LAS names three new program leaders

CATEGORIES: News, Notable
sidewalk leading up to building with trees on each side, reads LAS Update

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (LAS) appointed new leadership for three academic programs.

Tara Widner, associate teaching professor, has been named interim director of the Leadership Studies Program. Widner joined the department in 2016 where she has taught courses on leadership theory, group dynamics, integrity, ethics, cultural competency, change processes, and social justice.

Widner’s research interests include global leadership, higher education, cultural competency, study abroad, undergraduate leadership education, and effective teaching methods. She has authored numerous articles and book reviews. She also leads the Global Leadership study abroad program.

Widner earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin – River Falls, a master’s degree in higher educational leadership from Oklahoma State University, and a Ph.D. in leadership studies from the University of San Diego. Prior to teaching at Iowa State, Widner helped coordinate and teach the leadership studies minor at the University of San Diego, and served as assistant director for leadership programs at the University of Iowa.


Kelly Winfrey, associate professor and director of graduate education in the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication, has been named interim director of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program.

In addition to her faculty role, Winfrey served as coordinator of research and outreach for the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics from 2014-2022. She teaches courses in women and leadership, political campaigns, public relations, and journalism.

Winfrey’s research focuses on political communication and gender. She has published studies about women as political candidates, women voters, and campaign communication. She teaches classes in political campaigns, public relations, communication and leadership.  Her book, “Understanding How Women Vote: Gender Identity and Political Choices,” was published in 2018.

Winfrey earned a bachelor’s degree in communication from Emporia State University, a master’s degree in communication with an emphasis on gender from Missouri State University, and a Ph.D. in communication studies from the University of Kansas.


Lt. Col. Eric Lopez, professor and chair of the Department of Aerospace Studies, has been named detachment commander of Iowa State’s Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC) Detachment 250. In this role, he is responsible for the recruitment and comprehensive military education of officer candidates from four universities.

Lopez became an ROTC commissioned officer in 2006 at the University of Georgia. He most recently served as director of operations for the 741st missile squadron at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota. His operational experience includes combat mission ready status with the Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile and Nuclear Command, Control, and Communications weapon systems. Lopez has also held numerous leadership positions at the squadron, group, and major command staff levels, including deputy branch chief of the U.S. Air Force in Europe-Air Forces Africa Command Center.

Lopez earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the University of Georgia, a master’s degree in administrative leadership from the University of Oklahoma, and a master’s degree in military operational art and science from Air University.