Iowa State community remembers an accomplished alumnus

Olga Bolden-Tiller addresses the audience

Olga Bolden-Tiller, dean of the College of Agriculture, Environment and Nutrition Sciences at Tuskegee University, speaks beside a statue of Carver during Iowa State's George Washington Carver Day celebration Feb. 1 in the Memorial Union Great Hall. Photo by Christopher Gannon.

About 450 admirers of alumnus George Washington Carver -- joined by more than 100 online -- celebrated the state's inaugural Carver Day Wednesday evening in the Memorial Union Great Hall. Carver, born to slaves in southwest Missouri in 1864, earned bachelor's and master's degrees at Iowa State, and it was a group affiliated with the university in an assortment of ways that last year pursued the statewide recognition for the plant scientist.

Speakers highlighted Carver's many gifts -- as scientist, artist, writer, Christian, humanitarian, an exemplary life always sprinkled with humility.

"He would often sleep in his lab, and if you notice pictures of Carver, you would often see his suit rumpled, but you never saw a withered flower on his lapel," said alumnus Dewayne Goldmon, who serves as senior advisor for racial equity to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. "As the story goes, he would get so deep into his work he would fall asleep in his lab, wake up in the morning, wash his face, change his flower and go right back to work."

Carver touches

A nod to Carver's work with peanuts, sweet potatoes, cowpeas, pecans and plums, food items served before and after the program included:

  • Flatbread with sweet potato, caramelized onions, pecans and ricotta and feta cheeses
  • Flatbread with plums, prosciutto and mozzarella cheese
  • Chicken satay with Thai peanut sauce
  • Sweet potato and avocado bites
  • Peanut butter and plum tea sandwich
  • Cowpea salsa with tortilla chips
  • ISU Creamery's Legacy ice cream, a flavor inspired by Carver and alumna Mildred Day (peanut butter ice cream with chocolate-covered rice crisps)

Other Carver-isms:
Each speaker wore a red carnation boutonniere. Carver wore boutonnieres, frequently a carnation, but sometimes the plant he was working with at the time.

The floral sprays near the lectern contained amaryllis, a nod to Carver's thesis research on the plant. Breeding the flower became his life-long hobby.

Also next to the lectern was a bronze casting of the Carver statue that artist-in-residence Christian Petersen created in 1949. It depicts an older Carver holding a single peanut.

Carver stayed on for a bit at Iowa State as the college's first Black faculty member, before Booker T. Washington's invitation drew him to the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, where he would live and work until his death in 1943.

While Carver appeared on coins and stamps and has had numerous schools and U.S. Navy vessels named for him, his legacy went beyond his scientific achievements, said Olga Bolden-Tiller, current dean of the College of Agriculture, Environment and Nutrition Sciences at Tuskegee.

"Humanitarianism is the true and greatest legacy of George Washington Carver," she said. "Time and again, he demonstrated its four principles: Humanity, impartiality, independence and neutrality."

Agreeing to go to Tuskegee, where he thought he could do the most good and alleviate the suffering of Southern farmers, was one example. Despite his many plant food discoveries, he only filed for a patent three times, preferring to share his gifts at no cost to all people who needed them, she noted.

What they said

The program featured six speakers who talked about different aspects of Carver's life or his legacy. 

Dewayne Goldmon, senior advisor for racial equity to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture:

"As we strive to create a more equitable, inclusive, diverse, sustainable, profitable agricultural system, I think we can learn from the great George Washington Carver. Let me be clear here, 'we' is not just us here in the room. I am talking about the USDA, Iowa State, the ag industry and the stakeholders we all support in order to keep American agriculture in its place. I think we can all take a page out of Dr. Caver's book and ask how good could we be if we were embracing some of his things and resisting some of the negative things that tend to put a lid on our heads?"


President Wendy Wintersteen:

Carver Day red button

"[Carver's] degrees are important. But what was true in the 1890s and what remains true for our students today is this: The real story is what you do with your education.

"That's why the state of Iowa -- and the Iowa State University community especially -- is so proud to have played a role in Professor Carver's story. We witnessed the beginning of greatness. The roots of an extraordinary, world-renowned career were nurtured here in Iowa, a career that truly reached full bloom in his life and work at Tuskegee."


Olga Bolden-Tiller, dean of the College of Agriculture, Environment and Nutrition Sciences, Tuskegee University, Alabama:

"He had one mission that always centered on helping others, relieving the suffering of others."


Kenneth Quinn, president emeritus, The World Food Prize Foundation, and former U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia:

"Tonight, on this day and forever more, George Washington Carver will have his rightful place in the pantheon of Iowa's greatest agricultural and humanitarian heroes."


Marsha Kelliher, president of Simpson College:

"As Dr. Carver reflected, 'At Simpson College, the kind of people there made me believe that I was a human being.' His legacy lives on at Simpson College, where he has inspired generations of students to pursue their love of science. Every day on our campus, the Carver Science Center is buzzing with students immersed in scientific research and discovery."


Simon Estes, retired opera singer and F. Wendell Miller Distinguished Artist in Residence, department of music and theatre:

"I wish I could have met him. The greatest hope and honor we can give this man is that we as human beings learn to love each other. God is love and God gave life to George Washington Carver. Let's each one of us think about love, kindness and caring about one another. Let's try to eradicate hatred in the world."


Quinn and Estes, both recipients of Iowa's highest citizen recognition, the Iowa Medal, led a team of more than 100 Iowans and Iowa institutions that backed the proposed legislation and worked to see the 2022 Legislature approve it. Gov. Kim Reynolds signed it last June, designating Feb. 1 each year as George Washington Carver Day in Iowa, and encouraging government offices, civic organizations, schools, colleges and universities to recognize Carver's agricultural, scientific and global humanitarian accomplishments.


Female student addresses audience from balcony

Paige Jergens, a senior in agricultural business, reads George Washington Carver's written word from a balcony (top left) above the Memorial Union Great Hall during the Feb. 1 celebration. Photo by Christopher Gannon.


Jump-start initiatives take strides toward strategic plan goals

Last June, President Wendy Wintersteen announced the university would jump-start its new nine-year strategic plan with a $10.5 million investment in projects that address one or more of the plan's five aspirational statements. Funding came from university funds set aside for institutional priorities.

Those nine projects are the lead-in to an annual competitive process that will prioritize and fund proposals from the university community. Senior advisor to the president Sophia Magill will soon share a spring submittal process for a set of projects to be funded in the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Magill was named last fall to lead the effort to advance the goals of the strategic plan, including the jump-start initiatives and an annual process to identify and fund priority projects.

"We're approaching this in an innovative way," Magill said. "We are looking for transformational project proposals that will propel the institution forward in a significant way.

"We know it's going to be iterative. We recognize that we also will need to be nimble and flexible in our approach, and as we pursue this nine-year plan, we'll look for continual process improvement," she added. "Most importantly, we all have a role in accomplishing the aspirational goals of the strategic plan and we need to keep the focus on impact -- on our students, faculty, staff and broader stakeholders."

She said the application timeline and process could look different from year to year, "depending on what we learn and what works."

A role for everyone

Magill said a strategic plan, by its nature, takes a university-wide approach. But its success also relies on local reinforcement.

"Each of us can make an impact and play a role in achieving the goals of the plan. As we embark on these efforts, units and departments have the opportunity to align and refresh their own planning processes with the strategic plan. We all can take action toward achieving these 'to be' statements," she said.

As an update on the nine jump-start projects announced last summer, below is a short summary of each.


Hire faculty in key areas that track with Iowa State's research strengths and emerging degree programs ($3.5 million).

The key disciplines identified are: climate science and sustainability, cybersecurity, critical materials, and human health initiatives. Hiring proposals are due March 1; funding decisions will be announced May 1. The jump-start funds will provide 50% of base salaries and fringe benefits for strategic faculty hires, with the hiring unit covering the remainder. Proposals should address one or more of these criteria:

  • Research critical to Iowa and the nation's economic future
  • Experience and expertise brought to Iowa State and proposed responsibilities in curricular innovation and degrees of the future
  • Interdisciplinary reach
  • Joint hires across departments, colleges, and extension and outreach
  • Research, teaching, outreach and service that reinforce ISU's land-grant mission of accessibility


Start academic degrees that meet student and employer demand; also known as the "Degrees of the Future" initiative ($1.5 million).

Funds will help faculty and colleges create and implement innovative degree programs -- bachelor's, master's or doctoral -- that help the university reach new demographics of students, expand into new geographical areas or attract students to emerging disciplines. Proposals for phase 1 planning grants are due March 1, with funds disbursed May 1 and spent by the end of 2023. A subsequent round of funding in 2024 will focus on implementing the new degree programs.


Launch a university-wide initiative to increase student retention and graduation rates, with a focus on first-generation and multicultural students and students whose academic progress was most impacted by the pandemic ($1.5 million).

During fall semester, $300,000 provided additional tutoring and academic help for students. The Academic Success Center received $150,000 to expand tutoring and supplementary instruction in courses with high student demand for assistance but unmet need, and in classes that traditionally have low success rates, such as economics and math. Students who attended supplemental economics instruction had an average grade of 3.02, compared to 2.73 for those who did not. For the math course students, the grade difference was 2.84 to 2.58.

The six undergraduate colleges shared another $150,000 to expand existing college-hosted help centers and peer-to-peer tutoring, in many cases focusing on specific courses. College awards ranged from $9,000 to $40,000.

A cross-campus work team, represented by units that impact student success and retention, also formed to identify college-level strategies with university-wide impact.


Recruit freshman and transfer students more effectively to build overall enrollment ($1 million).

In July 2022, the start of the fall 2023 student recruitment cycle, the university launched a new recruitment campaign, "Cyclone in the Making." Jump Start funds helped provide campus communicators and marketers with the tools they need to create materials and communicate with prospective students and families in a cohesive way, including campaign guidelines, graphic elements, prototypes and an assortment of templates such as postcards, fact sheets, yard signs, PowerPoints, emails and social posts.

Since October and continuing this spring, the office of admissions also is investing Jump Start funds to upgrade Iowa State's virtual tour on the YouVisit platform. YouVisit allows students and families from every corner of the world, many who aren't able to travel to Ames, to explore campus and see and hear about all Iowa State offers. The tour currently is available in English and Spanish, and the platform is ADA-compliant.


Purchase unique, major research instruments and improve lab infrastructure ($1 million).

The colleges' associate deans for research, in partnership with the office of the vice president for research, developed three interrelated strategies for investing in ISU's research enterprise:

  • A research administration internship program that recruits and trains senior graduate students or postdocs from across campus to expose students to research development and administration careers while also helping researchers and proposal support units improve their proposal success rates. The writing consultants program in the Graduate College's Center for Communication Excellence is the model for this internship program.
  • Learning communities for research fellows and scholars that, through senior faculty mentors and other support mechanisms, help participants succeed in their pursuit of competitive funds, particularly in areas where Iowa State possesses strengths but has room to grow, for example, opportunities with the National Institutes of Health or U.S. Department of Defense.
  • An online inventory of research resources in ISU centers and departments. Useful in itself to research teams, the list also could serve as a starting point in developing a strategic purchase/lease program for next-generation equipment or tools for shared use in current or expanded centers.


Develop Iowa State Online, a university-wide brand and support structure that brings online education programs under a single umbrella ($600,000).

The new unit, one of four within the restructured Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT), launched Jan. 3, providing marketing and support resources for students studying online. Iowa State Online centralizes expertise in online learning and delivery from the academic colleges in a single service provider. The unit also is responsible for media production and the ISU testing centers. Team members from the college-based online units joined the CELT staff, now about 45 strong. This spring, CELT staff are piloting four online projects, selected for the breadth of instructors, units, instruction variables and challenges they'll present for staff to work through and learn from. CELT leaders are deliberating the most appropriate and meaningful use of the jump-start funds in this inaugural year.


Renovate two campus childcare facilities to improve learning, safety and comfort for the children of faculty, staff and students. ($600,000).

At ISU Child Care Center at Veterinary Medicine, playground improvements included replacing a rotted raised wood walkway, replacing cracked or sunken concrete pads and an impacted fence gate, adding a play structure and mulch under all the play structures, and replacing worn sod. At University Community Childcare on North Stange Road, outdoor work included smoothing and staining outdoor cedar support columns on several buildings to prevent wood splinters, adding fill dirt and resodding the grassy play areas, replacing mulch under the play structures, and replacing concrete walkways and play areas. At both facilities, card readers are being added to all exterior doors to monitor access and improve security.


Build and provide seed funding for new interdisciplinary faculty research teams in areas where Iowa State has a competitive advantage, for example, water management, carbon sequestration, cyber or advanced materials ($500,000).

The office of the vice president for research is hosting a series of Research and Innovation Roundtables to assemble collaborative teams and identify novel solutions to complex societal challenges. The first, held Nov. 29, focused on being climate smart and drew more than 60 faculty participants. Teams, formed around specific research challenges, subsequently submitted five proposals (up to $40,000 each) in seed funds for initial research that will lead to larger proposals with federal or industry partners. Initial research began this month.

The focus of the next roundtable, scheduled for March 10, is "Healthy Iowa" very broadly -- including plants, people, communities, food and water systems, rural mental health delivery and elder care.


Invest in open educational resources (OER) and immediate-access materials in undergraduate high-enrollment courses to ease textbook cost for students ($300,000).

The funds will be awarded to competitive proposals in two categories. Phase 1 ($75,000) will be announced in February and fund proposals for sustainable infrastructure that improves the visibility, transparency, implementation or long-term use of affordable course materials. Examples could include a course catalog filter that sorts by OER or an awareness/branding campaign. Phase 2 ($225,000) will be announced later this spring for summer and fall activity. The focus will be on developing free course materials with the greatest impact, including numbers of students served, cost savings, courses and degree paths touched, or multiple instructors' commitment to using the new OER.

Iowa State Safe replaces ISU Guardian as safety app

Iowa State Safe

The Iowa State Safe app was designed to provide safety options and help users find answers to questions quickly.

The campus community has more safety options available at its fingertips through the new Iowa State Safe app launched Jan. 19. It replaces ISU Guardian, retains many of Guardian's safety options, and features easily accessible information about numerous units across campus.

Iowa State Safe is powered by the company contracted to provide the ISU Alert system. Users can download it for free through the Apple App or Google Play stores.

"We like the conveniences of this, but we built it as a safety app," said Nick Swanson, director of emergency management in the department of public safety. "This is a simple app to use with defined services that are need-based, not department-based."

Faculty, staff and students can use the app by signing in with their Net-ID and password -- which imports information to autofill when service is requested -- or as a guest. Campus visitors also can use the app as a guest.

Safety features

The app has five safety features to use while walking on campus or when requesting a ride:

Mobile BlueLight: The one-touch button acts as a silent alarm when someone feels unsafe. It serves the same function as the outdoor blue light phone stations before they were removed.

"When someone pushes the button, it pulls up your location on Google Maps and shows ISU police your name, phone number and an officer will be dispatched," Swanson said.

Friend walk: The user sends a text to a friend telling them where they are walking to on campus, and the friend monitors progress along the route through Google Maps.

Virtual walkhome: Operates like friend walk, but ISU police dispatch receives the notification and monitors the individual.   

SafeRide: People can request a SafeRide pickup on campus from 6 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. daily. Using the app, instead of calling in a request provides a more accurate pickup point for the driver.

Safety toolbox: Users can chat with ISU police, share their location with friends or report an incident, like a slip or fall.

Other features

The app has an option to send ISU police a crime tip through the app or direct call. Users also can request help with a locked vehicle, report a non-emergency crime or schedule a therapy dog session. Emergency response aids provide information on how to deal with situations from severe weather to fires and an active shooter.

"With this app, we wanted to get away from generic links to websites," Swanson said. "When you click on something in the app, it takes you directly to the information." 

In addition to the safety features, the app has one-touch buttons to connect users to a range of ISU resources. That includes the ISU police department, numerous student health resources, CyRide, multiple academic resources, residence department, ISU Dining, student financial aid, office of equal opportunity and the Military-Affiliated Student Center. Many of the links provide a staff directory, the website and a one-touch call button.

Federal grant renewed for McNair program, applications open for fall cohort

The Graduate College received a continuing, five-year (2022-27), $1.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to support the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program's efforts to prepare first-generation, low-income or underrepresented juniors and seniors for graduate study, with the goal of increasing diversity among doctoral graduates. The program has been continually funded at Iowa State since 1995.

McNair program staff are recruiting undergraduates for this fall's cohort. Students must apply, but faculty and staff are encouraged to refer qualifying sophomores to the program. Applications are due March 1 or when all the scholar slots are filled, said Ashley Garrin, program director since January 2022 and a member of Iowa State's 2005 McNair cohort. Former director Thelma Harding is serving as coordinator of graduate enrollment management for the college.

"We are excited about continuing the legacy of the McNair program for another five years,” Garrin said. "The community we are able to create through the grant ultimately leads to changing the landscape of graduate education and individuals who hold graduate degrees. The program provides access to and preparation for success at that next level."

Iowa State's McNair grant covers staff salaries and serves around 30 scholars annually, accepting 15-16 juniors each fall. In 28 years, more than 500 Iowa State students have participated in the program.

Garrin said McNair scholars participate in two hours of seminars per week. Year one focuses on research methods and research. Year two focuses on choosing and applying to graduate schools and transitioning successfully once they begin. In addition to that coursework, participants receive a research training stipend and financial support to present faculty mentored research projects at national or regional conferences. For example, in April, 10 McNair scholars will be in the ISU contingent at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire.

McNair is one of eight federally funded TRIO programs designed to identify and provide services for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds. Iowa State receives grant funding for three others: Education Talent Search, Upward Bound and Student Support Services.

The McNair program is named for the physicist and mission specialist astronaut who died in the Challenger space shuttle explosion in 1986.

Property leasing process guide available to all units

For Iowa State units that periodically need to lease land or building space for their academic, research or business operations, new "how to" documents help them complete those leases.

There are two documents, one for when an outside group is using university-owned property, another when the university is using someone else's property. Both documents are available on the university counsel's contract assistance and templates website (see "real estate leases").

In clear, numbered steps, the documents spell out the lease process and provide links to relevant forms and contacts.

Representatives from the provost office, operations and finance, facilities planning and management (FPM), research and demonstration farms, procurement and university counsel developed the procedure documents.

"We didn't create anything new," said university controller Amy Tetmeyer, who was part of the team. "All these steps were there before, we simply gathered them in one document and put them in an efficient sequence."

"We're trying to create awareness about the steps to take when you create a lease," she added.

Tetmeyer said one benefit of centralizing the process is shared information that can save time and money, for example, if the type of space you seek actually is available within university facilities.

"We want to support our employees and what they need. We also need to support the university; we can do both," Tetmeyer said.

Centralizing multiple inventories

In addition to standardizing the lease process, the new procedures will help centralize a single inventory of lease agreements, somewhere in excess of 100 leases. In the past, lease lists were kept locally in operations and finance, FPM, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences on behalf of research and demonstration farms, university counsel and procurement. A central list makes record-keeping more reliable and helps with university audit and accounting standards, Tetmeyer said.

With an eye on preserving the reliability of a central inventory, the documents emphasize the final, though not new, action in each lease process. Copies of a lease for ISU-owned property should be shared with FPM and the office of the senior vice president for operations and finance. Billing the lessee remains the responsibility of the department or college. A copy of a lease for property an Iowa State unit is renting should be shared with procurement services, where the lease is uploaded to Workday.

An overview of Black History Month events

Numerous events will celebrate Black History Month throughout February at Iowa State. The calendar includes lectures, music, comedy, arts and a program marking Iowa's inaugural George Washington Carver Day. The United States has celebrated Black history Month in February for more than four decades as a time to recognize and honor the achievements and contributions of Black Americans.

Events noted below are free, open to the public and in the Memorial Union, unless otherwise indicated. Check back often as this schedule may be updated throughout the month.

Schedule of events

Throughout February, Parks Library, online: Parks Library will host an online exhibit resource guide for Black History Month emphasizing music, art and literature. In addition, the library has produced an online resource guide honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The guide contains a listing of relevant books, videos and other multimedia content and will remain available online in perpetuity. Parks Library also will host an in-building book exhibit in the lobby throughout February.

Feb. 1, 5 p.m., Great Hall: Inaugural George Washington Carver Day reception and program. 

Feb. 2, 8 p.m., Maintenance Shop: Comedy night with Daphnique Springs, a standup who has toured with Katt Williams and won the 2015 She-Devil Festival in New York City. Springs also is the 2016 winner of the American Black Film Festival Comedy Wings Competition sponsored by HBO.

Feb. 2-5, 7 p.m., Cyclone Cinema, 101 Carver: Showings of "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever." 

Feb. 9, 8 p.m., Maintenance Shop: Musical performance by Shawn Holt & the Teardrops (Blues). Tickets cost $14 ($10 for ISU students) with a $2 increase on the day of the show.

Feb. 20-26, The Workspace: Black History Month image transfers. Choose from a collection of inspirational messages to create ready-to-hang artwork. Using a transfer medium, participants "lift" a design from paper onto a wood canvas board. Hours for this activity are 2-9 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on Saturday. Costs $8 in studio and $10 to go.

Feb. 20-26, The Workspace: Paint Your Own Pottery "Give Back Week," 20% of proceeds donated to ISU's George A. Jackson Black Cultural Center. Hours for this activity are 2-9 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on Saturday. Costs $12-18 depending on materials chosen.

Feb. 22, 5-7 p.m. Multicultural Center: 2nd annual Black Art Exhibit, hosted by the colleges of Design and Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Feb. 22, 7:30 p.m., Great Hall: Lecture by Lawrence Ross, "Blackballed: The Black and White Politics of Race on Campus." Ross is a writer, author and lecturer known for his research on Black Greek culture. His first book, Los Angeles Times best seller, "The Divine Nine: The History of African American Fraternities and Sororities," has been a staple for understanding the intricacies of cultural Greek life.

Feb. 24, 11 p.m., Great Hall: Comedian Preacher Lawson, an ISU AfterDark event. Lawson is best known for his appearance on season 12 of NBC's "America's Got Talent," where he made it to the final rounds. He shot his first stand-up special, which premiered on BET +, in 2019 and continues to perform around the country.

Feb. 27, 6 p.m., Great Hall: Lecture by Jessica B. Harris, "High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America." Harris is considered by many to be one of the ranking authorities on the food of the African Diaspora. A New York Times bestselling author, she wrote, edited or translated 18 books, including 12 cookbooks documenting the foodways of the African Diaspora. Her award-winning book, "High on the Hog," was the basis for the acclaimed Netflix series of the same name.

March 2, 6 p.m., Great Hall: Lecture by Patrick Phillips, "Blood at the Root: A Discussion of Forsyth County, Georgia." Phillips will discuss his search for the truth about his hometown, where in 1912 hundreds of local white people used arson, lynching and mob violence to drive out the entire Black population -- and then kept them out for nearly a century.

March 3, all day, in-person and online: Thomas L. Hill Iowa State Conference on Race and Ethnicity (ISCORE), a forum on issues of race and ethnicity at Iowa State and beyond. Free, open to ISU students, faculty and staff. A half-day pre-conference for faculty and staff will take place on March 1. Registration is required for both and opens Feb. 1.