By Patrick Schrable Growing world population and rising standards of living are increasing global demand for the products of agriculture. To enable scientists to more readily identify and ultimately harness genes that contribute to agricultural productivity, the genetic blueprints of many crop and livestock species have been deciphered over the …


By Barbara McBreen Sleeping at the base of a 2,000-yearold Redwood inspired Sean Lundy to seek a career in international development. Opportunities at Iowa State University are helping his dream grow. The summer after graduating from high school, Lundy, a senior in global resource systems and nutrition, worked for the …


By Ed Adcock A standard feed efficiency study on pigs at Iowa State University recently led to a startling discovery with implications for human health research. Scientists identified the first pigs with naturally occurring Severe Combined Immunodeficiency, known as SCID. The inherited disorder was known only to naturally affect humans, …


By Fred Love Rebecca Wokibula, clad in cap and own, was ready for her master’s raduation ceremony. She was one among swarms of others posing in front of the Campanile, the Memorial Union and Lake LaVerne, their proud parents snapping pictures—except for one difference. For Wokibula, a native of Uganda, …

Recent Articles:


Page 2 – “Astonishing Tales of the New Biology” Plant Sciences Institute Comic

Page 5 – Symbi, NSF-funded program placing graduate students in Iowa

classrooms as resident scientists

Page 10 – Learn more about Wes Buchele, ISU professor emeritus in

agricultural engineering, inventor of the large round baler

Page 11 – Biographical video of Allen Christian, former manager of Iowa State

University’s Swine Teaching Farm; George Beal, emeritus Charles F. Curtiss

Distinguished Professor of Sociology STORIES article

Page 13 – Read more about Bethany Olson in the Agriculture Future of America newsletter

Page 16 – Andrew Paxson’s research with the Science With Practice program

Page 17 – Aubrie James’s internship at Harvard Forest

Page 19 – Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust

Page 31 – Global Resource Systems major

Page 35 – Turtle Camp Research and Education in Ecology

Page 36 – Read more about Sarah Myers who overcame cancer and family tragedy to complete her veterinary medicine degree; Visit Fred Hoibar contestant for Iowa State Fair Biggest Boar competition

Page 38 – Farm Service Agency; ISU Extension and Outreach


Jeff Essner says the transparent zebrafish are especially suited for his research since their development is easy to observe under a microscope.

By Virginia Zantow

Zebrafish are tiny vertebrates, but if you ask Jeffrey Essner, their significance to genetics research and cancer research is huge.

Essner is an associate professor in genetics, development and cell biology. He says the idea that he can improve human health—especially the idea that he can make a difference to cancer patients—motivates him in his research, which is funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Zebrafish—tiny, seemingly insignificant fish help him work toward that lofty goal. They also inspire him on another level: he enjoys looking at them.

“The embryos are just fascinatingly beautiful,” Essner says.

Their embryos are optically clear, so zebrafish development is easy to observe under a microscope. Also, since fish embryos develop outside of the mother, researchers can manipulate them, and that works well for genetic engineering and identifying genes involved in disease processes. Zebrafish also happen to be prolific breeders (a given female will produce up to 400 embryos in one morning).

“We can generate lots of embryos,” Essner says. “We can look at mutants and get statistical relevance from the numbers of offspring we’re examining.”

Precision is key

Essner has been using zebrafish to study a new method for genomic editing which uses artificial transcription activator-like effector nucleases (TALENs). This method allows researchers to cut DNA at specific sites and modify genetic information.

“We can go into any gene and introduce specific changes to the DNA with incredible precision,” Essner says. “This technology has implications for working with large animals and human gene therapy.”

Since zebrafish embryos develop outside of the mother, and since they are transparent, they are ideal for perfecting the use of TALENs in genomic editing. The embryos are easily accessed for microinjection, and the characteristics expressed by the modified genes are easily observed.

Essner, along with Ying Wang, a postdoctoral research associate in genetics,  development and cell biology, and former ISU professor Dan Voytas, recently published an article in the journal Nature documenting the efficient use of TALENs in zebrafish.

The development of TALENs, an exciting new tool in the field of genetics, has roots at Iowa State. “TAL effector” proteins, which ultimately led to the development of TALENs technology, were discovered by Iowa State University plant pathologists and microbiologists.

“ISU has a great amount of intellectual property in TALENs,” Essner says.

The TALENs technology started with plants, but now it is being applied to animals like zebrafish. The hope is that soon, TALENs technology will be perfected to the point that it can be applied to large animals like pigs, which are much more biologically similar to humans than zebrafish. Genetically engineering pigs to have human diseases like cystic fibrosis or multiple sclerosis would make strides toward the development of therapeutics for those diseases, and even gene therapy, Essner says.

From an agricultural perspective, perfecting genetic engineering technology like TALENs so it can be used on large animals could improve resistance to disease in livestock, meat production, and large animal production in general.

Essner is one of the founders of Recombinetics, the biotech company that holds the licenses to use TALENs on large animals of agricultural importance.

Cancer research: both sides of the coin

While Essner spends a lot of time studying the TALENs technology and applying it to zebrafish, he also uses zebrafish to study cancer with Maura McGrail, his colleague as well as his wife.

“As tumors progress, they always ask for a blood supply,” Essner says. That’s why his take on cancer research focuses in on blood vessel development.

Blood vessels don’t just feed cancer tumors; they also transport them. Metastasis, or the spread of cancer tumors from one part of the body to another, happens through the blood stream. Essner looks for the genes necessary for blood vessel development. He is interested in finding ways to inhibit those genes, which could lead to developments in cancer therapies.

The transparency of zebrafish embryos also aids this research effort, as it allows Essner to clearly see the development of blood vessels.

McGrail, assistant professor in genetics, development and cell biology, looks at cancer from another angle. She seeks to identify the genes that are mutated in the cancer tumors themselves.

“Both of our research programs will continue to provide new insights into understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms leading to tumor onset and progression,” McGrail says.

Offering a closer look

As a third grade child, Essner was taken with the beauty of watching a sea urchin develop under a microscope. The experience was formative in his decision to become a scientist. As Essner is still fascinated with observing life under a microscope, he passes his enthusiasm for biology on to the next generation.

“We provide zebrafish embryos to local schools in order to inspire the next generation of scientists,” Essner says. Essner inspires young scientists at Iowa State as well. He teaches Introduction to Biology as well as Developmental Biology, an upper-level course that provides research experiences to undergraduates.

Essner and McGrail mentor approximately five to ten undergraduates at any given time in their laboratory. The students take care of the fish and work on their own research projects, taking advantage of the clear view of cellular processes accessible in the zebrafish laboratory.


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.


Wildlife biologist Jeramie Strickland says sharing his knowledge of wildlife and the outdoors is what drives him. He hopes to inspire kids to pursue careers in science.

By Melea Reicks Licht

Working with animals was my ticket out of the rough, crime-infested streets of Chicago,” Jeramie Strickland says. “And you can quote me on that. It’s my testimony.”

He isn’t shy about relaying how his love for the outdoors and nature spared him from an uncertain future, one in which many of his peers became “gang-bangers and drug dealers.”

Strickland (MS ’08 ecology and evolutionary biology) is a wildlife biologist with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service at the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge. He is stationed at one of the most visited refuges in the nation, which attracts millions of hunters, fishers and other outdoor enthusiasts from nearby urban areas including Chicago.

Strickland’s inner-city Chicago childhood was interrupted by a three-year respite in the backwoods of Alabama. Without money for afterschool programs and sports, the five-year-old spent his days catching frogs, crafting homemade fishing poles and exploring every nook and cranny of the ponds surrounding his home.

“I moved back to Chicago in third grade, and I couldn’t fish or swim in Lake Michigan. It was too polluted. I didn’t have that outlet anymore,” Strickland says. “When I started to have behavior issues in elementary and junior high school, my teacher’s response was for me to do math and science with guidance counselors as my punishment.”

Strickland’s “punishments” led to winning science fair projects at the school, district and city levels. He was strongly encouraged by mentors and counselors to attend the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences where he followed the animal science track working with the school’s livestock and aquaculture programs.

To his surprise he was offered a partial scholarship to the College of Agriculture and Related Sciences at Delaware State University, where he gained undergraduate research experience and held internships at Purdue University, Michigan State University, the U. S. Department of Agriculture and in Nambia, Africa.

He realized his true passion—sharing his knowledge with youth, especially minorities and urban students—working for the Ecological Society of America as an education program coordinator. He knew a master’s degree would advance his career and provide more opportunities for him to work with youth. So he sought out Iowa State University biologists Fred Janzen and Anne Bronikowski.

“Jeramie’s application for graduate work simply oozed enthusiasm and the diversity of the meaningful experiences in his background was exceptional,” says Janzen.

Strickland went on to study painted turtle nesting in Janzen’s lab performing fieldwork at the refuge where he now works. He helped start the Turtle Camp Research and Education in Ecology program.

Strickland’s work at the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge is busy and varied. His enthusiasm and down-to-earth nature is obvious as he explains a day’s work could entail hosting youth and disabled hunters during specialized  hunts, bald eagle population counts, recovery of threatened ornate box turtles—the list goes on and on. There is no typical day.

“I have to remember to say, no,” he admits. “There are so many fun and exciting projects to take on I have to remember I can’t do everything.”

One thing he rarely says no to is any opportunity to share his love for wildlife and the environment with youth. In doing so he realizes he isn’t just teaching science, he’s showing kids like him a glimpse of a future they may not have thought possible.

“Getting kids involved in conservation and exposing them to the outdoors is my way of giving back,” Strickland says. “I am truly thankful for my mentors, and I want to give kids from my community a better role model.”

Strickland serves as a mentor for the Ecology Society of America and The Minorities Striving and Pursuing Higher Degrees of Success in Earth System Science Program. Both programs provide students  with professional development opportunities, science exposure (including research), networking opportunities and reciprocal mentoring opportunities.



John Carlson, a professor in Western Illinois University’s School of Agriculture, has been selected as a Fulbright Scholar. He will spend August through December teaching at the Ryazan State Agrotechnological University in Russia. Carlson earned an ISU bachelor’s degree in animal science and agricultural journalism in 1974, and a master’s degree and a doctorate in 1977 and 1980, respectively, in animal breeding.


The North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture honored two CALS faculty members for their teaching ability. Curt Youngs, animal science, was presented the Central Region Outstanding Teacher Award. Mike Retallick (PhD ’05 ag and life sciences education), agricultural education and studies, was presented the Teacher Fellow Award. Other CALS alumni honored as Teaching Fellows were: Nicholas Paulson (’02 ag systems technology), University of Illinois; Antoine Alston (PhD ’00 ag and life sciences education and studies), North Carolina A&T State University; and Jennifer Bormann (’97 animal science, PhD ’04 animal breeding and genetics), Kansas State University.


Jim Evans (’54 agricultural journalism) was presented the Distinguished Service Award by the American Agricultural Editors’ Association (AAEA). The retired professor of agricultural communications at the University of Illinois was recognized for his work developing the Agricultural Communications Documentation Center, a collection of information on agriculture and the profession of agricultural communications. The AAEA also named a new scholarship after Evans for his “tremendous impact on the establishment and  growth of agricultural communications programs.”


CALS alumna Sarah Myers (’07 microbiology) overcame cancer and family tragedy to complete her veterinary medicine degree in May. In the five years since earning her undergraduate degree her life has hit highs and lows most others experience over a lifetime: marriage, birthing two children, caring for and mourning the death of her mother, her own cancer diagnoses and treatment and finally, completing her doctor of veterinary medicine degree.


Paul Kruse (’80 farm operations) and John Sweeney (’80 animal science,’84 DVM) teamed up with fellow ISU alumni and fans to raise Fred Hoiboar, named after Iowa State Men’s Basketball coach Fred Hoiberg. The tubby Yorkshire weighed in at 1,079 lbs. at the Iowa State Fair Biggest Boar contest. While Hoiboar didn’t take home the gold, he did help raise funds and awareness for heart disease benefitting Hoiberg’s cause of choice Camp Odayin for kids with heart disease.

The Student Experience

The Student Experience Issue features one of two special edition covers, each featuring a different CALS student. Both active in college activities and CALS Ambassadors, Adam Bierbaum (‘12 agronomy) and Kayla Reiter, senior in agricultural business, help illustrate the different aspects of today’s student experience.

Much to cheer about!

Fall 2011 enrollment in agriculture and life sciences hit a 30-year high with 3,584. And we have the best college retention rate on campus with 81% of first year students sticking with CALS. 88% of our students return to Iowa State.

Welcome to the club

95% of CALS students gain hands-on experience and develop leadership in departmental clubs and activities including agronomic and livestock judging teams, competitive national contests and service projects.

Science with practice

CALS students get a solid grounding in science from biology to chemistry to advanced agrisciences. Our “Science with Practice” undergrad research program paid students $250,000 since 2005 to learn and earn in research laboratories, farms and greenhouses in nearly every CALS department.

You’re hired!

98% Placement Rate

73% of new grads stay in Iowa

70% of undergrads complete internships before graduation


Assistant professor Mike Retallick and Adair Boysen catch up between classes. Boysen, a graduating senior in agricultural education and animal science, participated in Retallick's study abroad course to Australia and credits Retallick for helping her get the most out of her college experience.

Mike Retallick’s door is always open. The assistant professor of agricultural and life sciences education and studies advises more than 80 students annually, in addition to his research and teaching responsibilities. Any number of his advisees could drop by in a given day. And they do.

Retallick (’05 PhD agriculture and life sciences education) is one of 135 faculty advisers in the college. Together with another 13 full-time staff advisers they help agriculture and life sciences students navigate through their ISU experience.

For each advisee Retallick is the person who reviews their course schedule to be sure they are meeting degree requirements. He helps them identify and prepare for their internship and student teaching experiences. He intervenes when students are headed for academic probation and offers congratulations when they make the dean’s list. He processes course substitutions and makes sure his students meet university and departmental deadlines.

Retallick says that when entering college many students aren’t prepared for balancing their newfound independence with coursework. That’s where he comes in. He helps students learn to study and manage their daily lives, but he also encourages them to take their college experience a step further.

“I challenge them to get the most complete experience while at Iowa State. Our grads are highly sought after, but a degree on a wall should not be their end goal,” Retallick says. “Students should get the most out of each opportunity and differentiate themselves through clubs, leadership roles, internships, study abroad. It is the entire package that sets our students apart.”

Another major role Retallick and other advisers play is helping students handle the challenges life throws at them while they work on their degree. He connects students with campus resources such as student counseling, student health, financial aid and the academic success center.

“It is key as an adviser to be upfront, honest and frank with your advisees,” he says. “It helps them to know what to expect and makes their time on campus less scary.”

According to his advisees Retallick does just that. Transfer student Rachael Emig considers Retallick as the most influential person in her college experience.

“Dr. Retallick is always available to answer any question I have quickly and clearly, and I feel like I could ask him any question,” she says. “He helped me solidify my decision to major in agricultural education and have the smoothest possible transition to Iowa State.”

The toughest part of his job, Retallick says, is there are no easy answers.

“My first answer to many questions is ‘it depends,’” he says. “Every situation and every student is unique and policies and procedures can be interpreted differently.”

He admits it can also be difficult to balance his research and teaching load with the number of advisees he currently carries. But, that challenge is also what drives him.

“These students are what recharge my batteries. I enjoy the one-on-one teachable moments that come with advising,” he says. “You just don’t find that in the classroom.”

Advising the Advisers

The college launched the Louis Thompson Advising Academy in 2011. The academy, named in honor of the late agronomy professor and associate dean known for advising excellence, promotes the professional, individual and academic development of students through a mentoring relationship with an academic adviser.

Retallick is among the 25 faculty members of the academy who earned acceptance by receiving at least one college or university advising award.

David Acker, associate dean for academic and global programs, says the academy will help the college make further strides in becoming the best student advising program on campus.

“At its core the academy is about helping students reach their potential and maximize success inside and outside the classroom,” Acker says.

The academy was created based on recommendations from the college’s Future of Academic Programs Task Force and Academic Affairs Committee with support from the Iowa State University Agricultural Endowment Board.

“It takes time, it takes patience and it takes a caring attitude to serve students in this capacity,” Acker says. “This highly experienced group will provide excellent guidance and counsel on how to maintain and improve our tradition of excellence in advising.”


Alum Lucas Carlstrom, right, stopped by Matthew Ellinwood's lab to catch up and share how he is doing in med school at Mayo Clinic. Carlstrom credits his work in Ellinwood's lab for helping him develop problem solving and critical thinking skills.

The management and care of research animals is a necessary, behind-thescenes aspect of scientific study that animal scientist Matthew Ellinwood has made a learning experience for undergraduates.

“We take seriously the role these dogs and cats play in addressing new treatments or possibly cures for conditions that have a big, negative impact on people, especially children,” he says.

After earning his doctoral and veterinary degrees, Ellinwood became a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania. Part of his duties was the management of dogs and cats used to research human genetic diseases—most of them fatal pediatric diseases. Graduate students did a lot of the work, offering valuable hands-on experience. Ellinwood brought this model of students caring for animals to Iowa when he started at ISU about seven years ago.

About 18 undergraduates per semester provide animal care and management and two or three conduct lab work, such as molecular diagnostics, routine biochemistry and inventory management. Led by Ellinwood, the team looks for answers behind what causes human diseases like glaucoma, the leading cause of blindness world wide.

Nearly all the students have a pre-vet or pre-med focus. Most are animal science students, but there are also those majoring in animal ecology and biology. The work offers an especially good experience for pre-vet students who plan to concentrate on small animals.

Some students get involved for research experience, others because they enjoy animal care and management. Whatever the goal, they find a unique environment for learning.

“Dr. Ellinwood not only created an opportunity for students to learn basic medical care of companion animals, he’s given us the opportunity to think on our feet, be attentive to detail and apply what we’ve learned in other classes to what we’re studying in the research colony,” says Allie Ludwig, a sophomore in preveterinary animal science.

Lucas Carlstrom (’08 animal science) was another of Ellinwood’s students. While working in Ellinwood’s lab he was first author on one research manuscript and co-author on another—quite an accomplishment for a student, let alone an undergraduate.

He credits that experience for being accepted into the highly competitive combined medical doctor and doctoral Medical Scientist Training Program at the Mayo Clinic: College of Medicine, where he is engaged in molecular neuroscience and spinal cord regeneration research.

Spending time in a research setting allowed Carlstrom to develop self-guided problem analysis and advanced critical thinking skills. “These valuable training experiences enhanced my intellectual curiosity and afforded me the opportunity to solve relevant biomedical research questions that will hopefully improve human health and alleviate disease,” he says.

“The undergraduates we get are top-tier who I would put up against students at any other institution,” Ellinwood says. “They are certainly as skilled and bright, but they also have the traditional values of Midwest farm kids, that you may not see as often at other schools.”

Ellinwood says it’s important to challenge these talented students with real-world problems and to show them they can make a difference.

“Regardless of where they go, I hope they come out of my program with a heightened sense of achievement and accomplishment.”


Alum Craig Morris, deputy administrator of the USDA's Livestock and Seed Program, credits F.C. Parrish for helping him land his dream job-facilitating the domestic and international marketing of the nation's meat supply.

Craig Morris always wore his St. Louis Cardinals hat. As a freshman animal science student at Iowa State in 1988, that hat made him feel at home. It also caught the eye of his meat science professor, F.C. Parrish, who would come to do the same.

Morris (’92 meat science), now the deputy administrator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Livestock and Seed Program, credits Parrish’s influence for leading him to his dream job—facilitating the domestic and international marketing of the nation’s meat supply.

Like Morris, Parrish was a native of the St. Louis area, and felt an instant kinship. “He was an excellent scientist as a young guy. You don’t find them that work any harder than Craig did. He wanted to succeed,” Parrish says.

Morris worked with a butcher in high school and was working for Carriage House Meats in Ames at the time. “I loved everything about the meat business,” Morris says, “and F.C. loved teaching people about the business. We gravitated toward each other.

Parrish hired Morris as an undergrad research assistant. “After I was exposed to research, I never really left,” he says. Once he arrived at Iowa State, Morris spent every weekend and every semester break either working in the ISU Meat Lab or on an internship that Parrish helped him land. He was a member of the meats judging team, and Parrish introduced him to the American Meat Science Association.

“I didn’t have a friend in college that I spent more time with than F.C. It was seamless between work and fun,” Morris says.

Well known in the meat science industry, Parrish was on faculty in animal science for more than 35 years teaching introductory and advanced meat science classes. He taught more than 5,000 undergraduate and graduate students during his tenure and was major professor to more than 30 graduate students before retiring as a University Professor in 2001.

He and his wife Fern provided Morris with home-cooked meals and moral support. In return, Morris mowed their lawn when Parrish was recovering from minor surgery. For him the couple became “like second parents.”

After graduation in 1992 Morris continued to work at the Meat Lab. Parrish recommended graduate schools and helped him find the best fit at Texas A&M.

“F.C. wanted me to go out and experience the world. If he would have just once asked me, I would have stayed, but he was kicking me out of the nest. It’s the best thing that could have happened,” Morris says.

At the USDA Morris oversees marketing activities for livestock, meat, fish, grain and seed. It’s a big job. He manages budgets and human resources for nearly 500 fulltime employees.

He oversees USDA grading and verification programs ranging from Prime Beef on restaurant menus to export verification programs allowing U.S. meats to enter countries all over the world. He handles purchasing specifications for commodities that go into the nation’s school lunch program and food banks. He also oversees country of origin labeling; market news reporting for livestock and grain; check-off programs for beef, pork, lamb, soybean and sorghum; accreditation of organic certification bodies; and the Federal Seed Act ensuring agricultural seeds are accurately labeled for interstate and international commerce.

Morris learned to manage employees from Parrish’s example. “I used to put a lot on my plate and needed help to prioritize. F.C. would put a ‘one’ next to everything on my list and let me work through it,” Morris quips. “I’ve tried to emulate him as I’ve gotten more responsibility in my career. He surrounded himself with self-starters, independent thinkers and creativity. He trusted his employees. He would impart ownership and push you into the limelight.”

Morris can’t help but wonder what his life might have been like if not for Parrish.

“Just think,” he says, “if I’d have been a Cubs fan, that might have been the end of it.”


Despite being briefly sidelined after a car-bike accident, Sarah Low is making an impact on rural development as an economist with the USDA.

Sarah Low was supposed to be training for the Washington D.C. Triathlon, not immobilized in a neck-to-hip brace.

Low (’02 public service and administration in agriculture) didn’t get to do the 2010 triathlon. The car-bike accident during her commute made sure of that. But she was able to celebrate several victories along her six-month journey to recovery.

One was continuing to work–from her bed–as an economist in the Farm and Rural Business Branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service.

“I drew on my indomitable spirit, developed through TaeKwonDo, to continue working. An intern I supervised that summer said I was the most hardworking and demanding supervisor she’d had, despite the fact I was immobilized. I was tickled pink,” Low says.

Low conducts research on farm and rural business and rural economic development. The outreach and policy-relevance of her work drives her. She wants what she does to create economic opportunities for people in rural areas.

“I am often asked to summarize the current state of research for members of Congress. I recently briefed the Deputy Secretary of Agriculture on my local food marketing research. I just love taking calls from graduate students or economic development practitioners who have questions about my research. These are the outlets in which I can make a difference,” she says.

She’s done work on rural entrepreneurship and innovation, rural broadband accessibility and she’ll be delving into rural manufacturing resilience next.

Low’s list of published research and presentations is lengthy, especially for a young professional, and continues to grow. She has a master’s in agricultural economics from Purdue and a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in agricultural and consumer economics.

As a student at Iowa State, Low participated in precursor courses that now are part of the college’s Agricultural Entrepreneurship Initiative. The native of Maysville, Iowa, also enjoyed getting her hands dirty.

“Working at the ISU dairy farm as part of the freshman honors program was a lot of fun. I’m so glad I got to experience that. I remember going directly to my first class of the day smelling like, well, a dairy farm,” Low says.

Low was known on campus for her involvement in the Government of the Student Body, which was very influential in shaping her career. She also fondly recalls the support of mentors like Liz Beck, then director of the campus honors program, and her academic adviser, Steve Padgitt, professor of sociology.

“I’ll never forget Dr. Padgitt giving me a copy of the Main Street Economist, a publication of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. I was enthralled. I did research on the author and decided that I wanted a job like hers when I grew up,” Low says. “Less than three years later, I was in the cubicle next to her, writing about rural economic development issues for the Main Street Economist.”

That same drive and focus allowed her to get back on her bike. Eighteen months after her accident, she finished a sprint triathlon. She still bikes to work on occasion and trains with the DC Triathlon Club.


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.”

BRIDGING CULTURES – Leading Students to Expand Knowledge and Worldview

Senior lecturer Ebby Luvaga is known among students for her enthusiasm and her tough love. "I hold students accountable and expect them to live up to their potential," she says, "but I also want them to feel comfortable enough with me to be open and honest."

She’d been sporting a short Afro, and then showed up in class one day with 500 shoulder length braids woven into her hair. For Ebby Luvaga, a native of Kenya, Africa, the dramatic change in hairstyle was nothing unusual. But for a classroom of Iowa State University freshman, many from small rural Iowa communities, the shift was totally unexpected.

“For some students I may be the first person of color they’ve interacted with,” says Luvaga. “In this case, I remember the students were silent and just stared.” So she opened her class time with a discussion about black hair care, letting students ask the questions they had on their minds. It was a practical and teachable moment—the kind that Luvaga employs regularly in her economic development class and as an adviser in the economics department. “I want students to feel comfortable asking me about my differences.”

The sense of her own differences was something that hit Luvaga the moment she arrived in New York City as a young college student in 1983, fresh from the small Kenyan village where she’d grown up. “I stepped off the plane and didn’t think twice about carrying my suitcase on the top of my head. It’s just how we carried things in Kenya,” she laughs. “I kept wondering why no one else was doing the same.”

The daughter of a school principal and a teacher, she was always encouraged to seek higher education. So when the opportunity to study in the United States presented itself, her parents were naturally supportive.

Luvaga graduated from Ohio University with a master’s in international affairs and a doctorate in economics education. “I always knew that I wanted to work closely with students,” she says. When a position that combined student advising, teaching economics and leading study abroad programs opened at Iowa State in 1997, she felt it was an “ideal” match.

Her role at Iowa State is a diverse one. She serves as a learning community adviser for the agricultural business major, working with 75 to 80 students each year. Luvaga recently won recognition from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences for her ability to create a welcoming environment for students and increase their participation in the learning community process. She also teaches a class in economic development and leads study abroad courses to such places as Argentina, Spain, Australia and Panama.

Over the years, she’s developed a reputation for working enthusiastically with students, but also with a firm hand—a balance that reminds her of her father. “I hold students accountable and expect them

to live up to their potential,” she says, “but I also want them to feel comfortable enough with me to be open and honest.”

Tory Mogler, a 20-year-old sophomore serving under Luvaga as a learning community peer mentor, agrees that she can be “a bit of a stickler” when it comes to students doing things right. “But she has her heart in the right place,” he says. “I’m never hesitant to talk to her about things, and she always takes her role with students seriously.”

Coming from a small rural town in Iowa, he also remembers being one of those freshmen who hadn’t had a lot of exposure to diverse cultures. “Ebby sets herself out as an example and lets people ask her questions. She encourages curiosity. She helped me feel comfortable with her differences to the point where I don’t feel that we have them,” he says.

Luvaga sees herself as a “bridge,” helping the increasingly diverse range of students at Iowa State continue to expand their perspective. With her roots in Africa and her home now in Iowa, the sense of being part of a global community is central to Luvaga’s identity—and it’s what she imparts to her students.

Hear Ebby talk about learning communities:

FROM THE DEAN – Spring 2012

Dean Wendy Wintersteen

Several times a semester, I meet with a student advisory group to listen what’s on their minds and let them know what’s on my mind.

The lineup of about a dozen students changes each year, but it began as a way to gain student input on difficult decisions the college was wrestling with because of declining state budgets. I recall one student telling me that as a future alum, she wanted to look back at her college and be assured it was still among the best programs in the nation. It was invaluable to hear these kinds of insights and concerns.

Since then, our topics have expanded. We’ve talked about a wide range of areas. They commented on our strategic plan draft. (One even volunteered to work with our strategic planning committee, which I gratefully accepted.) They brainstormed new ways to recruit high school students and to communicate with current students.

We’ve talked about how important it is for a new student to make friends through learning communities, and whether students in our majors need more living-together learning communities in the residence halls. We’ve discussed the need to develop more courses that link science to societal issues.

My favorite part of our meetings is to open it up to let the students talk about whatever’s on

their minds.

Some talk excitedly about the employers they met at our annual career day. Some share conversations they had with freshmen about how they’re adjusting to campus and how they’ve felt welcomed. Some talk about the record number of members in their student clubs. Last fall, one proudly spoke of a first-place showing of the soil judging team at a regional competition, and the individual honors bestowed on team members.

I deeply value the thoughtful input I hear every time I meet with these students. When I walk into the room and see them gathered, it is a highlight of my week and reinforces the important work we do together at Iowa State University.

Wendy Wintersteen

Endowed Dean of Agriculture and Life Sciences


Group juggling is one of many learning tools Beth Foreman, student services specialist, uses to teach students communication and leadership skills.

Tossing rubber chickens, stuffed pigs and numerous balls is a group activity Beth Foreman uses to illustrate teamwork and communication skills.

The activity is one of many experiential learning tools Foreman, student services specialist, uses with agricultural ambassadors. The students are college volunteers who give tours to prospective students and parents, host new student programs and work at various alumni and recruitment events.

In the group juggling exercise, students shout a name and toss a ball or stuffed item. As the activity continues, more items are added making it tougher to keep everything moving. To reflect, Foreman asks students what techniques made it easier to pass the ball to others in the group and keep the balls from dropping.

Foreman emphasizes how the rubber chicken, which is introduced near the end, represents the problems students encounter.

“It’s a teaching strategy that combines mental and physical challenges. It’s a simple and effective concept—you play the activity, review what worked and reflect on how it applies in other situations,” says Foreman.

She oversees the student-run ambassador program that is an essential part of the college’s recruiting efforts. Foreman says prospective students visiting campus want to talk to students who are here on campus.

Molly Heintz, a senior in animal science, says talking to students was a big selling point when she visited Iowa State. Once she enrolled, she also joined the ambassadors.

“We do a lot of fun things, and you gain something at the end of every activity,” Heintz says. “You always pick up a little piece of information that helps us communicate with students visiting the campus.”

For the past 10 years Foreman has balanced a fulltime job while pursuing her doctorate degree. She coordinates group and individual visits for the college and advises and trains student ambassadors. Her doctoral research is focused on the connection between student experiences and the development of leadership skills.

“I’ve gained a better understanding about how student involvement influences leadership and it’s made my work with students more effective,” says Foreman.

A Cyclone herself, with degrees in child, parent and community services and human development, she understands the importance of a positive student experience.

“I didn’t grow up an Iowa State fan,” Foreman says. “I became a fan because of my positive experiences as a student.”

She’s also seen evidence that her teaching strategies are working. Last year she overheard one student refer to a last minute problem as a “rubber chicken.”

Foreman, the ambassadors and her colleagues in student services are a large part of what has driven the college to record enrollment. In the fall of 2009 the college’s enrollment hit a 30-year high of 3,082 undergraduate students. Last fall the college surpassed that record with an enrollment of 3,298.


Steve Mickelson was three when he started singing in public. Known as “The Mickelson Five,” he, his sister and three brothers sang at funerals, church events, community events and Farm Bureau meetings around Storm Lake where his family farmed. His mother taught them show tunes, hymns and gospel music.

Professor Steve Mickelson tours with a professional gospel group when he's not busy teaching or chairing the agricultural and biosystems engineering department.

Today Mickelson (’82 agricultural engineering, ’84 MS, ’91 PhD) tours with a professional gospel group when he’s not busy in the classroom or chairing the agricultural and biosystems engineering department. He has been singing with “Higher Power” for about 16 years at churches and community events around the Midwest.

The group performs more than 40 concerts a year, and they usually find time for a recording project each year. Although the group has been asked on more than one occasion to go full-time, they agree it isn’t for them.

“We want it to be fun. We have never wanted it to be a burden on our family, or to take away from our fulltime job responsibilities,” he says.

Music has always been a major part of Mickelson’s life.

“I grew up on the Oak Ridge Boys and the Statler Brothers. The Imperials was a gospel group I loved,” Mickelson says. “I remember seeing them at Estes Park at the age of 16 in Colorado and saying, ‘I want to do that.’”

While studying agricultural engineering at Iowa State, Mickelson made time for taking part in the Oratorio Choir, Chamber Singers and a VEISHEA play. He met his wife, Colette, a music education major, in Cardinal Keynotes, the university’s show choir.

Each of the couple’s five children have chosen to make music an important part of their lives as well. Mickelson says bus rides to gigs became a family tradition, “like camping, but in style.”

Mickelson says he feels blessed to have music as such a big part of his life.

“It’s still a tremendous passion for me. My wife will sometimes ask, ‘Do you really want to go out and sing this weekend?’ And I say, ‘I can’t wait.’


Crops Team

The ISU crops team helps prepare students for a career as agronomists by teaching them skills such as plant, insect and disease identification as well as problem solving. Each year the team competes against other four-year universities at the North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture (NACTA ) contest which is held at various locations across the country. During the competition the team also travels to farms and agricultural businesses to learn about the area’s agriculture. In 2012 the ISU Crops Team finished first in the Knowledge Bowl and second in the Crops competition. Erik Christian and Josh Enderson, agronomy, are coach and assistant coach of the team.

Dairy Product Evaluation Team

The Dairy Products Evaluation Team is a student club in the food science and human nutrition department that focuses on learning and sharpening the sensory evaluation techniques and skills for six dairy products: 2% milk, cottage cheese, vanilla ice cream, Cheddar cheese, butter and strawberry yogurt. Until the 2009 team was formed, ISU hadn’t competed in the National Collegiate Dairy Products Evaluation Contest since the late 1970s. Since reviving the team, the students have enjoyed success, earning finishes within the top four each year. Each fall semester the team prepares for the annual National Collegiate Dairy Products Evaluation Contest and in the spring they focus on fundraising, social activities and industry visits. The team is coached by associate professor Stephanie Clark.

Livestock Judging Team

Intercollegiate livestock judging provides students with communication and decision making skills. At each contest, teams representing universities from around the country compete by placing 12 classes of livestock (cattle, hogs and sheep) and giving eight sets of oral reasons. A set of oral reasons is a prepared speech given to an official by a student defending the way the individual placed a particular class of livestock. Typically over 30 teams compete at national events. The 2011/2012 Livestock Judging Team finished first at the Aksarben Stock Show, Iowa Beef Expo and at the Sioux Empire Farm Show. They brought home a third-place finish from the National Western Stock Show in Denver. Jonathan DeClerck, animal science, coaches the team.

Meats Judging Team

Intercollegiate meat judging is a competitive student team activity dating back to 1926. Students travel across the country and interact with leaders in the meat industry, while competing against teams from other universities. These competitions provide students opportunities for improving their skills and competencies in determining the value of beef, pork, lamb and processed meat products. The team is coached by Sherry Olsen and the assistant coach is Lori Ellensohn. At the 2011 Southeastern contest the team finished third and fourth. They finished ninth at The American Royal, and at The International, the team finished 16th.

Soils Judging Team

Success is a common theme associated with Iowa State’s soils judging team. Three of the past four years, the ISU team has won the regional contest and in 2012 the team finished third overall in the National Collegiate Soils Judging Contest. Graduate student Matthew Streeter and professor Lee Burras, agronomy, coach the soils team. Jonathan Sandor, who recently retired, coached the team for 28 years. The competition allows students to develop their skills while describing soil properties, identifying types of soils and associated landscape features and interpreting soil information for agriculture and other land uses.

Turf Bowl Team

The ISU Turf Club has captured first place in the last 12 of 14 national “Turf Bowl” competitions. Hosted by the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, the competition gets students excited about mastering professional skills key to the industry. Over the years, the Iowa State team has become known as the team to beat. The team’s achievement is largely due to their willingness to devote time to hands-on training at prominent golf courses. They also learn the latest techniques in turf by inviting guest speakers to club meetings. Networking with the top golf course superintendents in the United States at various conferences has also helped their success. While the Turf Bowl is what they’re best known for, the club also offers projects for members to bridge their knowledge from the classroom to real life scenarios. The team is coached by Nick Dunlap, a graduate student in horticulture, and the team adviser is Nick Christians, University Professor of Horticulture.


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.

FOREWORD – Spring 2012

Melea Reicks Licht

I first met Paul Lasley, now professor and chair of sociology and anthropology, on a campus visit with my parents. Paul was the only professor my father had a chance to meet before his death months later. Lasley’s third floor East Hall office was filled with farm tools, some antique and some just old. Behind him on the wall was a large black and white photo of two impoverished children, barefoot before a barn with chipped white paint. I honestly don’t remember what we talked about. I just remember that photo. And how Lasley made us laugh. His laugh filled the room and spilled down the hall. It was the first time that day my parents and I really laughed. We felt so much more at ease the rest of our visit. To see professors as people was an important lesson for me.

Since then Lasley and his family have embraced me and mine. I worked for Paul as a teaching aid. We led a travel course to Ireland for several years. He sat on my graduate committee. Lasley and his wife Pauletti (or Papa and Nana as my young sons call them) were at the hospital just hours after the birth of each of my children. They invited us to sit in their pew at church. They stood beside me with the rest of my family during some of the most trying times of my life. I’m so thankful for the light and joy, fun and family we bring to each other’s lives.

That’s the kind of connection—one of extraordinary personal support and kindness—that underlies the education offered in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Iowa State University. There are countless stories like mine, of professors and staff going above and beyond for their students. It’s not just a job —it’s their passion.

That’s why my heart swells whenever Paul Lasley, proudly beaming, introduces me: “This is my ‘adopted’ daughter, Melea.”

I hope the stories in these pages are able to capture and inspire the special feeling that’s possible here, and conjure fond memories of special professors and staff from your own time at ISU. If so, please consider sharing your story by e-mailing I will compile and share responses with our readers via our monthly e-newsletter, STORIES Online. Visit to sign up.

Kind regards,

Melea Reicks Licht


Director of Student Services Tom Polito sees the student experience in agriculture and life sciences as connecting what happens in and outside of the classroom. For Senior Katee Keller that includes Collegiate FFA, Block & Bridle, the Agricultural Business Club and working in the student services office.

The student experience in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences connects what happens inside and outside the classroom. The two are mutually supportive and synergistic.

Students’ out-of-classroom activities are as instilled in the college’s culture as the land-grant philosophy. Even Iowa State’s motto, “Science with Practice,” reflects how our students take what they’ve learned in class and make the coursework more relevant to them.

Some parts of our student experience, like student clubs, student council and Alpha Zeta, have been fixtures for a century or more. My wife’s grandfather, a 1912 animal husbandry grad, has fascinated me with the story of his Alpha Zeta induction. Traveling abroad goes back more than 50 years. Today, students study on every continent.

In the past 15 years, learning communities have become an important way for new students to become part of the ISU community quickly and easily. About 90 percent of the college’s freshmen are members of a learning community. Learning communities set the stage for what students can accomplish in their time at ISU. Plus, the students enjoy their experiences. One student commented on a learning community evaluation, “This is the greatest thing mom ever signed me up for!”

We particularly encourage and assist our students in finding internships. In my experience, students returning to campus after completing internships have greater direction and motivation. They bring what they’ve learned back into the classroom so that other students and often instructors can benefit.

As a faculty member, it’s exciting to watch students change their focus from a purely academic one to a professional one. Instead of thinking only about grades, they begin to grasp that what they’re learning will impact how they advise future clients, benefit their communities and solve problems locally and globally. Internships aid them in making this transition. Coincidentally, guess what happens to students’ grades as they progress from an academic focus to a professional one?

With such a breadth of opportunities, another of our college’s strengths comes into play—academic advising. I like to think of our advisers as symphony conductors. They help students blend activities both inside and outside the classroom, where each student’s final college experience is greater than the sum of its parts.

Our student experiences have never been one size fits all or cookie cutter. We strive to provide all students with rich, meaningful, individual and personal experiences that enable them to accomplish more than they believed possible when they entered ISU. That’s our legacy, that’s our future.

We have plenty of evidence of success. For me, the most convincing evidence occurs every year on the second Tuesday in October. That’s the day the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences hosts the largest agricultural career day in the nation. Our great graduates are in great demand!


Alumna Maggie DenBeste credits Professor Howard Tyler for believing in her when it seemed no one else would.

Read Howard Tyler’s list of honors and it’s clear the animal science professor puts students first, based on awards for his work as a student adviser and mentor.

“I prioritize my time by focusing first on activities that have the most impact on students,” Tyler says. “Helping students overcome obstacles is the part of my job I find the most rewarding.”

Maggie DenBeste faced many obstacles. After high school, she enrolled at Kirkwood Community College. The following year, her parents divorced and her mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Despite family turmoil, she graduated with an associate degree in agriculture and transferred to Iowa State. Her mother died the following spring. “I dropped half my courses and failed the other half,” DenBeste says.

She kept trying and in December 2002 graduated with a bachelor’s in animal science. In January, she learned she was pregnant and would be raising a son alone.

DenBeste worked four years before deciding she couldn’t make enough money to support herself and her son. She wanted to return to school and contacted her undergraduate adviser, Steven Lonergan, who introduced her to Tyler.

“Earning my undergraduate degree was difficult,” DenBeste says. “With my mother’s death, I had trouble caring. I got my grades up enough to graduate, but when I wanted to enroll in grad school, Dr. Tyler was the only one who would consider me.”

“Her grades were not stellar,” Tyler jokes. “But I didn’t feel her grades reflected her ability. It seemed with all she’d been through, graduate school would be a small challenge.”

DenBeste enrolled in January 2007. “That March I almost quit because I didn’t believe I could succeed. I stuck with it, thanks to Dr. Tyler and fellow graduate students,” she says.

Tyler deflects DenBeste’s praise, saying he “just encouraged her to talk, and tried to be supportive of her status as a single mom.”

DenBeste sees it differently. “I had a major lack of confidence,” she says. “During my project, I had to collect blood samples from baby calves within five minutes of birth. Dr. Tyler helped with the first few, watched for a few and then left me to sink or swim. He knew I could do it even if I didn’t.”

Tyler and his wife Kris helped on a personal level. “They would watch my son if I had to be at the dairy farm, or

working on my thesis, or just needed a night off,” DenBeste says.

Tyler organizes monthly meetings for his grad students. “We had speakers who would talk about their journey through life. Dr. Tyler wanted us to learn how to balance personal and work life,” DenBeste says.

She graduated in December 2009 with a master’s in animal physiology and is education program coordinator for the U.S. Pork Center of Excellence at Iowa State.

“Most students face obstacles, but often don’t know how to ask for help,” Tyler says. “Students typically don’t leave school because they aren’t smart enough. With a little more guidance, most could make it. Supporting students is a crucial part of my job.”

Faculty Resources for Helping Students Through Personal Challenges

Howard Tyler was among the first to sign up for the ISU Student Counseling Service’s new Mental Health First-Aid training. The 12-hour session teaches faculty and staff a set of action steps for helping a distressed student until appropriate treatment and support are received. “Many students just need someone to notice they are having challenges and ask about their life in a nonjudgmental way,” says Tyler, who completed the training in July. “The training gives you the tools to initiate these conversations, recognize the issues and effectively refer students to the appropriate resources,” he says.

“Most students face obstacles, but often don’t know how to ask for help. Students typically don’t leave school because they aren’t smart enough. With a little more guidance, most could make it. Supporting students is a crucial part of my job.”



The college’s Agricultural Weekend Experience (AWE) gives students majoring in agriculture and life sciences the opportunity to interact with Iowa families and the agriculture community. Participants spend the weekend as guests on a working family farm. This fall, 11 students participated in the AWE program. Carly Martin, student intern in the college communications office, coordinated the program. The ISU Agricultural Endowment Board and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences sponsor AWE. Participants say the program helped broaden their understanding of agriculture.

“I saw that farming is not as cheap as I thought it was. It made me realize that you never know how something is until you get out there and experience it, which is what this program has allowed me to do.” Khadija Brown, a freshman in animal science pre-vet from Chicago.

“The weekend answered many of my questions with first-hand examples like allowing us to use the equipment.” Chawn McGrath, a freshman in animal science from Pennsylvania.

“This program is very beneficial for any student in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Whether a student has a farming background or not, it can give someone a new perspective on how farms are operated.” Katelyn Gardner, a junior in public service and administration from Vinton.

“The AWE program showed me what a true Iowa family farm is like and it was interesting to see all the hard work and challenges that go along with farming.” Kelsey Regan, a junior in agricultural biosystems technology from Davenport.


Four of the five student-recipients of the ISU Wallace E. Barron All-University Senior Award were from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. The award recognizes outstanding seniors who display high character, outstanding achievement in academics and university/community activities and promise for continuing these exemplary qualities as alumni. CALS recipients for 2012 were: Sam Bird, global resource systems and economics; Sagar Chawla, biology and global resource systems; Scott Henry, agricultural business, finance and international agriculture; and Amy Peyton, agricultural business, economics, public service and administration in agriculture and international agriculture.


Danielle Hamilton, a senior in agricultural and life sciences education, was elected president of the National Postsecondary Agriculture Student Organization and Logan Lyon, a junior in agronomy, was elected president-elect at the group’s national meeting in November. Rachel Owen, a senior in global resource systems and agronomy, was elected national vice president of Students of Agronomy, Soils and Environmental Sciences at the American Society of Agronomy in October.


Four women from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences were honored by the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics on the sixth annual Women Impacting ISU calendar. Molly Heintz (right), a senior in animal science; Alejandra Navarro, a senior in animal ecology; Sharon Bird, associate professor of sociology; and Shelley Taylor, assistant director of Global Agriculture Programs were selected to appear on the 2012 calendar.


Write your story and continue the adventure you started in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences: That was the advice of convocation speaker Ashley Dermody, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in agronomy in December. Hear her complete address and see a photo slideshow online at


Agricultural Business Club

For the past six years, Iowa State University’s Agricultural Business Club has been recognized as the “National Outstanding Chapter.” This award distinguishes the club as the best agricultural business club in the nation. The club has more than 150 members, with about 30 of those serving each year as chairs for eight committees. The club strives to provide agricultural business students with opportunities to develop their leadership skills, recognize their accomplishments and create unity among the students and faculty. Agricultural business students are given the chance to participate in an industry golf tournament, Pre-Career Day panel discussion, roadside cleanup, industry tours and attend the National Agriculture and Applied Economics Association conference each year.

Block & Bridle

Block & Bridle, the largest club in the college with nearly 300 members, promotes the animal industry through various activities and service projects. The club dates back to 1919, when ISU was among its founding national member universities. It recently received several awards at the 2012 National Block and Bridle Convention placing first in chapter activities and chapter yearbook and second in chapter webpage. The Little North American showmanship contest is one of the most prestigious events the club hosts annually along with other livestock and companion-animal shows. The club serves the Ames community through canned food drives, donating hand-made blankets to hospitals and participating in VEIS HEA service projects.

Collegiate FFA

Members of the ISU Collegiate FFA were happy to have the Iowa FFA Convention back on the Iowa State campus this April after a few years held elsewhere. Iowa State University has had a presence at the Iowa FFA Convention for more than 25 years. The Collegiate FFA assists with the conventions every year by volunteering at a silent auction, sponsoring a bingo night and interacting with high school FFA at different convention activities. Besides helping with FFA events, this organization is most well known on campus for its annual pancake breakfast which is held during National FFA Week and sponsoring a “Dean for a Day” contest as a fundraising event for the club.

Landscape Club

Known for its hands-on experiences, the Landscape Club gives ample opportunities to enhance learning outside of the classroom. It seeks service projects that allow club members to conduct the entire process of landscape design and installment. Recently, members took part in the design and installation process of the green roof on the Horticulture Building. Because of their great efforts, the club was asked to install another green roof on the Memorial Union in Spring 2012. “The skills that we learn through these projects we put to use at our annual Professional Landcare Network trip,” says club president, Miles Thompson, a senior in horticulture. During the trip club members compete at events such as landscape installation and design contest and take advantage of great networking opportunities.

National Agri-Marketing Association

Iowa State University’s student chapter of the National Agri-Marketing Association is a catalyst for students with the desire to expand their agri-marketing abilities while developing and utilizing professional networks. The student club works closely with the Iowa Professional NAMA chapter. The club supports a marketing team, which competes nationally. Students receive independent study credit as members of the marketing team. Currently, there are over 30 student members and this continues to grow each year. The Iowa State student chapter has earned several national awards in recent years including Outstanding Chapter twice in the last five years and the 2011 John Deere Signature Award.


The 90-year-old tradition of VEISHEA wouldn’t be a success without strong leadership from College of Agriculture and Life Sciences students. The 2012 executive committee was nearly 50 percent CALS students and led by B.J. Brugman, senior in agricultural business, as a general co-chair. The college had 11 clubs participating in this year’s VEIS HEA through fundraising and activities for the public. Some VEISHEA favorites include the Dairy Science Club’s “I Milked A Cow” event, timbersports on central campus, the Horticulture Club’s plant sale and several club foodstands.

Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Science

The Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Science is a growing organization open to students from any major. This national organization promotes the advancement and potential of multicultural students on campus through assisting with leadership activities, internships, scholarships and career placement. “This organization is all about making life changes and helping students have a successful college experience,” says Aurelio Curbelo, the club’s adviser. Statistics have shown that multicultural students involved with MANRRS have increased graduation rates and obtain jobs faster. One of the most rewarding activities that MANRRS members partake in is a campaign promoting the importance of receiving a diploma in Iowa and Illinois at-risk school districts. Members also get the opportunity for international travel and serve the community with various service projects.


Tia Sandoval has been bitten by the travel bug and she loves to share her affliction. Sandoval is a Student Travel Consultant with the Ag Study Abroad office.

Three College of Agriculture and Life Sciences travel courses to China, Brazil and Ecuador are just the beginning of her international experiences.

The senior in animal science and international agriculture spent last spring semester in Brazil. While there, Sandoval, from Kansas City, Mo., polished her Portuguese skills and completed an independent study on poultry nutrition at the Federal University of Viçosa in Minas Gerais. She also taught an English conversational course.

“It can be difficult to learn a language from books or teachers, so I came up with different topics each week and led them in conversations,” Sandoval says. “It was rewarding to see them progress in their English and become more conversational.”

In order to share her experiences, Sandoval has worked as a Student Travel Consultant with the Ag Study Abroad office since 2009. The student consulting program grew from suggestions by students in 2005 who wanted more interaction with students who had been abroad. Today there are five student consultants on staff.

“As a consultant, we share personal experiences from a student perspective so other students can relate to the program and find out more about studying abroad,” Sandoval says.

Briana McNeal, a junior in global resource systems and nutrition, will be studying abroad on the same semester exchange program to Brazil next year.

“It was nice to listen to Tia’s personal experiences rather than reading pamphlets from the school, because now I have a better idea of what to expect,” says McNeal.

Each semester, the consultants provide valuable feedback to the Ag Study Abroad staff on what their peers are interested in, helping the programming to be more effective. Last year, 220 students participated in Ag Study Abroad travel courses. Shelley Taylor, director of study abroad for the college, says the consultants play a critical role.

“Student travel consultants are insiders. Students consider the information more valuable coming from peers than from me,” Taylor says. “This program is so valuable in recruiting. It is a crucial link in staying relevant to our goals.”

Sandoval says she enjoys sharing what she has learned abroad.

“My experiences have taught me to be open minded,” Sandoval says. “When you’re in a new country or culture, it is important to keep an open mind, because they have different beliefs, cultural activities, food and ways of doing things. This gives me the opportunity to learn something new and also share what I know.”

Sandoval has been nominated for Agriculture Extension in Sub-Sahara Africa with the Peace Corps, where she

Tia Sandoval

hopes to share her passion for agriculture in an international setting.


Agricultural journalism alum Janine Whipps helps her clients focus on what's most important: their relationships with customers.

When Janine (Stewart) Whipps was a student at Iowa State, her family’s farm faced a crisis when pseudorabies struck the purebred Duroc herd.

The family worked with Iowa State to successfully transfer embryos from their best Duroc sows and implant them in disease- free sows. The result: Elite genetic lines were saved and the herd rebuilt.

Whipps (’83 agricultural journalism) wrote a story about it. She pitched it to Successful Farming magazine, which bought the article and ran it.

“That was the first article I ever sold. It was a big deal. As a student, you have to do things like that to be different and stand out from the crowd,” she says. “That’s what I tell young people who have a passion for agriculture and for communications.”

Whipps has lived her advice. She’s one of the principals of Morgan&Myers, a company she’s been with 27 years, that provides integrated communications and strategic planning services for agricultural clients in animal health, seed, banking, commodity organizations and more. The company offices in Waterloo, where Whipps is based, and Waukesha, Wis.

As a student, Whipps was active in both journalism and agricultural groups, including working for swine industry legend Al Christian at the ISU Swine Teaching Farm. Her goal was to work for a national agricultural magazine. But she graduated as the Farm Crisis deepened and found slimmer opportunities.

So her first job was working for a Harvestore dealership in communications, advertising and client relations. “It was a great first job. You leave college thinking you know it all, then you realize you don’t. That’s good for everyone to learn,” she says.

Whipps went on to work for the Hampshire Swine Registry in Peoria and then an agency in Cedar Falls that worked on animal health and seed industry accounts. Morgan&Myers eventually bought the agency and Whipps stayed on.

“We’ve grown while staying very true to our agricultural and pasture-to-plate roots,” she says. “I’m pleased to have worked so long with so many who are making a difference in food and agriculture.”

One accomplishment she’ll never forget was leading the team that worked with Asgrow to introduce Roundup Ready soybeans.

“I’d take farmers to a field and watch them as the plants were sprayed. You’d just see them cringe,” she recalls. “Then we’d return two weeks later and see this beautiful field of soybeans. Seeing that new technology take off was a great experience.”

Whipps has seen major changes in communications tools (gleefully, she believes every student should experience a manual typewriter). But some things don’t change.

“The fundamentals remain the same. You need to know your audience, have insight into what’s important to them, know what information is relevant and understand who influences their decisions,” Whipps says. “These are the foundation for building consistent messages that are on track and resonate. Then you need to build relationships and gain trust by being as transparent as possible. At the end of the day, relationships matter and are what sets companies, products and people apart.”


June 15, 2012 Alumni No Comments

Don Koo Lee breathed deeply and looked out into the audience of delegates to the United Nations. He leaned into the microphone and began to speak:

“The core idea is that sustainable development is feasible when both developing and developed countries assume full responsibility, share each other’s burden and collaborate,” Lee said as part of his address. “I believe these are

the values we must continue to uphold and pursue.”

As minister of the Korea Forest Service, Lee (’75 MS forest biometry, ’78 PhD silviculture) sought to inspire the delegates to work together in “ecosystemic development,” which he and other world leaders see as a possible solution for desertification, land degradation and drought.

Lee was invited to address the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in October 2011 as president of the Conference of the Parties, the decision-making body of that convention. He proposed the Changwon Initiative, which provides practical measures to battling desertification and land degradation.

Lee is a renowned expert in forest sciences, especially forest regeneration and silviculture (the growth and management of trees for wood production). He served as president of the International Union of Forest Research Organizations from 2006 to 2010 and became minister of the Korea Forest Service in February 2011.

“I make and develop better policies and determine how to put them into practice. I enjoy knowing that the Korea Forest Service is well-recognized among other government organizations in our country. We recently obtained the top ranking in one-year work accomplishments among 38 government organizations.”

Most of Lee’s career has been spent as a professor of forest sciences at his alma mater–the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Seoul National University—where he also served a two-year term as dean.

His academic career culminated in the publication of “Ecological Management of Forests,” a book he authored with 29 of his students.

For Lee, the completion of his master’s and doctorate at Iowa State not only allowed him to build a meaningful career, it was the achievement of a childhood dream to become a professor.

Lee says he is glad government consultants recommended he attend Iowa State. He remembers the kindness and friendliness of Iowans, the hot July day he married his wife in a church near Ames, the volatile summer weather and the football rivalries.

“The Cyclones beat Nebraska in 1976 and the goal post was destroyed in the joy of victory,” he recalls.

Lee’s advice to current students: “Please have your own dream! Be ambitious in spirit and honest in all your works! Then you will be well-recognized and obtain great success.”

In his work with the United Nations Don Lee, minister of the Korea Forest Service, is working to address desertification and land degradation worldwide. He says to succeed all nations must "assume responsibility, share each other's burden."

His dream for the Republic of Korea is to continue to lead and collaborate with the international community in sustainable development and forestry cooperation.


Scholarship recipient Alyssa Swan helps groom the horses at the ISU Horse Barns as part of a service project with the ISU Horseman's Association. Swan says receiving a scholarship allows her to participate in service activities and gain research experience rather than working to finance her education.

For many students, receiving a scholarship not only supports them financially, it gives them that extra boost of confidence needed to take advantage of all the opportunities college presents.

Alyssa Swan is such a student. As a Dean’s Leadership Scholar she receives financial support for working at east 10 hours per week in an area related to her major.

“Our scholarships come from someone who believes in us and in the college,” she says. “Being selected as a Dean’s Leadership Scholar was fantastic. It was like someone saying, ‘Here you go, you can do this!’ The donors believe in CALS and they believe I can make an impact and that helps me go that extra mile.”

Make that miles. Swan, a junior in animal science from Milwaukee is an officer in the ISU Horseman’s Association and a member of the Pre-Vet Club. She also is a member of National Society of Collegiate Scholars, Alpha Lambda Delta / Phi Eta Sigma and Alpha Zeta honor societies as well as the University Honors Program.

She has worked as undergraduate research assistant in Matthew Ellinwood’s lab since her freshman year (see story on Ellinwood on page four). Swan worked as an animal caretaker and assisted Ellinwood with a surgical procedure related to his genetic research on the mucopolysaccharidoses diseases.

Swan continues to work in the lab, but is now leading her own project researching cat coat color genetics. She believes this project has the potential to advance the future genetic research potential of the cat colony.

“I don’t think I ever would have been adventurous enough to attempt undergraduate research my freshman year if it hadn’t been part of my scholarship. Because of my work with Dr. Ellinwood, I’ve really been able to begin to figure out what I like to do and how to plan for my future,” she says.

Swan has an externship at Wisconsin Equine Clinic and Hospital this summer— an opportunity she says she might not have been able to take if she had not received a scholarship, because the job is unpaid.

She benefitted so much from her scholarship she’s already looking for ways to pay it forward.

“I see myself becoming a donor in the future because these scholarships have improved my experience tenfold,” she says.


June 15, 2012 Impact No Comments

Sharing quality time in a seminar with the dean of the college can help shape the rest of your college experience—if not the rest of your life.

Catherine Swoboda, (’08 agronomy), who works for the World Food Prize Foundation in Des Moines, says the Dean’s Leadership Seminar was a highlight of her years at ISU. “It taught me the joy of thinking analytically and rigorously and the pleasure of generously sharing ideas and knowledge. And for a freshman to have access to instruction by the deans was very impressive,” Swoboda says.

Each fall semester, a new cohort of students takes the Dean’s Leadership Seminar. The students are offered the opportunity as recipients of some of the college’s premier endowed scholarships. The seminar, co-taught by Dean Wendy Wintersteen and Associate Dean of Academic and Global Programs David Acker, introduces the freshmen to leadership qualities, problem solving on current issues, global perspectives and responding to societal needs in agriculture and life sciences.

“These students are up-and-comers who’ll be leaders in the college and in their future careers,” says Wintersteen. “It’s wonderful to follow these students as they progress through college and into careers.”

Nate Looker, a senior in agronomy and global resource systems, says the dean’s seminar substantially shaped his undergraduate experience. “Associate Dean Acker exhibits the style of leadership I hope to develop with time, empowering others with genuine, respectful communication. He introduced me to colleagues with whom he thought I’d share interests, helping me diversify my experiences.”

Rachel Owen, a senior who’ll graduate in agronomy, says she remembers Wintersteen speaking about how to respond to a critical news article. “The reason that stuck with me is because of the professionalism in which she handled the situation,” Owen says. “I try to model the same professionalism when I’m in a leadership role.”

The seminar was a great motivator, Owen adds. “Since the class, I’ve been involved in many student organizations both on campus and nationally. The issues we addressed helped me become a better leader.”

Allyson (Chwee) Dirksen (’08 agricultural business) took the Dean’s Leadership Seminar in 2004 with then-associate dean Eric Hoiberg. “Dean Hoiberg’s integrity made an impression on me. He was such an

approachable, sincere mentor,” says Dirksen, who now practices law in Sioux City.

CALS students Andrew Owen, sophomore in pre-diet and exercise, and Gail Barnum, junior in food science, are among the students who regularly visit with Dean Wendy Wintersteen as part of the Dean's Leadership Seminar.

Amy Peyton, now a senior in agricultural business, says she learned how important it was to contribute to a conversation with peers about real-world issues. “That was the best part, meeting and becoming friends with the amazing people in class, several of whom I’m still good friends with today.”

ALUMNI NEWS – Spring 2012

June 15, 2012 News No Comments

Fifty-seven individuals were honored with 28 awards at the 80th Honors and Awards Ceremony in October. Several College of Agriculture and Life Sciences alumni were honored by the ISU Alumni Association:

~Gerald (’53 farm operations) and Carol Hunter (’58 home ec ed) of Ames, received an Alumni Medal

~Gerald Klonglan (’58 rural sociology, MS ’62, PhD ‘63) of Ames, emeritus sociology professor and retired associate dean, received the Alumni Service Award

~Alan (’66 animal science) and Myrna Tubbs (’66 child dev) of DeWitt, received the Alumni Service Award

~Larry Ebbers (’62 ag and life sciences education, MS ‘68) of Ames, received the Award for Superior Service to Alumni

Recipients of College of Agriculture and Life Sciences awards were:

~James Frevert (’60 farm operations) of Nevada, Iowa, received the Floyd Andre Award

~Lowell Catlett (’80 PhD economics) of Mesilla, N.M., received the Henry A. Wallace Award

~Harold Crawford (’50 ag and life sciences education, ’55 MS, ’60 PhD) of Ames, emeritus agricultural education and studies professor and retired associate dean, received the George Washington Carver Distinguished Service Award

~Charles Stewart (’00 PhD ag biochemistry) of San Diego, received the Superior Achievement Award for Early or Mid-Career Alumni


American Agriculturist Editor John Vogel (’70 ag journalism and animal science), was honored by the American Agricultural Editor’s Association in New Orleans with the “Writer of Merit” award. He’s only the sixth person in the association’s history to attain that distinction. The award requires scoring honors in 10 of 12 writing categories, such as ag issues, on-farm production articles, technical features, economics and management, human interest, editorial opinion and blogs.


Ed Kiefer, vice president and office manager for Hertz Farm Management Inc., was named 2011 Professional Farm Manager of the Year by Syngenta, AgProfessional magazine and the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers. Kiefer (’75 agricultural business) has been a farm manager for 36 years and manages Hertz’s Geneseo, Ill. office.


Theodore “Ted” Hutchcroft was inducted into the National 4-H Hall of Fame in October for lifetime achievements and contributions to 4-H. Hutchcroft (’53 agricultural journalism) was one of 15 people inducted during a ceremony held at the National 4-H Youth Conference Center. He served as the information director of the National 4-H Foundation for nine years beginning in 1959. Hutchcroft retired in 1994 after serving as interim director of communications and publications of the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines.


Clint Schwab (’05 MS animal breeding and genetics, ’07 PhD) received the 2012 Outstanding Early Career Agribusiness Award from the Midwest sections of the American Society of Animal Science and American Dairy Science Association. Schwab is the CE O of the National Swine Registry, a company that provides genetic evaluations, breed promotions and educational materials to the swine industry.


Bob Chlupach (’71 fisheries & wildlife biology) completed 1,000 grueling miles by dogsled in the legendary Iditarod race across Alaska in March. He entered and completed his first Iditarod, longest dog sled race in the world, in 1977. He has since entered and completed 11 Iditarods over five decades. Since retiring from his career as a fishery biologist, Chlupach has worked as a carpenter and professional sports fishing guide in Alaska.


June 15, 2012 Impact 2 Comments

Ashli Jay, a freshman from Miami, called Marshall Ruble repeatedly asking for a job at the Beef Teaching Farm and a chance to prove herself alongside students with more on-farm experience. Ruble was impressed by her determination.

When Marshall Ruble started as manager of the beef teaching farm as a new Iowa State grad, he figured he’d stay three or four years. It’s now been nearly 33 years, mentoring hundreds of students to care for the farm’s herd.

The farm provides cattle for 11 undergraduate courses, industry events such as scholarship contests, livestock judging, artificial insemination schools, ultrasound training and ultrasound certification.

“If we can help promote animal agriculture we want to be a presence. We are involved in a few research projects if it doesn’t affect our primary directive of undergraduate teaching,” he adds.

Ruble (’78 animal science) is a native Iowan raised on a diversified livestock farm near Corydon. He especially loves beef cattle, although he’s taken care of sheep, swine, horses, chickens and dairy cattle.

Ruble likes to call his student-workers “projects.” His no-nonsense demeanor doesn’t hide his concern for the students under his charge.

“My success is measured if they’re successful,” he says.

More and more student workers have been added in recent years. Enrollment is at an all time record for animal science and expected to increase significantly this coming fall semester. About 11 students work each semester. Some care for the animals while others maintain machinery. In the summer, students work harvesting forages and bedding for the sheep, swine, horse, beef teaching and beef nutrition farms.

“The students are my labor,” he says, “Without them, we don’t get it done.”

Ruble has been impressed by the students coming from more urban areas, a trend that started about 15 years ago. About a third of the farm’s students are pre-vet, with most coming from animal science majors.

Ashli Jay, an animal science freshman from Miami, wanted to work with cattle in high school. For her that meant going to another school district to join an FFA program. The USDA’s Ag Discovery summer program brought her to Iowa State and she liked it so much Jay decided to apply after high school.

“She started calling me when she graduated, emailing me, wanting a job,” says Ruble.

Jay’s initiative and persistence helped convince him to hire her despite a lack of experience.

“He took me under his wing and helped me with transitioning from Florida to Iowa,” Jay says, even helping her shop for the proper footwear for working on the farm in winter. “I am so grateful for Marshall, I could not have a better introduction to Iowa.”

Ruble estimates he’s had nearly 200 students work at the farm during his 33 years as manager. Many start as freshman and continue working until they graduate.

His first crew set a standard for excellence that he strives to continue:

~Steve Johnson (’81 animal science) is the director of feedyard operations at Cactus Feeders, the largest cattle feeder in the nation

~Dave Judd (’80 animal science) is a Kansas Gelbvieh cattle breeder

~David Edge (’80 farm operation) is owner with his wife, Melanie, of the Western Edge stores, farms and raises horses

Edge still has vivid memories of that first calving season with Ruble.

“I spent a couple summers on a Montana ranch, so I’d rope calves from a pick-up while he drove. After roping, my job was to tag, weigh and tattoo calves all the while keeping as far from the cows as possible,” he says. “They would try to get into the truck. After that year, Marshall began to select for disposition in the herd.”

Edge also took away the importance of record-keeping from the experience, something he applies in his current businesses.

Ruble expects students to learn as well as earn a paycheck.

“Everybody’s going to learn,” he says. “Every job you have hopefully you learn and pick up new things. I always ask them, ‘What do you want to get out of this job today?’.”

Ruble Recognized for Excellence

Dean Wendy Wintersteen presented Marshall Ruble with the Dean’s Citation for Extraordinary Contributions Feb. 16 at the college’s spring convocation. The surprise award recognizes faculty and staff who have exceeded expectations. Maynard Hogberg, chair of the Department of Animal Science, says he nominated Ruble because he’s a dedicated staff member who is a great role model for other employees.

“Marshall Ruble continuously operates the Beef Teaching unit with a positive financial operating balance. He does this with hard work, smart buying and closely monitoring costs of his operation, including student labor,” Hogberg says.

The Beef Teaching cow herd produces genetics sought after by commercial beef producers, Hogberg says, judging by the success of the biannual “Tradition of Excellence Female Sale.” It is conducted with assistance of the Beef Marketing Class that is co-taught by Ruble and Brad Skaar. Ruble also is one of Iowa State’s main contacts for the Iowa beef industry. He has served on multiple boards and committees, including the Iowa Beef Breeds Council where he served at the president.


June 15, 2012 Students No Comments

Bart Howard

Bart Howard was known on campus for the costumes he wore to class around Halloween — and for being an excellent student.

He donned a cap and gown when he graduated magna cum laude in December with degrees in forestry and agricultural business. Howard was selected to represent the college at commencement as its student marshal to honor his accomplishments.

He also was a letter winner on the track team and was selected to represent the student chapter of the Society of American Foresters at its national convention last fall. Howard had impressive internships every year of his college career, and is working as an arborist for Ryan Lawn and Tree in Kansas City.

“Bart is constantly on the move,” says Richard Schultz, university professor of natural resource ecology and management, who served as his escort as marshal, and led a study abroad trip to China that Howard completed.

“I’m most proud of my family; how my parents raised me and how close I am with my sisters, Holly and Hannah,” Howard says.

The three siblings had majors in natural resource fields and lived together while going to school. Holly graduated in 2010 (animal ecology, environmental studies and biology). Hannah plans to graduate in fall 2013 with a forestry degree and spring 2013 with an animal ecology degree.

They were by his side to celebrate his graduation.


June 15, 2012 Faculty No Comments

Matthew O'Neil, graduate student in nutritional sciences, chats with Charles F. Curtiss Distinguished Professor Don Beitz. Beitz, co-creator of the agricultural biochemistry major, is known for creating a warm and welcoming environment and tailoring his advising style to meet students' unique needs.

After his first semester at the University of Illinois, freshman Don Beitz walked into his adviser’s office to register for second-semester classes. His adviser pointed a finger at him and said, “Beitz! You’re going to graduate school!”

Beitz, who described himself as a rather timid new college student, said: “What’s graduate school?” His adviser told him; it meant he’d be taking a lot more math, chemistry and physics. Beitz liked the sound of that; he excelled in all those.

Then his adviser pointed his finger again. He pointed down the hallway, where he told Beitz to go see a colleague and ask for a job working in his research lab.

Beitz listened and took both suggestions. He also learned a lesson in advising students that he’s used many times in his 45 years on the Iowa State faculty.

“My adviser got to know me, took me under his wing and helped me. He was relatively forward in making his suggestions, which I needed. And he knew I needed that. It’s a style I’ve tried to mimic. After I get to know a student, I’ll throw out some ideas. With some students, you just try to stay out of their way. With others, you need to lead more.”

“I try to motivate students for excellence,” says Beitz. “I always tell them: Good grades have never hurt anybody. Be the best you can be while you’re in college. You’ve got to be totally honest with them and have the highest integrity possible. I’ve never had locked office doors. I do whatever I can to ensure I don’t spoil anyone’s trust in me.”

Beitz is a Charles F. Curtiss Distinguished Professor of Agriculture and Life Sciences in animal science and in biochemistry, biophysics and molecular biology. When he won the prestigious Morrison Award for outstanding research from the American Society of Animal Science in 2010, Beitz estimated he’d taught more than 11,000 students and directed 94 advanced degree programs. Those numbers have grown in two years and continue to grow.

Beitz has sustained a remarkable enthusiasm for education, research and establishing lifelong ties with his students. He thinks of his students, past and present, as extended family.

One of those “family members” is Kim Buhman (’92 ag biochemistry), an associate professor of nutrition scienc eat Purdue University.

“From Dr. Beitz, I learned a lot about the importance of being active, enjoying life and being inquisitive in whatever you do,” Buhman says. “But his role as a lifelong mentor is what I treasure most. He continues to introduce me to new people, helps me to identify opportunities I haven’t imagined before and offers suggestions and support when I need it most. His strong passion for people, science and knowledge created this network that has served so many. Dr. Beitz is a gem.”

Beitz says it’s simply a joy to help students find something they’re excited about and will love to do after college. “It makes me feel good at heart.”

For more than 25 years, Beitz has taught a seminar for freshmen with a focus on science, biotechnology, DNA and biochemistry. Near the start of the freshman seminar, he talks about defining life on chemistry terms.

“I tell them the difference between life and death is a sodium pump. Students just look at me. So I explain how our bodies take fuel, burn it and make ATP. We use ATP to keep sodium out of our cells so we have a gradient. As long as that sodium pump is working, the brain functions. As soon as that gradient disappears, the brain dies. We have some great discussions. It’s amazing how much interest you generate when you start talking about whether you are what you eat.”

Beitz considers himself the most fortunate guy in the world. As he was completing his graduate degree at Michigan State and about to accept a job offer in another state, he got a phone call from Norm Jacobson at Iowa State. Jacobson, a dairy nutrition physiologist, invited him to interview for a faculty position that was half animal science, half biochemistry. After the interview, Beitz was offered the job and accepted immediately.

“It was a perfect fit. We had a great set of faculty members in the nutritional physiology program. We started the agricultural biochemistry major. I believe strongly that we need to train students in the fundamental sciences so they can apply them to agriculture. It’s what I’ve loved about my own research.”

His research has covered cholesterol issues in animals and humans; nutritional and genetic control of the composition of milk and meat; and a deeper understanding of the causes and potential treatment of fatty liver and ketosis in dairy cattle.

Beitz says his biggest contribution to research has been on what animal scientists can do to improve animal products for humans. “Animal scientists should think more about the composition of products. We need to think about producing the desired composition for the consuming public.”

But Beitz’s pride and joy has been all the students he’s known, worked with and kept track of after they leave ISU.

“My freshman seminar meets in a room in Kildee Hall that has portraits of past animal nutrition faculty. I like to talk about each person and what they did. Students should know about the people looking down on them from the walls. One day, a student told me, ‘I want my picture up there someday.’ That was just great to hear. It really was.”

STORIES ONLINE EXTRA: Alumni share their thoughts on Beitz


June 15, 2012 News No Comments


Andrew Lenssen joined Iowa State Oct. 1 as a soybean systems agronomist with teaching, research and extension responsibilities. Lenssen comes to ISU from Sidney, Mont., where he was a research ecologist and lead scientist for USDA dryland research.

Catherine Kling, economics, has been named interim director of the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development. Kling has served as the division head of CARD ’s Resource and Environmental Policy Division. Kling took over for Bruce Babcock who is now the Cargill Endowed Chair in Energy Economics and director of the Biobased Industry Center.

Angela Laury (’03 animal science, MS ’06 meat science), began work in August as an assistant professor in food science and human nutrition and extension food safety specialist. She works with Iowa producers and manufacturers to promote food safety. Laury completed a doctorate at Texas Tech University in animal science, with an emphasis in food safety and microbiology.

David Krog (‘80 agronomy, MS ‘82 economics, PhD ‘88), former CE O of AgraGate Climate Credits Corp., has been named the inaugural Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the Agricultural Entrepreneurship Initiative. Krog will support instruction in an undergraduate economics course, provide mentorship to the initiative’s Student Incubator Program and assist with the Affiliates Program.


Lee Burras (‘81 agronomy, MS ‘84), agronomy professor, received the annual USDA Food and Agricultural Sciences Excellence in Teaching Award on Nov. 13 in San Francisco. The award is based on teaching quality, philosophy and methodology; service to the profession and students; and professional growth and development.


Ann Marie VanDerZanden, horticulture, has been named director of the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching. Associate director of CELT and its interim director since Aug. 1, VanDerZanden also will serve as codirector of the university’s learning communities program.


Steven Rodermel is one of five from ISU honored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science in February at the association’s annual meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia. Rodermel, professor of genetics, development and cell biology, was named fellow “for distinguished contributions to the field of photosynthesis, particularly for understanding nuclear-chloroplast genetic coordination, and for university and (National Science Foundation) administrative service.”


June 15, 2012 Faculty No Comments

Linda Hugelen, Sitting Bull College project coordinator, and Howard Crawford, an emeritus professor of agricultural education and studies, greet powwow dancers at Standing Rock Reservation.

When the 9/11 tragedy unfolded, Harold Crawford was visiting faculty at Sitting Bull Tribal College in the middle of southern North Dakota. It was a warm, clear day when Ron His Horse Is Thunder, the college’s president, stopped in the dean’s office to tell Crawford he wasn’t going anywhere and invited him to stay at his home.

Crawford, an emeritus professor of agricultural education and studies, vividly recalls that day. Like many across the nation, Crawford paused to reflect on the events at hand. He also reflected on the purpose of his visit to a college located on the northern plains.

Crawford says his work to help tribal colleges is one of the highlights of his nearly 50-year career at Iowa State University. The programs were funded through a U.S. Department of Agriculture Initiative and brought in more than $4 million to enhance natural resource education at four tribal colleges in Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota.

He came to Iowa State as a transfer student in 1946, after serving in WWII. After graduation, Crawford (’50 agricultural education, MS ’55, PhD ‘59) taught high school agriculture before becoming an instructor at Iowa State in 1965. He soon became a professor and head of the department of agricultural education.

In 1983 he became the associate dean of international programs and put his innovative technological ideas to work. He developed a mobile microcomputer lab for off-campus instruction. He and two instructors loaded a dozen large suitcase-sized microcomputers in a mobile lab and traveled throughout Iowa.

Wade Miller, chair of agricultural education and studies and the first director of the Brenton Center for Agricultural Instruction and Technology Transfer, describes Crawford as a visionary, who believes in outreach and is dedicated to agricultural education.

“Lots of people have good ideas, what distinguishes Harold is that he acts on his ideas,” Miller says. “The Mobile Microcomputer Van helped teachers learn the ‘new’ technology of computers.”

Crawford saw the need to provide distance education and understood the importance of making classes available to potential students who couldn’t make it to campus. Today, distance education is seen as an essential service and the college provides classes for students working on both bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

“Dr. Crawford has done everything at every level,” says Robert Martin, professor of agricultural education and studies. “Throughout his career he’s always had the best interest of each student in the forefront.”

Crawford continued his focus on educational technology after he became associate dean and director of international agriculture programs in 1989. He retired in 2007, after collaborations brought in nearly $17 million in funding for various projects. He currently keeps an office in Curtiss Hall and continues to write proposals for grants and work on historical projects.

Crawford and his wife Rachel continue to support agricultural education and studies programs and students. Their support helped renovate a suite of Curtiss Hall classrooms—the same classrooms in which Harold both learned as a student and taught as a professor.


June 15, 2012 Partners No Comments

Agriculture degrees are hot, and enrollment in community colleges’ agriculture programs has soared in recent years. For students like Katie Yule, who start at Kirkwood Community College and want to earn a four-year degree at Iowa State University, the collaborative spirit among student services staff at both institutions makes the transfer process as seamless as possible.

“My Kirkwood adviser helped lay out all my options and explained what classes would transfer,” says Yule, a senior from Packwood who is majoring in agricultural studies at Iowa State. “It was a very smooth transition.”

Transfer students have always been important to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. They comprised nearly 27 percent of the college’s enrollment in 2011. “As soon as students tell us they are thinking about transferring, we get them lined up with an ISU adviser so they can develop that relationship,” says Scott Ermer, dean of agricultural sciences at Kirkwood, who noted that approximately 40 percent of Kirkwood’s ag students transfer to four-year schools.

Communication is the key, says Barb Osborn, an academic adviser and program coordinator in the Iowa State University Department of Horticulture. “Both ISU and Kirkwood share the common goal of student success, and we know each other’s academic programs very well. By developing a transfer process that’s economical and timely, we can match each student with the best options available.”

Osborn has seen the partnership benefit students first hand, as three of her own children attended Kirkwood and transferred to Iowa State in agricultural programs.

Today’s ag students come from diverse backgrounds, says Ermer, who noted a growing number of young people want to return to the family farm or work in production agriculture. In addition, more non-traditional students in their 30s, 40s and early 50s are enrolling in ag programs at Kirkwood to train for a new career. While transferring to Iowa State may not be part of some Kirkwood students’ initial plans, Ermer says a sizeable percentage discover a four-year degree is achievable and make it part of their career goals.

Iowa State offers a number of resources to simplify the transition for transfers, says Yule, who coordinates campus visits, manages the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ Facebook group for transfer students and highlights the various ag clubs on campus. “I’ve had an awesome experience at ISU, and I encourage transfer students to get as involved as possible.”

Katie Yule (right), a senior in agricultural studies, leads a tour group of prospective transfer students and their parents as part of her role as an Ag Ambassador. In 2011, nearly 27 percent of the college's enrollment transferred credits from another institution.

The faculty and staff at Iowa State and Kirkwood are always willing to go the extra mile for students, Ermer says. “The partnership with Iowa State continues to strengthen, and it has been a successful model not only for Kirkwood, but for other community colleges across Iowa and beyond.”


June 15, 2012 Partners No Comments

Matt Deppe (left), chief executive officer of the Iowa Cattleman's Association, and Dan Loy, director of the Iowa Beef Center at Iowa State University, look for ways to combine efforts of their two organizations to move the industry forward.

Take one organization focused on offering top notch research information to Iowa’s beef industry, add another organization committed to growing Iowa’s beef business through advocacy, leadership and education, and what do you have? A collaborative effort for helping Iowa beef producers that’s second to none.

Iowa Beef Center director Dan Loy says the center’s strength is access to a leading research university with faculty and staff who share a commitment to provide relevant unbiased information to the state’s beef industry.

“Iowa State University Extension and Outreach has a long history of providing information to ag-minded professionals to make operational decisions that can lead to longer term sustainability,” he says. “Our regional program specialists and county extension staffs’ expertise complements our ability to be at the gate of the producer’s needs.”

As chief executive officer of the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association, Matt Deppe (’99 animal science) understands and appreciates the cooperation between the two organizations. Prior to becoming CEO, he worked for ISU Extension in county and regional extension education director roles.

“While the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association is the political and legislative voice for Iowa cattlemen and women, our interests in proactive policy measures utilize science and economics as a key component of working topics forward,” Deppe says. “The Iowa Beef Center provides access to information and that’s why we need and value the center as our partner.”

As an ISU Extension center funded partially with state dollars, the Iowa Beef Center is accountable to the people of Iowa. The Iowa Cattlemen’s Association is a grassroots membership organization with nearly 10,000 members and a network of county cattlemen’s associations across Iowa, and it is funded through membership and industry support.

Working together is a win-win situation for both groups, Loy says, because such cooperative programs provide cutting edge information that’s relevant to the needs of the producers.

“One recent example of success was a 10-site series of heifer development clinics across Iowa. Nearly 600 people learned about technologies available for the successful development of productive heifers,” Loy says. “The center and the association worked together from the beginning on this program from sponsor identification to publicity to attendance recruitment. We plan to continue to work together on programs like this in the future.”

Utilizing the combined staff and resources of two partners is efficient and effective when it comes to getting valuable resources and information into the hands of members, Deppe says.

“There’s no doubt that combining efforts and sharing credit for helping producers be profitable is something our association will be looking for well into the future,” he says. “Ultimately this relationship makes both organizations more effective as we continue to work for the same stakeholder.”


June 14, 2012 Faculty No Comments

Alumni on Beitz: Caring Mentor, Contagious Positive Spirit

Steve Johnston

Steve Johnston (’90 ag biochemistry , MS ‘91 biochemistry biophysics), professor and chair of biology, and the Roger and Nadeane Hruby Professsor in the Liberal Arts and Sciences, at North Central College, Naperville, Ill.

“Many years ago, Don and I were traveling to a meeting in Florida in the middle of winter. The weather was terrible. We ended up spending all night either in airports or on airplanes. Instead of arriving in early evening, we arrived in Florida at dawn. I complained that I felt greasy and needed a shower. Instead of joining my complaining, Don wondered aloud what lipids we had secreted that we were now feeling on our skin. Even when exhausted, Don never stopped being amazed by the natural world. And he never stopped passing that enthusiasm on to his students.”

Andrew Brown

Andrew Brown, (’07 ag biochemistry), postdoctoral fellow, Molecular and Cellular Pathology and Nutrition and Obesity Research Center, University of Alabama, Birmingham.

“Dr. Beitz has a knack for finding the mentoring strategy a student needs to grow. His mentoring provided a unique, strong foundation for my personal and professional lives. He helped me learn a deep, broad understanding of biochemistry with an integrated, physiologically relevant focus. He is open and honest, with a caring attitude. One way he helped me grow was by sharing some of his personal and professional mistakes so that I would not make them myself. Even today, he provides mentoring for me.”

Kimberly Buhman

Kimberly Buhman, (’92 ag biochemistry), associate professor of nutrition science, Purdue University.

“Dr. Beitz’s ‘can do’ positive spirit is certainly contagious. When I was a freshman, I wasn’t sure what to major in. Between classes one day I decided to stop by and visit Dr. Beitz to see if he had any advice. His door was open and he welcomed me in. He told me about a major and field of study I really knew nothing about, but certainly fit my interests and goals. I ended up choosing agricultural biochemistry and couldn’t have been more fortunate to have Dr. Beitz as my academic and honors project advisor. This was really the beginning of a professional relationship that continues today.”

Back to story: Beitz Knows in Student Advising, One Size Does Not Fit All

VOICES Big Solutions: Innovation and Collaboration at Work

By James C. Borel

The world faces a challenge—feeding 9 billion people by 2050 in sustainable ways with limited land and resources. We have made tremendous strides over the last century, but agriculture needs to continue to be more productive —to grow more on each acre of land.

We can meet the global food security challenge, but only if we empower collaboration and enhance the ability of farmers in all parts of the world to be as productive as possible.

One aspect of collaboration involves research universities and seed companies. The important research done in universities can be invaluable in finding new approaches to seed technology and crop production management. One example is a research collaboration that we, at DuPont, began in 2009 with Iowa State. We partnered to develop a new technology to more effectively develop biotech traits in plants and improve drought tolerance in corn.

We also work with the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines that brings together the Institute’s rice germplasm pool with DuPont’s capabilities in molecular analysis, commercial-scale breeding and field locations for testing hybrids.Partnerships like this could contribute to making available to rice breeders and farmers throughout Asia better advanced breeding lines and better hybrids.

At DuPont, we are a science company that believes in innovation and collaboration. We take seriously the example of the Pioneer Hi-Bred founder, Henry Wallace, who built his company by bringing innovation into the American cornfields. But we know that we cannot invent everything ourselves. So, in addition to significant research investments internally, we are also focused on how to encourage innovation more broadly.

New technology can be daunting to some, but Norman Borlaug, agronomist and Nobel Laureate, loved learning about new things. And he knew the formula: better innovation and more collaboration to improve agriculture, to empower farmers, to feed the world.

That was his formula. It is our formula at DuPont.

I think of agriculture as the “optimistic science.” Because together, with innovation and collaboration, we can help do what the world needs us to get done.

Click here for Borel’s confetti corn recipe.


“It’s just a café.”

Kevin Rettig still dons a chef’s coat from time to time at The Café, but since launching the restaurant he’s moved from executive chef to general manager.

“This type of restaurant was the fist of its kind in the Ames area,” he says. “They say the coasts are ve years ahead of us, but our ideas were right in line with what  I was seeing on the West coast at the time.”

The restaurant was designed to have  a neighborhood bistro feel with a menu grounded in local foods says Rettig (’94 food science and technology), who was executive chef at the time and has since become general manager.

The Café consists of a bakery and coffee-house, restaurant, bar and catering com-pany. Cooking methods are Old World like making sausage in-house, smoking and curing meats, grilling over a wood fie and roasting in a stone oven. They bake artisanal breads and every pastry and dessert is made from scratch.

Rettig considers it a “chameleon.”

“We want people to see us differently. We’ve always wanted to be a neighborhood place for ice cream with the kids, a four-course meal in the evenings, or just a quick breakfast,” he says. “Some people see us as a fancy place, but our intention has simply been to serve good food and take good care of people.”

Developing a taste for  the restaurant business

Rettig got his start in the restaurant business as a dishwasher at the Ames favorite, Aunt Maude’s. There he met the two men who would become his profes-sional mentors and business partners at The Café: Bob Cummings and Pat Breen.

As he attended Iowa State, Rettig quickly worked his way to tending bar, then to the kitchen where he cooked alongside the head chef at Aunt Maude’s for three years.

“My ability to cook and the knowledge to do so was gained by trial and error, lots of interest and great teachers and critics,” Rettig says. “I was afforded the luxury of being able to bring in an idea and to work with it until success, or sometimes failure.”

He spent time as head chef and general manager at O’Malley and McGees restaurant in Ames, and as a sous-chef in two restaurants in Portland, Oregon, for several years before he reconnected with Cummings and Breen to create The Café.

Flavor is always in season

The Café’s seasonal menu runs on a six-week cycle.

“Menu ideas come from everyone involved. We have great arguments about why something should or should not be on the menu,” Rettig says with a smile. “We find ideas from websites, trade magazines, newspapers, all over.”

One thing they all agree on is the use of local produce.

“Using local foods has a cause-and-effect relationship on the menu. It forces us to change with availability so that can be challenging. Plans can be ruined based on crop performance. But, the quality is better. An heirloom tomato needs to be picked and served when ripe, as with any vegetable,” says Rettig.

The Café orders food from farmers daily during the growing season and often produce is delivered the same day  it is picked. They work with about 25  different area growers. During the winter months, Rettig and his colleagues meet with farmers to plan for the next season.

“They come armed with seed catalogs and we have fun picking out new and unusual possibilities that they or we may like to try,” he says.

Rettig enjoys the focus on fresh, local produce but values food produc-ers at every scale. “Commodity beef and other products have  a place here. Our hamburger is local, but our steaks aren’t from  a single producer,” he says. “Plus, we’re in a state you can’t grow certain ingredients year-round. We can’t get local olive oil and I need to supplement using canned tomatoes in the off season for example.”

The Café’s approach to food has proven successful, says Rettig, “we couldn’t have drawn a more perfect growth ladder.”

Today staff includes an executive chef, two sous chefs and others totaling 95 employees—of which half are university students. The Café serves an average of 800 customers per day and it is common to find a wait for a table any day of theweek during peak hours.

Click here for Rettig’s Lamb Ragu and Pasta recipe


FROM THE DEAN – Fall 2013

4 Dec 2013


125 Breakthroughs Most people know me as the dean of an Iowa State college that has roots going back 155 years. Some may know less about the other title I hold, linked to an agricultural research program that has served Iowa for 125 years. I am director of the Iowa …

FOREWORD – Fall 2013

4 Dec 2013


Listen. Research. Educate. Repeat. The cyclical nature of our land-grant institution became very apparent as I was editing stories for this issue. The Iowa Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment Station is the program that has allowed this research cycle to continue successfully for 125 years. Advances in plant breeding developing …