Faculty/Staff News

College-wide dialogue on sustainability

Dear Faculty and Staff:

In my letter to faculty and staff last fall, I said we would begin a college-wide dialogue on sustainability in the coming year. The dialogue would consider how the college can focus and more fully engage in sustainability across our research, education and extension and outreach missions. The intent of this dialogue is to better position the college in addressing critical economic, environmental and social/community issues facing agriculture.

CALS Task Force on Sustainability
Paul Lasley, Sociology (chair)
Diane Birt, Food Science and Human Nutrition
Steven Bradbury, Entomology
Kristina Craft, graduate student, Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering
Robert Dodds, ISU Extension and Outreach
Trey Forsyth, president, CALS Student Council; senior, Agricultural Business
Patrick Gunn, Animal Science
Tom Isenhart, Natural Resource, Ecology and Management
Cathy Kling, Economics/Center for Agricultural and Rural Development
Matt Liebman, Agronomy/Wallace Chair for Sustainable Agriculture
Lois Wright Morton, Sociology
Ajay Nair, Horticulture
Gail Nonnecke, Horticulture
Matt O’Neal, Entomology/Sustainable Agriculture Graduate Program
Mark Rasmussen, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture
Kurt Rosentrater, Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering 
Ivan Rudik, Economics
Kan Wang, Agronomy

Since then, a CALS Sustainability Task Force, led by Paul Lasley in sociology, has been meeting to plan ways to involve CALS faculty, staff and students in the dialogue. This college-wide conversation is both about sharing what we are doing currently and listening to your input on what we may consider doing differently in the future to enhance and infuse the ideas and goals of sustainability in the classroom, labs and in the communities and partnerships we daily engage with.

The Task Force’s initial efforts have focused on these key activities:

1. Establishing a CALS Sustainability Lecture Series to hear from experts on their experiences with sustainability at other campuses or with other organizations. The first speaker, Elena Irwin of Ohio State University, will be on campus April 4-5. The Task Force will be inviting more speakers for the series for the 2016-2017 academic year.

2. Compiling an inventory of existing CALS efforts in research, teaching and extension with links to sustainability as a kind of baseline to understand where the college stands currently and identity areas of mutual support and where additional resources might be invested.

3. Conducting an environmental scan to explore what other universities, agricultural colleges and institutions are doing to move sustainability forward in their programs, and where there may be new opportunities and approaches to consider pursuing.

4. Developing a sustainability website to highlight resources and topics on sustainability, and to bring greater visibility to longstanding or ongoing examples of the college’s work in sustainability.

The Task Force also will be examining how to increase the sustainability of CALS-managed campus facilities and research and demonstration farms.

I thank the members of the Task Force for the work they’ve put in already, and for their future plans.

And I thank you — the faculty and staff — in advance for your consideration and thoughtful participation in the activities that are to come. Your input and ideas are needed and welcome because, overall, the Task Force will seek to better understand how CALS can enhance our leadership in the national conversation on sustainable agriculture and we work together toward a more promising future for Iowa and the world.


Wendy Wintersteen
Endowed Dean, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
Director, Iowa Agriculture and Home Economics
     Experiment Station

CALS Sustainability Lecture Series

This semester, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is beginning a lecture series focused on sustainability topics that will continue into the next academic year, 2016-2017. CALS faculty, staff and students are welcomed and encouraged to attend.

The first speaker in the series, selected by the CALS Task Force on Sustainability, is Elena Irwin of The Ohio State University.

Elena Irwin

Dr. Irwin will present the CALS Sustainability Lecture at 4 p.m., Monday, April 4, in the Dolezal Auditorium in Curtiss Hall. A reception will follow at 5:30 p.m. in the Harl Commons in Curtiss Hall.

Dr. Irwin is Faculty Director of the Sustainable and Resilient Economy program at The Ohio State University and a professor in the Department of Agricultural, Environmental and Development Economics. Dr. Irwin teaches graduate and undergraduate courses and is a faculty leader of the Environment, Economy, Development and Sustainability major at Ohio State.

On Tuesday, April 5, Dr. Irwin will present an economics department seminar at 12 p.m. in Room 368A Heady. She also will meet with economics graduate students and faculty. During her visit, she also will meet with the CALS Task Force on Sustainability to share her thoughts on sustainability programs at Ohio State.

Dr. Irwin is an environmental and urban economist specializing in land-use economics and human-natural systems. Her research focuses on spatial modeling of land use and the development of integrated models of land use and ecosystem services at local and regional scales. Her research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, USDA Economic Research Service, USDA Forest Service, Ohio Sea Grant Program and the James S. McDonnell Foundation.

She serves on the National Research Council Committee on Needs and Research for Land Change Modeling. She is an associate editor of the American Journal of Agricultural Economics. In 2009, Dr. Irwin was the co-recipient of the Sustainability Science Award from the Ecological Society of America. In 2008, she received the North American Regional Science Council’s Hewings Award for distinguished young scholars in regional science.