Shaking My Head - lol ;-0

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about something that happened about 2 years ago in one of my classes. 

I teach industrial design to 19-23 year old students and also graduate student who are usually mid 20’s to 30’s and older.  

While helping an undergrad with some computer prototyping, I  resaved her file by adding my three initials to the beginning of her file name in order for her to more easily differentiate between her original and my suggestions.

“Why did you say that?” She asked. 

“Say what?” I countered. I literally had not made a sound.

”Shaking my head.” She explained.

“I didn’t say anything”. 

She pointed to the screen explaining “Right here on the file name. You added smh ‘Shaking My Head’ to the beginning.”

I looked at her and with an appropriate pause replied “Those are my initials,  Steven Michael Herrnstadt.”

”oh.”  “Really?” 


All I could think of was that it really explained a lot about my life. 

Later I decided that given my family’s sense of humor, it is entirely possible that my parents accidentally discovered time travel, emerged 60 years into the future, discovered emojis and  associated acronyms then came back to 1953 chuckling to themselves.  And later, during my naming, snickered in low voices to each other “this is great, in a few decades it’ll be hilarious.” 

Some days I feel older than other days.... 

smh 2018

Humans, education, the new Envronmental Pillage Administration (formally EPA) and our common context

I recently came across a 2001 Iowa State Daily article about a former student of mine Rachel Hein who was an environmentalist and had taken part in a 220 person protest in front of Menards. The link is at the end of this post.

It applies even more given the new assault on our public lands and our planet as a whole.

"Steven Herrnstadt, associate professor of art and design who taught Hein in some classes, said he is pleased to have a student who is not learning to "fit the proper cubicle.""Everything we learn and teach here is not without the context of greater experience," Herrnstadt said. "Everything has an interconnection to … a ripple effect on everything else."Herrnstadt said universities need to have a social obligation to explain these concepts to students."The workings of our society and the world are not understood well enough by us to cast aside what the environmentalists and humanists have to say as merely 'tree hugging' nonsense," he said.

STEM and Business/entrepreneurship need to be taught in context of the humanities, ethics and the arts. Otherwise advancement and innovation becomes about short term profit an solutions only. It will lack the vision of historical events which should serve to illustrate benefits/detriments. Parsing our knowledge into the smaller departments/subjects that current education finds comfortable but not bringing them into the greater gestalt invariable means that pieces are left behind. The mere sum of the parts is rarely perhaps never equal to the whole. All subjects need to be emphasized in our educational systems, particularly at the levels of higher education. BUT more than that, universities must emphasize Collaboration. And it must be collaboration without ego's. 

smh 2017

Fracking and drilling in national parks and national forests

This is a letter I modified to the President. The first few paragraphs are mine. The rest are the NRDC


President Obama,

I have been going to and enjoying the visual, aural, and scent solitude of these lands for over 50 years. I shared that with my children. I want to share it with my grandchildren.  Fracking, drilling, etc. will destroy the last vestiges of my rights to enjoy the lands set aside for the public to enjoy. It does not belong to the energy companies to destroy the solitude and beauty that we need for the physical and emotional health of this country.

Not everyone loves living and spending time in the cities. Many of us cannot afford to take trips to exotic places that the CEOs can assuming they want to. These are the last places that the middle and lower classes can consider their refuge.

I have already seen mountaintops where I used to hike and camp disappear. I have gone back to remote areas that were once silent and pristine to find distant noise and reduced visibility and no trespassing notices. 

I’m writing to urge you not to allow oil and gas companies to frack in our national forests and near our national parks. 

These are America’s best and most unique places and they should be kept safe for future generations.

You can just imagine the impact on wildlife and rivers and streams if we allow the industry to bulldoze their way into publicly owned forests, inject tons of chemical-laden water into the land, fracture the rock deep beneath the surface, and truck out highly toxic wastewater, all while spewing diesel fumes and climate-changing methane into the air.

Please declare our nation’s parks and forests safe from fracking.

Steven Herrnstadt

"resident mammal"

University Professor

Professor, Industrial Design

Director of Graduate Education 

Iowa State University


A petition to save Walnut Canyon AZ from future development

This is is the text from an email I received from Photographer and Environmentalist Bruce Barnbaum. He also happens to be a friend of mine. 

" Walnut Canyon. One of the folks getting these blogs is a good friend and environmental activist in Flagstaff, AZ, currently fighting to protect Walnut Canyon, a deep, awesome canyon that is within the city limits. I’ve taken workshop groups into Walnut Canyon, and can tell you that this remarkable canyon is worthy of park status, yet is vulnerable to development. Not only is it eye-popping from the landscape point of view, but it also contains artifacts of ancient Anasazi occupation from hundreds—perhaps thousands of years ago. So it is not only a spectacular cleft in the landscape, but it is an archeological treasure, as well. Here is the link to a petition to support protection for Walnut Canyon:
 (NOTE: If the link doesn’t work directly, please copy and paste it into a web search. "

BTW.... Why "resident mammal"?

I get asked that a lot. It is a title I took about 25 years ago at Iowa State University. It has been in my ISU signature for about as long and on my business cards.

The short answer is that it has to do with remembering our place within the interconnections and scheme of the world.

Our species is the most arrogant on the planet....

Except, perhaps, for cats..... who simply don't care....