Click to view a profile on each new hire:
Dara Wald, assistant professor
By Lauren Grant
Dara Wald always knew she wanted to work in education, but didn’t pinpoint in what capacity until she was enrolled in graduate school.
“[Graduate school] allows you to do more advanced work when you work with college-aged students,” Wald explained. That experience not only fueled her desire to teach, but uncovered her passion for research as well.
“I discovered how much I loved research. I loved teaching through my research and using my research as examples,” Wald said of her studies, which include work on environmental and science communication, risk communication, collaborative decision making, natural resource conflict and collaboration, network governance and environmental policy.
Wald earned her undergraduate degree in biology (with a minor in theater) from Brandeis University in 2004. She remained in Boston for a time, working as a senior program educator and grant coordinator for the New England Aquarium and as an environmental justice intern for Alternatives for Community and Environment. From there she attended the University of Florida where she earned her master’s and doctoral degrees in wildlife ecology and conservation. Arizona State University was her last stop where she was a postdoctoral scholar for two years until moving to Ames in 2015.
Wald was drawn to Greenlee and Iowa State because of the university’s emphasis on research and the abundance of professors devoted to providing an outstanding education for their students.
“It was so important for me to be in a place that does both well and prioritizes both,” said Wald. “I looked at the faculty ratings of the Greenlee School and they are through the roof; they are fantastic. That’s important to me.”
Last fall, her first semester at Iowa State, Wald taught a graduate course in risk communication. She looks forward to teaching both graduate and undergraduate science communication and technology courses.
Kelly Winfrey, assistant professor
By Kaili Meyer
Politics. It’s what initially drew Kelly Winfrey to Iowa State to work with the Carrie Chapman Catt Center, where she heads up the Ready to Run Campaign, helping women enter politics.
Transitioning in August into the role of assistant professor at the Greenlee School only seemed natural to Winfrey, where she says she’s found a “home” among accepting and exciting colleagues.
Working on bridging the gender gap in politics, Winfrey draws inspiration from strong-willed women who came before her.
“That’s kind of motivating, these people who say ‘you know what, I’m going to do this anyway’,” said Winfrey, referring to women like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a leading figure of the early women’s rights movement.
Already impressed by Iowa State’s student engagement in the classroom and on campus, Winfrey hopes to inspire her students to use critical thinking skills in relation to the messages they’re exposed to by the media, such as advertisements, political ads and television.
Winfrey teaches both a publicity methods class and one on women in leadership. She likes to mix things up and keep her students engaged, making sure to always provide real-world examples and relevant, exciting information.
Though she finds research to be riveting (“I would even call that sometimes a hobby”), Winfrey also loves a good crime show and curling up with a thriller. Her most recent favorite is “The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins.
Though she loves teaching and conducting research, Winfrey could see herself on the other side, perhaps holding her own office someday. Somewhere down the road she may run for something more local, maybe a city council seat.
Although moving from her home state of Kansas to Iowa wasn’t a huge change in geographic location, Winfrey has found her niche.
“You want to be here,” said Winfrey, referring to Iowa State University, her new home.
Catherine Huggins, lecturer
By Jessi Wilson
A Drake University senior patiently waited outside her faculty adviser’s office. Dr. Henry Milam was running late that day, and the student’s gaze shifted to a job posting hung on a nearby bulletin board. It advertised an internship at the governor’s office in Des Moines.
That will be a competitive interview process, the public relations major thought. And despite having three internships under her belt, she applied to gain more experience interviewing.
During the final interview, Gov. Terry Branstad reached out his hand and said, “Catherine, welcome to the team.”
“I joke about this,” said Catherine Huggins, a new lecturer in the Greenlee School. “If my professor wasn’t late that day, it would have changed the whole direction of my career.”
Her career started at Drake University where Huggins graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communication after majoring in public relations. She later graduated with an MBA with an emphasis in marketing from the University of Iowa.
Today, along with lecturing, Huggins is the executive vice president of Huggins Consulting Group, a virtual marketing communications agency she started in 2009 with her husband, Jeff Huggins.
Before becoming an entrepreneur, Huggins held a variety of positions including chief speechwriter and deputy press secretary to Gov. Branstad; chief adviser to Iowa Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds; and assistant vice president of corporate communications at Western & Southern Financial Group, a Fortune 500 company. For her, being a lecturer is “icing on the cake.”
Huggins is a lecturer for public relations and advertising courses including research and strategic planning, public relations writing, advertising creativity, ad account management and media management.
“I really believe that future generations are going to solve the issues of our nation and the world,” Huggins said. “One of my main focuses is to make the classroom environment mirror real-life situations.”
The Michigan native said she is a proud “adopted Iowan” who, through her past work, has traveled to 70 percent of Iowa. Along with travel, she and her husband love the outdoors, sports, fine wines and their dog, Kubuli Moon Wolf – a Norwegian elkhound named after the official beer of an island in the West Indies.
Gavin Aronsen, graduate assistant
By John Kruse
Gavin Aronsen had just finished his work at the offices of Mother Jones magazine. He packed up his stuff and headed out. However, instead of heading home, as so many of his fellow employees did, Aronsen instead drove out to the city of Oakland. There, Aronsen threw himself into the streets with police and the protesters of the Occupy Oakland movement. As tear gas grenades leapt into crowds, and protesters chanted in unison over the sirens of police vehicles, Aronsen tweeted the entire display. He said it was an unforgettable experience, and it’s one of the many experiences he hopes to share with his new classes.
A Greenlee graduate himself, Aronsen has returned to Iowa State University to complete his master’s degree. While working toward his master’s, he is also teaching two classes, beginning reporting and writing, and public affairs reporting. Both classes focus on the basics in reporting and news writing. Aronsen said he hopes to pass along the skills he learned from working at esteemed publications like Mother Jones with his students.
“I always liked the idea of going out to the coast, and after a few years, you come back and share the lessons you learn,” Aronsen said. “I guess this is a pretty good way of doing that.”
After graduating from ISU, Aronsen moved out to the West Coast to work for Mother Jones, along with contributing to major publications like Al Jazeera America and Daily Beast. In 2013, Aronsen returned to Iowa to write for the Ames Tribune. While working there, he reunited with several of his old professors. One professor, Dennis Chamberlin, recommended he enroll in the master’s program.
Aronsen said he looks forward to the experience of teaching the same types of students he used to be just a few years ago.