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Ready to roll…again

4 Feb

Well, our winter travel reprieve has ended. We haven’t been on the road since November, and it’s been great to stay put in Iowa for awhile. I’m pretty well caught up with posting alumni profiles from our travels last fall to New England and the Southwest, and the spring issue of VISIONS is mostly in the capable hands of designer Scott Thornton (always a good feeling).

Since I’ve been close to home, I’ve also spent the last two months in planning mode for the rest of our VISIONS Across America travel. We’re heading to Florida next week to meet with four alumni. After that, we’ll have just a few weeks to prepare for the next trip – this time we’re traveling to Washington, D.C., Maryland, Delaware, and Pennsylvania. (Will there be apple blossoms on the trees – or snow on the ground? Frankly, it makes me nervous.) Then we’ll have another quick turn-around before heading off to New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut in late April.

That will leave just 16 more states! But we still have lots of planning to do and lots of miles to cover, because some of those states out west are massive – like Montana. It’s been so much fun hearing from alumni in all the remaining states. I can’t wait to meet them!


Riding in the car with Jim

21 Nov

After being on the road (again) for 10 days, I feel the need to give a shout-out to my travel companion / photographer / driver Jim Heemstra. Since November 2011, we have traveled to 27 states and logged 16,002 miles on eight rental cars – and for every mile, Jim has been behind the wheel. It seems sort of amazing to me that with all those miles:

A)   We have not received a moving violation

B)   We have yet to receive a parking ticket

C)   We have not been involved in any sort of vehicular altercation (not even one teeny scratch)

D)   Not one of our rental cars has broken down

I will admit we have become lost dozens of times, even with redundant systems of navigation (Mapquest, GPS, and regular old maps on my lap at all times), although considering that I am the Chief Navigator I guess I should take at least partial responsibility for this.

We have also been lucky that of our 18 flights, not one has been cancelled, late, or even slightly turbulent.

That’s something to be thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

New England bound

28 Sep

I’ve been anticipating our next VISIONS Across America trip to New England for six months now, ever since we first contacted alumni in the area back in April. I wanted to get the logistics of this trip nailed down early because we’ll be visiting New England during the most crowded time of the year for tourists: leaf-peeping season.

It seemed like a no-brainer to me that we should go to New England during the fall. I am looking forward to seeing gorgeous fall color in Jim’s photographs of the 14 alumni we are scheduled to meet. We’ll be flying to Boston tomorrow, then renting a car and traveling to Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, and back to Massachusetts, visiting with alumni in all five states.

I am eager to meet these alumni, many of whom grew up in Iowa, graduated from Iowa State, and chose to locate in a very different part of the country. It will be interesting to learn about the cultural differences, the weather, the local history, and even the food. I’m hoping to taste real maple syrup. Cheers!

Ready to head out again

1 Aug

On Tuesday, Jim and I leave Iowa on a four-state, 10-day tour of the upper Midwest. We’ll be meeting with 19 alumni (yes, 19…I got carried away with the Minnesota stories), plus we’re co-hosting a party with the ISUAA Club of Chicago on Aug. 10 and having a small gathering with club leaders from the ISUAA Club of the Twin Cities on Aug. 15.

I think this will be a great group of alumni, with a lot of variety in the stories we’ll be telling. Not to give anything away…but we have engineers, journalists, an artist, fashion designers, a teacher, medical researchers, a cookbook author, a farmer, and even a lion keeper at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. We’ll be meeting with lots of young alumni on this trip – several who graduated since 2000 and even a couple of 2010 grads. I’m really excited (and honored) to be able to tell their stories. So stay tuned!

Up next are the New England states in late September/early October, followed by a trip to California, Nevada, New Mexico, and Arizona in November. We have our New England trip planned, but we’re still working on the schedule for the Southwest, so if you live in those states, let me know what you’ve been up to.  You can email me at




Getting ready for Alaska – and beyond

20 Jun

If it seems like there hasn’t been much activity on this blog lately, you’re right: We haven’t been on the road for more than a month. I’ve been working on my “regular” projects for the Alumni Association (the summer issue of VISIONS, our 2012-13 wall calendar, a catalog of travel tours) that will be mailed out in the next couple of weeks.

But with those projects behind me now, it’s time to think about our upcoming VISIONS Across America trips. We’ll be going to Alaska in two weeks, meeting with three alumni. Bob Chlupach is a 1971 fisheries and wildlife biology grad who lives in Willow, Laura Tauke is a 2005 graphic design alum who lives in Anchorage, and Darrell Holmstrom is a 1974 aerospace engineering grad who flies for Fed Ex.  Alaska is one of my favorite states, so I’m pretty excited to be going back. I am looking forward to long, sunny days and hoping for all-around good weather while we’re up there.

And then in August we’ll be hitting the road again. This time the trip will be a little closer to home. We’re traveling to Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. We have a large base of alumni in these states, so it’s been tough trying to decide where to go and whom to see. I still don’t have my schedule 100 percent finalized, but I am getting closer. Thanks to all the alumni in those states who took the time to write and tell their stories. You can read their stories on the state pages (go to and click on  the map to read stories from each state.)



Ready to hit the road again

27 Apr

Jim and I are getting ready to hit the road again in a few days. I’m eager to meet the alumni we’ve scheduled and to see this part of the country (the Lexington, KY, region; the Appalachian Mountains; Blue Ridge Parkway; and the Shenandoah National Park area). Our alumni are fortunate to live in a very beautiful part of the United States. I just hope the weather cooperates so Jim can photograph them in their natural surroundings.

Speaking of photos, be sure to check out our state photo galleries. We have images posted on the South Carolina and Alabama pages, and the rest of our photos from the Deep South states will be posted soon.

Once we get back from Kentucky, North Carolina, and Virginia, we’ll be sending emails to alumni who live in the upper Midwest region. Our plan is to travel to Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Illinois in August. Of course, that might change depending on where our featured alumni are located. Sometimes we discover that it makes more sense to “group” the states in a different way in order to keep our travel time and costs down. But that’s the plan for now, anyway.

Oh, and we’re still going to Alaska in July. I’m definitely looking forward to that, especially now that I found a direct flight out of the Minneapolis airport, cutting our travel time down from something like 15 hours (and three airplanes) flying out of Des Moines down to 5 hours and 40 minutes nonstop from Minneapolis. The more I travel the more I care about flight times! I also didn’t want to arrive in Anchorage at midnight. So I’m very excited about the direct flight, which arrives in Anchorage BEFORE NOON. Woo-hoo!

A sample of our recent mail

10 Mar

Every time we send an email to a new group of states, it’s like Christmas. I get to hear from all kinds of interesting alumni — and eventually I’ll be lucky enough to actually meet some of them on our VISIONS Across America travels.

Here are some especially interesting correspondence I’ve received in the past couple of weeks:

Kristyn Mostek (’97 speech communication) writes:

“I would like to nominate Courtney Heilskov Schlichte and Jason Schlichte. They live in North Carolina. They follow Cyclone athletics, going to games when they are in the area. Last fall Jason told his daughter he would take them to Disney World if the Cyclones beat OSU in football. They are now planning a trip to Disney!” I love this!

Another great Cyclone story comes from Kathleen Saladino (MS ’70 textiles and clothing), a retired teacher who lives in Virginia:

“When my oldest grandchild (now 11) was learning to talk, his father, who is a great Husker fan, made the comment when ISU was playing a football game against the Huskers, ‘Granny and her Cyclones’ (I think the Cyclones were winning at that moment).  Little Cole picked up the Granny and Cyclones and I became ‘Granny Cyclone’ which all the grandchildren and friends now call me!”

And this touching story came from Bret Wortman (’90 math) of Jeffersonton, Va.:

“Here in Virginia, I became a volunteer paramedic in my spare time and met my wife Holley while we were volunteering at the same rescue squad. We were married on the Potomac River on a paddle wheel steamer on Sept. 8, 2001, just 3 days before everyone’s lives would change forever. Instead of taking my new bride on a honeymoon en route to our new home in Australia, we sat in a hotel in Merrifield, Va., wondering what our future would hold, and whether my new employer would wait long enough to get us onto a flight before deciding to cut me loose — with our worldly possessions packed up and stored who-knows-where.

“We did arrive in Australia in early October and began a four-and-a-half-year residency there, which saw the births of both our children. We got to experience another culture and had the unique experience of seeing America from the outside. Our love of our country just grew even as we saw its imperfections alongside its nobility.”

Finally, here’s a two-for-the-price-of-one story from Mike Risk (’04 MIS), who lives in the Washington, D.C. area:

“Here’s my story, which involves fellow alum Nick Renner (’06 mechanical engineering). Nick and I did not know one another during our initial years of undergrad. I spent most of my time at the Gerdin business school as an MIS major while Nick was doing whatever mechanical engineers do. We both held leadership roles in our fraternities, he at Lambda Chi Alpha and me at Pi Kappa Alpha, and lived at our respective houses. During the summer of 2004, however, we both accepted an internship at Maytag in Newton. And so ignited our friendship over crazy internship events and related social outings. (Unfortunately, I must add that there was a third member of our trifecta who happened to be a Hawkeye.) At the end of our internship, we tried to keep in touch. Nick and I had a saying ‘one night a week’ because that seemed to be how often we stumbled upon each other at Sips, Mickeys, Peoples, Cys, and the occasional Big Shots. (Meanwhile, the Hawkeye was wrapping up a less adequate education in Iowa City.)

“Fast forward to February of 2010.  After working for five years for Ernst & Young in Kansas City, I decided to transfer to our McLean office. My wife and I made the move and soon found out via Facebook that Nick, who had been working with Caterpillar in Peoria, also moved to the Reston area just a month later. We quickly connected and watched a number of Cyclone basketball games at Crystal City Sports Pub (the local gamewatch location).  While Nick and I still hang out “one night every few months,” this story probably wouldn’t be as ironic and unique had the Hawkeye not also moved to D.C. to work for the Redskins! So far in the past two years we have celebrated Mexican Christmas, partied with Russian lifeguards, cheered on the U.S. in the World Cup, attended Redskins games, participated in the Hawkeye’s surprise birthday party, played 18 holes, watched the Super Bowl, and are planning our next gathering as we speak.”

Keep these stories coming, folks. They are so much fun to read! And be sure to post your own stories on your state pages – linked from this website.

Getting ready to travel again

1 Feb

After a long break from VISIONS Across America travel — during which time we’ve celebrated Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Era Pinstripe Bowl in The Bronx — Jim and I are ready to get back on the road. Or, in the case of our next state, up in the air.

We’re heading to Hawaii next week to meet with three Iowa State alumni, all of whom live on the island of Oahu. I won’t give away more than than — you’ll have to follow the blog.

It’ll be a quick turnaround after Hawaii. We’re heading to the Southeast in March, with stops in Atlanta, Georgia; Orangeburg, South Carolina; Oxford, Mississippi; Alabama; and Tennessee. I’m still finalizing the schedule, but it’s getting closer!

Don’t forget to check out the state pages on our website to see what other Iowa State alumni are doing in your state. Be sure to add your own stories and send photos for the state photo galleries.


Last call for alumni stories in southeast states

6 Jan

As we get into the new year, plans are underway for the next two VISIONS Across America trips. First up in February is Hawaii, where we’re meeting with three alumni on the island of Oahu. After that, we’ll be going to the southeast states of Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and South Carolina in March. We may try to include Tennessee in this trip, or we might wait to go there in May — that’s still sort of up in the air.

If you live in any of these southeast states and haven’t sent us your story ideas yet — or if you know alumni who live there who would make great stories for our VISIONS Across America project — please send them to me by next week ( so we can start contacting alumni and firming up our travel plans. We also hope to have an alumni event in Atlanta on or around March 23 — stay tuned for details if you live in that area.

And just so you’re aware, we’re always accepting story ideas for ANY state we haven’t yet covered. This is a two-year process, so we’re working through the country little bits at a time. So far it’s been a blast hearing from so many of you!




Heading out on road trip No. 1

26 Oct

Well, we finally have our first trip planned. It’s been so interesting — and so much fun — to hear from alumni in the states we’re visiting first: Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. You Texas folks are plentiful! We heard from more than two dozen of you. It was so hard to choose! Actually, it was difficult to choose alumni in all four of the states because everyone has such a great story to tell.

One of the questions I’ve been asked the most as I’ve visited with folks about this project (besides “Are you really going to Hawaii?”) is “How are you choosing the alumni to feature in the magazine?” There isn’t an easy answer to this. The alumni we choose will not fit any particular role; it’s not an award that has specific criteria. We are not necessarily looking for the most successful, wealthiest, or most powerful people. We’re looking for alumni first and foremost with great stories to tell. We’re looking for people who are unique and who personify the state in which they live. And we’re looking for all kinds of diversity…all different Iowa State majors, a variety of grad years, different careers, a balance of men and women, ethnic diversity, and widely varied stories to tell. We’re looking for a cross-section of alumni who will truly represent Iowa State.

The hardest part is that we can choose only ONE from each state! So we’re hoping to tell additional stories of alumni we meet right here on this blog.

But back to the first road trip: We’ve chosen to feature an aerospace engineering grad who works for NASA at Houston’s Johnson Space Center… an art and design alum who lives in the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans (the hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina and the resulting flood)… the marketing director for the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City… and a retired counselor in Bella Vista, Ark.

We also have a full day planned in Austin, Texas, but you’ll just have to follow our blog to learn more about that! We’re also hoping to meet with some additional alumni at Johnson Space Center. Those arrangements are still in the works. (I still have another full week in the office next week to get all the details ironed out.)

I hope to post updates each day on the road as long as I have the time…and free wi-fi! So stay tuned!