The Student Experience

The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences delivers quality, experiential educational programs, that provide opportunities for students to graduate with skills in leadership, communications and cultural competency, within and across disciplines. The college provides a welcoming, inclusive environment that inspires success.


The college has 14 academic departments, eight of which are co-administered with other ISU colleges.Smiling students from all backgrounds.

  • Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering
  • Agricultural Education and Studies
  • Agronomy
  • Animal Science
  • Roy J. Carver Department of Biochemistry, Biophysics and Molecular Biology
  • Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology
  • Economics
  • Food Science and Human Nutrition
  • Genetics, Development and Cell Biology
  • Horticulture
  • Natural Resource Ecology and Management
  • Plant Pathology, Entomology and Microbiology
  • Sociology and Criminal Justice
  • Statistics

Other facts about the college:

  • The college offers 27 undergraduate majors and 35 graduate programs that prepare students to address societal challenges in food, environment, energy, climate, nutrition and science and technology.
  • More than 3,700 students completed online courses during the 2022-23 academic year.
  • Nine faculty members have been honored with national awards for excellence in teaching in food and agricultural sciences.
  • The college and its departments award approximately $4 million in scholarships annually.
  • The Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering’s undergraduate and graduate programs consistently rank among the top in the nation, according to the U.S. News & World Report.
  • Science With Practice is an experiential learning and work program that allows students to pursue research and earn a paycheck.


Enrollment for the fall of 2023 totaled 4,250 students - 3,710 undergraduates and 540 graduate students. This marked the 12th consecutive year the college enrolled more than 4,200 students.

  • The college has the seventh largest undergraduate student body among agricultural colleges in the nation.
  • CALS has continued the tradition of excellence in student retention, with 89.4% of first-year students from last fall returning.
  • For the seventh straight year the college has enrolled more women than men—59% of the undergraduates were women in the fall semester.

Support for Modern Learning Facilities

  • In 2017, a $14 million dollar gift was announced to support the college’s education and research facility for feed milling and grain science.
  • In 2017, a four-story addition was completed on the east side of Bessey Hall that includes eight teaching laboratories and six research laboratories.
  • In 2016, a food science teaching laboratory was transformed into an up-to-date space to enhance the student learning experience.
  • In 2014, Elings Hall and Sukup Hall were completed and became home to the agricultural and biosystems engineering department. The Biorenewables Complex is a $107 million project that includes an 8,000- square-foot atrium.
  • In 2014, the Jeff and Deb Hansen Agriculture Student Learning Center opened. The $7 million dollar facility combines an area suitable for classwork and real-life industry events.

Learning Farms

The college also maintains a working farm to provide hands- on learning experiences for each of its livestock species: Scholars collaborating.

  • Beef Teaching Farm
  • Dairy Science Farm
  • Equine Farm
  • Poultry Science Farm
  • Sheep Teaching Farm
  • Allen E. Christian Swine Teaching Farm

Student Opportunities

  • Ag 450 Farm celebrated its 80th anniversary in September 2023. It is one of the first student-managed farms implemented at a land-grant university. The Ag 450 course provides approximately 150 students with the opportunity to manage and operate a grain and livestock farm.
  • In 2006, the Center for Sustainable Rural Livelihoods began a Service Learning and School Gardens Program in the Kamuli District of rural Uganda. The program brings together students from ISU and Uganda’s Makerere University for five weeks of service each summer. The program assists elementary and secondary schools to develop school gardens and livestock projects to support the school lunch program.
  • George Washington Carver Summer Research Internship Program has been impacting and engaging high school and undergraduate students for more than 25 years. The internship program promotes “science with practice” by providing hands-on research experiences.
  • CALS student clubs and organizations are nationally recognized and provide hands-on award winning experiences.
  • The Start Something College of Agriculture and Life Sciences program provides students with the entrepreneurial tools needed to start their own business ventures.