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

March 13, 2009

Lego presentation

Eighth-graders from Southeast Polk Junior High wade through a LEGO exercise intended to demonstrate the importance of interaction among construction engineers and architects for greater efficiency and project success. The exercise, led by members of Iowa State's Sigma Lambda Chi construction honor society, is one of numerous options for young campus visitors coordinated by ISU's speakers bureau. Photo by Bob Elbert.

Speakers bureau matches ISU experts with school kids, community groups

by Diana Pounds

You're an Iowa schoolteacher planning to take 400 eighth graders to a campus for a theatrical performance and you want to make a day of it. Where do you start? The Southeast Polk teacher who recently faced just such a predicament dialed ISU's speakers bureau. It was a good call.

When her students finished viewing a matinee performance of the Harriet Tubman story at the Iowa State Center early last week, they popped over to the Memorial Union for professor Larry Genalo's frozen-racquet-ball smashing tour of the world of materials science.

Later on, they broke up into smaller groups. Some learned to drive a Segway. Some extracted DNA from fruit. Others learned about solar cars, glassblowing, ISU's Farm House, Grant Wood's mural, concrete making, textiles, soil tilth and more.

And while the eighth graders were making the rounds on campus, fourth graders from Lohrville's Southern Cal Elementary and third graders from Boone's Franklin Elementary were engaged in similar activities.

It was a busy day for speakers bureau, a small unit in the office of university relations. Speakers bureau is a matchmaking service of sorts, and university relations staff Huang Tan and Sandra Gartz make the matches. In addition to arranging activities on campus for visiting kindergarten through 12th graders, speakers bureau staff also find university faculty and staff to speak to community clubs and organizations around the state.

Over the past two years, they've arranged campus presentations and tours for nearly 6,000 visitors. In addition, they've found Iowa State faculty and staff with expertise in topics ranging from bird flu to global warming to speak to some 9,000 people in community groups around the state.

It might seem a daunting task to find people willing to take time to talk to a tour group or drive to another community to speak. Not so, say the speakers bureau coordinators.

"They're busy people," Gartz said of the faculty, staff and students who give tours and presentations. "Yet, they just give of their time. They're very generous."

"It's the ISU culture," Tan added. "I think it's part of the university's history of being a land-grant, of being involved with the community."

Those who are interested in participating in speakers bureau activities -- either by providing tours and activities for on-campus groups, or giving talks to community groups (mostly in central Iowa) -- should contact Tan, 4-5992,

"We have speakers on all kinds of topics, such as politics, bioeconomy, computer security, economic development, health and nuclear power," Gartz said. "We welcome volunteer speakers who can present topics to general audiences."


"We had an awesome time! I always recommend you guys any time I talk to other science teachers."

St. Joseph's Academy, Des Moines