Iowa State University

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Two years ago, the launch of the virtual reality headset Oculus Rift was the first time consumers had access to relatively affordable virtual reality. While still not a household staple, market forecasts predict that virtual and augmented reality will be a $40 billion industry by 2020. 

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One by one, the presidents of Iowa’s public universities gave severe warnings to lawmakers today about declining state support for higher education, and what it will mean for the institutions in the future.  

University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld told the House Appropriations Committee that over the past 20 years, the state budget, the student body, and consumer price index have all grown, while state support for the U of I today is a few million dollars less than it was back then.  

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No matter how far fruits or vegetables travel, whether they’re grown organically or conventionally, they’re packed with vitamins, minerals and other necessary nutrients. The men and women in the fields try to grow foods with an eye to boosting the health factor, but researchers say it’s hard to measure the precise impact.

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Supporters of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, based at Iowa State University, are making their case at the statehouse for reinstating the center’s funding.

Many people in Iowa agriculture, and across the region, expressed shock when the legislature took away the funding for the Leopold Center last spring. The center’s existence remains, thanks to a veto from then-Gov. Terry Branstad, but the state funding that made up the bulk of its budget was zeroed out.

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The State of Iowa asked a Polk County judge Wednesday to dismiss a lawsuit brought by a former Iowa State University student alleging ISU did not properly investigate her sexual assault complaint.

Iowa Solicitor General Jeffrey Thompson says the lawsuit should be dismissed because the events described fall outside the two-year statute of limitations. The alleged sexual misconduct occurred in 2013.

Christopher Gannon / courtesy of ISU

An Iowa State University professor’s lecture on what people ate during the Great Depression will be getting an audience well beyond her classroom.

History professor Pamela Riney-Kehrberg teaches a class called America Eats, which she describes as a food history of the United States. It caught the attention of C-SPAN, which filmed her this fall giving a lecture on the Great Depression.

Riney-Kehrberg says both food and the Great Depression seem to be topics that interest a broad array of people, which is why it felt like a good fit for C-SPAN’s national audience.

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The value of Iowa’s farmland has increased 2 percent over the past year, but the uptick may not indicate improvements to the overall farm economy.

The annual Iowa Land Values Survey found the small increase this year after three consecutive years of farmland values slipping.

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Plant breeder Jessica Barb is on a mission to improve how sunflowers self-pollinate, a trait that’ll be increasingly important to farmers as wild bee populations diminish. Her research tool of choice: a paper towel.

In a field outside of Ames, Iowa, she swipes the paper towel across the head of a bright yellow-and-red sunflower—bred to feed Iowa State University fans’ frenzy for all things in the school’s colors—and transfers the pollen on the paper towel to a different flower. Researchers recently unlocked the genetic code of the entire plant, which means Barb will more quickly be able to identify the specific genes that play a role in self-pollination.

Sunflowers are a global commodity crop with a growing demand, though they’re currently a minor player on the United States’ agricultural scene. The genome-mapping is likely to create better hybrid seeds, but there’s no reason to expect the picturesque crop, despite its profit potential, will quickly overtake the Corn Belt.

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Four finalists to be the next president of Iowa State University were on the Ames campus this week for interviews and meetings with faculty, staff and community members. Now, the search committee will review the feedback from the public forums and meet with the Board of Regents. A final decision is expected on October 23rd. The next president will replace Steven Leath who is now president of at Auburn University in Alabama. 

COURTESY OF CHRISTOPHER GANNON/IOWA STATE UNIVERSITY

A new study says small patches of native prairie plants provide a range of conservation benefits to Iowa’s landscape and could reduce water pollution from farm fields.

So-called “prairie strips” are patches of land strategically planted to native, perennial mixes of grasses and flowers on the edges of crop fields.

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Even as wind energy production has grown in recent years to be a large part of the country’s energy portfolio, a chill around federal funding for renewable energy has researchers increasingly turning to industry partners to bring the next generation of innovation to the marketplace.

 

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Iowa State University is announcing the largest single gift to one of its colleges. The College of Business will be renamed in honor of the donors.

“Jerry and Debbie Ivy are the reason we’re here today,” interim ISU president Ben Allen, a former dean of the business school, told a nearly packed lecture hall Monday morning. “It’s because of their extraordinary generosity that we are announcing a $50 million commitment to name the College of Business.”

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The Iowa and Iowa State football rivalry as we know it today only dates back to 1977, but even during the years when the Cyclones never played the Hawkeyes, there was a rivalry between the two schools. And the sports rivalry may pale in comparison to a conflict when Virgil Hancher was the president of the University of Iowa and James Hilton was the President of Iowa State University.  Matt Kuhns has written about those years in the new book Hancher vs. Hilton: Iowa’s Rival University Presidents.

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Drones are gaining in popularity as industries from farming to retail to insurance find ways the unmanned flying vehicles can help make businesses more profitable. At Iowa State University, a team of engineers is trying to get ahead of likely complaints about drone noise.

Anupam Sharma, an aerospace engineering professor at Iowa State, takes inspiration from owls to design noise-reduction strategies for airplanes and wind turbines because owls are naturally nearly-silent fliers. Drones challenge Sharma’s team to think on a scale closer to the size of an owl.

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Minnesota Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar gave the Mary Louise Smith Chair in Women and Politics address last night to a crowd of over 800 at the Iowa State University Memorial Union. 

The chair has been awarded to prominent women of both parties each year since 1995.      

Klobuchar became the first female U.S. Senator from Minnesota in 2006 and is mentioned as a possible Democratic presidential candidate.  

Klobuchar had practical advice for women considering public office, including running for student government.

First, she said, start with your friends.

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Iowa State University’s enrollment has escalated since 2009, while the state’s appropriation to the school has plunged. That’s the message interim President Ben Allen presented to the Board of Regents tuition task force today in Ames.

Christopher Gannon/Iowa State University

Iowa State University, responding to a growing shortage of registered nurses, has hired Dr. Virginia Wangerin to direct a new nursing education program.  The program will enroll nurses holding associate degrees and graduate them with Bachelor of Nursing degrees.

It will be administered by ISU’s Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, headed by Dr. Ruth MacDonald.

“We were approached by DMACC (Des Moines Area Community College),” said MacDonald.  “There’s increasing demand for the BSN credential.”

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Iowa State University’s Tractor Pull Club is competing in the International Quarter-Scale Student Tractor Design Competition this week. Students from mechanical, industrial, and agriculture and biosystems engineering build a small tractor, about the size of a ride-on lawn mower, that tries to outperform the others in tests of brute strength, durability and maneuverability.

This year 30 schools are sending teams to Peoria, Illinois and ISU’s club is hoping a winning innovation from last year will help it finish near the top.

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A new study from Iowa State University finds that people who are the victims of workplace bullying often receive unhelpful advice about how to deal with the harassment.

ISU communication studies researcher Stacy Tye-Williams found the most frequent piece of advice victims receive from family and friends is to quit their jobs, which is financially impractical. People were also often counseled to ignore or to stand up to the bully. 

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A multidisciplinary Iowa State University team will present its work this week at the National Sustainable Design Expo in Washington, D.C.

Students from apparel design and engineering worked together to create a cotton jacket fitted with nine flexible solar panels.

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The Iowa Board of Regents heard from university and student leaders Monday in the first of two meetings to consider additional tuition hikes at the state’s public universities. 

The regents are proposing raising undergraduate tuition by a total of $358 for the next school year. 

At the University of Iowa, the total increase for nonresident students would be $1,764. 

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This summer, in cornfields in Iowa and Nebraska, about a thousand small point-and-shoot digital cameras will be enclosed in waterproof cases, mounted on poles and attached to solar-powered battery chargers. They will take pictures every ten minutes as plants grow; all part of a plan to create better seeds.

 

Iowa State University

Iowa’s Board of Regents is selecting a former Iowa State University administrator to return as interim president.  The Regents are meeting Monday to name Ben Allen interim president.

Allen served four years as ISU’s provost before the Regents appointed him president of University of Northern Iowa in 2006.  He led that campus until retiring in 2013.

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Trustees at Auburn University in Alabama voted this morning to approve ISU President Steve Leath as AU's 19th president.  The voice vote was unanimous. Leath will replace Jay Gogue, who has announced his retirement effective this summer.

Leath has been ISU's president since 2012.  He begins his new job at Auburn on July 15.

In a statement to the Trustees following this morning's vote, Leath said, "I could not be more excited, or frankly more humbled, by this once in a lifetime opportunity."

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Farmers in the U.S. like to point out that their products feed people all over the world. And while this is a diverse country, the people working on farms and elsewhere in agriculture often don’t reflect the nation’s demographics. Changing that is becoming a priority, in hopes new people will bring fresh ideas to meet some of our food system’s greatest challenges.

 

Iowa State University

Iowa’s Board of Regents is vowing to clarify travel policies at the three state universities, and Iowa State University may be closing its flight service.

Those are some of the results of an audit of Iowa State University President Steve Leath’s use of university aircraft for business and personal use.

After a closed session with Leath this afternoon in which the board reviewed an audit report of all flights in university-owned aircraft, Regents President Bruce Rastetter reaffirmed the board’s support for Leath.

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As another harvest season wraps up, Midwest farmers are once again facing low commodity prices amid enormous supplies. And when they recover from the long days bringing in the grain, they will eventually sit down with their books and try to figure out how best to farm again next year.

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The Democratic candidate for vice president is reaching out to students and other voters in Iowa.

Iowa State University student Eric Spies introduced Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, who said he was making his first stop in Iowa since Hillary Clinton chose him as her running mate. Kaine's wife, Anne Holton, also spoke to the crowd of a couple hundred people, many of them students, at the Memorial Union on the Iowa State campus in Ames. 

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Fall enrollment at Iowa State University’s is up 1.9 percent over last fall’s record.  With 36,660 students this year, ISU is again the largest of the state’s three public universities. 

The University of Iowa is reporting enrollment of 33,334 this fall, also up from last year’s figure. 

At the University of Northern Iowa, total enrollment for the fall semester at 11,905 -- 95 short of its goal of 12,000 students.  This includes 2,000 freshmen, the largest UNI freshman class since 2008.

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Iowa State Extension's Women in Agriculture Program is recognizing several Iowans as Women Impacting the Land. The awards celebrate farm work ranging from traditional row crops to livestock to perennial trees and nuts. Madeline Schultz, the director of the Women in Agriculture program, says the increased awareness of women's contributions to farming inspired the awards.

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