Laura Jolly (right), the new dean and Dean’s Chair of the College of Human Sciences, aims to connect people, broaden networks, and advocate for Iowa State University’s top-ranked programs to have state-of-the-art facilities. Photo by Ryan Riley.

Jolly aims to connect people, broaden networks

Laura Dunn Jolly is a leader who works to connect people and broaden networks.

She describes her leadership style as one that is hands-on and collaborative. She wants people to know that the door to her office and to the college is open.

“I like to be around people,” she said. “I want to get out there. I don’t mind getting into the weeds. I can go from the weeds to the sky.”

Jolly is the new dean and Dean’s Chair of the College of Human Sciences. She most recently served as a professor of textiles, merchandising, and interiors at the University of Georgia.

She is an authority on retailing, particularly retailing in rural areas and its effect on economic growth in rural communities. This summer, she was among 130 leaders recognized nationally in a new book for making significant contributions to the field of family and consumer sciences.

Jolly has a passion for helping people achieve their goals. She embraces the College of Human Sciences’ motto of “expanding human potential, improving people’s lives” through health and wellness, education and human development, science and technology, and community and entrepreneurship.

“Every department touches people,” she said. “It’s that important common denominator.”

Broadening networks

Jolly’s vision includes enhancing the College of Human Sciences’ research profile by broadening its networks — both across campus and with national initiatives. She wants the college to leave its imprint.

“We are thinking big,” she said. “I would like to see us broaden our networks in the college, within the university, within the region, and nationally. These national initiatives are going to be really exciting, and they’re in a number of areas.”

Possibilities include working within the research hub for the National Science Foundation, and with the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities in areas such as healthy food systems.

“We are very active in health and wellness from a number of angles, from nutrition to exercise to child development, education, and financial help,” Jolly said. “I think there’s opportunity to broaden that.”

Her goals include continuing the college’s momentum of increasing the number of faculty members and graduate students, and increasing external funding for their research — which align with the university’s key initiatives.

Additionally, she hopes to align the appropriate number of staff to best support the enrollment increase the college has experienced over the past several years.

State-of-the-art facilities

Jolly said she will also be advocate for Iowa State University’s top-ranked programs to have state-of-the-art facilities.

“I will be a champion for that,” she said. “There’s a need to continue facilities improvement.”

Jolly begins as leader of the College of Human Sciences as the college is finalizing more than $18 million in building improvements. Remodeling projects are complete in MacKay and Lagomarcino halls, and are underway in the Forker Building.

Looking ahead, the college is conducting a study to potentially rebuild LeBaron Hall, first constructed in 1958, and renovate portions of the Human Nutritional Sciences Building and MacKay Hall.

Jolly said facilities are key in reflecting an organization, creating connectivity, and allowing students to showcase their work.

“It’s that first impression,” she said. “We want our space to reflect the excellence of our programs.”

A small world

Health and wellness is a key initiative of the College of Human Sciences. Students, alumni, faculty, and staff of the college work to improve all dimensions of health and well-being — from physical to emotional, social, intellectual, spiritual, financial, occupational, and environmental.

Jolly walks three miles every morning as part of her own ritual of healthy living.

While she’s from the South, she said it hasn’t been a tough transition moving to the Midwest. She said the people are friendly and Iowa’s farm communities are similar to where she grew up.

Several Iowa State faculty members and alumni are familiar with Jolly. She went to graduate school at Oklahoma State University’s College of Home Economics with Bob Bosselman, professor and chair of apparel, events, and hospitality management. Their dean at that time was Beverly Crabtree, who served as dean of Iowa State’s College of Family and Consumer Sciences from 1987 to 1997.

“Laura was a recognized leader among our cadre of graduate students at OSU,” Bosselman said. “It was clear that she was destined to be someone who would make a difference in the field. I’m thrilled to have her join our College of Human Sciences. Our next decade will be one of continued excellence through her vision and leadership.”

Prior to coming to Iowa State, Jolly also collaborated on research with professor Linda Niehm and professor emeritus Mary Lynn Damhorst in apparel, events, and hospitality management.

“It’s a small world,” she said. “Some alums are people I’ve known throughout my career.”

On a personal note, Jolly said she enjoys good food, cookbooks, and movies. She’s looking forward to enjoying her first Iowa winter and cross-country skiing.