The Second Annual

Wild Iowa

Essay Project (2006)

Sponsored by the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation’s Agrestal Fund

Administered by The Iowa Project on Place Studies

at The University of Iowa

“Wildness” is a self-reliant, spontaneous, awe-invoking state.  The Agrestal Fund (“agrestal” meaning “not domesticated or cultivated; growing wild in the field”) and its partners aspire to foster a statewide rumination about holding on and letting go; about personal and collective journeys seeking balance in nature and life; and the free human spirit living within us all.

Awarded Essays (click on links for full texts of cash award essays):


Adult Category

Ryan Atwell, Ames:  "Human Nature?" ($300 award)

John Pearson, Indianola: "Red Rock Reflections on the Windsong"  ($300 award)

Michael Clark, Iowa City:  "Deep Time" ($200 award)

Jennifer Hall, Lovilia:  "Knees Shook" ($200 award)

Jennifer New, Iowa City: "Beyond the Wild Wood" ($100 award)

Peter A. Fritzell, Jr., Ames:  "Ramblings on Wildness and the Wild in Iowa -- What does/should wildness mean to Iowans?" (Honorable Mention)

Dave Layton, Clinton:  "A Natural Iowa Feast" (Honorable Mention)




Youth Category

Matthew Digman, West Des Moines:  "Iowa Wilderness" ($50 award)

May Atkinson, Iowa City: "Wild in Iowa" (Honorable Mention)

Jessica Schultes, Carroll:  "Wild Iowa" (Honorable Mention)

Neil Wenthe, Ionia:  "Wild In Iowa" (Honorable Mention)




 We would like to thank all our entrants for thinking and writing about wild Iowa.  We value each of your contributions to the conversation about wildness.  Following is a list of all other Essay Project entries:


Nancy Adams-Cogan, Iowa City:  "An Elder Reflects on Wildness"

Paulene Aspel, Iowa City:  "A Wild Encounter, Or Was It?"

Mark Atkinson, Iowa City:  "Balance in Our Beautiful Land"

Patricia J. Atkinson, Iowa City:  "An Iowan's Perspective"

Bob Barta, Iowa City:  "Wild Iowa: Musings"

Catherine Bowman, Iowa City:  "A Hunters Gathering"

Cherie L. Cool-Rudd, Coralville:  "Growing Up Wild"

Wendy S. Henrichs, Iowa City:  "The Iowan Newcomer's Guide to Elbow Room"

Joe Herring, Madrid:  "Wilderness Incognito"

Amy Luttinger, Iowa City:  "Reinventing a Wild Iowa"

Glen Miska, Cedar Rapids:  "Four Seasons in the Wild"

Bonita Moses, North Liberty:  "IowaWild"

Sarah Neary, Iowa City:  "Awakening to the Lush Beauty of Wild Iowa"

Katy Patterson, Ames:  "I slept through Iowa: misconceptions about Iowa's wild places"

Doug Pepe, Ames:  "Our Hidden Heritage"

John M. Sanden, Ogden:  "Wading through the Wa"

Lisa A. Schulte, Ames:  "Am I Natural?"

Sarah West, Altoona:  "Embracing the Wild Within"




Wild Iowa Essay Project Committee


Thomas Dean is Special Assistant to the President of The University of Iowa, responsible for speechwriting, research, reports, and other communications.  He also maintains an adjunct professorial position with the Literature, Science, and the Arts Program.  Dean founded and directs The Iowa Project on Place Studies at the UI.  He received a B.M. in Music History and Literature and a B.A. and M.A. in English, all from Northern Illinois University.  His Ph.D. in English is from The University of Iowa.  After teaching in English and interdisciplinary departments for several years at Cardinal Stritch College (Milwaukee), Michigan State University, and Moorhead State University (Minnesota), Dean moved back to Iowa.  He has published academic and creative writing in the areas of American literature, Midwestern literature, environmental studies, and place studies.  He is currently working on a new literary history of Iowa as well as two books of personal essays on home and place in the Midwest.  He has published essays in the Wapsipinicon Almanac, here: the magazine of where we are, and Ice Cube Press’s Harvest Books, and he writes a regular column about living in place for Little Village, Iowa City’s arts and culture monthly.  Dean enjoys exploring the Iowa countryside with his family—his wife Susan, two children Nathaniel and Sylvia, and four retired racing greyhounds.

Nancy Grudens-Schuck, Ph.D., is associate professor in the Department of Agricultural Education and Studies and is on the faculty of the Graduate Program in Sustainable Agriculture, both at Iowa State University in Ames.  She has degrees in the biological sciences and the social sciences from Cornell University in New York.  She arrived in Iowa in 1999 and now loves the prairie.  Nancy has worked on behalf of the environment for over 25 years by planning, implementing, and evaluating sustainable agricultural education programs.  Her fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry frequently focus on interaction of humans with wildness.  In 2005, Nancy co-facilitated a session on environmental writing with Roger Gipple at the Loess Hills Prairie Seminar. She looks forward to playing a part in stimulating more writing about Iowa's fascinating and important natural environment through the Wild Iowa Essay Project.  She is a 2005 recipient of a Wild Iowa Essay Award for an essay story about prairie restoration.

Bruce Hopkins is a writer, educator, and environmentalist who served as Chief Administrator of Western Hills Area Education Agency, Sioux City, Iowa, before his recent retirement.  Bruce has taught at every level of education as a teacher of Black Studies and Criminology in Nebraska and New York, as a staff member at Iowa State University and visiting professor at Colorado College and The University of Louisiana at Monroe.  Hopkins earned degrees from Wayne State College, Wayne, Nebraska; Montana State University (Masters); and Iowa State University (Ph.D.).  He exhibited as part of interactive art exhibits at the University of Dubuque with Francisco Liccardi; in the Hudson River Valley, Catskill Mountains of New York; and Lake Arts Center in the Adirondack Mountains with Barry Hopkins.  Bruce served as Director of Human Resources for ten years for a large intermediate education agency.  During the farm crisis he was appointed by the Governor to the Iowa Farm Mediation Board (resolving financial disputes between farmers and creditors).

Jeanette L. Hopkins has been a middle and elementary school educator for over 20 years.  She is currently an adjunct professor at Morningside College in Sioux City.  Her curricula centers on a sense of place perspective as she attempts to create an environmental ethic in her students.  In addition, as a Nationally Board Certified Teacher, she mentors student teachers in the reflective aspect of the profession.  She admires the work of Rachel Carson, who believed that words and pictures help you keep alive a child’s inborn sense of wonder and renew your own delight in the mysteries of earth, sea, and sky.  Children need but one adult who will teach them the wonders of wildness.  Jeanette grew up on the prairie and continues to write poetry that addresses the human need for wildness and space.

Jennifer Hoyer is a M.S. student and graduate assistant in the Department of Agricultural Education and Studies at Iowa State University. She serves as associate editor for the Journal of Agricultural Education and as editor of AgComm newsletter for the ISU College of Agriculture’s AgComm communication-across-the-curriculum program.  Jennifer received a B.S. in Horticulture and Journalism and Mass Communication (public relations emphasis) from ISU in 2004.  She is interested in education and communication in the horticulture industry and co-authored an ISU Extension publication/book, Indoor Plants. In her fleeting “free” time, she enjoys baking, photography, and volunteering for the Iowa 4-H program.  A native Iowan, Jennifer experienced wildness first on her grandparents’ Franklin County Century Farm and later during prairie and creek walks as a 4-H camper and camp counselor.  She was introduced to her now-favorite wilderness author, Sigurd Olson, during a 4-H canoe trip to Minnesota’s Boundary Waters region.  She is still seeking her own “Listening Point” and looks forward to the journey.

Steve Semken has been a book publisher for over twelve years through his Ice Cube Press in North Liberty, Iowa.  He is the author of numerous books of essays revolving around the natural world, including River Tips and Tree Trunks, Moving with the Elements, The Tin Prayer: Words of the Wolverine.  His most recent books include a novel, Pick Up Stick City: Restoration Fiction (River’s Bend Press, 2005), and a non-fiction work on great blue herons, The Great Blues (Woodley Press, Washburn University, 2005).  He is also the editor for the biography of Professor Jack Ozegovic, Northern Spirits Distilled.  Steve’s writing has also appeared in anthologies which focus on nature and the environment.  He was the writer-in-residence with the Island Institute in Sitka, Alaska in 2000.   He is the founder of the Standing By Words Center and also began the Harvest Lecture eight years ago, which examines ties between our Iowa environment and ideas of spirituality.  When not writing, biking, or fly fishing, he can be found roving the countryside for mushrooms, berries, hops, and other seasonal delicacies.  The two loves of his life are his wife, Laura, and his favorite little kid and daughter, Fenna Marie.

Jane Shuttleworth is a native of the Iowan surface and Des Moines Lobe.  Currently she is the Executive Director of the Friends of Lakeside Lab, a non-profit support organization for Iowa Lakeside Laboratory, a biological field station located on the shores of Lake West Okoboji in northwest Iowa, of which she is an impassioned alumna. Prior to this position, Jane spent many years in the tropical rainforests and savanna lands of Panama, where she worked on various applied and theoretical conservation projects through the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and the Pro Iguana Verde Foundation.  Following her time in Panama, she worked in the United States as an environmental planner for a civil engineering firm, conducting environmental impact statements, endangered species surveys, and environmental permits for public works projects.  Back in the States, she maintained her ties with Latin America through music, by joining the Iowa–based Andean music group, Alma Iowana, and becoming an amateur ethnomusicologist specializing in Andean flutes and made several trips to the Bolivian and Peruvian altiplano.  At the beginning of the 21st century she settled down and married Hank Miguel and began working at Lakeside, and was instrumental in forming the Dickinson County Water Quality Commission – an entity she helped conceptualize and establish – the first organization of its kind in Iowa devoted to water quality protection and enhancement.  She is also pursuing a PhD in environmental anthropology at the University of Minnesota.