Biosciences proposal goes to regents next week

Iowa State leaders hope to receive state Board of Regents approval for two biosciences projects -- an addition to Bessey Hall and a new teaching/research building – when the board meets June 4 in Ames. The meeting, scheduled for 230 Scheman Building, begins with committee meetings from 9 a.m. to noon. The full board convenes at 1 p.m., and its agenda is online. There will be live audio streaming of public portions of the meeting.

A proposed four-story addition to the east side of Bessey Hall would cost $28 million and be funded by state appropriations. It would house undergraduate teaching labs and research labs for two departments (ecology, evolution and organismal biology, and genetics, development and cell biology), two general university classrooms and support space. The fourth floor would remain undeveloped for now. The proposal includes modernizing about 8,000 square feet of space in Bessey.

The proposed Advanced Teaching and Research Building, a five-story building with roof greenhouse, would be located on the northwest corner of the Stange Road-Pammel Drive intersection. The cost, $52 million, would be covered by state appropriations ($22 million), university funds ($20 million) and private gifts ($10 million). It would house the plant pathology and microbiology department and portions of two others: the entomology department and the genetics, development and cell biology department. It would include space for research and related support, faculty and graduate student offices, teaching labs, formal and informal collaboration, department administration, a plant diagnostic clinic and a general university lecture hall. The fifth floor would be undeveloped for now. The proposal includes $500,000 to demolish Industrial Education II, built in 1926, which currently stands on the site.

Settlement for retirement accounts

The board will be asked to approve a proposal to distribute $2.5 million among regent employees' TIAA-CREF accounts from a 20-state settlement with Standard and Poor's Rating Services. The lawsuit focused on misleading investment advice provided by S&P leading up to the 2008 financial crisis. The state of Iowa's share of the $1.375 billion settlement is $21.5 million. Of that, $10 million will be added to the state's IPERS fund and $2.5 million will be directed to individual TIAA-CREF accounts.

Associate vice president for business and finance Pam Cain said the distribution works out to $42.87 for each of the 58,317 eligible participants. The regent schools agreed to distribute by a simple head count rather than try to determine proportional amounts based on the size or movement of individual accounts. Cain said eligibility was granted to TIAA-CREF participant employees who:

  • Were employed in the regents system for any duration from September 2004 to October 2007
  • Still have an active TIAA-CREF account (haven't closed them since October 2007)

If the board approves the distribution proposal, Cain said the Iowa attorney general would send a check directly to TIAA-CREF for distribution to employee accounts. The universities will not receive the money.


Board members will hear several Iowa State presentations on Thursday. Professor of ecology, evolution and organismal biology Lynn Clark and senior Laura Ekl will highlight the interdepartmental undergraduate program in biological/premedical illustration, a shared program of the colleges of Design and Liberal Arts and Sciences. This presentation will begin at approximately 9 a.m. to the board's Education and Student Affairs Committee.

Three presentations are scheduled before the full board on Thursday afternoon.

  • Graduate College dean David Holger and kinesiology doctoral student Zachary Zenko will provide an update on programs and efficiency initiatives in the Graduate College.
  • Brent Shanks, Distinguished Professor of chemical and biological engineering and director of the Center for Biorenewable Chemicals, will provide an overview of the center's partnerships, research and relevance to the state economy.
  • Interim chief information officer Jim Kurtenbach, with his peers from Iowa and Northern Iowa, will discuss IT security issues, including vulnerability, threats and countermeasures.


In closed sessions Thursday afternoon and continuing Friday morning, the board will complete its annual performance evaluations of the three university presidents, the superintendent of the Iowa School for the Deaf, Council Bluffs; and the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School, Vinton; and board executive director Robert Donley.

ISU accreditation reports

To expedite its Thursday meeting, the board's Education and Student Affairs Committee also will meet on Wednesday (4-6 p.m., 275 Scheman) to review four ISU accreditation reports:

  • Landscape architecture programs
  • College of Business
  • Accounting programs
  • Educator preparation programs 

More ISU items

In other Iowa State-related business:

  • The university will seek permission to purchase 29 acres of land along State Avenue in west Ames from the housing developer Breckenridge Group, Austin, Texas, for $1.31 million. The land is adjacent to an ISU teaching/research plot at the intersection of State Avenue and Mortensen Road. The university sold this parcel (and land to the west) in 2000 to the Ames school district for a new middle school and community recreation facilities. The school was built, but the recreation facilities were not, and in 2013 the school district sold the land to Breckenridge to be part of a high-density student housing development that created much controversy. Breckenridge asked the university in April if it would be willing to purchase the plot at appraised value.
  • Board staff member Diana Gonzalez will demonstrate to board members the three universities' new joint application web portal, one of the outcomes of the board's TIER (Transparent, Inclusive Efficiency Review) process. The website allows individuals to apply to one or more of the regent universities in a single process.
  • The university will seek permission to sign a 10-year lease (2015-25) with CB Solar Inc., Des Moines, for a 12,000-square-foot parcel near the east campus wind turbine on which to install a gifted solar system. Iowa State would receive any solar power (electricity) generated at no cost and provide annual generated electricity records to the company. The facility would be available for education and research purposes. This fits in with Iowa State's efforts to diversify its energy sources.