FY 2024 funding announced for strategic plan projects

Nineteen teams will share a $3.9 million investment this year in Iowa State's 2022-2031 strategic plan. Collectively, they will expand student academic services and internship opportunities, support for interdisciplinary research, testing capacity, student mental health support, assistance to Iowa communities, improvements to the university child care facilities, and more. The projects were submitted this spring in the inaugural call for proposals from faculty and staff to help the university achieve what it aspires "to be."

Teams that participated in the competitive process received notification last week about the funding decisions.

"We are very pleased with the quality and number of responses to the inaugural call for proposals," said President Wendy Wintersteen. "The 19 projects selected for investment strongly align with one or more of the strategic plan's five statements of aspiration. We look forward to seeing the impact of their work over the coming year to support our students, faculty, staff and stakeholders."

Wintersteen and her five-member senior leadership team reviewed the 70-plus project proposals and selected 19 for funding in fiscal year 2024, which began July 1 and runs through next June. Awards range from about $13,000 to $550,000. Total funding of $3,923,432 -- university funds set aside to support top priorities -- will be used over the next 12 months. Project leaders will provide regular updates on the progress of their projects and a final report detailing the impact of their work. Additional stories about the projects and their impact will be shared with the university community and its stakeholders throughout the year.

Senior advisor to the president Sophia Magill said proposals were received from units across all four university divisions. Ninety percent of the proposals aligned with two or more of the five aspirational goals that define what Iowa State aspires to become over the plan's duration, and more than 60% of the proposals included team members or partners from more than one department or unit, she said.

The nine-year strategic plan features an annual project proposal process to advance the plan's goals and assure flexibility to address evolving priorities. Magill said she anticipates the next call for proposals, for FY 2025 funds, to be issued in late fall.

Following is a summary of the 19 projects selected for funding this year:


Enhancing Student Academic Success in Gateway English Courses, $23,665
Project leader: Abram Anders, English

The English department will redesign two courses, ENGL 150 and ENGL 250, which together serve 5,200 students each year, to enhance students' communication skills and strengthen academic success and retention.


Expanding Online Learning Across Iowa State's 99-County Campus, $434,187
Project leader: Constance Beecher, ISU Extension and Outreach, Human Sciences

ISU Extension and Outreach's Lifelong Learning Online, in collaboration with Iowa State Online, will conduct research to better understand the virtual learning, technology and marketing preferences of Iowans seeking noncredit, non-formal educational programs.


Catalyzing Innovative Research Teams to Address Critical Opportunities, $300,000
Project leader: Peter Dorhout, Office of the Vice President for Research (VPR)

The VPR's office will support additional interdisciplinary research teams, including seed funding, to grow Iowa State's external funding portfolio.


Center for Student Educational Success, $253,088
Project leader: Sharron Evans, Dean of Students Office

This proposed center, led by the Dean of Students Office, will support students' academic and personal needs and enhance their educational success.


Enhancing Student Learning through Visual Literacy, $13,123
Project leader: Adrienne Gennett, University Museums

University Museums will partner with the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching's faculty affiliate program to enhance critical thinking and communication skills by better integrating visual literacy into student learning.


Expanding Support for Individualized Student Success, $81,615
Project leader: Adriana Gonzalez-Elliott, Academic Success Center

This collaborative initiative will expand support for Iowa State's neurodivergent students -- those whose brains process information differently than others -- including one-on-one coaching and peer-led accountability groups.


Forging New Frontiers in Artificial Intelligence (AI), $78,476
Project leader: Volker Hegelheimer, English

Faculty across the humanities disciplines, including English, history, philosophy and religious studies, world languages and cultures, and music and theatre, will organize an effort on AI in the humanities to explore innovative directions in research and funding, and to offer students greater coursework and opportunities in the emerging discipline.


Student-focused Transformation of Testing Centers, $550,000
Project leader: Joel Hochstein, Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching

The testing centers conduct more than 100,000 computer-based exams each year. This initiative will transform the testing center in 0060 Carver to meet best practices for student academic success, and expand services for working professionals including entrance, professional, certification and licensure exams.


Maintaining High-quality Childcare Environments, $415,800
Project leader: Edward Holland, University Human Resources

This initiative will support maintenance projects in Iowa State's child care centers that enhance the physical environment for children of faculty, staff and students.


About the strategic plan

Iowa State University's 2022-31 Strategic Plan is the culmination of a collaborative development process that involved more than 500 faculty, staff, students, community members and stakeholders. The state Board of Regents approved the strategic plan in June 2022.

Supporting Student Internships at Reiman Gardens, $90,712
Project leader: Edward Lyon, Reiman Gardens

Funds will support student internships, an experience that will focus on student engagement and knowledge growth.


Launching the Next Generation of Manufacturing Research, $215,900
Project leader: Michael O'Donnell, Center for Industrial Research and Service

This collaboration will grow applied research in manufacturing by helping researchers manage their portfolios, linking faculty work to manufacturers' needs, and expanding the culture of industrial engagement.


Enabling Healthier Communities through Data-enriched Decision Making, $281,945
Project leader: Erin Olson Douglas, ISU Extension and Outreach, Community and Economic Development

This initiative will enhance rural vitality by helping communities better use data to address their most pressing and unique challenges.


Next-generation Battery Technology Research and Education, $400,000
Project leader: Cary Pint, Mechanical Engineering

In coordination with the VPR's office, this project will build on faculty expertise in engineering, chemistry and physics to advance battery fabrication and testing.


Project Management Support for Faculty Research, $155,750
Project leader: James Reecy, Office of the Vice President for Research

Funding will expand project management capabilities to serve faculty leading large research projects and develop best practices for all externally funded faculty.


Creating a Strategic Approach to Support Students' Mental Health, $47,418
Project leader: Melanie Reed, Student Wellness

This initiative will establish a strategic approach for mental health promotion and suicide prevention, including a partnership with a national nonprofit that assists colleges and universities.


Strengthening Agriculture's Role in Addressing Carbon Issues, $300,000
Project leader: Lisa Schulte Moore, Natural Resource Ecology and Management

In coordination with the VPR's office, the Carbon Value Initiative will enhance Iowa State's position as a leader in reducing greenhouse gases and increasing carbon dioxide removal through agricultural processes and products.


Delivering Individualized STEM Instruction at Scale, $80,291
Project leader: Ben Van Dusen, School of Education

This initiative builds on federally funded research to develop adaptive testing for introductory physics courses that provides real-time feedback on students' academic success, including students who could benefit from additional instruction.


Enhancing Infrastructure to Address Students' Basic Needs, $74,100
Project leader: Brian Vanderheyden, Student Wellness

Funds will help expand the 12-year-old SHOP food pantry, located in Beyer Hall, to address students' basic needs in a more continuous, coordinated and comprehensive way.


Supporting University Undergraduate Internships in the Ames National Laboratory, $127,362
Project leader: Theresa Windus, Chemistry

The ISU-AMES SCIENCES program will create student internships in both operations and research at Ames National Laboratory to expand the state and nation's critical energy sciences workforce and to recruit top students to Iowa State.