Rasmussen eases transition into Leopold Center

Maia Zewert

The Leopold Center of Sustainable Agriculture has named microbiologist Mark Rasmussen as its new director.

Rasmussen currently works in the Office of Research at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine in Laurel, Md. as a supervisory microbiologist and director of the Division of Animal and Food Microbiology.

“Right now I deal with all the administrative duties for the department, facilitating the work of others,” Rasmussen said.

Rasmussen first heard of the search for the new director when he was contacted by the search committee, led by the Vice President for Research and Economic Development Sharron Quisenberry.

“[Rasmussen] was nominated by a member of the search committee because of his experience with grain and livestock systems,” Quisenberry said.

Rasmussen was one of three finalists, along with Abdullah Jaradat and Thanos Papanicolaou. Each candidate came to campus for a two day visit and gave a presentation. Rasmussen was ultimately offered the job.

“He was a good candidate from the search committee’s point of view due to his understanding and commitment to the mission of the Leopold Center,” Quisenberry said.

Although he has not yet officially started at the Leopold Center, Rasmussen is being eased into the job. Thanks to teleconferencing, he has been able to sit in on meetings at the Leopold Center to learn how things work. He also intends to visit with Frederick Kirschenmann, who served as director for the Leopold Center from July 2000 to November 2005 and is now recognized as a Distinguished Fellow of the Leopold Center.

One of the points Rasmussen made when he delivered his presentation was that he wished to see the Leopold Center maintain itself as a forum for the controversial and uncomfortable questions, such as the interrelationship between food and energy. This is a mission he hopes to see through.

“You simply telegraph the message that these kinds of questions can be asked and discussed,” Rasmussen said. “We’re not taking sides; we’re just saying that it’s okay to talk about these types of things.”

Another idea Rasmussen proposed was approaching farm owners about setting aside small areas with hard-to-farm land, which could help improve the water and soil quality.

Rasmussen has been welcomed both to the Leopold Center and to Iowa State University with open arms.

“Dr. Rasmussen is an exceptional scientist with very strong administrative experience,” said Wendy Wintersteen, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “He understands all aspects of Iowa agriculture and we believe that these characteristics will help him to be a great success in the role of director.”

“I am thrilled, and I look forward to the opportunity to join the Leopold Center and Iowa State University,” Rasmussen said.