Alumnus Amanda Knief named director of lectures program


Sarah Henry/Iowa State Daily

Science fiction author Paolo Bacigalupi speaks about writing science fiction in a time of great climate change at the Great Hall in the MU on April 17. 

Devyn Leeson

Amanda Knief, Iowa State alumnus of the Greenlee College of Journalism and Communication, has been selected as the next director of the Iowa State lectures program.

For more than 60 years, the lectures program at Iowa state has served students as a medium through which they can listen to speakers, watch forums and meet rising stars.

Pat Miller, the outgoing director of the lectures program, has made what is widely considered one of the best lecture programs in the country over her tenure leading it.

“It’s a daunting task to replace somebody like Pat Miller who led the program for 37 years, who has done nothing but great things to grow the program, to bring in top notch speakers who are on no ones radar,” said Rob Schweers, director of  communications for the Office of the Senior Vice President and Provost and the leader of the search committee to replace Miller.

Knief, who attended many of the lectures Miller organized during her time at Iowa State, said her plans for the program would include building upon previous successes.

“The staff is amazing, so I’m not coming in to fix anything,” Knief said. “I’m hoping to build on what they’ve already done.”

Knief said part of her strategy will include an increase in the social media presence and increased discussion with student organizations to ensure everyone gets a speaker they are excited to see.

“I want to make sure that the entire university body gets people that excite them, that are interesting and that bring new perspectives,” Knief said.

Schweers said this was one of the things that drew the team towards Knief when deciding on the next director as one half of the job “has to do with fostering student leadership.”

The other half of the job requires a willingness to learn, but Schweers said this included a combination of qualities that they actively searched for.

“What intellectual curiosity do you have,” he said. “How well read are you? How are you going to be able to find these speakers, continue to find these speakers, who are on the cusp of greatness?”

As a former lobbyist, lawyer, spokesperson, legislative analyst and a worker for the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency, Knief has done a lot of event planning with state and regional groups. This includes coordinating with elected officials and the general public in addition to  booking speakers.

“I love to learn and I love hearing new things,” Knief said. “Whether I was a journalist, a lawyer, or a lobbyist, everything I’ve done has allowed me to learn more, and that’s what I’m really excited to bring to the lectures program.”

Knief also spoke of running a national convention for several years where she was required to organize between 30 and 40 speakers over a three-to-four day period.

“Being able to organize that in different places around the country, I think that gives me a really good body of experience to draw from in dealing with different people, dealing with the ins and outs of bringing people in, and helping students learn that,” Knief said.

Schweers said another quality they saw in Knief was her extensive background in first amendment issues.

“[She is] very well versed in the first amendment and public advocacy,” Schweers said. “We want the lectures program to be for everyone.”

For Schweers, that means bringing in people from all sides and backgrounds.

“The reality is, if we are doing our job and we are bringing this diverse, rich set of speakers and ideas to campus, you aren’t going to agree with every one of them,” he said. “I don’t agree with every one of them now, but I love the fact we bring them to speak on campus. Their perspective might be a little different than my own, and I am going to learn something in the process.”

Knief will take officially start in her position on August 1 2018.