Message from the Dean: A year in review and looking ahead

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If you were not able to attend LAS Fall Convocation last Thursday, let me highlight our many successes and offer a look at the coming year.

With ISU’s seventh year of record enrollment, you can feel the excitement around campus as we launch a new year of helping our students learn and advancing research and scholarship.

Fortunately, we are well prepared for the increase in students. Over the past year we hired 41 new tenure-track and tenured faculty, with great academic credentials. This is a record number for at least the last decade. I would like to thank all of our faculty and staff for your commitment and hard work, and I look forward to the creativity and innovation that our new faculty will contribute.

As many of you have already heard, we will be facing a tight budget year. Please help us be as efficient and productive as possible, keeping quality high and costs affordable for our students. The college is fundamentally healthy, and even though faculty and staff hiring will be slower this year, our momentum will continue to be strong.

Despite some of the constraints, we continue to invest in faculty and research through opportunities such as our Social Sciences Seed Grants, Humanities Scholarship Enhancement Awards, and Signature Research Initiative Grants. Our focus area hiring initiative will also continue over the next few years.

New grants and contracts increased by 30%, from $23.6 million to a record $30.6 million, and this number does not even include research grants awarded through the Ames Laboratory or through university centers. This has been an outstanding year for us. With our continued investment in seed funding opportunities and our promising group of new faculty, I am confident that we will see such strong numbers again next year.

We also had a record-breaking year in fundraising. Our donors have created new opportunities such as the Grosvenor Chair for Computer Science and Statistics; the Pavitt Professorship for the English department; and the Morehouse Estate gift for the geology program, to name just a few. We are also raising support for a new fund, the Dean’s Emerging Faculty Leaders Fund, which will help accelerate the careers of our most successful mid-career faculty.

As every year, I highlighted just a few of the many faculty members who were recognized for excellence during the year. Mei-Hsuan Huang was named a Steinway & Sons Artist; Bob Stephenson and Tracy Lucht won national teaching awards from their professional societies; and Jonathan Wendel was recognized as a Distinguished Fellow of the Botanical Society of America.

Thanks to your guidance and commitment, our students also won great awards. For example, LAS’s Political Science student team won the 2015 Midwest Model European Union competition; twenty students participated in a new Catt Center global leadership study abroad, and Meteorology graduate student Brian Squitieri became the first visiting scientist in a new joint NSF-NOAA program.

Please keep reading the news on the LAS website to learn more about our faculty and students and their successes.

Over the coming year, we will engage in a strategic planning process to create a road map for the next five to six years. Student recruitment, retention, and success across all of our programs will play a vital role. We will consider avenues for new programs and expanded learning opportunities for our students.

We need to sustain and strengthen our nationally and internationally competitive research programs and help our faculty advance their international recognition. We will continue to promote the value, quality, and success of the college to a wide range of audiences. Using our resources efficiently and identifying new resources – whether from new learning opportunities, grants, contracts, or donors – will be critical for our future.

Thank you for all of your contributions to the daily work of the college. I look forward very much to celebrating your successes over the coming year.

Beate Schmittmann, Dean