Catt Center Highlights: Three Decades of Engagement

Since 1992, the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics at Iowa State University has promoted civic engagement and elevated the voices of women political leaders through research, education, and student scholarships and internships.

The Catt Center programs and initiatives are a product of the generous support of donors and friends, as well as a number of grants. We thank you for your enduring support!


Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics is established
The Catt Center was established on September 23, 1992, by the Board of Regents for the State of Iowa as the second university-based center for women and politics in the United States.


Carrie Chapman Catt Prize for Research on Women and Politics is established
This annual competition encourages and rewards scholars embarking on significant research in the area of women and politics. Since the first prize was awarded in 1995, a total of $144,100 has been awarded to 133 research projects.

Plaza of Heroines is established
The plaza was first developed as part of the fundraising effort to renovate Old Botany, now known as Carrie Chapman Catt Hall. The Catt Center took over the administration of the plaza in 2005. Today, more than 4,000 women and organizations are honored in the plaza.


Mary Louise Smith Chair in Women and Politics is announced
This lecture series brings nationally renowned political leaders, scholars, and activists to Iowa State University. It honors Iowa native and longtime political and civic leader Mary Louise Smith – the first woman to chair the Republican National Committee. Since the first lecture in fall 1996, 35 women elected officials, journalists, and scholars have visited campus as the recipient of the chair.


Legacy of Heroines Scholarship Program launches
This program provides financial support, mentoring, and leadership development opportunities for students who seek involvement in and knowledge about gender and politics, the political process, public service, and women’s leadership. Since its inception, the program has provided scholarships to 279 students through the generous support of donors.

New director hired
Dr. Dianne Bystrom is hired as the Catt Center director after a national search. She directed the center for 22 years.

Civic engagement work begins
The Catt Center coordinates civic engagement activities throughout the year for students and members of the university and Ames communities, often forming partnerships among student, campus, and civic organizations. The center annually sponsors voter registration drives. In election years, the Catt Center sponsors debate watches, candidate forums, and caucus education programs.


Archives of Women’s Political Communication is created
This web-based resource now contains more than 2,800 speeches, interviews, and debates and nearly 3,000 political ads from more than 730 current and historical women political leaders from around the world. This unique resource, utilized by researchers from the United States and around the world, averages more than 20,000 page visits each month.


First Women Impacting ISU calendar is published
The annual calendar honors 12 current students, faculty, and staff who have distinguished themselves through their actions, accomplishments, and involvement at Iowa State University. With the publication of the 2022 calendar, 180 women have been honored.

Ready to Run® Iowa: Campaign Training for Women first offered by the Catt Center
This nonpartisan campaign training program, offered every other spring, encourages women to run for elected office, position themselves for appointed office, work on a campaign, or become involved in public life as leaders in their communities. Since 2007, more than 500 women and men – including a record 172 people in 2017 – have participated in the program, which is presented as part of a national training network.


Undergraduate certificate in leadership studies is established
Now known as the Leadership Studies Program and coordinated outside the Catt Center, the certificate was created under Bystrom’s direction in 2008. A minor was added in 2014.


Women in Iowa Politics Database is established
On its website, the Catt Center publishes information it collects on the status of Iowa women in elected and appointed office. Since 2011, the center has published 75 reports on women elected to local, county, state, and federal office on this database. A student internship funded with private funds supports this research initiative.


Gender Balance Project is created
Through this initiative, the Catt Center collects and publishes statistics on the gender composition of county and municipal boards and commissions. Iowa is the only state in the nation with gender balance requirements for state (since 1987) and county and municipal (since 2012) boards and commissions. A student internship funded with private funds supports this research initiative.


Global Leadership Study Abroad Program is launched
The Stanley Global Leaders fund, coordinated through the Catt Center, provides annual scholarships to students to participate in the study abroad program coordinated through the Leadership Studies Program. Participants study leadership theories and practices in a global setting while earning 3 hours of academic credit by taking LD ST 333: Gender and Leadership.

Vermeer International Leadership Program is initiated
During this year-long, in-depth leadership experience, students took courses and traveled together as a cohort while they studied leadership in multi-national companies. The program, which ran for five academic years, was made possible through a partnership with the Vermeer Corp. of Pella, Iowa.

Affiliation with Andrew Goodman Foundation begins
Coordinated through the Catt Center, Iowa State begins its participation in the Andrew Goodman Vote Everywhere program, a national, non-partisan, civic engagement movement of student leaders and university partners.


Catt Center collaborates on Manatt-Phelps Lecture in Political Science
Beginning in 2016, the Catt Center has collaborated with the Department of Political Science on planning and publicizing the annual Manatt-Phelps Lecture in Political Science. Since its inception in 2002, the Manatt-Phelps Lecture has hosted 18 national and global leaders who share their insights on the United States and its place in the world.

ISU joins NSLVE; receives national recognition
Iowa State, under the Catt Center’s leadership, joins the National Study of Learning Voting and Engagement (NSLVE) and earns a Silver Badge for its student voter turnout (62%).


Dianne Bystrom inducted into Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame
Dianne Bystrom receives this major honor upon her retirement as the Catt Center director.

ISU joins ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge; wins awards
Iowa State, under the Catt Center leadership, joins the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge in 2018. Iowa State receives a Gold Award for its student voter turnout (43.4%) and is recognized by the Iowa Challenge for having the largest percentage increase from 2014 to 2018 (19%).


Dianne Bystrom receives LAS Distinguished Service Award
The award is given to alumni, faculty, staff and friends of the College of LAS for outstanding service or academic contributions that have furthered the educational mission of the college.

Kelly Winfrey selected to deliver the LAS Dean’s Lecture
Winfrey’s presentation was titled “Gender and Communication on the Campaign Trail.”

New director arrives in Ames
Dr. Karen M. Kedrowski begins her tenure as the Catt Center director in January 2019. She was hired through a national search.

Vertically Integrated Project (VIP) for undergraduate research is launched
The Catt Center begins facilitating a vertically integrated project with undergraduate students to complete long-term, multi-year research projects, the first for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and one of only a handful of such projects at Iowa State.


19th Amendment Centennial Commemoration
The Catt Center is a key member of the statewide committee commemorating the centennial of the 19th Amendment’s ratification, which adopted the theme “Hard Won. Not Done.” The center, along with the Office on the Status of Women, hosts the day-long kickoff of the statewide celebration of the centennial. Catt Center personnel contribute to the high school suffrage curriculum distributed throughout Iowa and collaborate with the Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa on a “Celebrating the History of Women’s Right to Vote” patch. The center also hosts the statewide closing event, which was delayed until 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Toward a Universal Suffrage: African American Women in Iowa and the Vote for All” traveling exhibit debuts
A collaboration between the Iowa Department of Human Rights’ Office on the Status of Women, the Central Iowa Community Museum and the Catt Center, this exhibit honors and celebrates the contributions of African American women in Iowa to the women’s suffrage movement.

Student voting engagement work expands; wins more awards
President Wendy Wintersteen names Karen Kedrowski as the campus leader for student voter engagement and is instrumental in establishing the Big XII Votes Challenge, which Kedrowski leads. As part of the engagement efforts, the Catt Center distributes a Canvas (learning management system) module to faculty campus wide, which was downloaded over 200 times. Iowa State receives the Best Action Plan award from the Big XII Challenge (tie) and the Iowa Challenge and a Gold Award for its student voter turnout (72.9%), and is the first campus in Iowa to receive Voter Friendly Campus designation.

Catt Center joins Iowa History Advisory Board
The Catt Center is invited to join the Iowa History Advisory Board, a statewide organization dedicated to providing resources on Iowa history to Iowa social studies teachers at all levels.


ERA curriculum grant awarded
The Catt Center is awarded a grant from the 19th Amendment Centennial Commemoration Committee to develop an Iowa high school curriculum on the history of the Equal Rights Amendment, in advance of the 2023 centennial of its first introduction to Congress.

Catt Center collaborates on student voter engagement strategies
The Catt Center begins a three-semester collaboration with the Department of Political Science and the Student Innovation Center to develop student voter engagement strategies.

Karen Kedrowski selected to lead Big XII Votes Challenge
Kedrowski was invited to coordinate the Big XII Votes Challenge, a friendly competition between the ten institutions in the Big 12 Conference.


ISU wins more student voter engagement awards
Iowa State was awarded the Highly Established Action Plan and the Most Engaged Campuses for College Student Voting seals from the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge.

Karen Kedrowski named Andrew Goodman Foundation Campus Champion of the Year
Kedrowski was honored by the Andrew Goodman Foundation with its Hidden Heroes 2022 Campus Champion of the Year Award, which recognizes an Andrew Goodman Foundation Campus Champion who creates and supports sustainable pathways of engagement between university administration and the student body at large.