MONICA SHOPE LURSEN (BS ’72 dietetics) is a champion for nutrition and dietetics in the state of Iowa. The fourth-generation Iowa farmer serves as the executive director of the Iowa Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Lursen first became interested in dietetics through her mother’s sister, Kay Louise Johnson Raymond, a 1938 Iowa State graduate in experimental cookery. Her aunt served the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) as a first lieutenant during World War II, spending time in the Philippines feeding malnourished prisoners of war.
“My aunt had many interesting stories and I went to Iowa State with plans to follow in her footsteps until meeting my future husband in my sophomore year,” she said.
Two years later, she married Larry Lursen (BS ’70, animal science) and moved to Indianapolis to finish a dietetic internship. The couple returned to Iowa in 1974 to help on Larry’s family farm in Butler County near Shell Rock. Since his death in 2011, Monica has managed the farm with help from their two sons, Christopher (BS ’02 ag systems technology) and Patrick, and their families.
“Iowa State has had a significant impact on my life – the people I have met, the relationships I have developed, the knowledge I have gained, and the opportunities presented affect my daily life so profoundly,” she said. “Despite my degree being in dietetics, I now find agriculture to be my daily challenge, yet Iowa State had given me the basis for taking any challenge and making it work!”
In addition to her aunt being an ISU alumna, Lursen points to her grandfather, O.W. Johnson, who received a plant husbandry degree in 1909 and founded a hybrid seed corn company near LeGrand, Iowa. Her mother, Myrna Johnson Shope, also began an Iowa State career in 1940, before being called home in 1942 to help on the family farm during World War II. Lursen points to her sister-in-law, Mary Lursen, an ISU alumna who taught in the Davenport Public Schools for more than 20 years and was an influential part of her life.
In addition to managing the farm, Lursen has served as a nutrition therapy manager, a diabetes program coordinator, a certified LifeSteps facilitator, a corporate dietitian, and a nutrition educator. She is a past member of the ISU College of Human Sciences Dean’s Advisory Council. In 2011, she established a scholarship in her husband’s memory in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Another scholarship, in her mother’s memory, was started in 2012 in the College of Human Sciences.
Lursen said she loves having four grandchildren on nearby farms and enjoys sewing quilts and scrapbooking. Her motto is to “Be all that you can be – the Lord has given you the tools – use them wisely and to his glory.”
Dean of the College of Human Sciences, Laura Jolly: The College of Human Sciences chose to honor Monica Lursen as an alumna and extraordinary leader of the Iowa Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and supporter of the college through philanthropy and engagement on the Dean’s Advisory Council.