Iowa State University

History of the College's Name

College of Agriculture Name Change Discussion

In 2008, Iowa State University will celebrate its 150th anniversary. The College of Agriculture also will celebrate 150 years of agricultural excellence serving Iowa and the world.

Iowa State was founded as a college of agriculture. For 101 years, agriculture was part of Iowa State's official name. In 1959, the institution became a university.

In 1858, the Iowa Legislature chartered the Iowa Agricultural College and Model Farm. In 1898, the institution became known as Iowa State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts. As a land-grant institution, Iowa State was founded primarily to provide practical education in agriculture and mechanic arts. Initial agriculture courses focused on animal husbandry, agronomy and horticulture. Other practical studies were added, such as the nation's first forestry course in 1874 and dairying in 1880. The federal Hatch Act in 1887 expanded Iowa State's research capacity by providing funds to establish state experiment stations. In 1914, the federal government provided funds for cooperative extension, supporting Iowa State's extension service created in 1903.

Divisional administration had begun under President William Beardshear and was refined over a period of years. In the catalogue of 1898-99, four divisional groupings were made - agriculture, veterinary science, engineering, and science and philosophy (which included general sciences, literature, domestic economy, military science, music and the library). The original grouping was curricular rather than governmental; the only deans listed were James Tama Jim Wilson for agriculture and Millikan Stalker for veterinary science. For 1901-02 the only official head of a division was the president, who was listed as "acting dean" of veterinary science.

The administrative organization by divisions started under Beardshear was completed by the appointment of deans. In 1902 Charles Curtiss was given the dean title for Agriculture. Divisional organization was completed in 1913. The resident instructional program was now fully organized according to the most advanced conception of a land-grant college.

The modern division named "College of Agriculture" was established in 1959 when the institution changed from Iowa State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts to Iowa State University of Science and Technology. At that time, what had been "Divisions" (Agriculture, Engineering, Home Economics, Science, Veterinary Medicine) were renamed "Colleges.

In more recent years, discussions on-campus and off-campus about changing the name of the College of Agriculture have occurred since the 1970s.

In 1995, the College of Agriculture's strategic planning committee recommended changing the name of the college to College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. The committee's report, which was developed after more than a year of consultation with faculty, staff, students, advisory groups and others with interests in the college, stated: The name of the College does not reflect the scope of its contemporary mission or programs and communicates a limited view to the citizens of Iowa, potential students and the world The current name does not convey to clientele and students the breadth of services and expertise available from the College [and] potential students [are] not aware of career opportunities in agriculture. The report also stated that fundamental research activities were not reflected in the name. The report stated that faculty, staff and students preferred to maintain the word agriculture, and that faculty preferred a name that also included sciences, environment or natural resources.

In 1999, the College of Agriculture faculty voted to approve a name change. The top two choices were College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources and College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. The former name was forwarded to the ISU Faculty Senate, which approved the change. However, state lawmakers subsequently urged the university to retain the name College of Agriculture and the proposal was not acted upon further. In the summer of 2004, the Dean's Executive Council, a College of Agriculture advisory group comprised of leadership from the state's agricultural commodity groups and Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, initiated a discussion on changing the name of the college in order to better market the College for student recruitment. Subsequent discussions were held over the next two years with the Executive Council and another advisory group, the College of Agriculture Advisory Council, which is comprised of 35 members representing areas reflecting the breadth of the college's curricula and careers chosen by its graduates.

Recent Activities, 2005-2007

  • In 2005, the College reviewed marketing and image studies, recruitment plans and name-change discussions at other institutions around the country. The College surveyed 150 newly enrolled students in the fall 2005 about the name and perceptions of the College. The College asked 2,500 prospective students about their perceptions of the name and of agriculture. Result: Perceptions of agriculture as a farm stereotype and lack of knowledge on diverse opportunities offered by the College were recurring themes.
  • The College has worked with marketing, public relations and advertising student teams on campus to study the name issue, marketing plans and ideas. Result: The majority of the student efforts recommended a name change to better market the College to prospective students.
  • In the spring of 2006, about 115 prospective high school students from 19 states responded to a Web-based survey about the name of the College. The bottom line: The current name, College of Agriculture, compares unfavorably to several [other] name possibilities. The phrases environmental sciences, natural sciences and life sciences rated higher than the current name.
  • During her candidate's public forum in the College of Agriculture dean's search in the fall of 2005, Interim Dean Wendy Wintersteen (who was named Dean in December 2005) stated the college was seriously examining a name change primarily as a way to enhance student recruitment and had been discussing it with internal and external groups. Wintersteen stated her belief that the name eventually should change to more accurately reflect the college's programs, offerings and opportunities for students.
  • Since she was named dean, Dean Wintersteen has stated when outlining challenges faced by the College: In order for the College of Agriculture to become the best and improve its national prominence, we must position the College as a premier research institution, aggressively seeking new interdisciplinary research opportunities in agricultural and life science growth areas and collaborating with committed partners across colleges and statewide.
  • At the December 1, 2006, annual meeting of the College of Agriculture Advisory Council, the council - comprised of 35 members representing areas reflecting the breadth of the college's curricula and careers chosen by its graduates - unanimously supported changing the name to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and recommended to the Dean that changing the name was critical and essential to achieve the goal and priorities of the College. [The motion was made by Dan Frieberg and seconded by Ted Crosbie.]
  • At its December 6, 2006, meeting, the College of Agriculture Faculty Senate Caucus unanimously approved a motion to endorse initiation of the process to change the name of the College of Agriculture to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. The motion was made by Caucus Chair Micheal Owen, professor of agronomy, and seconded by Forrest Nutter, professor of plant pathology. [Other caucus members voting were: Jeff Beetham, Ed Braun, Steve Freeman, Jack Girton, Nancy Grudens-Schuck, Dan Loy, Loren Stephens (for Ann VanDerZanden) and John Tyndall, a post-doc representing Lita Rule. Absent were: Andrew Manu, Bruce Babcock.]
  • At its December 8, 2006, meeting, the College of Agriculture Cabinet (college administrators and department chairs) unanimously voted to support the name change to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and to support the Dean in her efforts in the process. [The only department not represented at the meeting was entomology; departments with representatives other than chairs were horticulture (Christians), agronomy (Loynachan) and animal science (Kenealy).] *
  • In March 2007, the College of Agriculture faculty voted on the name change proposal. Casting votes were 194 of the 284 tenure or tenure-track faculty. Voting yes on the name change were 166; 28 voted against.
  • In April 2007, the Iowa State University Faculty Senate unanimously approved the name-change proposal.
  • On June 13, 2007, the Board of Regents, State of Iowa, will consider the proposal.

(**These notes include materials provided by the Special Collections Department, Parks Library, Iowa State University, including information from Earle D. Ross's A History of the Iowa State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, Ames, Iowa: Iowa State College Press, 1942)