Paul Lasley’s career at Iowa State has provided him an opportunity to tackle a wide variety of projects and responsibilities. Upon starting at Iowa State in 1981, Lasley created the Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll, providing timely and relevant information on agriculture and rural life that is still in place today. He also helped create courses within the sociology program at the university that focus on ethics and changes in agriculture.
But for all those successes, it’s the relationships he has built that Lasley is most proud of. A lifetime of work trying to understand and improve life in rural Iowa has made him a trusted voice across the state.
“I’ve worked hard to develop a rapport with stakeholders across the state to be an independent and impartial voice on change in our communities and in our state,” Lasley said. “I get a number of calls to offer commentary and to provide analytical assessments of current issues, but also to offer my opinion and perspective.”
What is the best part of working for ISU Extension and Outreach?
Working as a team member with other extension professionals, state agencies, producers and community leaders. I enjoy the diversity of working with stakeholders across agriculture and throughout rural communities. It’s very rewarding to see how people can come together and work together to solve common problems.
What drew you to Iowa State?
A job. Both my wife and I are from Missouri and we wanted to stay in the Midwest. I wanted a career examining how agriculture and rural communities are changing and what land grant universities can do to help in those adjustments.
Do you have any big upcoming projects or events?
I am currently the chair of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ Sustainability Task Force. I believe that sustainability is going to continue to be a major theme in production agriculture across the world. As the world’s population continues to increase and attention grows on reducing our carbon footprints, sustainability is going to be central in these discussions. How can we produce more with less adverse effects to the environment?
Name one fun thing about yourself that not many people know.
I’m pretty transparent, but not many people know I was in the movie The Bridges of Madison County. At the time I had a 1954 Chevy pickup that they wanted to use as a prop in the film. So I got to spend a day on the set as they shot the movie, even got to meet Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood.
What do you do in your free time?
I have a cabin out by the 4-H camp in Boone and I try to find a few hours each week to do some woodworking. I also enjoy being outdoors, especially watching birds. For many years I had my own jazz music ensemble, Paul Lasley and the Guys. We spent about 25 years playing big band music across central Iowa. My first love growing up was music and I contemplated becoming a professional musician for many years. I even received a scholarship to the University of Kansas to study music.
How do you create a #StrongIowa?
You can talk about strength as an individual dimension, but strength is not maximizing one thing over another. Strength is addressing all the factors important in raising everyone. There are two dimensions that creates long lasting strength in Iowa – the quality of life for its residents and its natural resources. Addressing those twin categories and keeping them in balance is what will allow Iowa to achieve sustainable, long-term strength.