University President Wendy Wintersteen delivered her State of the University address titled, “Writing the Next Chapter of Innovation and Excellence” on Wednesday.
Wintersteen began her address by welcoming everyone back to the university and sharing a quote from author Toni Morrison.
“I hope you all received my welcome back email; in the email I shared a quote from the author Toni Morrison that said ‘If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it,’ Wintersteen said. “What I’m thinking of is that everyone at Iowa State plays an important role and that everyone is a contributing author in writing the next chapter of innovation and excellence at Iowa State.”
She spent time reminiscing on the positive experiences she had in preparation for the new school year.
“I had a wonderful getting out, visiting with our students, hearing their stories [and] having them tell me about their experiences,” Wintersteen said.
She talked about an interaction with a student at a new student orientation over the summer. Wintersteen recalled and joked about the interaction in a lighthearted manner.
“One student stopped me and said ‘President Wintersteen you’re an internet sensation!’ and when you’re president you have to wonder ‘is this going to get me fired?’” Wintersteen said.
The student was reminding Wintersteen of when her decision to cancel classes for multiple days in the spring 2019 semester — due to a polar vortex — caused her to become an internet sensation on Reddit.
Wintersteen then took a more serious turn and talked about the promises she made to the university’s faculty and students last year.
“I promised to serve our great university so that it may reach it’s finest potential in academic excellence; I pledged to lead the university forward to become the best land grant university and I pledged that together we would continue to excel in our teaching, research and extension programs to support our land grant mission,” Wintersteen said. “I believe that the way we will continue to serve, to lead and to excel is by constantly innovating.”
Wintersteen advocates for innovation and said she believes that innovation is what drives the university forward.
“Through innovation, we really lift up the most creativity, the most collaboration, the leadership that will truly allow Iowa State University to move forward and build the culture and success that we want at this great university,” Wintersteen said.
Wintersteen praised her faculty who work for the university and said that the university achieves greatness because the people who serve it are great.
She additionally discussed the various achievements Iowa State had over the year.
Faculty awards were at an all-time high as seven faculty members received an award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, six received National Science Foundation CAREER awards, three received Fulbright awards, two received National Endowment for the Humanities awards, one received a Pew Scholar award and one faculty member was named to the National Academy of Inventors.
Additionally, Iowa State improved its top 100 worldwide ranking in U.S. patents from number 83 to number 69 overall. Thirty-four patents were secured by faculty members at Iowa State last year that contributed to this change.
Wintersteen said this demonstrates the great innovation of Iowa State’s faculty members.
Entrepreneurship among faculty and students was another recognition Wintersteen made. She saw the deans of various colleges step up and create change around campus over the past year.
“We have a long record of being focused on entrepreneurship at this university,” Wintersteen said. “Over this past year, the deans have come together and said ‘we want to work together to [change] how we see innovation and entrepreneurship be infused into the curriculum.’ And we’ve had a wonderful set of conversations and we’ve made great progress”
The deans wanted to highlight what types of innovation and entrepreneurship were going on at Iowa State at the State Fair. During the event, Wintersteen saw students and community members display entrepreneurship skills that significantly impressed her.
“We had more than 150 students [...] and community members from around the state come and pitch their ideas for innovation and entrepreneurship,” Wintersteen said. ”Innovation and entrepreneurship, connecting what we’re doing in our curriculum with what we’re doing at the new Student Innovation Center. This is truly going to be a way that we change how students, how parents [and] how Iowa thinks about Iowa State University.”
Wintersteen also brought up the challenges that Iowa State faces in the present day.
She said how last year Iowa State saw a decline in enrollment, with a large percentage being of international students.
“We were really shocked,” Wintersteen said. “Of the 1,004 students we lost last year, 440 of those students were international students. It really, really is a concern for us. As we lose international students at Iowa State University, we lose part of the important culture that has always been part of this university.”
Wintersteen said that people will see another decline as the numbers come out and that there is a further impact to Iowa State.
Another challenge that follows declining enrollment is a struggling budget, Wintersteen said.
“We lose student numbers, then we start to lose revenue,” Wintersteen said. “Like all businesses — and remember, we are a business — like all businesses we have a producing cost.”
The reduction in student enrollment, in large part, has caused the budget to change, Wintersteen said, and the first step in the legislative process for increasing funding was to increase student tuition.
“The good news is that the Board of Regents has just shared that they are preceding with their five-year plan,” Wintersteen said. “This year was the first year of that plan. The plan calls for increased tuition, but not a bad increase it is determined by how much spending the state provides to Iowa State University.”
Wintersteen said that they are working on and creating an open line of communication with state legislatures all throughout Iowa.
“These are big changes that are occurring at Iowa State,” Wintersteen said.
Iowa State is moving into the future and Wintersteen said that everyone is a part of it.
“Together, you and I, we’re creating a future,” Wintersteen said. “Some of the successes that we have talked about today already, they’re gonna help us create the future.”
Wintersteen said she is proud to be a member of the Iowa State faculty and is extremely thankful for all the time her staff dedicates to Iowa State.
“I am proud of Iowa State,” Wintersteen said. “I am proud to be the president, and I want to thank all of you for the hard work you contribute each and every day to allow us to bring excellence to our teaching, research and extension programs.”