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New dean squares up challenges, opportunities

Article cover photo
Dan Robison thanked Iowa Soybean Association directors for the strong relationship between Iowa State University and ISA during a visit to Ankeny last month. (Photo: Joseph L. Murphy/Iowa Soybean Association)

By Bethany Baratta, ISA senior writer

The new dean for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Iowa State University (ISU) admits he has plenty to learn about the students, the state and its farmers. But Dan Robison is well aware how important the soybean industry is to the state and to the College.

Robison began in his role as the dean of the College of Ag and Life Sciences and director of the Iowa Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment Station on March 31.

He stopped at the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) during the summer board meeting, engaging with ISA leaders and thanking them for their continuous support of the College and the Iowa Soybean Research Center.

 “Over the years, ISA has funded approximately $61 million of research at ISU. That’s extraordinary,” Robison said. Most recently Robison was the dean of West Virginia University’s Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design. He was also the director of the West Virginia University Agriculture and Forestry Experiment Station.

“That (investment) is an extraordinary amount of your cherished resource that you have funneled out … to researchers in Ames. Your work has been enabling others who care about the same mission,” Robison said.

Those financial contributions not only support current faculty and researchers at ISU and within the Iowa Soybean Research Center, but future students who might also take part in identifying and solving challenges to soybean production, said ISA President Lindsay Greiner.

“The relationship between Iowa State and the Iowa Soybean Association is important because the research dollars we invest in Iowa State not only benefit soybean farmers, but they benefit the young people wanting to go into agriculture in Iowa,” said Greiner, a farmer in Keota. “They help the best and brightest in the field of ag further their studies. Quite possibly the next great idea in soybean production comes out of Iowa State. When that happens, everyone benefits.”


Student enrollment at Iowa State and its College of Agriculture is projected lower this year; down about 1,000 students campus-wide and 100 students in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Robison noted.

Greiner says Robison seems prepared to take on that challenge.

“I think with a dean like him, the quality of education and the job placement record Iowa State has, the College shouldn’t have problems attracting the best and brightest in the field of ag,” Greiner said.

Declining enrollment isn’t reflective of the opportunities in agriculture, Robison said.

“People are not going to stop eating, and the world population is going to continue to grow. I think the future is always bright for agriculture,” he said.


Robison grew up in New Jersey and earned a bachelor’s degree in forestry, master’s in silviculture and forest influences from the State University of New York–College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse; and a doctorate in entomology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He joined West Virginia University in 2012 after serving as associate dean for research in the North Carolina State University College of Natural Resources.

Robison said the opportunity to be the new dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at ISU was a chance for him to have more of an impact.

 “We’re all trying to have a bigger, deeper, broader impact on the things we care about as much as we can,” Robison said. “For me as an academic, if I wanted to try to be as positive of a force as I possibly can in the world of ag and natural resources—I could do that very well in West Virginia or  North Carolina—but coming to Iowa is the pinnacle of that opportunity.”

Robison’s discovered statewide support for the land grant institution in his trek across Iowa.

“Every state that I’ve been in, lived in and worked in has loved their land grant university and the other universities they have, but no state that I have been in has embraced it like Iowa does,” Robison said.  “And that’s quite remarkable.”

Contact Bethany Baratta at

For media inquiries, please contact Katie James, ISA Public Relations Manager at or Aaron Putze, ISA Communications Director at

For permission to republish articles or to request high-res photos contact Aaron Putze at Iowa Soybean Association | 1255 SW Prairie Trail Pkwy | Ankeny | IA | 50023 | US

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