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Bystrom to retire after two decades as director of Catt Center at ISU


After 22 years serving as a pioneer for women’s leadership programs at Iowa State University and an advocate for the advancement for women in politics, Dianne Bystrom, director of the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics, will retire at summer’s end.

Bystrom, who also directed ISU’s interdisciplinary Leadership Studies Program for 10 years, was instrumental in developing and building the Catt Center, the nation’s second oldest university-based center for women and politics.

“I’ve loved my time at Iowa State, which has spanned more than one-half of my professional career,” Bystrom said in release. “The opportunity to help build a now nationally recognized center that educates and engages citizens – especially women – in the political process has been absolutely rewarding.” 

Bystrom came to Iowa State University following a 17-year career at University of Oklahoma, where she worked as a writer for News Services, director of communications for the Office of the President and as assistant provost. She learned of the job at the Catt Center from the pages of the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Bystrom — who wrote a dissertation that looked at whether the media are fair to female candidates — was ready for a challenge that allowed her to work directly with students, as well as an opportunity that bring her closer to her parents in Nebraska.

“I am always looking for a new way to reach college students and to encourage all people, especially women, to get involved in politics,” Bystrom said in an earlier interview with the Business Record. 

When Bystrom arrived at Iowa State, the Catt Center had only a few programs – three of which, the Carrie Chapman Catt Prize for Research on Women and Politics, the Legacy of Heroines scholarship program, and the Mary Louise Smith Chair in Women and Politics – are still active today. During her tenure, Bystrom worked to expand opportunities for students to gain leadership experiences and mentoring.

She also oversees the massive online Archives of Women’s Political Communication, spearheaded Ready to Run Iowa, the first bipartisan campaign training workshop in Iowa, helped create the Women in Iowa Politics Database, and raised funds to hire an undergraduate student research assistant to track the representation of women on city and county boards and commissions through the Gender Balance Project. 

“Thanks to Dianne’s extraordinary leadership, the Catt Center has become a centerpiece of ISU’s outreach and engagement efforts, encouraging citizens – and especially women – to engage with politics and the political process,” Beate Schmittmann, dean of ISU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said in a release. 

Bystrom’s work and contributions have been recognized through numerous awards and honors. She was named a Des Moines Business Record Woman of Influencein 2017. 

Bystrom’s final day with the Catt Center is Aug. 10. As for what’s next, Bystrom and her husband have a lake house in their home state of Nebraska where she said she intends to stay busy in politics by working with several organizations. The Bystroms will also spend more time traveling, including visits to their children in Ohio and New York City.

The Catt Center is accepting applications for the position of director. The deadline to apply is April 1 with an anticipated start date of Aug. 16. More information can be found online

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