The Iowa State University system paramount to fulfilling its land-grant mission to serve Iowans statewide got a new leader Monday — although, like the university’s new president, he won’t have to relocate.
John Lawrence, who joined Iowa State as an economics professor in 1991 and has been serving as interim vice president of ISU Extension and Outreach since last March, on Monday was named permanent vice president of extension and outreach programs.
He will begin serving immediately and earn a salary of $267,566. That is the same amount he was making in the interim role and the same amount his predecessor Cathann Kress made in her last full year on the job, according to state records.
Lawrence was picked following a national search that attracted four top prospects — including Jane Clary Loveless, national program leader for nutrition and extension at the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food Agriculture; Daniel Devlin, director of the Kansas Center for Agricultural Resources and the Environment and the Kansas Water Resources Institute; and Brent Hales, senior associate dean and chief financial officer at University of Minnesota Extension.
He succeeds Kress, who left Iowa State last year to become vice president of agricultural administration and dean of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at Ohio State University.
The search — led by a 16-person search committee and co-chairs Laura Jolly, dean of the College of Human Sciences, and Sarah Nusser, vice president for research — launched in September. It was timed so a new Iowa State president could participate in the process.
Wendy Wintersteen, who was endowed dean of ISU’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and director of the Iowa Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment Station, was appointed ISU president in October. She, like Lawrence, was an internal candidate with deep Iowa State roots — as she arrived on campus in 1979 and worked her way up through various roles and job titles. In her previous role she worked with Lawrence, who holds a bachelor’s degree in animal science and a master’s degree in economics from Iowa State University. He earned a doctorate in agricultural economics from University of Missouri.
After returning to Iowa State nearly 27 years ago, Lawrence served in a variety of positions — including extension livestock economist, assistant director of the Agriculture Experiment Station, and director of the Iowa Beef Center at Iowa State.
In addition to his other duties, Lawrence led the Iowa Nutrient Research Center, established in 2013 to develop a science-based approach to reducing the amount of nutrients delivered to Iowa waterways and the Gulf of Mexico, according to an ISU news release.
In his new role, Lawrence will oversee ISU extension and outreach programs, which “directly benefit” more than 1 million people annually, according to the system’s 2017 annual report. Programming reaches another 4 million or more through a digital presence and calls itself “a key player for economic development efforts in the university’s strategic plan.”
Its resources include faculty and staff from every ISU college and campus unit, and programming involves all 99 counties, 900 local council members, and more than 16,000 volunteers, according to the report.
Its agriculture and natural resources programs inform and connect with farmers, landowners, and agribusinesses — via 200,000 direct contacts, including emails, calls, and face-to-face consultations. Human sciences programs connect with communities through 75,000 contacts annually. And its community and economic development programs provide skills and training in the area of housing, demographics, economics, and civic engagement for more than 50,000 community leaders, according to the annual report.
Through 4-H Youth Development, the system reaches about 100,000 young people.
“I am honored to serve my colleagues, the university, and the entire state of Iowa as the leader of Extension and Outreach,” Lawrence said in a statement Monday. “I look forward to working with our talented faculty, staff, and partners to make a meaningful difference in the lives of Iowans.”
Wintersteen in a statement praised Lawrence’s history of “scholarship and administrative service” and said he’s “uniquely qualified.”
“I feel confident he will work to strengthen important extension programs and partnerships and enhance the connections of our faculty, staff and students to Iowa communities,” she said in a statement.