President Leath outlines 'bold vision' for Iowa State

New leader wants to add more graduate students, expand research park

Iowa State University president Steven Leath. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Iowa State University president Steven Leath. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

During his official installation Friday, Iowa State University President Steven Leath pledged the university will raise an additional $150 million for student aid and add 200 new faculty jobs aimed at helping the state assemble the workforce it needs to become a bio-economy leader.

Leath also set goals to add 2,000 more graduate students to ISU programs and to significantly grow the ISU Research Park, which he expects will become the north anchor of a "Capital Corridor" economic development project growing out of Des Moines. As part of the expansion effort, the ISU Research Park will begin reporting directly to Leath's office, he said.

A bold vision that "thinks big" is what Leath wants for ISU and its role in helping the state.

"I have very high expectations for the people of Iowa State," he said. "The great success of Iowa State over the past 154 years has resulted from bold leadership and now we must be bolder, we must think bigger in terms of our goals and impact if we're going to drive Iowa State from great to greater at a time when our state really needs us."

The $150 million in additional student aid will be raised over the next five years, part of what Leath said is a top priority of keeping ISU's high-quality programs accessible and affordable to Iowans.

The 200 faculty jobs will be added in the next 18 to 24 months, Leath said, with the possibility of adding more beyond that. ISU leaders also by the end of this year will launch a new framework to address issues of job placement, technology transfer, technical assistance and continuing education for Iowa companies large and small, he said. It will be a fully-integrated approach to economic development, to better help Iowa companies and communities grow, he said. The framework will connect faculty, staff and students to resources in industry, communities and other educational institutions, to focus on growth in the bio-sciences, advanced manufacturing and information technology, Leath said.

"The real goal is to improve the quality of life for Iowa citizens by enhancing the effectiveness of our economic development efforts," he said.

Hundreds of ISU students, faculty, staff and visiting guests, including Gov. Terry Branstad, Sen. Tom Harkin, Sen. Chuck Grassley and University of Iowa President Sally Mason, were on hand for the formal installation of Leath, ISU's 15th president. Leath began at ISU in January, but installation ceremonies often are held several months after a president starts.


Leath has strong experience in research-based economic development from his previous job as vice president of research and sponsored programs with the 16-campus University of North Carolina system, but he said Friday he doesn't want to give the impression ISU will become solely a science and technology university or solely an economic development engine.

"Make no mistake, we'll be a leading engineering, bio-sciences and physical sciences university, and we will help Iowans improve their lives in every way possible through outreach and development, but we will not sacrifice any of the university's educational strengths that have brought us to this point in our history," he said.

Leath takes ISU's helm at a time of high expectations and urgency to increase Iowa's competitiveness, Branstad said. Given Leath's success at other land grant universities, Branstad said he believes Leath is the right president for Iowa State at this critical time in state history. It's incumbent upon officials to insure greater student achievement in science, technology, engineering and math, thereby expanding a skilled workforce to enhance economic development and create jobs, Branstad said.

"I know you will strengthen ISU, which will increase the prosperity and health of the entire state," he said.



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