Telling the Student Experience Story

Dana Robes is a storyteller. Ask any student who has received a scholarship frm Dana and his wife, Martha. Most have met him personally and heard tales of his adventures—particularly the one about how he, as a young man from New Hampshire, discovered Iowa State through dairy judging and an enthusiastic coach. He’ll tell you how he stumbled upon “The Harvard of Agriculture” in Ames, Iowa.

Like any good storyteller, Dana has a purpose for each anecdote. He has a message, and he knows how he’d like it to make you feel or act. As the director of recruiting for the college, I can relate.

My position was created by a gift from Dana and Martha. They recognized that to increase our enrollment we needed to invest in new and creative ways to reach prospective students. That’s what I try to do every day.

Student leadership plays a key role in our story.

I connect with this remarkable couple several times a year. One theme that’s been constant over nearly a decade is Dana’s message to scholarship recipients. He reminds students that education is the one thing a person receives that can never be taken away. In some ways, the refrain sounds very familiar—I’ve heard colleagues at other schools say similar things. What makes Dana’s statement unique is he means the full educational experience—the unique combination of curriculum and out-of-class experiences that make up each student’s Iowa State adventure. Dana and Martha share this vision of leadership development with the college and they join us in investing in it. They work with us to develop unique programs providing tuition for classes while encouraging key leadership experiences out of class.

For example, Dan and Martha believed that promoting participation in student clubs and organizations would lead to increasing enrollment, retaining students and developing leadership skills. They created the Fred Foreman Scholarship for Growth in Leadership Participation to reward students active in clubs with preference to those who serve the college by recruiting students. Dana chose to name the scholarship in honor of Fred Forman, a faculty member in dairy science who personally urged Dana to get involved. To date, nearly 500 scholarships have been awarded to student leaders in the college through this single program.

Mentorship plays a key role in our story.

Also consistent in Dana’s stories is the importance of personal attention. In his experience, the mentorship he received through on-campus work at the Iowa State Dairy Farm was important to his retention. This tradition is still a priority of the college today, and one Dana and Martha wanted to preserve. So we developed the Dean’s Leadership Scholarship, a program for 20 out-of-state freshman and sophomores. This opportunity includes considerable scholarship and stipends to support on-campus work with faculty. It brilliantly allows us to draw top talent with an attractive award and resume building work experience. Most importantly, it pushes students to make mentoring connections during their first year that will help keep them on campus and possibly their entire year. To date, over 130 student-faculty connections have been made.

There’s always more to the story.

My position, the Foreman Scholarship and the Dean’s Leadership Scholarship are results of an ongoing dialogue. They aren’t three separate gifts or programs. They blend a number of academic goals—increasing enrollment, encouraging club participation, developing leadership, first-year retention, study abroad, undergrad research—in a way that provides a very personal experience for students. The true impact of the Robeses’ investment isn’t measured in dollars or number of students impacted. The true impact lies in each student’s unique combination of experiences—the gift that can never be taken away. All these students go forth into the world to tell their own stories. Together this collection of stories becomes our story.


Dana and Martha Robes

Dana (’67 dairy science) and Martha (’15 honorary alum) Robes have generously invested in Iowa State University with gifts of time and treasure—including scholarships, faculty and programmatic support for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Since 2008, more than 1,100 scholarships have been awarded from the Fred Foreman Scholarship for Growth in Leadership Participation, the Dean’s Study Abroad Scholarship and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Dean’s Leadership Scholars, all of which are funded by the couple. They have created an endowed professorship in the Department of Animal Science and a marketing and recruitment director position in the college. The Robeses frequently travel back to Iowa State to participate in college events; while on campus, they try to meet with all 130 of their annual scholarship recipients.

The Robeses spend nine months of each year living in St. John, Virgin Islands and have a second home in Round Pond, Maine. They worked to bring expertise from Iowa State’s Department of Horticulture to the students at Gifft Hill School, a coeducational day-school serving St. John. Through the Robeses’ generosity, the Education and Resiliency through Horticulture program—otherwise known as EARTH—was created, teaching students about growing crops in a sustainable fash- ion and the ways in which horticulture can enhance and improve their daily lives. More than 30 Iowa State University interns, both undergraduate and graduate, have worked with the EARTH program. They are members of the Order of the Knoll William M. Beardshear Society and Campanile Society, and are life members of the ISU Alumni Association.