College of Design dean appreciates Iowa State culture


Sam Greene/Iowa State Daily

Luis Rico-Gutierrez was named the dean of the College of Design in 2009. He said that the people of Iowa State played a big part in convincing him that this job was going to be the right fit for him. 

Abby Wadeson

The office of Luis Rico-Gutierrez, dean of the College of Design, represents his love for Iowa State, even down to the woodwork.

An associate dean in his college constructed the tables and shelving in his office with wood from trees that had been removed around campus.

Rico-Gutierrez was teaching at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburg when he was asked to interview for a dean position at Iowa State. He has been the dean of the College of Design here since 2009.

“The details of your life you never know. I never planned on becoming a dean. I don’t think anyone plans on becoming a dean,” Rico-Gutierrez said.

Nicole Shimp, a program assistant in the office of the dean, said that she likes how open-minded to new ideas Rico-Gutierrez is.

He came to interview in February of 2009 when the air was freezing cold and the campus was covered in white snow.

“It was definitely not the weather at that time that brought me here. It was the people,” said Rico-Gutierrez.

Rico-Gutierrez remembers that the diversity in the points of view of the people at Iowa State stood out to him. He had an interesting conversation on that day that he still remembers.

He said he saw potential in the College of Design upon arrival. Very few universities around the world have as many design disciplines Iowa State has nor do they have all of them in a single unit.

The College of Design at Iowa State offers degrees in architecture, art and design, community and regional planning, interdisciplinary design, graphic design, industrial design, integrated studio arts, interior design and landscape architecture. These programs all work together.

Rico-Gutierrez said the people at Iowa State are warm and hardworking. He said he has noticed people here truly enjoy working together and help each other whenever they can.

The campus also stood out to Rico-Gutierrez. He said his background in design and experience working with artists has allowed him to appreciate how beautiful it is.

“Walking through the central area is amazing,” Rico-Gutierrez said. “From the art collection, all the way to the buildings, the landscaping, and the contact with nature. I think it’s great.”

Rico-Gutierrez was born and raised in an old, colonial town in Mexico. He described his hometown as having a lot of history and being similar to Philadelphia.

After living in Mexico, Spain and Pennsylvania, he is happy to be settled in Ames, especially with his family.

When he’s not busy at work, Rico-Gutierrez spends most of his time with family, attending his children’s school performances and games.

Rico-Gutierrez’s wife is a potter and he also enjoys going with her to throw clay pots.

“I love the creativity that goes into it, but it’s just complex enough that it lets me forget about the world in general,” Rico-Gutierrez said.

This past summer Rico-Gutierrez had the opportunity to go to Japan and it’s now his favorite place he’s traveled. He enjoyed the culture and people while he was visiting.

“It’s easy to fall in love with Japan,” he said.

Rico-Gutierrez told a story of a maintenance worker he saw in Japan who stopped to look at a tree. He took out of a pair of scissors and spent a few minutes trimming up the tree before continuing his work. Rico-Gutierrez said he respected the aesthetic knowledge the maintenance worker had to make the tree perfect.

Kevin Kane, an associate dean for research, appreciates Rico-Gutierrez’s upbeat personality.

Luis loves to share his affinity for making delicious Mexican food and tolerates me practicing my very sparse Spanish with him,” said Kane.

Rico-Gutierrez said that he was fortunate to find something that he is passionate about and he hopes his kids find something they are passionate about as well.

He said becoming a dean was a great opportunity.

“It’s one of the best things that’s happened in my life,” Rico-Gutierrez said.