ISU enrollment is a record 36,660

Students walking on campus.

Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Iowa State's enrollment continues to flourish. The university's official fall 2016 enrollment of 36,660 is the largest in school history, an increase of nearly 1.9 percent (659) over the previous record of 36,001 in fall 2015.

"As we work to create a more diverse and inclusive campus, Iowa State is proud to remain the top choice for more Iowa students than any other school in the world, as well as record numbers of non-resident, U.S. multicultural and international students," said President Steven Leath. "Now marking our eighth consecutive year of record enrollment, we are pleased to see more moderate growth this fall. True to our land-grant mission, Iowa State is accessible and affordable; but with lagging state funding, we want to be sure we are growing at a pace that allows us to maintain high quality."

In the last decade, overall enrollment at Iowa State has grown by 11,198 students, or 44 percent. The student body represents every Iowa county, every U.S. state and 121* countries.

This fall, 20,713 Iowans are attending Iowa State. They equal 56.5 percent of the student body. The vast majority (18,957) are undergraduates.

Overall, nearly 95 percent of Iowa State graduates are either employed or pursuing further education within six months of graduation.

Iowa State’s freshman class of 6,325 students, a record, includes 3,380 Iowans.  

Iowa State's first-year, full-time student retention rate increased to 87.6 percent, well above the national average and just under ISU's record of 87.7 percent set in fall 2011. The average ACT score for new freshmen also has increased the last three years, to 25.17 in fall 2016.

By the numbers

Iowa State's student numbers set records in the following categories this fall:

  • Record undergraduate enrollment of 30,671, an increase of 637 students from last fall's record of 30,034.
  • Record graduate enrollment of 5,096 – exactly the same number as last fall.
  • Record international student enrollment of 4,131, an increase of 90 students from last fall's record of 4,041.
  • Record diversity. Total U.S. multicultural and international enrollment is 8,748, or 23.9 percent of the student body.
  • U.S. multicultural enrollment is 4,617 (12.6 percent of total enrollment), a new record and an increase over last fall's 4,326 students.
  • Record U.S. multicultural enrollment among new freshmen: 946 students, up from last year's record of 888. Multicultural students represent 15 percent of new freshmen at Iowa State.
  • Record total U.S. nonresident enrollment of 11,509, up 900 students from last year's record of 10,609 students.
  • Record U.S. nonresident undergraduate enrollment of 9,510, up 899 students from last year's record of 8,611.
  • Record U.S. nonresident new freshman enrollment of 2,611, up 242 students from last year's record of 2,369 students.


Fall 2016 enrollment by college

Agriculture and Life Sciences: 5,395

Business: 4,772

Design: 1,991

Engineering: 9,645

Human Sciences: 4,871

Liberal Arts and Sciences: 8,526

Veterinary Medicine: 749

Interdepartmental Units and Graduate Undeclared: 404

Post-docs: 307



* Update: The number was initially reported as 125 countries; it is actually 121. 


Presidential research initiative promotes big thinking in data-driven science

The third round of funding from a presidential initiative will build four research teams that will use big data to benefit human and animal health, improve cities and build new tools for researchers.

flu virus, as viewed through an electron microscope

The flu virus, as seen by an electron microscope. One of the teams supported by the Presidential Initiative for Interdisciplinary Research will use big data tools for real-time tracking of flu in swine. Submitted image.

President Steven Leath launched the Presidential Initiative for Interdisciplinary Research in 2012. The program provides seed funding to establish research teams from across campus to tackle emerging societal challenges. The goal is to help the teams grow into well-funded, cross-disciplinary research groups.

The last two rounds of the initiative focused on building teams that are developing big-data tools and techniques to tackle major research problems in agriculture, health, communities, access to research and other areas.

"We launched this initiative four years ago with the intent of creating a new culture of collaborative research at Iowa State, a culture of thinking big," Leath said. "These latest projects in big-data science are great examples of that. We'll have teams of researchers from across campus taking on brain disease and swine flu, while others develop cyber infrastructures and sustainable cities. Thinking big like this is how we'll live up to our mission of creating, sharing and applying knowledge to improve our state and world."

The latest projects to win the initiative's support are:

  • Big data brain initiative: a three-year, $450,000 project led by Anumantha Kanthasamy, Clarence Hartley Covault Distinguished Professor in Veterinary Medicine, chair of biomedical sciences and director of the Iowa Center for Advanced Neurotoxicology. The research team will use big data to develop new treatments for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. The researchers will use large datasets about Alzheimer's and Parkinson's patients to identify new biomarkers that indicate risk for developing neurodegenerative diseases and track their progression.
  • Invention and refinement of shared data-science infrastructures: a three-year, $450,000 project led by Hridesh Rajan, professor of computer science. Data-driven science is shifting the foundations of research. Many researchers, however, don't have the specialized computing skills or equipment to use big data. The research team will solve the problem by creating data-science infrastructures that open the door to big-data analysis. The researchers' initial cyberinfrastructures will help researchers improve traffic and air safety and better understand how biological systems work and evolve.
  • Characterizing, monitoring and rapidly recognizing emerging swine influenza through data-driven science: a three-year, $375,000 project led by Phillip Gauger, associate professor of veterinary diagnostic and production animal medicine. A multidisciplinary team will develop new bioinformatics tools for real-time tracking of flu in swine. The goal is to improve animal health and welfare, protect human health and secure the food supply. Researchers will develop techniques to integrate and analyze large collections of diagnostic and genetic data on the influenza A virus, which is known to move frequently between swine and humans.
  • Data-driven decision making for sustainable cities: a three-year, $375,000 project led by Ulrike Passe, associate professor of architecture and director of the Center for Building Energy Research. (This project also won a one-year, $50,000 planning grant during the second round of presidential research awards.) Researchers will use data about living in urban areas to develop new methods to help cities make data-driven policy decisions that are sustainable and meet residents' needs.

100-plus faculty involved

You're invited

The VPR Office will host a celebration of successes in all rounds of the Presidential Initiative for Interdisciplinary Research on Friday, Sept. 9 (3:30-5 p.m., program at 4 p.m., MU South Ballroom).

So far, the presidential research initiative has launched research teams made up of more than 100 Iowa State faculty members from five colleges. The teams have attracted $42.6 million in external funding for projects in next-generation vaccines, agricultural production, data accessibility and big data projects advancing health and communities.

"President Leath's investment in this research initiative has transformed the culture of multidisciplinary research at Iowa State," said vice president for research Sarah Nusser. "The program has brought together researchers in Iowa State's longtime areas of strength – biosciences, agriculture and data sciences – with faculty in arts and social science, creating unique collaborations to investigate complex topics in the context of the societal impacts of the research.

"This initiative also has been instrumental in strengthening Iowa State's leadership in the field of big data. From plant sciences to city planning to everything in between, data-driven science is changing research in many fields," Nusser said. "The initiative ensures Iowa State continues to break new ground by addressing interdisciplinary research through data-driven discovery."

Report summarizes enrollment management study

A faculty task force's recommendations for managing increasing enrollment was posted to the Faculty Senate website last week. At the beginning of spring semester, President Steven Leath asked the group of faculty to study and develop ideas for managing Iowa State's increasing enrollment numbers.

Through surveys and discussions, the enrollment management task force collected feedback from faculty in each college. Task force chair Jonathan Sturm also solicited input from the Professional and Scientific Council.

Three findings were highlighted in the report. Ranked in order of support, the recommendations include:

  • Increasing admissions standards (for example, higher GPA and Regents Admissions Index minimums)
  • Increasing tuition and state appropriations (ISU receives less state support per resident student than Iowa and Northern Iowa)
  • Exploring the impact of differential admissions or tuition, by college (for example, different ACT or GPA criteria)

The report also outlined faculty priorities -- including research, scholarship and quality of education -- that are "negatively impacted by enrollment pressure."

In a summary of core concerns, the task force wrote: "The Iowa State University faculty understand fully that the current enrollment growth trajectory is unsustainable with current resources. We are deeply concerned that we can no longer offer the highest quality education to the students we teach, nor that we can advance research in the most highly impactful ways that will forward the university’s reputation as it moves our society and the world into the future."

Survey results, examples and discussion summaries also are included in the 12-page report.

Related stories


David Cotton

Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Iowa State's first chief information security officer is back on the campus that awarded his first degree -- a bachelor's in computer science in 1981. David Cotton retired from the Air Force as a Brigadier General in 2011, having served 29 years and four times as a chief information officer (CIO). Most recently, he served in the Department of Defense’s Senior Executive Service as the deputy CIO for information enterprise, responsible for worldwide IT network and cybersecurity enhancements. 

At Iowa State, he will develop cyber and information security policies. He also will collaborate with the Iowa Board of Regents and the University of Northern Iowa on jointly identified information security initiatives.

Cotton said there are many similarities between protecting information at the U.S. Department of Defense, where he served for many years, and Iowa State.

"We face the same threats. Just the venue is different," he said. "At ISU we have information critical to university operations, our students, our employees, cutting-edge research and intellectual capital. All that needs to be protected at the appropriate level. At the same time, as a public institution, we have the responsibility to freely share some information to aid in further advancements and to educate the public."

He advises faculty and staff to help ISU security professionals understand their units' goals and objectives so they can best participate in developing appropriate security measures.

"We don't want to inadvertently disrupt academic instruction, research or access by the public to information," he said. "Across the university, we should all strive to partner in common endeavors and enterprise solutions, such as IT security, so faculty and staff can spend more time on their core competencies of instruction, research, university operations -- whatever's important to them -- and less time on services that can be provided by others."

He holds master's degrees in computer data and personnel management (Webster University, St. Louis) and strategic studies (U.S. Air Force Air War College, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama).

His office is in 291 Durham, and he can be reached by phone at 294-0323 or email,


Iowa Staters' guide to political activities

This Q&A, printed a year ago in the run-up to the Iowa caucuses, remains a good reference for Iowa Staters during the next two months of general election politicking. Prepared by the office of university counsel, the guidelines are meant to help faculty, staff and students exercise their rights as citizens without running afoul of federal and state laws designed to keep public agencies politically neutral. 

The guidelines are based on a key principle: The university should not be used to promote partisan political causes and candidates. Iowa State's educational mission is fundamental to a democratic society. But at the same time, public trust requires that the university not use its resources and equipment to support political campaigns.

Can university buildings be used for political campaign activities?

Generally, campaign events should be held in spaces available for public use, such as the Memorial Union (294-1437) or the Iowa State Center (294-3347). To assure fairness and to give priority for academic uses, the university discourages use of academic buildings and spaces for campaign events. As public buildings fill up or specialized space is needed, exceptions may need to be made. Faculty and staff who receive requests for academic space for a campaign event should contact Cathy Brown (294-6001). She will ensure that scheduling alternatives have been considered and monitor fairness.

If current public officials request facility tours, is it OK to comply?

As long as the purpose of the tour is to provide information for the public official and does not involve a solicitation for votes, it will not be treated as a campaign event. Generally, such events should be coordinated through government relations -- either state relations, 294-7239, or Sophia Magill, federal relations,, 294-2320.

As ISU faculty and staff, can we speak up about our personal political views?

You can speak and act as any citizen, but you shouldn't say or imply that your views are those of the university.

Can I discuss politics in the office?

Yes, if you're not disrupting work.

Can students display political banners and signs in residence hall rooms?


If I express a political view in a letter to the editor, is it OK to use my university title?

For purposes of identification, you can use your university title, as long as you don't imply that you speak on behalf of the university. If there's any chance of confusion, you should clarify that you're speaking only for yourself.

May I engage in activities supporting candidates or ballot measures?

Yes, if it's on your own time and with your own equipment. State law prohibits employees from working on a political campaign during work hours. University computers and email accounts are for business purposes. While university policy allows some incidental personal email use, that certainly wouldn't apply to sending email blasts to support a candidate or ballot measure.

May I invite a candidate or political advocate to speak to my class?

Federal law requires that all candidates have equal and fair access to the university. If you invite a candidate or advocate to your class, you must give opposing candidates and speakers the same opportunity. They need not take advantage of that opportunity.

Are candidate forums allowed?

Yes, if the forums or series of events are balanced and intended to educate the community on issues relevant to an upcoming election.

What about an ISU faculty or staff member presenting research on the political process or a ballot measure?

That's allowed, assuming it's not a pretext for supporting a candidate or ballot measure.

May university officials comment on how candidate actions or ballot measures might affect Iowa State?

Yes, as long as the comments reflect concern about the university and its mission. The comments cannot be simply an attempt to influence the success or failure of candidates or measures.

More from-scratch treats in the bakery case

Pastry chef cuts scones by hand

Ed Astarita, pastry chef de cuisine for ISU Dining, hand cuts cranberry orange scones made from scratch in the bakery at Knapp-Storms Commons. Photo by Christopher Gannon.

"Thaw and bake" is rapidly disappearing from employee training in the campus bakery. ISU Dining executive chef Scott Bruhn said changes implemented at the start of the school year include additional from-scratch bakery items and a seasonal approach that switches out flavors at the start and middle of each semester.

"Pumpkin doesn't go when it's 90 degrees out, but we know it's popular in October," he noted.

So, for seven to eight weeks, ISU Dining bakers will prepare the featured two to four flavors each of fruit breads, bars, cookies, scones, muffins, Danish, bagels and croissants. How many varieties show up in bakery cases around campus depends on the space available in a location, Bruhn said.

But not to worry; some of those gotta-have Cyclone options -- such as buttermilk brownies, chocolate chip cookies or blueberry muffins -- will remain available through all of the seasons.

Fresh from scratch

Last month, ISU Dining added cookies to the bakery products employees prepare from scratch. When a new bagel machine arrives this winter, bagels will join the list. (ISU Dining currently purchases bagels from Dutch Oven bakery in Boone). Croissants and a Danish option will be the only products that are purchased and baked on campus.

The from-scratch conversion is driven by a desire to offer better products that can compete with other bakery retailers such as Starbucks and Hy-Vee, Bruhn said. That distinction also helps market ISU's dining services to prospective students, he said.

Bruhn said he and ISU Dining director Mohamed Ali both come from an "all-scratch" tradition. Their chefs also prefer to work that way, and purchasing new machinery -- such as the bagel maker, dough baller and cookie dropper -- makes it feasible.

"With the right equipment, one person can do a lot," Bruhn explained.

An ISU team visited large university bakeries at Michigan State and Brigham Young to learn more about successful all-scratch practices.

Even though Iowa State is able to purchase higher quality ingredients (butter, chocolate and others) and increase the size of items, baking from scratch costs "significantly less" than purchasing thaw-and-bake products, Bruhn said. Labor costs even the field, but "we like to give people jobs," he added. The bakery hired three professional staff and additional student employees.

And while they don't show up in a bakery case, ISU Dining also makes from scratch some of the breads for its grab-and-go sandwiches as well as the dough for its New York-style pizzas, available in the dining centers and the redesigned Clyde's Fresh Express (formerly Clyde's Sports Club).

Current bakery items

ISU Dining's retail locations will feature these flavor varieties until mid-October:

  • Fruit breads: banana, apple nut
  • Scones: cranberry orange, chocolate chunk
  • Muffins: blueberry, chocolate chip, bran, low-fat lemon poppyseed
  • Bars: buttermilk brownie, Rice Krispie, lemon, scotcheroo
  • Cookies: chocolate chip, snickerdoodle, monster
  • Bagels: blueberry, cinnamon sugar, Asiago cheese, everything, plain
  • Danish: cinnamon twist
  • Croissants: strawberry, chocolate, plain


Council learns about diversity, inclusion efforts in academic areas

In his report to members of the Professional and Scientific Council on Sept. 1, senior vice president and provost Jonathan Wickert highlighted recent posts to his academic affairs blog.

In a blog post about fostering inclusive classrooms, Wickert announced upcoming "Inclusive Classroom Workshops," which will be offered eight times in 2016-17. He said the initiatives were developed by an inclusive classroom task force, led by the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching.

"It's really directed at professional development of faculty and being able to have a learning environment in the classroom that is open, inclusive and welcoming -- in terms of the syllabus, material, notes, discussion, how you handle disagreements, the language you use and the examples you use. I think this is setting a wonderful example of how we should be teaching in our classrooms," he said.

A report on diversity and inclusion in academic affairs was the subject of another blog post. The report, which Wickert said will be compiled annually, includes initiatives and efforts submitted by academic deans and vice presidents and directors in the academic affairs division.

"We put this together to have a conversation and set a baseline and help communicate what we're doing," Wickert said. "This is not to say we're complete. We know there is more that we can do and that there is more we have to do."

Other business

  • Council president Clayton Johnson announced that a summary of the council's FY17 strategic initiatives and priorities, developed during a priority planning session in the council's July meeting, is available online
  • Katy Leichsenring (admissions) was approved to fill a vacant council seat, representing student affairs
  • The theme for the Feb. 28 P&S Council professional development conference is "Cultivate your Adventure: From Initiating to Innovating"

Leath looks ahead in annual address

President Steven Leath will introduce Iowa State's FY2017-22 Strategic Plan and his priorities for this academic year in his annual address Wednesday evening, Sept. 14. 

Q&A, refreshments

The president's remarks begin at 6:30 p.m. in the Memorial Union Great Hall (doors open at 6 p.m.). Leath will answer questions after his remarks, and light refreshments will be served.

Livestreaming, tweeting

Those unable to attend the event in person can:

Inside coverage Thursday

Coverage of the president's address will be carried in Inside Iowa State, which will be published mid-morning on Thursday, Sept. 15. 


Bragging rights

CyHawk Series trophy

Photo by Christopher Gannon.

The Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series -- an annual showdown between intrastate rivals Iowa State and Iowa -- opens this week with the only two matchups that will be played in Ames this year. On Friday, Sept. 9, the Iowa State volleyball and soccer teams play host to Iowa at 6 and 8 p.m., respectively.

Points are awarded to the winners in 12 head-to-head sports -- two points each, but three points for football. Each school also can earn one academic point if the cumulative student-athlete grade point exceeds the overall student GPA at the institution. The series ended in a tie for the first time last year, allowing the Cyclones to keep the trophy (pictured) ISU won the previous two seasons.

Lectures lineup features familiar names


Feminist activist Gloria Steinem will speak on campus Oct. 11. Contributed photo.

There's no shortage of things to do on campus this fall, especially with a lectures lineup that includes familiar names and faces like Steve Forbes and Gloria Steinem. Their presentations and a few others are highlighted below. A complete lectures schedule is available online. All programs are free and open to the public.

"How Capitalism Will Save Us," Steve Forbes

Sept. 12 (8 p.m., Memorial Union, Great Hall)

Forbes is editor-in-chief of Forbes Media, whose flagship publication, Forbes, is the nation's leading business magazine. He also is author or coauthor of several books, including most recently "Reviving America." Forbes is the only writer to have won the Crystal Owl Award four times, a prize given to a financial journalist whose economic forecasts proved most accurate. He also campaigned for the Republican presidential nomination in 1996 and 2000.

"A Wild Life," Cheryl Strayed 

Sept. 15 (7 p.m.; doors open at 6:15 p.m., Stephens Auditorium)

Strayed is the author of the New York Times' bestselling memoir, "Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail." The book and its 2014 movie adaptation, starring Reese Witherspoon, chronicle Strayed's 1,000-mile trek from the Mojave Desert to the Oregon-Washington border when she was 26 years old, grieving her mother's death four years earlier and the end of her marriage. Today, Strayed is cohost of Dear Sugar Radio, an advice podcast for the lost, lonely and heartsick. She also has authored an advice essay collection, "Tiny Beautiful Things," and a novel, "Torch."

"Leading the Fight Against Malnutrition and Hidden Hunger," a conversation with the 2016 World Food Prize Laureates

Oct. 10 (8 p.m., MU Great Hall)

The 2016 World Food Prize Laureates -- Maria Andrade, Robert Mwanga and Jan Low of the International Potato Center, and HarvestPlus founder Howarth Bouis -- will discuss their work building bridges between agriculture and nutrition to improve the health and livelihoods of millions of undernourished people throughout the world. Their multisector approach to malnutrition integrates plant science research, agronomy, nutrition education and marketing strategies to deliver nutritional breakthroughs, such as Vitamin A-enriched sweet potatoes and iron- and zinc-fortified beans, rice and wheat to both farmers and consumers.

This event also is the Norman Borlaug Lecture. A reception and student poster display will precede the lecture (7 p.m., MU South Ballroom). Posters, created by undergraduate and graduate students, will address world food issues.

"My Life on the Road," Gloria Steinem 

Oct. 11 (7 p.m.; doors open at 6:30 p.m., Stephens Auditorium)

A feminist icon, social activist, writer, editor and champion of women's rights, Gloria Steinem also helped co-found two publications -- Ms. magazine, where she also served as editor for 15 years, and New York magazine. The National Women's Political Caucus is one of several groups she helped establish. She has authored several books, including "Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions," "Revolution from Within," "Moving Beyond Words" and her memoir, "My Life on the Road."

"The Dynamics of ISIS: Its Origins and Implications for the United States," Malcolm Nance 

Oct. 17 (7 p.m., MU Great Hall)

Nance is a counterterrorism and intelligence adviser for the U.S. government's special operations, homeland security and intelligence agencies. He also serves as a terrorism analyst for MSNBC and is the author of a new book, "Defeating ISIS: Who They Are, How They Fight, What They Believe." For more than 30 years, Nance participated in field and combat intelligence activity. He also is a decorated veteran and former Navy intelligence officer who participated in numerous operations in the Balkans, the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa. He was a training specialist at the U.S. Navy Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape School.

"Beyond Science Fiction: The Physics of Invisibility," Sir John Pendry 

Oct. 20 (8 p.m., Benton Auditorium, Scheman Building)

A professor of theoretical solid-state physics at Imperial College London, Pendry is the physicist who proposed the idea of an "invisibility cloak." He has made significant contributions in surface science, disordered systems and photonics, but his work on cloaking and metamaterials is his most famous and transformative discovery. Pendry has received the Newton Medal, Descartes Prize and the Kavli Prize in Nanoscience.

"Fiction, the Future and Environmental Crisis," Margaret Atwood 

Nov. 1 (8 p.m., MU Great Hall)

An author, poet and environmental activist, Atwood's work is known for its commentary on the human condition and female experience. Her more than 40 books include "The Handmaid's Tale," "The Blind Assassin" and "The Heart Goes Last." The HBO television network currently is adapting her "MaddAddam" trilogy into a television series. Atwood has received numerous literary awards, including the Booker Prize for contemporary fiction, Arthur C. Clarke Award in science fiction and the Governor General's Award for fiction.