In 2017, Wendy Wintersteen became Iowa State University’s 16th president and the first woman to ever hold the position. Since then, Wintersteen has made creating and supporting a strong entrepreneurial culture a top priority throughout the university.
“Since Iowa State University’s foundation, we’ve always been focused on science and engineering, and entrepreneurship has always been at the core of that,” Wintersteen said. We’ve always been a place where innovation is occurring but often times its been from our faculty and staff, graduate students.”
Wintersteen wants to change that.
“It’s really how do we expand our culture of innovation and entrepreneurship to better include our undergraduate population,” Wintersteen said. “And I think this is what is new and different about the conversation today.”
A little over a year ago, Wintersteen began having conversations with deans throughout the university about how to best build up opportunities for undergraduate students across all the colleges in the university.
“Having Iowa State be branded as a university that’s focused building in innovation and entrepreneurship to the undergraduate curriculum is a game changer,” Wintersteen said. And I think it will change the opportunities for our students in a significant way. And also change the opportunity for Iowa. I’m excited about where we’re headed and think in five years it will be interesting to see how Iowa State’s reputation has changed.”
Building upon established success
In addition to expanding ISU’s entrepreneurial focus, Wintersteen plans to continue to develop and support previous initiatives that have seen success.
ISU Research Park
The ISU Research Park was founded to provide space and resources needed to advance science-based initiatives. Today, over 80 companies own or rent space in the Research Park. The Research Park works with businesses from a variety of industries to improve economic development in Ames, across the state, and nationwide.
“The Research Park was a big priority for President Leath and continues to be a priority of mine as well,” Wintersteen said.
John Deere recently announced plans to build a 33,000 square-foot facility to use as a design and test lab for agricultural spraying and related technology. In September, Kent Corporation opened the Kent Innovation Center at the Research Park
“These companies come to the park to connect with our faculty and to recruit talent so we’re going to keep having big opportunities out there,” Wintersteen said.
Student Innovation Center
Students from all of Iowa State’s undergraduate colleges will be able to use the new Student Innovation Center, which will provide space for individual and group activities and capstone projects, and for classes and student clubs involved in hands-on learning.
The 140,000-square-foot building is scheduled to open in spring 2020. Nearly half of the funding necessary for the $84 million project will come from state appropriations, with the remainder of the balance made up of private giving.
“We’re really excited about it,” Wintersteen said. “The student innovation is going to be a place where students will come together to create, make and innovate. And now alongside that, we’re building up and bringing forward the academic aspect of that to support our students.”