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Political Mercury

Q&A with Steven Leath

11/26/2014

Why should students attend Iowa State?

And can they get there faster on U.S. Highway 30?

ISU President Steven Leath says having U.S. Highway 30 expanded to four lanes statewide would offer a “big boost” to the university. Photo by Jeff Storjohann, Carroll Daily Times Herald

ISU President Steven Leath says having U.S. Highway 30 expanded to four lanes statewide would offer a “big boost” to the university. Photo by Jeff Storjohann, Carroll Daily Times Herald

Question: For students with no planned major who are interested in a liberal-arts education, about learning who they are there, or finding that major, why should they go to Iowa State University? Iowa State is known for its strength in engineering and design and agriculture and other fields. Why is Iowa State also the place for undecided students?

ISU President Steven Leath: Well, a couple of reasons. One. They’re going to feel welcome, and they’re going to get a support network as they try to find themselves. The other thing, as they try to find themselves, if they want to end up being a wildlife biologist or a graphic designer or a mechanical engineer or a plant breeder, all those opportunities exist on that campus.

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So as they’re trying to find themselves, they’re really not going to be constrained by what’s available.

If they want to end up with something in true liberal arts, that’s fine, but, you know, if you think about the student who starts out in political science and ends up in plant breeding or someone that starts in a totally unrelated area like chemistry, as they learn a little bit on textile chemistry think, ‘I’d really be much happier in human sciences actually working in textiles or apparel,’ all that’s possible there, and in many places you go, you don’t have that breadth and scope and the support group that says, ‘You don’t have to know at 17 or 18 what you want to be.’

Join some clubs. We have over 800 clubs. Why don’t you get involved in one of the clubs and see if that’s really your passion.

Question: What’s the most exciting thing going on at Iowa State University right now?

Steven Leath: I would say the overall excitement, passion and enthusiasm for the institution. So whether you see the people excited about the football stadium, or the enhancement of Reiman Gardens or the number of students showing up at the door, I don’t know that there’s been more excitement and goodwill about campus and on campus, than we’ve see now maybe in a long time.

It’s just kind of fun that so many things have come together to make it really just a fun, positive attitude.

• • •

If the chief mission of the U.S. Highway 30 Coalition of Iowa — the full four-laning of the federal route across the state — is realized, Iowa State University would be located at the nexus of two primary four-lane routes.

Leath said having the U.S. 30 four-laned statewide in addition to the north-south connection to Interstate 35 would be a big boost to the 34,700-student university, and specifically, his strategy of developing a “research triangle” approach to economic development with the university serving as a generation hub for business development in rural counties.

Leath said he would study the four-laning issue in more detail to determine how best to apply the university’s considerable reach and resources to advocate for it.

“It would be helpful,” Leath said. “We’ve obviously seen the benefits of four-laning Highway 30 around us, and it’s hugely helpful.”

U.S. Highway 30 is the longest road in Iowa, running a distance of 331 miles from the Mississippi to Missouri River. The U.S. 30 corridor spans 12 counties and 39 cities, including Ames and Cedar Rapids, the state’s second-largest city.

According to the 2000 U.S. Census, more than 513,000 people live in the 12 counties along the U.S. 30 corridor, representing nearly 20 percent of the population of Iowa.

“If we really want to extend our mission across the state, the easier and simpler it becomes, the more effective we are,” Leath said. “We’ve only go so much time and only so many people. The more efficient we can make them, the better.”

The U.S. Highway 30 Coalition is a group of concerned citizens, local, regional and state officials, economic development organizations, freight shippers and transportation stakeholders that are devoted to the future improvement of U.S. Highway 30. CV     

Douglas Burns is a fourth-generation Iowa newspaperman who writes for The Carroll Daily Times Herald and offers columns for Cityview.

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