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.
Innovate at Iowa State captures Dr. Wintersteen’s vision of a university with boundless opportunities for students and faculty to move their innovative and entrepreneurial ideas forward. The centerpiece is the 146,000 square foot Student Innovation Center, the technology-rich campus hub for students, classes and clubs excited to create marketable solutions, hold pitch-off competitions and envision new businesses. The Start Something Network encompasses the growing portfolio of academic courses in innovation and entrepreneurship offered in every undergraduate college.
Under her leadership, Iowa State has established international prominence in innovation and entrepreneurship in higher education – named the 2023 Entrepreneurial University of the Year for the Americas and ranked #11 out of 300 public and private universities by the prestigious Princeton Review three years in a row. Iowa State also received the 2022 Nasdaq Center for Entrepreneurial Excellence Award, the highest honor presented by the Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers and 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 nearly 95% placement rate for its graduates and is a national research powerhouse – ranked #17 for research expenditures (Top 3% in the nation) out of nearly 500 universities without a human medical school and setting a new record of $301.3 million for external research grants and contracts.
Iowa State consistently ranks in the Top 100 universities worldwide 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 challenges and accelerate the state’s economic progress. ISU Extension and Outreach programs operate in all 99 counties to directly benefit more than 1 million Iowans each year.
Dr. Wintersteen is advancing Iowa State University for the 21st century with priorities and aspirations expressed in ISU’s new strategic plan: to be the most student-centric leading research university where students, faculty and staff flourish in a welcoming and inclusive environment; to be the university that fosters lifelong learning, creates opportunities and forges new frontiers; and to be a trusted partner for proactive and innovative solutions.
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).
Boards and Committees
- U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Council for Inclusive Innovation
- U.S. Council on Competitiveness
- Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) Council of Presidents and Research Intensive Committee
- Big 12 Conference Board of Directors
- Big 12 Conference Board of Directors Executive Committee
- Secretary/Treasurer (2023-2025)
- Big 12 Conference Board of Directors Executive Committee
- University Innovation Alliance (UIA)
- America’s Cultivation Corridor
- Greater Des Moines Partnership Board of Directors
- Bankers Trust
- Iowa Governor's STEM Advisory Council Executive Committee
- Iowa Business Council's Business Education Alliance
- World Food Prize Foundation Council of Advisors and Board of Directors
Honors and Awards
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.
Dr. Wintersteen was formally installed as the 16th president of Iowa State University on Sept. 21, 2018. The university's first female president, she's also the first internal candidate promoted to the position in more than 50 years. Dr. Wintersteen outlined several priorities in her remarks, "To Serve. To Lead. To Excel." Among them: infusing an Iowa State education with entrepreneurism, recognizing and rewarding excellent faculty and staff, innovating to become a more efficient enterprise and improving the student experience in every college. Above all, she promised to work hard to make Iowa State a model of inclusivity among colleges and universities.
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.