Iowa State University

Iowa State University

Strategic Plan 2005-2010

Comments on Strategic Plan draft, Sept. 17

These comments refer to Aug. 30, 2004, first draft the Strategic Plan for 2005-2010. The draft is very much a work in progress. Still to come in future drafts are strategies and action plans to achieve goals, and measures that will be used to assess success of those efforts.


Address outreach mission

One of the major missions of a land-grant university is outreach and Extension. I would like to see the strategic plan address this outreach mission. Extension can provide knowledge-based programs to Iowans to make each community a better place to live and improve quality of life. The resources at ISU and in the counties are available. We need to make more of a connection and help Iowans see that.


Be careful of word "liberal"

Regarding Sept 13 posting by faculty labeled "Plans Tilts from Broad Based Tradition," while he/she brings up good thoughts, there is one word that has a highly-charged double-meaning. On campus, in the faculty ranks, this one word probably is universally accepted as a way to describe broad-based and enriching learning and development. Twenty years ago and longer, it may not have been as sensitive. But in out-state, non-university communities of people, and particularly in the divisive political environment we have today, using this one word evokes just as much antagonism as does its antonym. I could just hear a prospective parent or legislator say, "No way will I let my son or daughter attend a self-professed 'conservative' university." Ditto for the word "liberal," as suggested. Let's be careful.


Too little space to other disciplines

While it is understandable that the university should wish to build on its strengths in the sciences for which it is most famous, still, too little space is granted in the Strategic Plan to the other disciplines taught at ISU. The Strategic Plan in its present form seems to view the Arts and the Humanities as disciplines of secondary importance. As a Land-Grant university, as a Research I institution, and as a "well-rounded university" which proposes to produce well-rounded students, Iowa State University needs a Strategic Plan which acknowledges the value of the Arts and the Humanities in the education of a scientists and in their own right.


Add Extension

Following are a few additional comments on the ISU Strategic Plan.

  • Priority 2 -- add Extension or outreach to the list of programs so it states "undergraduate, graduate, research and Extension (or outreach) programs known as the very best..."
  • Add a bullet under goals for Priority 2 -- "increase dissemination of research through applied research or demonstration projects throughout the state of Iowa"
  • Priority 4 goal -- add another bullet: "improve the quality of life for all Iowan's through strong distance education programs"
  • Core values -- add another bullet: "providing educational opportunities to all Iowan's regardless of their home location"

Thank you for the opportunity to submit suggestions for this important document.

Admin on behalf of ADUP

Primary issues, possible revisions

After attending each public forum and participating in discussions of the Strategic Plan at the Associate Deans of Undergraduate Programs (ADUP) meetings and in meetings of the LAS Department Chairs, I have come to know the issues pretty well. Perhaps the Strategic Planning Steering Committee has by now addressed these issues and clarified them in the upcoming second draft. I would like to reiterate the primary issues, as I remember them, and suggest a few possible revisions.

  1. SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY VS. LAND-GRANT MISSION: it appears the current draft is implying we are moving away from the land-grant mission as our PRIMARY mission and adopting a new primary mission, that of becoming one of the best science and technology-oriented universities. This is an issue the Steering Committee must wrangle with and clarify. Popular opinion --at least at each forum -- seems to support the primacy of the land-grant mission with strengths in the sciences and technology.
  2. THE NATURE OF THE LAND-GRANT MISSION: If we intend to paraphrase the language of the Morrill Act, we need to do so accurately. The original language states (and it does so three times), that the Act of 1862 (Donating Lands for Colleges of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts) should lead to the "endowment, support, and maintenance of at least one college where the leading object shall be, without excluding other scientific and classical studies, and including military tactics, to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts ... in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in several pursuits and professions in life." If we intend to continue to honor this purpose, I hope the Committee will agree to reflect this purpose accurately in our Strategic Plan.
    • N.B. To implicitly or explicitly convey a message to our faculty and students, as well as to the public beyond the campus, that ISU is in the process of becoming a highly-focused, science- and technology-oriented institution rather than a comprehensive university that has special strengths in the sciences and technology risks turning away thousands of students who currently understand this university to have an excellent reputation in multiple areas. Students who are interested in the social sciences, communication fields, business, design, and humanities will surely be affected. Do we want to do this???
  3. THE ROLE OF EXTENSION: Given that a huge proportion of ISU activities, people, and resources are connected to Extension and outreach, it only seems appropriate that we refer to this important aspect of ISU's engagement with the public. If the goal is to minimize our activity in this area, wider university-wide discussions should be planned.
  4. THE ROLE OF THE FACULTY IN LEARNING, TEACHING, AND RESEARCH: A recurrent theme in the discussions of the Strategic Plan has been the role of the faculty and its minimal role in the Plan. I recommend addressing this issue in the final draft. The recommendations submitted by ADUP earlier this year speak to this topic. I have pasted those recommendations below.
  5. THE ROLE OF INTERNATIONALIZATION: Given the importance of our international programs, classes, agreements, exchanges, research, grant activity, and collaborations, it is difficult to understand the absence of this topic in the draft. I recommend adding "internationalization" or "global outreach," as a priority.
  6. THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN BASIC RESEARCH AND ECONOMIC BENEFITS: In this heated debate, it seems prudent to underscore the value and importance of independent university research. The probability that much of this research could lead to economic benefits is high, but it should not be implied that the university's primary role is to produce economic benefits for the state.

In addition to these major concerns, let me refer to an earlier missive I wrote the Committee that addresses stylistic and superficial language changes that might make this document stronger. In addition to those suggestions, I agree with others that we move the Core Values section to the front of the text, and I strongly recommend rewording the values list so that each bullet is actually construed as a "value." For example, the phrase in #3 (science with practice) is not a "value," but "advocating" or " learning," or "demonstrating" science with practice can be recognized as a "value." (I am more than willing to help revise the wording. Just let me know.)

Thank you for spending your time and considering my remarks. I volunteer my help should you wish it.

Administration and faculty

Communication important in high-tech media age

Thank you for considering the many suggestions from various units across campus about the draft Strategic Plan. These are recommendations from the administration and faculty of Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication,

We understand that the Committee has received input concerning lack of mention in the Arts and Humanities. Some of our faculty will echo those sentiments in an appended contribution out of our Long Range Planning Committee. However, the administration of the Greenlee School wanted to alert you to the importance of communication in a high-tech media age, especially as science and technology are concerned. Indeed, every department (especially the biosciences and material sciences) use equipment, design, software, networks and systems that journalism and communication are responsible for diffusing in society.

Disciplines in the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication are neither humanities nor liberal arts. Unlike the University of Iowa, we emphasize science communication and quantitative methods, emphasizing such areas of study as science and risk communication.

Moreover, we have seven emphases and three degree programs, including our graduate tracks, making ours among the largest academic programs at ISU and the largest journalism school in the region, with one of every 20 ISU students in our degree or pre-major programs.

The director and associate director of the School ask you to contemplate the following changes:

Priority: Increase the number of undergraduate, graduate, and research programs known as the very best in their field, particularly in areas where the university's strengths address critical needs and opportunities.

The plan emphasizes "biosciences, materials sciences, and information sciences." The biosciences and material sciences include many disciplines; information sciences do not. We strongly urge the committee to change that reference to "communication sciences" or "information and communication sciences."

Priority: Achieve preeminence in translating new discoveries into viable technologies, products, and services with a focus on fueling Iowa's economy and building a sustainable future.

ISU cannot translate new discoveries into technologies without understanding communication, especially science communication, which is one of our emphases. Please change as follows:

Develop a nationally recognized program for students who aspire to become entrepreneurs in their field, utilizing communication systems to translate knowledge into useful and marketable technologies, products, and services.

Priority: Enhance the quality of life on campus and throughout Iowa. Communication enhances the quality of life, in community, at home or in the work place. This is especially important in a high-tech media age. Please change as follows:

Provide for a well-rounded and lively learning experience on campus including opportunities for students, faculty, and staff to interact effectively--interpersonally or electronically -- outside the classroom, lab, and office.

Finally, the draft plan seeks to prepare students to be world citizens. We would like the committee to incorporate into core values a statement emphasizing that ISU is committed to:

"Access to information in a fast-changing technological society."

Appended are faculty suggestions out of Long Range Planning Committee.

Thank you for considering all these requests which, we feel, will deepen the concepts already in the plan concerning science with practice, adding a cutting-edge element about our high-tech media world. Indeed, imagine the influence of media and technology in 2010, and you can see why we feel changes to the plan are essential.

Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication

Long Range Planning Committee

On behalf of the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication, the members of the School's Long Range Planning Committee thank the Strategic Planning Committee for your time and efforts in drafting this direction for Iowa State University. We also thank you for this opportunity to share some observations and friendly suggestions assembled by the committee:

  1. We suggest that the Core Values section of the plan be moved up to follow the Mission. The Core Values provide the identity for the University on which the aspirations, priorities and goals are grounded. Positioning the values following the Mission provides the context for the points to follow.
  2. We are troubled by the dearth of references to the role of communication in all facets of the plan. We not only must graduate students who communicate effectively, we must recognize the role of communication -- oral, written, visual, technological -- in disseminating knowledge, sharing new discoveries, and diffusing new technologies, services and products to various stakeholders on campus and beyond in ways that maximize understanding. Communication and communication sciences should be an integral part of every component of this document.
  3. It has been noted that there is an absence of references to the role of the arts, humanities and social and behavioral sciences, and extension. Without these, the scope and reach of the plan is severely limited.
  4. We are concerned this draft document does not provide the framework needed for outcomes assessment. As a nationally accredited school of journalism, we must include outcomes assessment as an integral part of our strategic plan. The NCA site team will be looking for evidence of outcomes assessment in all levels of the University.
  5. Concerns have been expressed that the reference to the world is dropped on page 2. The world is prominent in the Mission but is not included in the priority and goal statements.
  6. Under priorities and goals (second priority statement, first goal): The plan mentions "biosciences, material sciences, and information sciences." The bio and material sciences are large diverse disciplines; however, "information science is a very narrowly defined discipline. We ask that you please change this to read: "communication sciences." This includes many programs.
  7. Under priorities and goals (second priority, fourth and fifth goals):
    • Strengthen infrastructures and streamline processes that support research and teaching programs.
    • Celebrate and promote excellent programs and significant research and teaching accomplishments.
  8. Under priorities and goals (third priority statement, last goal:
    • Celebrate and promote accomplishments that improve and sustain Iowa's economy.
  9. Under priorities and goals (fourth priority):
    • We suggest a revision that reads: "Enhance the quality of life and learning on campus and throughout Iowa.
    • Then we suggest adding a statement about the humanities and behavioral and social sciences:
    • Integrate the humanities and behavioral and social sciences to instill life-long learning in the practice and application of science and technology.

Thank you for considering these comments and suggestions.


Suggestions on wording


  • Create (insert: new basic and applied) knowledge through excellent (delete: excellent; insert: excellence in) research, scholarship, and creative endeavors.
  • Share knowledge through (insert: innovative and) outstanding learning-centered undergraduate, graduate, professional, and distance (delete 'distance'; insert 'off-campus and extension') education programs.
  • Make Iowa and the world a better place by preparing students to be world citizens and leaders and by applying knowledge in ways that improve (delete: improve; insert: enhance) the quality of life (insert: of communities at home and abroad).

In carrying out its mission, Iowa State University is committed to diversity in its students, faculty and staff, and access to those excluded or impeded from realizing their full potential. Diversity enlivens the exchange of ideas, broadens scholarship, and prepares students for (insert: productive) lifelong participation in society.


Iowa State will (delete 'will'; insert 'strives to') be one of the world's leading universities in educating (insert: and preparing) students (insert: for global citizenship) and putting science and technology to work.

Iowa State University will be home to faculty, staff, and students who share a passion for discovery and for applying science and technology to make a difference. Their enthusiasm and talent will attract many partners from outside the university community. A "can-do" (delete: can-do; insert: innovative) spirit will permeate campus as collaborators (insert: across disciplines) work together to find new ways to improve (insert: our communities and environment in) Iowa and the world.

Priorities and Goals for 2005-2010

Iowa State University has a wide range of fine (insert: and outstanding) programs and initiatives that are essential to a well-rounded (insert: and comprehensive) university. The university remains committed to continuously evaluating, improving, and evolving all programs (insert: as well as engaged in exploring and innovating new areas of inquiry and application). Four priority areas and accompanying goals for 2005-2010 have been identified to achieve our aspiration and reinforce existing strengths. Upon adoption, a work plan with specific implementation strategies will be developed for each goal.

Priority: Strengthen the undergraduate experience to enhance student success at and beyond Iowa State University.

  • Goals Improve the rigor and challenge of all undergraduate programs with special emphasis on enhancing programs for high-ability students.
    • INSERT: Create innovative communities of learning involving students and faculty.
    • Improve students' ability to communicate effectively.
    • INSERT: Increase opportunities for students as well as faculty to gain international experience
    • Create an environment that welcomes students to explore a variety of specializations and career paths.
    • Increase the percentage of students from all backgrounds who complete degrees.
    • Increase the number of students who participate in experiential learning.
    • Enable seamless transfer of students from community colleges to Iowa State University. (delete sentence; insert: Collaborate with community colleges to adequately prepare their students for a successful academic experience at Iowa State Univesity)
    • Partner with Iowa schools to improve students' readiness for college with a focus on math, science, technology, and communication abilities.

Priority: Increase the number of undergraduate, graduate, and research programs known as the very best (delete: known as the very best; insert: renown) in their field (sub: fields), particularly in areas where the university's strengths address critical needs and opportunities (insert: at the local, national, and international levels).

  • Goals Leverage the university's areas of strength and the emerging needs of the state and nation to achieve preeminence in interdisciplinary research areas such as biosciences, materials sciences, (insert: social and behavioral sciences) and information sciences.
    • INSERT: Strengthen Iowa State University's tradition in creating and disseminating new knowledge.
    • Celebrate and promote excellent programs and significant research accomplishments.

Priority: Enhance the quality of life on campus and throughout Iowa.

  • Goals Strengthen efforts to create a (delete: a; insert: an inclusive, tolerant, and accepting) community on campus and in Ames that welcomes people from diverse (insert: ethnicities and) backgrounds.

Core Values

  • Iowa State University faculty, staff, and students are committed to:
    • -- excellence in all we do,
    • -- responsibility and accountability in all our actions,
    • -- science with practice,
    • -- collaborative problem-solving,
    • -- the integration of science, technology, arts, (insert: social and behavioral sciences,) and humanities,
    • -- (insert: the idea of inclusivity and) a diversity of ideas, peoples, and cultures,
    • -- intellectual freedom, and
    • -- the opportunity for all (insert: who are qualified and prepared) to pursue a college education.

Founding Ideas

Iowa State University was founded on the ideas that higher education should be open to all (insert: who are qualified and committed to learning), universities should teach practical subjects, and faculty should share knowledge with people throughout the state. These three ideas are integral to land-grant universities (delete: universities; insert: ideal of a 'people's university'), a new class of university (delete: university; insert: democratic higher educational institution) created by the Morrill Act, passed by Congress in 1862. Iowa was the first state to accept the law's provisions.


Mission is discovery, formal education, outreach

RE: The Proposed Strategic Plan for ISU, 2005-2010

I have several comments on the 8-30-04 draft of the proposal and would like to stretch your thinking in some areas and to make some recommendations.

I. The "Mission." I believe that it is too narrow and does not really reflect what ISU should be focused on in the next Strategic Planning Period. I suggest something along the lines of the following:


  • The mission of Iowa State University is to engage in discovery, formal education, and outreach.
  • Discovery and creative works are to be pursued at the frontiers of the sciences, arts, or humanities.
  • Students are to be educated in the sciences, arts, and humanities to be skilled employees and entrepreneurs, successful family members, and productive citizens.
  • Outreach is to make Iowa and the nation a better place to live and work; through informal education that provides decoded science and technology and complements innovation, technology transfer that fosters economic development, and community development.
  • In carrying out its mission, Iowa State University is committed to creativity, autonomy, and diversity.

II. Priorities and Goals

I have some concerns about:

Priority 2. Increasing the number of ... programs known as very best in their field.

  • Goals: "Leverage the university's areas of strength and emerging needs of the state and nation to achieve preeminence in interdisciplinary research areas such as bioscience, material sciences, and information sciences."


Priority 3. Achieving preeminence in translating new discoveries into viable technologies...

  • Goal: "Lead the national in the number of new patents awarded, licenses issues, an successful business ventures imitated."

Comment: The focus on three interdisciplinary programs under Priority 2 is too narrow and on the number of patents, licenses issued, and business ventures under Priority 3 seems off the mark.

In my book with Robert Evenson (Science for Agriculture, 1st and 2nd edition, Blackwell Publ forthcoming, see attached figure)) we have found it useful to consider science and technology as a multilayer matrix of the following activities: (i) general or basic science, (ii) pre-invention science, (iii) technology invention (applied research), and (iv) innovation and technology commercialization. General or basic science is largely pursuing discovery for its own sake, cites itself including other fields at this level. In contrast, pre-invention science cities upward to general or basic science for scientific principles but downward to technology invention (applied research) for useful applications in society. Invention or applied research is focused on solutions to practical problems in society which tend to be associated with the creation of or improvement in products and processes. The development and commercialization of these inventions provides new technology for use by society.

Discoveries at levels (i) and (ii) are primarily published as abstract concepts. Given that intellectual credit goes to the first to publish, this science policy creates an incentive for scientists to reveal what they have discovered early. These discoveries once revealed are, however, available to anyone to use freely. They become the future "building blocks" to later advances in science. Also, these discoveries are not "used up" as others use them. Furthermore, the private sector cannot expect to make a profit on this type of discovery, and hence, will not invest. This means that discovery at this level much be funded primarily from tax collections at the national and/or state level. The universities undertake much of this research and it goes into what some economists call the "Intellectual Common" because it is freely available.

In contrast, the U.S. intellectual property right system, grants to an inventor a patent for his or her invention. This patent givens the inventor a limited right to exclusive use--normally for 20 years, and it is the ticket to an income stream from a successful invention and commercialization. In other words, private for-profit-motivated entrepreneurs will voluntarily undertake this type of creative activity. This raises the issue of whether federal and state government funds should be used for invention.

The Bayh-Dole Act of 1980 clouded this issue by giving the income generating right to inventions resulting from federal government funded research projects to the non-federal partner, which is frequent universities. Since 1980 there has been a major jump in the number of intellectual property right offices in U.S. universities and the number of patents granted to all universities, from roughly 300 in 1979 to 3000+ in 2000. However, a very small share of patents leads to significant royalty income and even for universities that have large numbers of patents like Stanford, MIT, and the University of California System, patent royalty income is a very small share of their total research budget and hence do little to support the research process. Some argue that that these inventions could fuel local economic development, but this is also being debated. Economists, however, find citations to a patent as a better indicator of usefulness of an invention. More citations imply greater usefulness to society, using the building block approach.

With scarce public resources, funds could be allocated to public sector invention, but this competes with private sector invention. There is no competition with the private sector on discoveries at levels (i) and (ii). Furthermore, these discoveries are complementary to later inventions at level (iii) or provide the scientific base for some, especially engineering, inventions. Hence, a critical decision is whether to support the science that enables invention or engage in invention directly. My recommendation for ISU is for the former. It fits the traditional role of the university. Universities have little experience or expertise in private sector entrepreneurship and are unlikely to be able to construct a successful incentive scheme to make start-ups work. This is the domain of the private entrepreneurs and venture capitalists.

Under the 2nd priority, a plausible 1st goal is: "To strength the science base for discovery in general and pre-invention sciences, emphasizing those sciences that link general science and invention together."

Under the 3rd priority, a plausible 1st goal is: "To lead the national in preeminence of its pre-invention science programs where discoveries can be used to meet emerging technology needs of the state and nation."

I believe that modification along the lines that I have suggested would lead to a stronger ISU Strategic Plan.


Patent issues

I want to thank the committee for the time and effort taken to research and develop this first draft of the Strategic Plan. My comments address the third priority.

According to the most recent survey (fiscal year 2002) conducted by the Association of University Technology Managers, ISU leads the 156 participating U.S. research institutions in the number of license and option agreements signed. This standing means that we exceeded the number of agreements signed by the entire University of California system, which includes 9 campuses.

How did we do this? We have a germplasm-licensing program that is unique to most universities. Some have tried to emulate this program, but none have been as successful. Consistently, the licenses for the germplasm program make up 75% - 90% of our total annual license and option agreements.

As of FY2002, patents protected none of the germplasm licensed through the germplasm program. Neither do we patent the functionality of most software programs but instead utilize the protection of copyright. In most cases, the limited value that a patent will add to the germplasm or software does not warrant the time and money needed to go through the patent process. Also, the issuance of a patent by the government does not mean the described invention will be commercially valuable, only that it is unique and useful for some identified purpose. Consequently, patents are not an adequate measure of success for transferring our research results for further development and ultimately for the benefit of the public.

Although we are never likely to exceed the California System, MIT, or other large research institutions that receive far more reported inventions from their researchers, a goal of leading our peers in patents may be obtainable if we simply throw money at every potentially patentable invention. However, patents obtained without regard to commercial value are simply expensive publications and may actually prevent or inhibit the use of ISU's inventions.

The current goal of our marketing and licensing activity is to conduct a thorough review of the described invention, determine if it has the potential to be commercially viable, and if so, decide if a patent would provide enough added value to warrant the time and money necessary to file a patent application. In fact, in certain circumstances publications, not patents may be the best method of transferring our technology for the good of the public.

A better measure of ISU's success may be research based. One of our benchmarks is the number of intellectual property records reported to us per $10M in research. These reported innovations are the foundation from which we build our patent and licensing activity. Although ISU's research income is increasing, the number of disclosed non-germplasm innovations is decreasing. If there is an increase in the number of reported innovations, an increase in patents and licenses will follow.


Wrong direction for university

As a professor of Spanish, a member of this university's community of humanistic scholars, and in my role as chair of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, I feel compelled to respond to this first draft of the university's strategic plan. In short, the strategic plan as now written poses, in my opinion, a step backwards for this university, namely a step away from the notion of "Iowa State University" and back towards the early twentieth-century vision of "Iowa State College of Agricultural & Mechanical Arts". This first draft of the strategic plan is troublesome because 1) it minimizes the role of educating students; and 2) it focuses almost entirely on science and technology to the exclusion of social and behavioral sciences, humanities and arts. The LAS department chairs as a whole, and the chairs of the Division of the Humanities as a subgroup of that whole, all shared some of the concerns I articulate below.

My first reading of this document left me with the impression that I was reading the strategic plan of either a business or a technical training institute, not the plans and goals of an academic institution of higher education and member of the prestigious AAU group of universities. The pervasive reiteration of the university's role in local economic development, entrepreneurship, and technology transfer leaves little room for the broad core values that should be placed at the forefront of an institution of higher education: "strong programs in academic research and scholarship and undergraduate, graduate, and professional education" (AAU mission statement). While economic development and technology transfer may very well result from these strong academic programs, they should not be given priority over "research and scholarship and undergraduate, graduate and professional education," nor should research, scholarship and education serve as pretexts for economic interest. Education, not economic development, should be the university's priority.

It is important to note that ISU's ranking among the AAU peer group has fallen in recent years. According to a 2000 report shared by then Dean Rabideau with the LAS college two years ago, ISU status was damaged by its excessively low profile in the humanities, excellence in which AAU institutions must demonstrate. As we soon realized, the low humanities profile reflected the fact that grants and fellowships held by ISU humanities faculty had not been recorded nor shared with the AAU office, this despite the fact that ISU faculty in the humanities had received numerous Fulbrights, Social Science Council Fellowships, NEH awards, Rome Prize, DAAD fellowship, etc. The university has a excellent cadre of excellent, engaged, and productive humanities scholars that it cannot afford to lose if it expects to maintain AAU status.

Iowa State is considered a Carnegie Doctoral/Research Extensive University, which means that it offer baccalaureate programs in a broad range of disciplines, in addition to numerous doctorates. As the Carnegie Classification system is reconsidered this year, its architects plan to reconstruct their categories based on an institution's profile in: undergraduate education, graduate education, overall student profile, undergraduate student profile, size and setting, service, outreach, and community; engagement; and assessment and support of undergraduate education. One finds no mention of patents, technology transfer, or economic development. Once again, ISU cannot afford to ignore its primary goal and priority to educate its students.

Finally, let me suggest that the "Founding Principals" portion of the draft be corrected by referring to the Morrill Act of 1862 which states that the money derived from the sale of lands given to each state shall be used "to the endowment, support, and maintenance of at least one college where the leading object shall be, without excluding other scientific and classical studies and including military tactics, to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts, in such manner as the legislatures of the States may respectively prescribe, in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life." The Morrill Act does NOT state that "universities should teach practical subjects" as cited in the strategic plan draft; rather, it articulates the need for a university where the "leading object" be subjects related to agriculture and mechanical arts without excluding other scientific and classical studies. Furthermore, the Morrill Act clearly states that the colleges should promote "liberal and practical education." The proposed strategic plan draft moves the university towards exclusion of "other scientific and classical subjects" as fields of inquiry and learning, while completely eliminating the clear mandate for "liberal" as well as practical education.

As I end this response, let me reiterate my belief that this plan as articulated in a step in the wrong director for a "university" such as Iowa State. This fall we will begin recruiting for two faculty positions in Spanish / Latin American Studies. A strategic plan such as has been proposed, --with an almost exclusive emphasis on economic development, science and technology, and technology transfers-- will certainly harm our ability to attract and retain excellent humanistic scholars such as we hope to hire.


A good start, but incomplete

I applaud the dedication and time that the committee has contributed to the first draft of the university's 2005-2010 strategic plan. It is a good start, although it is incomplete.

The 2004-09 Strategic Plan Objectives for the Iowa Board of Regents includes this provision:

3. Providing needed service and promoting economic growth. The Board expects the Regent institutions, in accordance with their respective missions, to:

3.4. Improve the quality of life in Iowa through exceptional and accessible health care, educational outreach programs, cultural and recreational opportunities, and other valued public services responsive to Iowans' needs.

Although the current ISU draft speaks to the technology transfer and business development aspects mentioned in the regents plan, it is noticeably weak on item 3.4, improving the quality of life in Iowa. The faculty and staff and students at Iowa State University are positioned to be integral players in Iowa's public policy debates, be the discussion about economic development, agriculture, rural development, technology transfer, environmental degradation, or other pressing issues.

As a comprehensive university, we produce more than patents;

  • We produce scholarship that provides evidence in these crucial debates,
  • We encourage students who become citizens active in these debates, and
  • We bring the research to communities and interest groups--and policy makers in state and local governments -- through extension and research publications.

Iowa State is positioned to bridge the discoveries of the natural sciences and the social knowledge required by society to determine how and how much these discoveries will be integrated into the evolving social fabric. This bridging role is only possible from a comprehensive university, one that values equally the natural and social sciences, the arts and humanities. All components impact society, and the quality of life in Iowa depends on how Iowa State fulfills this role.

Other comments accurately note that promotion and tenure is based on a wider notion of scholarship than generating patents from which the university can earn royalties; scholarship includes

  • Discovering more effective ways to teach students how to think and
  • Conveying the research findings of the university to colleagues around the world and to Iowa's communities in particular.

General Suggestion:

The mantra throughout the strategic plan should highlight a goal of engaged scholarship across the disciplines in the university. "Science with practice" should be interpreted broadly to mean all the sciences and arts and humanities.

Specific Suggestions:

Split the priority regarding quality of life into two parts. As mentioned by others, the quality of life on campus should be integrated into learning. Dot points 2 and 3 should move with the campus quality of life priority.

The remaining priority regarding Iowa should be revised to:

Enhance the quality of life throughout Iowa by bringing research-based evidence to Iowa's critical public policy debates and policy development.

Retain the first dot point.


  • Develop the capacity of students to engage in public policy discourse at the local, state, national, and international levels.
  • Serve as a catalyst for community change and development through engaged scholarship and effective extension programming.

Finally, I join others in the chorus who note the utter disconnect between the international aspects of the mission statement of the university (preparing students to be world citizens and leaders) and no mention of how we will do this in the priorities and goals that follow. Surely one of the goals under priorities one and two should be:

  • Increase the number of students who participate in study abroad and who engage in scholarship with an international perspective.

In conclusion, the strategic planning committee deserves our thanks. We look forward to a second, improved draft. Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this important work.

More comments

Send comments

Send your comments on the first draft of the plan to strategicplan by Sept. 17.