Leath speaks to farmers at research farm annual meeting

NASHUA, Iowa -Iowa State University president Steven Leath officially started his new job in mid-January.

Leath speaks to farmers at research farm annual meeting
Dale Schnadt of Sumner speaks to Iowa State University President Steven Leath at last week's annual meeting of the Northeast Research and Demonstration Farm at Nashua.

NASHUA, Iowa -Iowa State University president Steven Leath officially started his new job in mid-January.

"But he really started working for us the day after he was named president of Iowa State University in late September," said Wendy Wintersteen, dean of ISU's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. "He was on campus meeting with all sorts of folks and traveling around meeting with our alums and friends. Since he has been on the job, he's spent a lot of time with the Legislature, which is critically important as we look at what the budget situation is."

Leath and Wintersteen met last week with Northeast Iowa Agricultural Experimental Association members during the group's annual meeting.

Since coming to ISU, Leath said, he's spent most of his time in Ames and Des Moines, and he welcomed the invitation to the Nashua meeting.

"Coming to a big land grant university there is no constituency more important than the agricultural constituents," Leath said. "Hearing your issues and concerns is really important."


Leath got a quick tour of the research farm.

"This is an unusual model for me with the association partnering with the university," Leath said. "I'm big on partnerships.''

He is impressed by the Borlaug Center and the displays celebrating Nobel laureate Norman Borlaug, who was a plant pathologist, which is also Leath's area of expertise. Leath's father received his doctoral degree in plant pathology from the University of Minnesota.

"This is special to me," Leath said.

Educating students will remain a big deal at ISU, the president said.

"The job placement rate out of Dr. Wintersteen's College of Agriculture is 98 percent," Leath said. "We do a great job of recruiting quality students and training and educating them, and people want to hire them."

As someone who has had a career in agricultural research, Leath said he will be committed to meaningful research.

"Land grant universities need to be demand driven," he said. "We need to be very sensitive to the needs of the citizens and very responsive in our research mission."


Leath said he "gets the extension and outreach model."

"If we do great research, and it sits on a shelf, it's of little value," Leath said. "We have a close relationship with Cathann Kress, vice president of Extension and Outreach, to make sure the information we generate gets out."

He was an associate dean in the North Carolina State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Leath said he was proud of the ag college, but the school they measured themselves against was ISU.

"Iowa State's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has this huge reputation as the premiere college of agriculture," Leath said.

The strength of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is in its leadership and balance, Leath said.

"We have a great dean," he said. "They do extension, research and teaching well and blending across life sciences serves us well."

Leath said he's been involved in agriculture all his life.

"I'm bringing some of those practical experiences with me," Leath said. "I've had a long history working with growers and agribusiness, and I spent a lot of time building in agricultural and life sciences. This state and the college are doing the same thing. I'll be an active participant in moving Iowa forward in the bioeconomy."

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