Agricultural Economics Professor In High Demand

Not currently involved in research, or extension and outreach activities, Ron Deiter is the first to admit he’s “not your typical ag economics professor.” Yet he plays a key role in developing Iowa State’s most significant output—students.

With responsibilities in undergraduate teaching, advising and administration, Deiter’s day-to-day mirrors what he learned as an undergrad: a teacher with a focus on the growth and development of students can affect their outcomes in some pretty significant ways.

That idea was shaped years ago when Deiter was an undergrad studying agricultural economics at the University of Wisconsin in Platteville just 10 miles from the small dairy operation his family farmed.

An internship with the Statistics Reporting Service interviewing farmers about yield estimates taught him about bridging gaps by making connections. “One potato farmer wouldn’t cooperate with me,” he says. “We were both Green Bay Packers fans so I developed a relationship with him around that. He finally agreed to participate in the survey.”

As the Wisconsin FFA president his freshman year in college, Deiter spent considerable time traveling the state and giving talks to high school students about the importance of developing leadership skills. He knew he liked working with students, and realized he could relate to them as a mentor.

He was especially influenced by the example set by his professors. “They showed me they were prepared, organized and personable. I admired these things in my teachers and wanted to emulate them,” he says. “It seemed like a natural calling for me to help others learn.”

Deiter went on to graduate school at the University of Illinois, earning a doctorate in 1979 in agricultural economics. He came to Iowa State the same year, shifting his focus by the mid-1980s from research and teaching to a sole teaching and advising appointment. Says Deiter, “I felt I would have more of an impact on people’s lives by teaching and advising—to impact a person is very important.”

He enjoys teaching microeconomics, agricultural sales and sports economics, a class he developed in recent years which incorporates his love of sports. He continuesto write articles on teaching pedagogy, and in 2001 won the EB Knight Outstanding Journal Article Award from the National Association of Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture for an article on the use of humor as a teaching tool in the classroom.

Deiter devotes a great deal of time and attention to serving as Ag Business Club co-adviser. The club has earned a reputation as one of the top in the nation—an achievement he’s “most proud of.” While the club has won numerous awards, including a seven-year run as outstanding club by the Agricultural and Applied Economic Association, its impact on individual students is what Deiter emphasizes.

Over the years he’s received notes and emails from parents sharing their appreciation for the positive impact involvement in the club had on their daughter or son and many alumni keep in touch with him.

Alumnus Kaci Demott (’12 agricultural business and international agriculture) is a former club officer who now works for Consolidated Grain and Barge out of Louisville, Ky., as an ag loan underwriter. She credits the club and Deiter with developing the skills she needed to effectively enter her career, and says “they’re the reasons why I came to Iowa State.”

“From his own personal experience, Professor Deiter really understands what it’s like for students who grew up in the industry. He’s passionate about the club and student needs,” she says. “Now that I work in the industry I can see how many people know and respect him. The role he plays is more than just a career—it’s what he really enjoys.”

“A teacher or an adviser can gain a lot of self-satisfaction knowing we’ve helped others get to where they want to go in life,” he says. “My work is very rewarding. It’s been a good ride that I’d do over in an instant.”