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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

Sept. 22, 2006

Grape and wine institute gets regents' green light

by Anne Krapfl

Iowa State's proposal for a Midwest Grape and Wine Industry Institute received the go-ahead from the Board of Regents, State of Iowa, during its meeting Sept. 27. The institute will be in the College of Agriculture and will focus on research, teaching and outreach that support the Midwest's evolving grape and wine industry.

The institute's director is Dr. Murli Dharmadikari, who was hired in the summer of 2005 as Iowa State's extension enologist (a specialist in wine making).

"This institute is a response to the industry," said Gerald Miller, associate dean in the College of Agriculture for extension and outreach programs who helped develop the proposal. He said an institute provides visibility and an entry point for growers and wine makers looking for help.

The Iowa Grape and Wine Commission (under the state department of agriculture and land stewardship) is the largest funder of the institute in its first three years. Other funding sources are ISU Extension, the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture and a private three-year gift.

Among the institute's proposed initiatives are:

  • Develop a wine quality award program that is a tool for both wine makers and drinkers
  • Conduct research to develop new cold-hardy grape varieties that thrive in the Midwest
  • Conduct research in enology
  • Establish an outreach program to the industry by training a team of specialists (modeled after other extension programs)
  • Partner with community colleges to develop job training programs specific to growing grapes and making wine

Software engineering degree

The regents also approved a new B.S. degree in software engineering at Iowa State, which will be jointly administered by the departments of computer science (College of Liberal Arts and Sciences) and electrical and computer engineering (College of Engineering). Students in the degree program will learn engineering aspects -- processes, techniques, principles -- for developing, analyzing and evolving complex software. The degree program, in part, responds to a call from two key professional organizations, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and the Association for Computing Machinery, for more software engineering programs nationally. A joint 2004 report of the two groups included a model curriculum for software engineering.


In other business, the regents:

  • Gave ISU permission to select an architect and begin project planning for a new facility for the department of agricultural and biosystems engineering, the Office of Biorenewable Programs and the Engineering Policy and Leadership Institute. The anticipated $63 million cost would be covered by private gifts ($12 million) and a combination of state appropriations and academic building bonds ($51 million). A campus site for the proposed building hasn't been selected yet. The project is in the regents' proposed construction plans (to receive state funding) for three years beginning in FY 2010.
  • Gave ISU permission to hire a construction management firm to coordinate proposed improvements and additions to Hilton Coliseum and Jack Trice Stadium.
  • Approved Iowa State's sale of its Fifth Street S.E. warehouse on about four acres of land to Scott Development, West Des Moines, for $1.6 million. Proceeds will be used to improve and develop alternative warehouse space in location(s) closer to campus.

The board's human resources committee asked an inter-institutional work group to develop another proposal for a tuition assistance program that would be "enterprise-wide but implemented to each university's best ability," according to regent Rose Vasquez. The committee had proposed basic requirements for school-specific programs that included reimbursement for up to four credit hours per semester per employee.

Regent Teresa Wahlert said the proposal was "very disappointing."

"We're in the business of education and we can't do any better than that?" she asked. She encouraged a proposal that would allow case-by-case decisions and "puts accountability on the employee and the employer."

University representatives expressed concern about the cost of a program that would reimburse above four credits, as well as employee work time away from their jobs while they pursued degrees.


The Board of Regents, State of Iowa, approved the College of Agriculture's proposal for a Midwest Grape and Wine Industry Institute at its Sept. 27 meeting in Cedar Falls. A new software engineering degree at ISU was also approved in the regents' first day of business.