Steve Bell: Paying forward a passion for teaching

ABEABE lecturer returns to Iowa State after a career’s worth of field experience 

“My career goes back farther than my hairline,” jokes the newest occupational safety engineering lecturer in the ABE department.

Steve Bell couldn’t be more excited to be back at Iowa State. A 1981 ISU graduate in construction engineering, he has returned to teach students all he can about safety in the field.

Bell says the concept of safety in the workplace has evolved enormously in recent years. “We, as a country, are getting safer as measured by fatalities and injuries per capita every year. We’ve always wanted to protect our employees, but not focusing on safety never had a high price before.” He says now vendors have to meet incredibly high safety standards before companies even consider working with them.

This evolution has created a big need for safety jobs in the field, contributing to Iowa State’s decision to add occupational safety as a certificate in the College of Engineering. According to Bell, “Right now, we can’t possibly fill the requests for safety graduates in our state, so there’s a huge potential.”

After completing his master’s in management at Texas A&M, Bell spent more than 30 years in business and industry, working a multitude of projects all across the United States. He spent time in Chicago working on the Chicago Library, Minneapolis creating the original Target Center, Louisville erecting twin 28-story towers, as well as Kansas, Texas, and many other locations. His work in construction focused mainly on commercial, industrial and agri-processing industry segments. But the offer to teach students brought him to academia.

“It’s particularly meaningful to me to now dedicate my career to teaching—both as a profession and as a representative of Iowa State,” Bell says. “Teaching these students, it really doesn’t get any better than that. It’s truly a joy.” Bell is excited to be working with students face-to-face in the classroom, and he embraces the challenges of incorporating new technology. “I’ve got kids on my class list from Kansas State University, and I really want to figure out the best way to engage those distance students.”

Bell is especially thrilled to continue the legacy of the great professors with whom he once worked. “I think of Tom Jellinger, who started the ConE program in the mid-sixties and paid-forward his passion of business that he gained from industry,” he says. “Guys like Associate Professor Emeritus Jerry Chase and my fellow ConE graduate Larry Cormicle, who is a Weitz Faculty Fellow and senior lecturer for CCEE. At the end of the day, it’s really about paying it forward.”