President Wendy Wintersteen

Dr. Wendy Wintersteen became the 16th president of Iowa State University on Nov. 20, 2017, after a nationwide search, followed by a unanimous vote of the Board of Regents, State of Iowa. The first woman to hold the university’s highest office, Dr. Wintersteen has served Iowa State for more than 40 years in several capacities.

As president, Dr. Wintersteen is advancing Iowa State University for the 21st century with priorities focused on enhancing student success, recruiting and retaining excellent faculty and staff, strengthening research excellence, establishing a vibrant innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem that supports new businesses and economic growth, cultivating a welcoming and inclusive campus environment, and growing state and private support for the university, its faculty, staff, and students.

With the launch of Iowa State’s new brand campaign, Innovate at Iowa State, Dr. Wintersteen is establishing her vision of a university where innovation and entrepreneurship are part of every college and opportunities abound for students and faculty to move their entrepreneurial ideas forward.

Central to this vision is the new 144,000 square foot Student Innovation Center, which serves as the meeting hub (and laboratory and engineering space) for students, classes and clubs excited by the possibilities of creating marketable solutions, holding pitch-off competitions and envisioning new businesses.

Under her leadership, ISU is becoming nationally recognized for innovation and entrepreneurship in higher education. The prestigious Princeton Review ranked Iowa State #11 in the country for entrepreneurial studies out of 300 public and private universities. Iowa State also received the 2021 Model Program Award for Excellence in Entrepreneurial Education by the U.S. Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship, noting “Iowa State’s program was expansive in its scale and boldly embraced the challenges of engendering innovation and entrepreneurship across its campus.”

ISU boasts a 95% placement rate for its graduates, and unprecedented support from private donors for student scholarships, faculty positions, programs, and new facilities. Iowa State consistently ranks in the Top 100 universities worldwide (currently #65) for number of U.S. patents as ISU faculty and staff excel at transferring their research, technology, and innovation to the marketplace to address complex scientific and global challenges, improve quality of life, and create economic opportunities to make Iowa more competitive. ISU Extension and Outreach programs operate in all 99 counties to directly benefit more than 1 million Iowans each year.

Prior to becoming president, Dr. Wintersteen served for eleven years as the inaugural endowed dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) and director of the Iowa Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment Station. During her tenure, Iowa State’s agricultural programs ranked in the top 10 worldwide, CALS enrollment rapidly increased to become the third largest college of agriculture in the nation, research grants increased markedly, awards for teaching excellence grew, and the college achieved a 98% placement rate for its graduates. 

Dr. Wintersteen began her career working in eastern and central Iowa as one of the first female ISU Extension associates in integrated pest management. She then completed her doctorate in entomology at Iowa State and rose through the ranks to become a professor of entomology (with a brief stint at the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture in Washington, D.C.), followed by successively senior administrative roles in extension and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS).

Dr. Wintersteen was selected in 2020 to serve on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s National Council for Expanding American Innovation to develop a comprehensive national strategy to expand innovation through diversity and increasing opportunities for all Americans. She is a member of the U.S. Council on Competitiveness and the Council's flagship initiative, the National Commission on Innovation and Competitiveness Frontiers, aimed at increasing the U.S.’s economic competitiveness in the global marketplace. She's also a member of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) Council of Presidents and was selected to serve on the APLU Research Intensive Committee. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Big 12 Conference; the University Innovation Alliance (UIA), a coalition of 11 public research universities aimed at making college degrees more attainable for underrepresented students; America’s Cultivation Corridor, a regional economic initiative to establish Iowa as the global center for excellence in agbiosciences, advanced manufacturing, and technology sectors; and Bankers Trust. She is part of the Iowa Governor's STEM Advisory Council Executive Committee and the Business Education Alliance. She also serves on the World Food Prize Council of Advisors and the World Food Prize Foundation Board of Directors

Dr. Wintersteen was inducted into the Iowa Business Hall of Fame in 2021. She is the recipient of the 2020 Food Systems Leadership Award from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities for her extraordinary impact on the food system through leadership and service. Dr. Wintersteen received the 2020 National Ruby Award, the most prestigious recognition given by Epsilon Sigma Phi, the national honor society for extension professionals. In 2018, she was named a Woman of Influence from the Des Moines Business Record.

Dr. Wintersteen holds a bachelor’s of science degree in crop production from Kansas State University and Ph.D. in entomology from Iowa State University. She is married to Robert Waggoner, author and former businessman.

President's Spouse, Robert Waggoner

Robert Waggoner worked for a small manufacturing business in sales and marketing for 26 years before switching careers a decade ago to write books on lucid dreaming – the scientifically validated ability to realize you are dreaming while in a dream state. His two books, Lucid Dreaming – Gateway to the Inner Self and co-authored Lucid Dreaming Plain and Simple, have had multiple printings and several translations. He gives presentations at universities and conferences around the world and is the past president and current treasurer of the International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD), which publishes the scientific-refereed journal, Dreaming.

He has been interviewed or consulted about the practice of lucid dreaming by CNN, CBS News and ABC News (KABC – Los Angeles).

He graduated summa cum laude from Drake University with a degree in psychology.


Updated: July 7, 2021

Dr. Wendy Wintersteen
President, Iowa State University

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Robert Waggoner and Dr. Wendy Wintersteen

Dr. Wendy Wintersteen and Mr. Robert Waggoner

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