Inside Iowa State
August 28, 1998
by Kevin Brown
Whether it's determining the best design for a new stained glass project or strategizing on a direction for the College of Family and Consumer Sciences, Dean Carol Meeks enjoys the art of intricate design.
Meeks came to Iowa State in August 1997, from the University of Georgia, Athens, where she served as the chairperson of the department of housing and consumer economics. She was at Georgia for 12 years.
Iowa State intrigued her because of "the opportunity to be dean of the oldest land-grant college of family and consumer sciences in the country." She added that the demonstrated support of the college's alumni and the size and prominence of the university all added to the position's advantages.
"The opportunity to have some input and say about students and programs now and in the future was also challenging," she said.
One of her first priorities was to take a hard look at student recruitment in the college. FCS was the lone ISU college that had a decline in student count last year, she said.
"We're unique from the other colleges on campus in that most of our students come in as juniors or seniors," Meeks said. "Students get to ISU and then they learn about us."
Through high school visits, involvement in Experience Iowa State Days, and targeted mailings to prospective students, the college is working on increasing students' interest in programs as they explore colleges and universities.
A second change has been the turnover in administrators resulting in new ideas being introduced to the college. New appointees include Mary Winter, associate dean for research and graduate education; Suzanne Hendrich, associate dean for undergraduate programs and education technology; and Mary Gregoire, professor and chair of the hotel, restaurant and institution management department.
The college's unique Dean Helen LeBaron Hilton Endowed Chair also provides an annual opportunity to match a professional with a specific need or growth area. This year, Shirley Zimmerman of the University of Minnesota is working with The Center for Family Policy and the department of human development and family studies.
Zimmerman should help continue the innovative research already under way at the center and build bridges with similar programs in other states, Meeks said.
The expected fall 1999 opening of the college's new Palmer Human Development and Family Studies Building is another exciting aspect of FCS. The building will house the child development laboratory school, marriage and family therapy clinic, family financial counseling clinic, nutritional counseling and faculty offices. A dedication is planned for spring 2000.
As part of the George Washington Carver commemoration this year, FCS has several support activities planned.Two minority faculty will be brought to campus for short-term visits to interact with students on diversity and multicultural topics.
The college will sponsor several exhibits related to family resiliency.
One exhibit will be a large fiberglass sculpture on central campus by the Mexican American artist Louis Jiminez, titled "Border Crossing."
The piece reflects the culture and myths from both sides of the Mexican/United States border. The artwork will arrive in late March and remain on campus at least through June.
There also will be a photo exhibit by John Reese, documenting Gee's Bend, a unique black community along the Alabama River. The images include residents, houses, barns, churches, the school, landscapes, and scenes from the Freedom Quilting Bee. This exhibit will be in the Brunnier Art Museum from March 23, 1999, to June 20.
Another aspect of Meeks' professional life is her research. She has done extensive work in the area of manufactured housing regulations. She just returned from Seoul, South Korea, where she represented the United States at the international housing conference, "East Meets West: Housing for People of Diverse Cultures." Her paper was "A Macro Perspective on Housing in the United States."
Meeks has found Ames to be an open and friendly town where she learned quickly that her high-profile job meant instant recognition.
"Some people are uncomfortable with that, but I like it when people take the time to say 'hello' and to remark about the college," she said. "It's really nice, a good feeling."
Her current obsession is working with stained glass, a craft she discovered after moving to Iowa. Meeks has completed two large window projects in her home.
She said she drove to Stratford to see about purchasing a stained glass window, only to be encouraged to make her own. She finds the intricate design work relaxing and reflective.
She also enjoys gardening and travel. While she said visiting any place is exciting, her favorite destination is Scandinavia. She also enjoys reading -- mysteries mostly -- and has a collection of glass fish.
Meeks has one daughter, Catherine, who recently graduated with a linguistics degree from Cornell University and is moving to Seattle, where she will be a language development teacher at a Montessori school.
"At 2,000 miles from home," Meeks said, "we're both having to realize that I won't just be able to get in the car and visit."
But Meeks' household hasn't decreased. She recently adopted a half-terrier/half lab puppy named Molly. Molly joins Annie, Meeks' border collie.
They'll both probably be helping in the garden.
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