Wendy Wintersteen is on the move. After more than a decade as dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Iowa State University, Wintersteen has moved from the familiar quarters of Curtiss Hall to the President’s Office. Her groundbreaking selection as the 16th president of Iowa State University makes Dr. Wintersteen the first woman to hold the university’s highest office.
“I am so honored to be the first woman president of Iowa State and to serve as a role model to other women and girls of what is possible when you take chances, lean in, and say yes to opportunities.”
By virtue of her position as president of Iowa State, Wintersteen is also the newest member of the Board of Directors and Executive Team of the Cultivation Corridor®. Cultivation Corridor Board Chair, Gage Kent welcomed and endorsed President Wintersteen by saying, “This is an important step forward for the Corridor. Wendy brings a wealth of knowledge of the five sectors that comprise the Cultivation Corridor’s world-renowned bioeconomy: agbioscience, agtechnology, biorenewables, plant sciences, and advanced manufacturing.”
Consistent with the Cultivation Corridor’s tagline, “It’s in our DNA”, agriculture is rooted in President Wintersteen’s DNA. The daughter of farmers and educators, Wintersteen earned her undergraduate degree in crop production from Kansas State University before accepting a job with Iowa State where she eventually obtained a Ph.D. in entomology.
Her career at Iowa State University spans nearly four decades, beginning as an extension specialist in integrated pest management. She later became a professor of entomology, and then went on to hold a series of administrative roles in ISU Extension and Outreach and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
For the past eleven years, Wintersteen has served as Endowed Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) and director of the Iowa Agriculture Experiment Station, leading both to national and global prominence. CALS has ranked in the top 10 in the world four of the last five years, including a top 5 ranking in 2014. It’s also the third largest agricultural college in the country.
The Iowa Agriculture Experiment Station is the only public agricultural research program in the state, transferring science-based information and resources to every corner of Iowa through Iowa State Extension and Outreach and ISU Research and Demonstration Farms. Over the last five years, Experiment Station scientists have leveraged state investments to bring in more than $270 million in external funding. These funds support 750 research projects on issues ranging from water quality and pest management to value-added biorenewables and even human diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
But perhaps President Wintersteen is most proud of one fact: an increasing number of CALS graduates are leaving Iowa State with more than a degree and a career start; many are starting their own companies. That’s because, as dean, Wintersteen made it a priority to emphasize such opportunities through the Agriculture Entrepreneurship Initiative – a priority she will expand during her presidency.
“As dean, I was proud to work with a wonderful team to build on the college’s rich legacy as a leader in all things agriculture to benefit our students and grow Iowa’s agricultural industry. Now as president, I am excited to work with all of our colleges to find new ways to leverage their variety of strengths. Together, with public and private partners, we will elevate Iowa State’s role as an innovation leader and advance entrepreneurial and other economic opportunities throughout the Cultivation Corridor.”
Nearly four years in, the Cultivation Corridor has built strong momentum. Since April 2014, it’s helped facilitate more than $737 million in new capital investments; create and retain more than 3500 jobs, and has joined Iowa State University, the ISU Research Park, and others to create an entrepreneurship ecosystem consisting of a trio of support programs: the Iowa State Ag Startup Engine, the Iowa State Startup Factory, and the Cultivation Corridor-led, Iowa AgriTech Accelerator. In addition, the Iowa State Research Park is home to the Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship; and, Iowa State’s Ivy College of Business recently became the first college in Iowa to launch an undergraduate degree in entrepreneurship.
Wintersteen says at the root of this success is good science and innovation that can be translated to solve real-world problems – and that’s a key aspect of her vision for both the Cultivation Corridor and Iowa State University.
“I see tremendous opportunities for Iowa State University and the Cultivation Corridor to nurture that entrepreneurial spirit and move us forward as the premier destination for the agbioscience and technology sectors. Iowa State is already leading cutting edge advancements to augment the bioeconomy and value-added agriculture and there is great potential to do even more.”
Iowa State’s efforts are led in part by the Bioeconomy and Plant Sciences Institutes in coordination with dozens of programs, departments, and research centers, including the ISU BioCentury Research Farm as well as two National Science Foundation Centers – one for Bioplastics and BioComposites and one for Biorenewable Chemicals, which has spun off eight startup companies in the past seven years.
“With the right infrastructure and mechanisms in place, such as what’s evolving at the ISU Research Park and within the Office of Economic Development and Industry Relations, we can support more of our faculty, staff, and students in moving groundbreaking science and innovation from the research lab to the market place. This will elevate Iowa as the place to create quality jobs, grow the economy, and ultimately fulfill the Corridor’s mission to feed and fuel the world.”
Cultivation Corridor Chairman-Elect, Charles Sukup said, “Wendy Wintersteen is the right person at the right time for the Cultivation Corridor, Iowa State and the State of Iowa. Her experience and expertise in bioscience will provide the foundation for a surge in transforming university research into applications that benefit Iowans and create high-level jobs across various bioscience platforms. We welcome President Wintersteen. We have exciting opportunities ahead!”