Leopold Center welcomes director Mark Rasmussen

Mark Rasmussen speaks to Lisa Schulte-Moore, associate professor of natural resource ecology and management at Iowa State. A welcome reception was for Rasmussen was Thursday, Sept. 6, in the Campanile Room of the Memorial Union.

Myra Krieger-Coen

A reception welcomed Mark Rasmussen, new director for the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture. Rasmussen is the fourth to be named director of the center.

The reception, in the Campanile Room of the Memorial Union, continuously filtered people in through the doors throughout the hour-and-a-half event. The crowd that welcomed Rasmussen was comprised of many advocates of the program, including the advisory board, some of the men who worked to establish the center, and the very first center director.

As the attendees socialized, many comments were made praising the growth of the program, as well as the change in the program’s focus and strategies.

Dennis Keeney, first director of the Leopold Center, shared the progression of the center since he served in 1999.

“It’s grown a lot since I was in it; we didn’t even have an office back then,” Keeney said. “It’s great to see how the program has expanded quite a bit and now there’s a bigger focus on the social and food aspects rather than the water quality, like when I started out.”

Ralph Rosenberg, one of the men who helped develop the program while he served on the Iowa Legislature considers the program a great success that will only continue to grow as sustainable practices are encouraged more. He explained that much of the center’s success depends on outreach capabilities. The majority of growth that had already occurred was the result of outreach strategies, and he anticipates witnessing Rasmussen utilize it to help the program grow further.

“This is one of my proudest products,” Rosenberg said. “I think I’d like to see greater support from the state for the Leopold Center; I think that’s really important. I think the state and university should do everything possible to provide greater resources. That’s what I’d like to see. This should be the feather in the cap of our university.”

Rasmussen, an ISU alumnus who served as the supervisory microbiologist and director of the Division of Animal and Food Microbiology at the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine in Laurel, Md, plans to move forward with the focus on the food and social aspects of sustainable agriculture, Keeney said.

“Agriculture is going to be confronted with a lot of challenges and changes as we go forward,” Rasmussen said. Not just in the Leopold Center, but in all the colleges of agriculture and university community.”

With expertise in microbiology, animal health, food safety, ruminant nutrition, antibiotic resistance and veterinary medicine, he is ready to face those challenges. Having started June 1, Rasmussen remains confident about his position as director and enthusiastic to return to his alma mater.

“I’ve always figured Iowa State is the center of the universe when it comes to agriculture. In terms of thinking about this job, I see it as a way to give back to the system that developed me and nurtured me all the way, so I appreciate that.”