When Wendy Wintersteen was introduced as Iowa State's 16th president in 2017, she said her first order of business was to listen. Nearly 18 months into her presidency, that effort is expanding with the launch of CyDeas, an online platform for collecting suggestions and solutions to improve the Iowa State experience.
"CyDeas is really about tapping into the creative and innovative ideas of our people. Whether it's small improvements -- like more whiteboards and outlets in the library -- or larger issues such as cost-saving measures, we want students, faculty and staff to be able to easily share their solutions to make Iowa State a better place," Wintersteen said. "I appreciate the great work of Elly Sukup, Steve Freeman, ISU Extension and Outreach advancement, and university relations in getting CyDeas off the ground."
Elly Sukup, a program coordinator in the president's office, took on the task of creating the virtual suggestion box and cast a wide net to see what, if anything, other institutions are doing.
"People here are very innovative, and we want to capitalize on that," she said. "I have yet to find another institution our size doing a suggestion or idea platform like this that is university-wide."
Steve Freeman, University Professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering, is helping lead the initiative in his role as faculty adviser to the president. He said the intent is to provide the campus community an opportunity to weigh in with ideas.
"We want people on campus to know their opinions matter, and we want to hear them," he said. "We're also hoping CyDeas will help highlight some process improvements the campus community might not be aware of."
Keeping it confidential
Submissions are anonymous. Students, faculty and staff log in with their Net-ID, but Freeman said this is only for authentication purposes. Names are not included with submissions. Participants have the option to include their contact information at the end of the form.
"We don't want to know who they are unless they choose to provide their name and email. We're asking them to authenticate so we know what type of relationship they have with the university," Freeman said.
An alternate "guest" form is available for individuals without an ISU Net-ID. Guests are asked to select their relationship to ISU, for example, parent or alumnus.
The Qualtrics form is open-ended, allowing participants up to 250 words to suggest an idea, then up to 125 words to describe the benefits (such as savings) of their suggestion and another 125 words to describe how to address it. Participants also are asked to classify their suggestions in one of these categories:
- Improve campus climate
- Reduce expenses
- Increase income
- Reduce wasted time
- Increase efficiency
An automated response from the system acknowledges submissions, but follow-up will only be possible if users choose to provide contact information.
Turning ideas into action
Sukup and Freeman are leading a "vetting" committee of about a dozen representatives with responsibilities in various campus units, such as student affairs, university human resources and finance. The group will shepherd valid suggestions and solutions to the appropriate areas for follow-up.
Freeman said improvements that stem from submissions will be featured on the CyDeas website. An annual report with success stories and quantitative data, for example submission numbers and category distribution, also will be produced.
"We certainly want to communicate the successes," Freeman said. "We'll also look for theme areas to see where there's more work to be done."