Dean of College of Veterinary Medicine leads journey from South


Sam Greene/Iowa State Daily

Lisa K. Nolan is the dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine at Iowa State University.

Erika Clyma

Bundling up for the cold weather is something we are all getting used to again. But for Lisa K. Nolan, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine, growing up in the South meant rarely ‘bundling up.’

“Every chance I get, I head to warm water somewhere and get in it,” Nolan said.

Nolan escapes Iowa’s cold weather to be near the ocean at her vacation home in the Florida Keys. Nolan most recently vacationed at her beach home over Thanksgiving Break.

“I have been going down there for a long time,” Nolan said. “It is a special place — the only living reef in North America. And it was always the animal part a lot of times that was fascinating to me, whether it was snorkeling or diving.”

Nolan attended the University of Georgia in Athens, Ga., where she obtained her doctorate of veterinary medicine in 1988. Nolan continued her education at the University of Georgia, where she gained a master of science degree in medical microbiology in 1989, and then her Ph.D. in medical microbiology in 1992. Following graduation, Nolan initially found it difficult to find a job.

“I was so alarmed,” Nolan said.  “I sent so many C.V.’s [curriculum vitae] out.”

Nolan was eventually offered an advising position at North Dakota State University in Fargo, N.D.

“It was funny because neither my major professor nor I knew where Fargo was,” Nolan said. “We had to look it up. We were sitting in front of a map looking and my major professor says, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s in Canada.’”

Nolan accepted the position, but being from the South, she was not prepared for the cold winter weather.

“I had no clothes, no boots, no coat, no gloves and seriously no idea about how to drive,” Nolan said. “It was just pitiful, but such a great adventure.”

Nolan said that the people in Fargo were very polite and offered a lot of guidance about surviving the cold winters.

While at North Dakota State, Nolan initially served as a pre-veterinary adviser, working with nearly 50 advisees each semester. She later became an instructor, teaching five courses in microbiology and infectious diseases.

Along with a multidisciplinary group, Nolan helped develop a food safety program at North Dakota State that included curricula for a major, minor and a Ph.D.

“We did great things, like set up a center,” Nolan said. “I was really proud of what we accomplished there.”

In 2003, Nolan accepted a position at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Iowa State. When she first arrived, Nolan served as the department chair for the Department of Veterinary Microbiology and Preventive Medicine.

Catherine Logue, professor in veterinary microbiology and preventive medicine, had also worked with Nolan at North Dakota State. Logue said that Nolan is a caring person beyond just the veterinary medicine.

“She is extremely personable, very easy to talk to and is always a good listener,” Logue said. “She brings a lot of passion to anything she does [like her leadership and work] and cares deeply for her faculty, staff, students and those around her.”

Logue said that because of Nolan’s passion, she has been able to hold several roles within the College of Veterinary Medicine. Logue said that Nolan brings a lot to the table because of her past experiences and dedication to research. Nolan said that she particularly enjoys the wide variety of research available to her.

“Research is like going in the lab, and see you don’t remember when people first walked on the moon, but it’s like that,” Nolan said. “They didn’t know what [it was] going to be like. They could’ve stepped off into a pit of dust and never be seen again. You never know what you are going to find. That is how I feel every time I step into the lab.”

Nolan also said that she enjoyed joining the group of bacteriologists at the College of Veterinary Medicine. Nolan said that the people she works with are “exceptionally neat, challenging and supportive.”

“Research is highly valued and they have collected such a strong cohort of people.” Nolan said. “I got to interact with those people and that just changed everything for me. We were really able to kick our research capacity up a lot. That was and has been a blast.”

Aside from all of her research, Nolan also enjoys bike riding and bird watching. Nolan tries to find every opportunity she can to ride her bike.

“She is a mad biker,” Logue said. “One of the funniest memories was attending a professional meeting in Hawaii and she wanted to go biking on the day off we had. Needless to say, we biked down a mountain. It was a blast.”

In 2009, Nolan became the associate dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine and then in 2011, Nolan was appointed juelsgaard dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine. Nolan said that she has and continues to enjoy her entire experience serving as the dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine.

Logue said she has learned a lot from Nolan during the 15 years she has worked with her, but the most valuable thing Nolan ever taught Logue was never stop doing what you love.

“Never give up on your passion,” Logue said. “Follow what drives you and most of all to have adventures. I have always followed this premise and have said the same thing to my graduate students — there is always an adventure waiting and it’s something to embrace.”