About the College

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Iowa State University is a world-class learning and research community. Iowa State’s most academically diverse college, LAS educates students to become global citizens, providing rigorous academic programs in the sciences, humanities and social sciences within a supportive personalized learning environment.

Our college has more than 7,800 students among 22 departments, the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication, and more than 20 additional programs. Our faculty members teach more than 50 percent of all student credit hours at Iowa State leading to nearly 50 baccalaureate degrees, in addition to Ph.D. and master’s degrees.

The liberal arts have been central to the mission of Iowa State University since the institution was founded in 1858. The College of Sciences and Humanities was established in 1959, and the name was changed to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in 1990 to acknowledge the college’s specializations and breadth.

I invite you to browse our web site and learn more about the departments and units that make up our college. As you will see, the faculty of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences are among the institution’s finest. We have award winning teachers, scholars with national reputations for their research and creative activity, and internationally known performers. And, of course, our students are among the very best in the country.

Thank you for visiting this web site, and please don’t hesitate to contact me if I can be of any service to you.

- Beate Schmittmann, Dean

Points of Pride

Iowa State’s king of cotton

Iowa’s largest cotton farmer can be found in Iowa State University’s Bessey Hall, along with the state’s largest cotton crop. Distinguished Professor Jonathan Wendel is an internationally known plant biological researcher who has studied cotton for more than 25 years. Wendel helped map the genome sequence for cotton, which will have sweeping ramifications for cotton growers, plant biologists and producers who grow other cash crops, including corn and soybeans. He is also the principle investigator for the National Science Foundation’s Cotton Fiber Genomics project. Not surprisingly, Wendel was the 2012 winner of the International Cotton Genomics Initiative award for outstanding contributions to cotton genomics.

LAS’ own Williams sisters are a grand slam

Cassidy and Camryn Williams’ interest in computers has brought them front-and-center. The sisters – Cassidy a senior (pictured left) and Camryn a second-year student, both in Computer Science – are a special pair. As Hispanic women pursuing careers in a traditionally male-dominated field, they are easy to spot in their classrooms and, apparently, from across the country. The two were invited to speak at the 2013 White House Tech Inclusion Summit in Washington D.C., and Cassidy was later invited to participate in a San Francisco-to-London flight with 100 high-tech innovators. She was the only undergraduate aboard the “UnGrounded Innovation Lab in the Sky,” where she brainstormed solutions for the global talent crunch with leaders from Google, Intuit, Craigslist and other high-tech heavyweights.

Wells’ research is reforming eyewitness ID techniques

How good is eyewitness evidence? Not as accurate as we once thought, according to research by psychologist Gary Wells. His groundbreaking work to improve techniques for eyewitness identification and police lineups has led to reforms adopted by about 40 percent of the nation’s law enforcement agencies. Wells, a Distinguished Professor in Liberal Arts and Sciences and the Wendy and Mark Stavish Chair in Social Sciences, said the techniques have led to fewer cases of mistaken identities and have helped identify the guilty. “It is a success story for social science research; an encouraging message about what social science has to offer in dealing with real-world problems.”

Sunny skies: Meteorology students No. 1 again

Not happy with the weather? Don’t blame Iowa State University’s American Meteorological Society student chapter, which has been named the nation’s best for the past two years and four times in the past eight years). With more than 70 members, the AMS student organization is equally active on and off campus with educational and service activities. Chapter members provide weather safety tips to children in Iowa schools, volunteer to help clean up towns devastated by tornadoes, coordinate relief for victims of global natural disasters, and provide weather reports for the Iowa State Daily and the student-run cable TV channel. Pictured are chapter president Kevin Smalley and vice president Makenzie Krocak.

Chapelle sharpens the pen for improved STEM writing

Carol Chapelle knows that writing for general purposes and writing for science are two different ballgames, so she’s spearheading a research project to examine the differences. Chapelle, Distinguished Professor in Liberal Arts and Sciences and professor of applied linguistics, is creating a national center of scholarship to conduct research on linguistic practices in STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), improve pedagogy of writing in STEM fields, and develop computational methods for analysis and assessment. “It’s an important issue for both teaching and learning,” she said about the project called “The Language of Writing in STEM Disciplines.”

Melvin Ejim excels with books and Big 12 boards

He’s a top History student in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, he’s a member of a collegiate honor society, and he dunks with the best of them in Hilton Coliseum. The Cyclones’ Melvin Ejim was named the 2013 Big 12 Conference Men’s Basketball Scholar-Athlete for his academic prowess and for leading the league in rebounding and double-doubles in 2012-13. Ejim, a senior in the 2013-14 season, also was accepted for membership into the ISU chapter of Phi Kappa Phi, the nation’s oldest, largest and most selective collegiate honor society for all academic disciplines.

Army ROTC’s Cyclone Battalion among nation’s elite

Iowa State’s Army ROTC unit, the Cyclone Battalion, is consistently one of America’s best Army ROTC programs. The battalion has earned one of the nation’s eight prestigious MacArthur Awards for the second year in a row. The honor recognizes it as the best unit in the Cadet Command’s 3rd Brigade, consisting of 40 Midwest Army ROTC programs. The Cyclone Battalion also has attained the nation’s highest average score on the Army Physical Fitness Test for two consecutive years at the rigorous Leadership Development Assessment Course. ISU’s three ROTC programs are located in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

History of the College

When Iowa State first opened its doors in 1869, it was known as the Iowa State Agricultural College, and one of its primary goals was to provide technological and practical educations, in contrast to the classical, liberal arts educations offered at many other schools. At the same time, the founders of the college wanted their school to be more than a vocational school, and they worked to strike a balance between the classical liberal arts education and the wholly practical education that was then in vogue.

As a result, instruction in the natural sciences and the liberal arts has been a part of an Iowa State education from the beginning. Many of the original faculty at Iowa State were specialists in non-technical subjects, hired because of their ability to help students to a broad- based education. These faculty taught courses in physics, chemistry, English, history, and philosophy, which were seen as service courses designed to help students become well rounded in practicing the trades they were learning in their areas.

In 1898, studies in the liberal arts and sciences were given a home in the Division of Science and Philosophy, and the Division underwent several other name changes until 1959, when the service division became a college, the College of Science and Humanities, which offered students full-fledged majors in liberal arts and scientific curricula.

Today the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, which got its current name in 1990, is the largest college at the University with more than 7,800 undergraduate and graduate students.

In the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, students select from a wide and rich range of program options. The goal of the college is to prepare the student to enter the world beyond the
university with skills in reasoning, analysis, and communication; with an appreciation of history and culture, an understanding of the challenges of the future, and a sensitivity toward people and their environments. To achieve this goal, the college asks students to acquire depth in learning within disciplines of their own choice, by way of single or multiple major. Meaningful breadth in learning is acquired through elective courses and courses fulfilling general education requirements.

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is the academic home, the foundation, for many essential learning disciplines. The college provides students with all the components of a modern liberal arts education. Students may choose to study in various fields of the physical, biological, and social sciences; in mathematical disciplines; in methods and systems of communication; and in the arts and humanities.

The flexible degree requirements in the curriculum of the Liberal Arts and Sciences permit programs of study suited to a variety of interests and goals. Students having academic interests not fully met by a departmental major may pursue a major offered by one of the College’s interdepartmental programs or may apply for a major in interdisciplinary studies. The college participates in the University Honors Program; thus, students of exceptional academic promise can develop unique and challenging programs of study. The college has three curricula: a curriculum in Liberal Arts and Sciences, leading to the bachelor of arts or the bachelor of science degree; a curriculum in music, leading to the bachelor of music degree; and a curriculum in liberal studies, leading to the bachelor of liberal studies degree.

Catt Hall

Carrie Chapman Catt Hall is the home of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Opened in 1893 as Agriculture Hall, the structure was designed by Josselyn and Taylor of Cedar Rapids in the Queen Anne Revival picturesque style with steep roofs, dormer windows and patterned brickwork. Placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985, the building was renovated and renamed Carrie Chapman Catt Hall in 1995 in honor of the Iowa State alumna and co-founder of the League of Women Voters. Catt Hall is also the home of the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics and the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies.

Plaza of Heroines website