Higher education

Fourth Iowa State presidential prospect is only internal finalist

Ag College dean has shepherded massive growth, national prestige

Wendy Wintersteen, candidate for Iowa State University president. (contributed photo)
Wendy Wintersteen, candidate for Iowa State University president. (contributed photo)

Wendy Wintersteen has been at Iowa State University since 1979, serving in a range of roles, from professor to director to associate dean and now endowed dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. And she’s looking to add one more title to her ISU vita: president.

Wintersteen, who in addition to her deanship also directs Iowa State’s Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment Station, is the fourth finalist to succeed former ISU President Steven Leath as the 16th president of the university.

She will meet with faculty, staff, and students about her candidacy on Thursday, when — like the three finalists before her — she will participate in a 4 p.m. public forum in the ISU Memorial Union.

Wintersteen is the only internal candidate to make the ISU finalist pool. During the Board of Regents last presidential search at University of Northern Iowa in 2016, UNI Provost Jim Wohlpart was one of three finalists, although he was beat out for the job by Chancellor at Montana State University Billings Mark Nook.

The board’s search to replace former University of Iowa President Sally Mason did not include any internal candidates as finalists.

Although Wintersteen began her higher education endeavors with a bachelor’s degree from Kansas State University in 1978, the majority of her education and work experience have come at Iowa State, where she earned a doctorate in entomology in 1988.

Before that, after graduating from Kansas State, Wintersteen served as an integrated pest management extension associate at extension offices in Dubuque and Des Moines. She served a brief stint as acting national pesticide education program leader for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Extension Service in Washington, D.C. before returning to Ames as an assistant professor, associate professor, and eventually full professor in 1996.

She landed the dean and director positions she holds today in 2006, meaning she’s served in those roles for nearly 12 years. As dean, Wintersteen oversees a college of 317 faculty members, 484 staff, and more than 5,500 students, according to her resume.

Since 2005, the college’s undergraduate enrollment has surged more than 90 percent, making it the third largest undergraduate agricultural college in the country. She oversees the college’s budget of $172 million, including its $51.5 million in sponsored research.

Under her leadership, the college has earned top 10 status nationally in the independent Quacquarelli Symonds. U.S. News and World Report gave its first place title to the co-administered Department of Ag and Biosystems Engineering.

In her message on the college’s website, Wintersteen calls this “one of the most exciting times in history in agriculture and life sciences — in the state of Iowa and around the world.”

“That’s why being a part of Iowa State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is so exciting,” she wrote. “Our College truly is one of the best schools of agriculture and life sciences in the world.”

In 2014, Wintersteen told the Iowa State Daily that she has lived in Iowa longer than her home state of Kansas and feels like a true Iowan.

“I’ve had opportunities to leave in the past,” Wintersteen told the Daily at the time. “I love Iowa and Iowa agriculture, and I love the people involved in it. I never really wanted to leave and I never have left.”

Wintersteen’s 4 p.m. public forum is planned for the Durham Great Hall in the Memorial Union. Wednesday’s public forum with candidate No. 3, Executive Vice President and Provost at the University of Central Florida Dale Whittaker, will be held at 4 p.m. in the Memorial Union Sun Room.


Sonny Ramaswamy, who is serving a six-year term as director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, was the first named ISU finalist and visited campus Monday. Pamela Whitten, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost at the University of Georgia Athens, visited campus Tuesday.


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