“It is the dream of every dean to experience a gift of this magnitude,” Beate Schmittmann, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said.
When Iowa State University announced in January 2017 that LAS was the recipient of an equity gift of approximately $93 million, the university’s largest single private gift on record, Schmittmann’s remark was certainly on-point. Fast forward to today, after the sale of Curriculum Associates LLC, when the final allocated proceeds of the sale have been calculated at $159 million. Talk about living the dream.
The gift was used to establish the Transforming Liberal Arts and Sciences Fund (Transforming LAS), an endowment that will generate annual revenue for the college every year. With diminishing state appropriations to support Iowa’s Regent universities, the endowment provides some stability for the long term.
"It is the dream of every dean to experience a gift of this magnitude."
Typically, a large gift can boost a research project, perhaps a rising star’s career or a student’s ability to pursue a degree. That’s just the beginning for Transforming LAS.
Helping students soar
One core priority established by the college for the Forever True, Forever Iowa State campaign is student support, and Transforming LAS addresses just that. The college tripled the amount of scholarships and student awards, offering approximately $2.5 million dollars to students this academic year.
For Raeann Hiscocks, an LAS senior graduating this December with a degree in communications and minor in event management, the new support will allow her to graduate debt-free from Iowa State. A nontraditional age student, Hiscocks saved while working full time before starting her adventure at Iowa State. With support from Iowa State and LAS, she was able to cut back on hours at her full-time job and complete three internships, both in and out of state. Her last internship, at Workiva in Ames, led to a permanent job offer.
Hiscocks, who will graduate with a 4.0 grade point average, is a recipient of the newly established LAS Dean’s Excellence Award. She has already started her new job as a marketing events specialist on Workiva’s corporate events team. After graduation, she will transition fully into the position, which will take her around the globe.
“It’s awesome,” Hiscocks said. “I can start my career with a fresh slate and not have to worry about paying loans. I can focus all my attention on being successful in my new position.”
If students have to get jobs to cover their living or educational expenses, it can often make it impossible to engage in high-impact learning experiences that enhance their education and career prospects. New awards are also available to students working unpaid internships, participating in undergraduate research, performing required student teaching and enrolling in a study abroad program. With these new scholarships and awards, students can get paid while they engage in learning experiences that enhance their education and job prospects.
“I can start my career with a fresh slate and not have to worry about paying loans. I can focus all my attention on being successful in my new position.”
Strengthening our academic and research core
Nearly every undergraduate at Iowa State University enrolls in at least one class taught in LAS, and those students learn from high-caliber educators with reputations of excellence that span the globe. Transforming LAS allows many of the college’s most promising faculty – scientists who are forging new paths in research and scholars who connect the world through the arts and humanities – to be recognized.
For example, Theresa Windus, professor of chemistry, is an inaugural recipient of the Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean’s Professorship award, which was created with the endowment revenue. Windus is among the most cited one percent of chemists in the world, and her research in computational and theoretical chemistry is literally changing the way other molecular scientists perform their research.
A gift with significant reach
The impact from the gift is both short-term and long-term, and one of the short-term priority areas, based on donor affinity, is theatre. Transforming LAS offers a unique opportunity to elevate the arts and humanities at Iowa State, and after conversations with members of the Department of Music and Theatre, the Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean’s Artist in Residence program and the Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean’s Faculty Fellow in the Arts program were established to create learning opportunities and scholarly exchange in the arts at a prominent level.
Two other focus areas are computational sciences and the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication. LAS’ new data science major, minor and certificate programs will prepare students for one of the nation’s fastest growing fields of employment, and Transforming LAS funds are being used to support the launch of this exciting initiative.
A long-time dream of the Greenlee school has been to provide a digital media lab. That project and other possibilities are part of the current conversation about how Transforming LAS can help enhance learning environments.
“There is still so much more we can accomplish as a college, and the continued partnership with alumni and friends is critical as we work toward our goals.”
Moving forward, LAS will use the gift as a springboard to address more priority areas.
“This incredible gift is the first major step in moving LAS forward,” Schmittmann said. “There is still so much more we can accomplish as a college, and the continued partnership with alumni and friends is critical as we work toward our goals.”