DES MOINES — Gov. Terry Branstad has named a 40-member advisory council that will help him formulate a legislative agenda aimed at increasing the quantity and quality of Iowans involved in science and technology fields.

The Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, or STEM, advisory council is headed by Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds and Ben Allen, president of University of Northern Iowa.

(STEM education) “is essential to ensure Iowa’s young people are competitive in the global marketplace,” Branstad said during a news conference this week where he named the committee members. “We think a lot of the jobs in the future are going to come in this area. STEM-related jobs are among the fastest-growing and best-paying.”

Branstad announced the council at the end of this summer’s Iowa Education Summit, which brought more than 60 speakers and panelists to Des Moines for a two-day discussion on education reform.

The council is charged with coming up with a plan to raise student achievement and boost interest in STEM education from pre-school through higher education.

To help in that endeavor, Reynolds and Allen appointed Jeff Weld, director of the Iowa Mathematics and Science Education Partnership, as the council’s executive director. The partnership Weld, a former biology professor at the University of Northern Iowa, currently runs is aimed at finding, recruiting and training STEM instructors from across the country.

Asked how to measure the success of the council, Allen said test scores would be a key indicator as would “how many teachers end up going into math and science.”

Reynolds said the group will meet on Oct. 3 and is expected to have program recommendations by next year.

“Some of this might not require legislative action, some of it might,” said Branstad, who also plans to bring a separate education reform package to the General Assembly next year.

In other business, the governor defended his decision to close work force development offices but criticize the U.S. Postal Service for considering closing some of its rural offices.

“They don’t have a plan as far as I can see,” the governor said, adding that the work force development office closures were planned with an eye toward giving Iowans more access through with computer kiosks in libraries.

The governor has a financial interest in about a dozen buildings that are rented by the U.S. Postal Service. Branstad said he doesn’t see a conflict of interest in having the investment and using the bully pulpit to criticize the postal service for its proposal.

“I’m the governor of the whole state of Iowa and 178 post offices that are threatened. There’s only one that my wife and I have that’s on that list, and that’s the smallest one of the ones that we have so the impact on us is very minimal, but the impact on those communities is very significant,” Branstad said.

That post office is in Lohrville.


The Executive Committee members of the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council are:

Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, co-chair

Ben Allen, president, University of Northern Iowa, co-chair

Jason Glass, director, Iowa Department of Education

Debi Durham, director, Iowa Partnership for Economic Progress

Teresa Wahlert, director, Iowa Workforce Development

Gregory Geoffroy, president, Iowa State University

Sally Mason, president, University of Iowa

Rob Denson, president, Des Moines Area Community College

Raynard Kington, president, Grinnell College

John Carver, superintendent, Van Meter Schools

Gail Wortmann, K-12 educator, Bloomfield

Don Frazer, private employer, SynGest

Paul Schickler III, private employer, Pioneer


Additional appointees to the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council are:

Lin Chape, Vermeer Manufacturing, Newton

Pat Barnes, John Deere, Bettendorf

Alissa Jourdan, Kemin, Des Moines

Rachel Hurley, Iowa Biotechnology Association, Johnston

Jonathan Wickert, Iowa State University College of Engineering, Ames

Victoria Sharp, University of Iowa, Iowa City

Dr. Douglas Dorner, Iowa Health Systems, Des Moines

Nancy Foerstel, Microsoft, St. Louis, Mo.

LeAnn Jacobson, Iowa Technology Association, Des Moines

Carolyn Boss, IBM, Clive

Jordan Cohen, University of Iowa, Iowa Innovation Council, Iowa City

Teresa Finken, Iowa Wesleyan College, Iowa City

Valerie Newhouse, president, Iowa Lakes Community College, Emmetsburg

Jeff Herzberg, Prairie Lakes Area Education Agency, Manson

Allison Gilchrist, St. Cecilia Elementary School, Ames

Gary Scholten, Principal Financial Group, Des Moines

Cindy Dietz, Rockwell Collins, Cedar Rapids

Craig Johnson, Iowa Academy of Science, Cedar Falls

Deb Dunkase, Iowa Children’s Museum, Iowa City

Katherine Swoboda, World Food Prize Foundation, Pleasant Hill

Kichoon Yang, National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, Haymarket, Va.

Isa Kaftal Zimmerman, Massachusetts Governor’s STEM Advisory Council, Boston, Mass.

Jon Ericson, ACT, Iowa City

Sen. Brian Schoenjahn, Arlington

Sen. Mark Chelgren, Ottumwa

Rep. Sharon Steckman, Mason City

Rep. Josh Byrnes, Osage