. 9, 2011. More than 98 percent of South Sudan’s residents voted to separate.

Aduto, who is a senior at Iowa State, plans to return to South Sudan. He says his generation represents the seeds that have been scattered throughout the world.

“We are the seeds that are vital to the development of South Sudan,” Aduto says. “Most of us who came here are the children of war. To go back is tough, but to take the initiative and make the sacrifices to go back is important for the future of South Sudan.”


Jenny English sports some fabulous footwear. From a tour of duty in Afghanistan, to studying abroad in Mexico, to twirling in a dance studio on the ISU campus, her student experience is like no other.

Carly Martin, junior in agricultural education and studies, communications option, chats with Jenny English, senior in animal science and member of the Army National Guard, about what it’s like to walk in her shoes.

What have you been involved with at Iowa State?

I am animal science pre-vet and I have a minor in Spanish and nutritional sciences. I also have drill training one weekend each month for the Army National Guard. I work for Diane Spurlock in her lab and I’m a Student Admissions Representative. I’m a member of ballroom dancing club, too.

You stay pretty busy! Is there a particular animal that you are most interested in?

I joined Block and Bridle as a freshman and participated in the Little North American Showmanship contest winning the novice showmanship award for swine. This experience made me realize I was most interested in learning about and working with swine.

I actually grew up on a swine farm so they’re my favorite, too. How will you pursue your interest in working with swine?

Currently I’m working in the swine nutrition lab researching feed digestibility. This summer, I will apply to vet school and intern with Iowa Select Farms.

Do you have a favorite activity that you have been part of at Iowa State?

Being a Student Admissions Representative. I love being able to give students tours around campus and get them excited about coming here.

How did you decide to join the Army National Guard?

Some of my high school classmates in Le Grand, Iowa, encouraged me to join. After learning about the benefits such as full paid tuition, books and living expense, I went through the training.

When you were deployed what did you enjoy most and what were your biggest challenges?

After my junior year at ISU I was deployed to Afghanistan for a year. I enjoyed being able to take part in more of the hands-on experiences like creating Purple and Bronze Star awards for soldiers and working with people from many different states and countries. I was also assigned to interact with locals to help gain and build their trust with the United States. The hardest part was being away from my family, especially when my mom passed away in a car accident in January of 2011.

Was it tough to transition back to campus?

My return back to Iowa and my studies went more smoothly than I expected. While deployed, I took online classes and that really helped me transition back. My family and friends were a great support, too. I still keep in touch with students from my unit that attend Iowa State.

What other international experience have you had?

In the spring of 2009, I studied abroad in Mexico for three months as part of a Spanish language immersion course.

Looking back, what have you learned from your time on campus and abroad?

People are one of the best resources you can have. The advice and mentoring I’ve received have opened up so many doors and opportunities that I couldn’t achieve on my own.



10 Dec 2014


This fall you don’t need to look far to see difference makers among our students, faculty and staff for our community, state and planet. Students in the Sustainable Agriculture Student Organization have been growing and cooking fresh garden produce for a program that provides free meals to hundreds of the …

FOREWORD – Fall 2014

10 Dec 2014


  I should probably get a new pair of boots. Mine are over 30 years old.  They belonged to my sister who died when I was four.  She was fourteen when she last wore them. I grew to have the exact same sized feet.  The brown suede is worn and …