Animal Agriculture Think Tank Provides 20 Years of Scientific Discussion

Don Beitz, Charles F. Curtiss Professor of animal science, has been
involved with the Animal Agriculture Think Tank since 1999.

By Ellen Bombela, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Communications Service

 AMES, Iowa – The Think Tank on Animal Agriculture, a regular time and place where topics of science are discussed in a casual dinner setting, is now in its 20th year at Iowa State University.

The Think Tank is a program created in 1999 by Don Beitz, Charles F. Curtiss Professor of animal science, and Gene Freeman, a now distinguished professor emeritus in animal science.

From 1999 until today, the format of the Think Tank has remained the same — a social time at the beginning, then a dinner followed by a speaker and discussion. The location of the Think Tank changes each year. Types of venues used in the past include restaurants and other locations around campus.

Although the majority of attendees are agriculture and veterinary medicine faculty and staff, the attendees also include others like local agricultural leaders and farmers. The attendance numbers vary depending on the topic and speaker, but there are usually around 10 to 30 people.

Beitz, now in his 50th year at Iowa State as an animal science and biochemistry professor, still organizes the Think Tank along with Leo Timms, Morrill Professor in animal science. Beitz and Timms start brainstorming who they want as speakers a semester in advance.

Beitz said his hope is that attendees are inspired by the topics presented and actively contribute to the conversation.

“We try to pick topics that might be of interest to the research community,” Beitz said. “Especially with Leo helping me now, it seems like we have been expanding beyond just research.”

In addition to research, some presentations cover topics in extension, teaching, government and agricultural commodities.

Some people that have spoken at the Think Tank in the past include former Iowa State President Steven Leath, current Iowa State President Wendy Wintersteen and professors and agricultural leaders. See the entire list of speakers for the past 20 years in the pdf posted below.

The meetings are September through April, excluding December due to the holidays. They are typically held on the fourth Monday of each month at a venue somewhere in Ames. The venue this year has been the Jeff and Deb Hansen Agricultural Student Learning Center.

For the last few years, the April Think Tank meetings have had a special topic geared toward the state commodity groups. The April meetings are held at the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association headquarters in Ames and typically have higher attendance than other meetings. Beitz said these meetings are essential for Iowa State.

“The meetings are designed to promote communication of agriculturists at Iowa State with each other and with agriculturists outside of Iowa State,” Beitz said. “I believe that goal is being accomplished.”  

See the complete list of speakers from 1999-2018 here: Think Tank Chart .pdf