Advancing Academic Innovation

By Carmen Bain, associate dean of academic innovation

Carmen Bain poses in the studioAfter spending nearly 13 years as a faculty member in Iowa State’s Department of Sociology, it is with great honor I accepted the position as the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ first Associate Dean for Academic Innovation in April.

Stepping into this new role amid a global pandemic has certainly brought its challenges, but true to Iowa State form, our faculty, staff and students continue to rise up and overcome.

Now more than ever, it is essential we continue to serve and care for our students. They are transitioning to remote and hybrid learning, some are battling illness or isolation and many are struggling with mental health issues. We are putting more resources into developing quality virtual course content, strengthening student mental health support, and — thanks to donor assistance — offering emergency financial aid to keep at-risk students enrolled. We are committed to student success and we will work with our students to get through these difficult times.

We also continue to focus on recruiting and retaining students. My goal over the next decade is to advance high impact and value-added academic and educational programming across the college and university. It is essential we advance an undergraduate educational experience that values multidisciplinary collaboration, entrepreneurship, research, experiential learning and a global perspective. These experiences are necessary not only to recruit and retain outstanding students to our college, but also to ensure the next generation develops the skills, understanding and passion to productively contribute to and shape society.

Key to this effort is retaining outstanding employees who are passionate about teaching, advising and mentoring students. My goal is to help ensure faculty, staff and advisers receive the support and recognition they deserve. They too are facing extraordinary challenges. They continue to adapt to new delivery modes, explore different communication channels, and find fresh and innovative ways to connect with students.

Above all else, we must strive to integrate equity, diversity and inclusion throughout our college. We are considering a suite of approaches to build on the exceptional work already underway by our Office of Diversity and Inclusion Programs.

This includes the George Washington Carver Summer Research Internship Program, the Leaders Enhancing Agriculture, Diversity, Inclusion and Trust (LEAD-IT) student collective, the Minorities in Agriculture Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS) chapter, multicultural peer mentoring and cultural competency training. We will work to create an inclusive campus climate and college community, to graduate civic minded students with knowledge and skills to engage in a culturally diverse society and produce diverse leaders in industry and academia.

These challenges and opportunities will take the effort of all in our college community, our alumni, supporters and external partners. Together we can ensure our undergraduate education continues to innovate over the next decade and beyond to meet the needs of our students and advance society.