Iowa State is one of a kind

Iowa State University is a very special place, full of history. But what truly makes Iowa State unique is a rare combination of campus beauty, the opportunity to be a part of the land-grant experiment, and the progressive and inventive spirit of the Cyclone experience.

The Iowa Agricultural College and Model Farm was established on March 22, 1858. In 1862, the Iowa legislature accepted the provision of the Morrill Act, which was awarded to the agricultural college in 1864. When it opened its doors in 1869, Iowa State was among the first of a new generation of distinctly American colleges built on three revolutionary ideas: College should be open to everyone, regardless of pocketbook or gender; practical subjects like agriculture, science, and engineering should be taught along with the traditional classical education; and knowledge should be shared beyond the borders of campus.

The first class (24 men and 2 women) graduated in 1872. Iowa State established the nation's first state veterinary medicine school in 1879. In 1959, the college was officially renamed Iowa State University of Science and Technology. The focus on technology has led directly to many research patents and inventions including the first binary computer, Maytag blue cheese, the round hay baler, and more.

Headshot of George Washington Carver

Doors open to all

Thirty-seven women joined 136 men in Iowa State's inaugural class. Former slave George Washington Carver came to Iowa State in 1891 and earned a bachelor's degree in 1894. Because of his excellence in botany and horticulture, he was appointed to the Iowa State faculty, becoming the university's first African American faculty member. Today, Iowa State enrolls students from every state in the nation and 120-plus countries.

Archived black and white photo of an early traveling extension group posing on the train caboose

Taking the college to the people

Adonijah Welch, Iowa State's first president, set the tone in 1870 when he held three-day farmer institutes throughout Iowa. In the early 1900s, agronomist Perry Holden, with the help of the railroads, literally put his classroom on wheels. In his "Seed Corn Gospel Train," he traveled the state, teaching farmers how to select and test corn to get the best seed. The novel teaching technique caught on and soon educational trains, offering expertise on all kinds of agricultural topics, were rolling throughout the nation. These early forays beyond the campus borders blossomed into the modern day extension and outreach specialists, who transfer university expertise to all 99 Iowa counties.

Did you know?

  • Archived black and white photo of a couple kissing under the campanile


    A student officially becomes an Iowa Stater when kissed under the campanile at the stroke of midnight.

  • Dance squad member holds a "power" sign above her head during a game


    The nickname stuck after an Iowa State football win in 1895. The Chicago Tribune wrote: “Northwestern might as well have tried to play football with an Iowa cyclone as with the Iowa team it met yesterday."

  • Archived black and white photo of the original Cy mascot

    Cy the mascot

    The athletics mascot was "born" in 1954. Since a cyclone was difficult to depict in costume, a cardinal was selected in a nod to the school colors of cardinal and gold.

  • The Memorial Union reflected in the calm waters of Lake LaVerne

    Lake LaVerne

    If you walk around Lake LaVerne silently three times with your beloved, you are destined to be together.

  • Swans Lancelot and Elaine on the shore of Lake LaVerne

    Lancelot and Elaine

    Lake LaVerne has been home to a pair of swans with the same monikers since 1935. The current pair consists of two females.

  • Archived black and white photo of The Zodiac floor artwork

    The Zodiac

    Students studiously avoid stepping on The Zodiac bronze relief embedded in the floor of the Memorial Union's Gold Star Hall to avoid flunking their next exam. To be honest, staff, faculty, and alumni usually sidestep it, too.

"The College Tour" video series featured Iowa State University in its recent release. In this segment, Emma Plum shares the stories behind some Cyclone traditions.
The marching band and twirler perform during a pregame pep rally outside the Alumni building