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Why Iowa? Q&A with Dr. Daniel Robison

Why Iowa? Q&A with Dr. Daniel Robison

Dr. Daniel Robison has served as the Endowed Dean’s Chair of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Iowa State University since January 2019. He also serves as director of the Iowa Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment Station.

With enrollment of about 4,500 students in 14 academic departments and 24 major areas of study, the College is one of the world’s leading institutions of agriculture, with more than 160 years of leadership in science, education and extension. In addition to the main campus in Ames, the College has a network of farm and field stations around the state – including new capacities in livestock, grain processing and biorenewables; extensive laboratory and greenhouse facilities; collaborative federal laboratories; Extension and outreach activities in all 99 Iowa counties; and about $60 million in annual research activity. There are also satellite campus facilities in Uganda, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Montana.

Robison came to Iowa State from West Virginia University, where he served from 2012-2019 as the dean and experiment station director of the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design. Prior to that position, Robison served on the faculty at North Carolina State University, the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry-Syracuse (SUNY ESF), and in a variety of capacities while in residence in Cote d’Ivoire West Africa.

1. What excited you about the opportunity to come to Iowa State?

Iowa is known worldwide as a center of agricultural productivity and advanced practices in agriculture, and I wanted to be part of that! There are opportunities everywhere in the world to have a positive impact on food production and how we manage our natural resources and build communities, technologies and insights to do so. But Iowa is at the center of that.

To have the chance to join Iowa, and its world-class Iowa State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is a remarkable opportunity to contribute to something greater. It is such privilege to be able to join that effort, to be engaged in partnerships like America’s Cultivation Corridor, and to call beautiful, wonderful, friendly Iowa my home!

2. What are some of the most significant things happening in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and what are your priorities for the future?

The college is continually poised at the leading-edge of science and technology and enabling the pursuit to always enhance the human and natural world conditions. This is what we do. Our greatest asset and purpose in that work is our human capital – our students who we serve and we are fundamentally here for, and the faculty and staff that do the work of the institution on behalf of them, Iowa, the nation and the world. We do this in all our mission areas of teaching, research, and extension and outreach, and we do it with innovation as a core force. To these ends we have great programs and projects in the realms of crop and livestock productivity and land management – including advances in the use of nutrient elements, in understanding the communities of people that do agriculture in all its aspects, in expanding efforts in digital and precision agriculture in all its dimensions through the value-chain and for all kinds of production systems and scales, and in the fundamental biology of the life sciences and applications of data and technologies.

The key priority for the College is always to stay on the leading edge by bringing in the most excellent students, and by having world-class faculty and staff to teach and do science and extension-outreach. In that context a key priority is to build partnerships with public and private organizations all across the spectrum to enable our work, to use the outcomes of our work, and to help focus our work. We need to provide the means for excellence in all we do – nothing less. A look at the list of our 14 departments and more than 25 major areas of study, at undergraduate and graduate levels, illustrates the breadth and depth of our work.

3. How does a strong College of Agriculture and Life Sciences benefit Iowa’s communities and businesses?

ISU and the college are inextricably linked to the health and vibrancy and outlook of all of Iowa. As a core of the land grant university mission, the college is determined to be engaged in every way with communities and businesses, with agencies and individuals, and with those already thriving and those still striving.

A strong college always in pursuit of excellence and positive impact is a key partner to all of Iowa. Economic and community development, sustainability and prosperity are all advanced for Iowa when its land grant university is a core partner contributing science and technology, and developing through our students the next generations of diverse great thinkers and doers.

4. What advice would you give to someone considering a move to Iowa (or to a student considering Iowa State)?

Come one and all! This is a put-me-in-coach kind of place, where a student arriving at Iowa State, or a person or family moving to work and live in Iowa, can be immediately involved in a hundred great opportunities, building their own future, and seeing their impact on the lives of people around them. Iowa is beautiful (and different) 12 months of the year, and has everything a person needs to love life and make a difference, including having the finest land grant university anywhere.

For students making a college decision, Iowa State and all of its colleges, most absolutely the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, are the center of excellence for a student-centered innovative and entrepreneurial experience that launches lifelong learners to make the world a better place! We are a beautiful campus in a wonderful community filled with dedicated people committed to learning and doing. We are hands-on, real-world, engaged and a place where everyone can know they belong.

5. Please give us recommendations of places to go or things to do in Iowa.

There is so much to recommend. Let me lean-in towards the agricultural heritage and future of the state, and suggest visits to see the various sites celebrating the work and legacy of Norman Borlaug, the Wallace families, Herbert Hoover, World Food Prize, Iowa State Fair, and of course the ISU campus sites!

Enjoy the natural beauty and unique communities of the state by driving the Great River Road from New Albin to Keokuk, and do the same from end-to-end on the Old Lincoln Highway, and the Loess Hills Byway in western Iowa.