Jonathan Wickert is beginning his first year as provost with a bang.  By the time the 2013 spring term ends, he hopes to have visited every academic department on campus — a first for any provost.

“Iowa State is a very broad and diverse university with all kinds of really interesting stuff going on,” Wickert said. “By going out and meeting people face-to-face and walking around the labs and facilities, I can learn about all the breadth of the university. It’s a lot of fun.”

Wickert’s main goal for the visits is to listen to the departments to enhance communication.

“Iowa State has a lot of really passionate faculty, staff and students. We have to listen to them and hear their ideas,” Wickert said.

Iowa State has 57 academic departments. Wickert has visited about 15 so far this semester, the first being the Department of Horticulture and the most recent being aerospace engineering.

Each visit lasts about two hours. Wickert, as well as any member of his office who wishes to accompany him, begins by meeting with the department chair. There they discuss different dimensions of the department such as enrollment, where students go for jobs or graduate school and whether or not the area is growing.

After the briefing, Wickert takes a tour of the classrooms and labs. He ends the meeting by having an open discussion with the faculty, staff and students in the department.

“That is where I’ll usually describe some of President [Steven] Leath’s initiatives and where he wants to see the university go. Then it’s a ‘Q and A,’” Wickert said. “I ask them what they are proudest of and ideas they have to help improve our university. [Then I ask] what can my office do to help facilitate that.”

Wickert visited the Food Science and Human Nutrition Department on Oct. 22. Ruth MacDonald, department chair and professor, found the visit very beneficial.

“He was very interested in learning about our department and my perspectives and visions for our programs. He was very enthusiastic and engaged in our conversation,” MacDonald said.

Wickert toured the Food Science building and had the opportunity to get to know some of the faculty on an individual basis. 

During the meeting, Wickert gave an overview of his plans and vision for the campus and took questions from the faculty.

“This was a great experience for me to share with the provost the positive aspects of our building, but also some of the challenges we face in managing a large facility with many labs and pilot plants,” MacDonald said. “The provost was clearly interested in learning about us, and we enjoyed hosting him in our department.”

Wickert says he has had some fun experiences in his visits. 

While visiting the biology department, he viewed multiple tanks of zebra fish that are being used to study the role of genetics in cancer.

One of his favorite moments, he said, was a surprise gift of ice cream made by the Dairy Club during his trip to the dairy science department.

Overall, Wickert said he is ecstatic with the progress of the tours.

“It’s a great joy to be all around campus visiting these departments. Each department is unique and special. Each department has people who are very proud and passionate about what they’re doing,” Wickert said.

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