Signature Themes

Building a Vision for Research in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

In the 21st century, research and education have become highly collaborative, interdisciplinary ventures. As we prepare today’s students for the world of the future, we need to address complex challenges which range from sustaining our quality of life to supporting a free and diverse society which relies critically on science and technology.

Iowa State University is a major national research university which continues to embrace its land-grant mission. Its faculty develop solutions to these challenges through scientific and technological advances which are deeply infused with an understanding of human behavior, historical context, and local culture. As an institution of higher learning, ISU educates creative broad-minded thinkers who will lead our society in the coming decades. The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (LAS) is at the core of this endeavor.

Building on existing strengths, LAS will become a national leader in selected research areas and continue to provide innovative leadership in pedagogy and curriculum development for our students. Research and learning will become integrated activities as faculty continue to broaden their expertise and students contribute to research. Five “signature themes” will define the college’s scholarly vision and identity and provide a framework for faculty hiring and collaborations:

In addition to these themes, we will continue to strengthen strategic disciplinary areas and address critical departmental needs.  We will also periodically review these themes.

Faculty working in the signature areas are expected to be highly collaborative across disciplinary boundaries and able to integrate fundamental discoveries with technological solutions and societal needs. The opportunities to identify and attract such scholars are excellent: many of the young researchers who are beginning to enter the academic job market have been trained in highly interdisciplinary environments and expect to find or develop similar structures in their future work place. LAS will encourage the hiring of such individuals by forming interdisciplinary search committees. Once the new hires have arrived on campus, LAS will encourage the formation of teams and collaborations through a variety of seed funding for seminars, topical workshops, grant writing support, and leadership development. High performance standards will be set for effective teaching, strong output of scholarly work, and success in garnering external funding or recognition.

The boundaries between the five themes are fluid and open, and numerous potential collaborations are possible, beyond the ones described below. Partnerships with other colleges, the Ames Laboratory, and private entities will leverage resources and add complementary expertise. A solid research infrastructure and various “enabling tools,” such as computational modeling, statistical and visualization software, or imaging and spectroscopy will support and guide work in all areas. Excellence in exploiting these “tools” already exists in the college and on campus and will be strengthened further through these hires. Strategic investments will be proposed to provide the high quality infrastructure and space necessary to attract and retain top researchers.

The description of each theme is intentionally brief. Rather than giving a detailed list of current and future activities, we paint with broad strokes. This approach allows for flexibility and creativity as departments develop proposals within this framework.

Signature Themes for Research