The Ottumwa Courier

October 7, 2013

Relationship fosters growth

Courier staff writer

---- — OTTUMWA — If our research teaches us something useful, it should be used to improve the lives of the community as a whole.

Iowa State University President Steven Leath told the Courier that sharing applied knowledge is one of the missions of the university in Ames.

"We're one of the original 'land grant' universities," Leath said Monday before meeting with the Ottumwa Rotary organization.

As part of that arrangement, schools were expected to educate students from among the everyday people rather than the elite, seek out knowledge that would be of use to the world and then to actively "extend" that knowledge to the world.

That's where ISU Extension and Outreach comes in and another reason Leath was in town. All ISU Extension offices provide certain base services. But each also has a specialty that allows them to serve their particular community.

"The best way [for me] to understand each of those is to actually come and hear what the [specialists] in that office do," Leath said. "I've been in Iowa a year and a half. [This visit] gives me a firsthand look at the Ottumwa community, to learn more about it and see how we can interact with the community."

There are already connections: ISU, of course, currently has students attending who are from Wapello County.

"In the fall, we enrolled 80 students from Wapello County," he said.

There are also ISU alumni living in Ottumwa. But with the school's mission to improve the lives of the greater community by sharing knowledge, Leath says, actually coming to visit the community helps him find out how to work together.

And that was where his remarks to Rotary started: How can ISU work with the people of Wapello County to improve economic development?

Leath mentioned ISU Extension and Outreach employee Himar Hernandez. The Wapello County extension service has helped the Latino business community grow. In Iowa, that part of the economy is an increasingly important part of economic growth, Leath said.

This community has become a national model for how we embrace our growing Latino population and build a stronger, more vibrant, more diverse community, Leath said.

On Monday, he was scheduled to visit one of Ottumwa's largest employers.

John Deere Ottumwa Works staff are currently working with the College of Engineering to develop a “Senior Capstone Design” program, where senior engineering students work on actual problems that the company would like addressed. It’s good for students and the company, Leath said.

Small Business Development Center staff worked with more than 130 clients in Wapello County, helping start and expand businesses. That work will continue, the president said, as a partnership between Wapello County and ISU.

— To see reporter Mark Newman's Twitter feed, go to @couriermark