A spring sunrise

Sunrise on Beardshear

The morning sun shines warmly on Beardshear Hall on a recent morning. Photo by Barb McBreen, CALS Communications Service.

Efficiency review forum is April 1

A good place to find out more about the efficiency review underway at Iowa State is the public forum Tuesday, April 1, in Howe Hall auditorium. The 90-minute forum, which begins at 10 a.m., will include:

  • Brief remarks by President Steven Leath and representatives of the state Board of Regents
  • An overview of the process by the Deloitte Consulting team
  • A Q&A session

The event will be live-streamed and archived online for later viewing. Watch ISU's efficiency review website for details.

The Iowa State review is part of the state Board of Regents TIER initiative -- a comprehensive study of Iowa's three public universities. The regents in February selected Deloitte Consulting to review academic and administrative operations with an eye to maximizing resources, improving efficiency and containing rising costs.

The consultants will return to campus the week of April 14 to meet with administrators, deans, department and unit heads, and representatives of various stakeholder groups.

"We want to engage and involve as many people as possible in this review," Leath said in a March 21 letter to faculty, staff and students.

Leath encourages the university community to participate in the forum and provide suggestions on improving programs, policies and processes. Send ideas to suggestions@iastate.edu.

"We're in the early stages of this review," he said. "Everything is going to be carefully evaluated in the coming weeks and months, and we want to hear from our faculty, staff and students." He added that all savings identified in the review will be reinvested in Iowa State programs.

Across the regents system, the study has been named "Rising to the Next TIER," a reference to commitment to transparency and inclusiveness in the efficiency review. Forums also have been scheduled at the universities of Iowa (March 28) and Northern Iowa (April 7).

Leath: State funding should follow resident students

President Steven Leath advocated a performance-based state funding model that rewards universities for educating Iowa residents and moving all students through degree programs. Speaking March 13 to a Board of Regents-appointed task force studying a performance-based model for distributing state higher education funding, Leath said a new model should encourage the universities to meet future job demands by expanding access to a college education and serving more underrepresented students, for example, minority students and those whose family incomes qualify them for federal Pell grants.

Leath also said the model should reward innovation and the specific state economic development missions of the three universities. He said he favors including the entire general education appropriation – about $479 million total this year, $174 million to Iowa State – in any model developed.

Leath and his peers, Sally Mason from the University of Iowa and Bill Ruud from the University of Northern Iowa, were asked to share their preferences for performance-based funding and recommend possible metrics for a funding model.

Former regent David Miles, who chairs the task force, said the intent is that, in five to 10 years, "there's a better link between the board's priorities and state funds going to the three universities."

Changing tradition

Iowa's traditional formula, dating back to the 1940s, divided the state appropriation on roughly a 40 percent/40 percent/20 percent (Iowa State/Iowa/Northern Iowa) split. But, over time, that breakout has meandered. This year's $479 million general education appropriation is divided on approximately a 36 percent/46 percent/18 percent split, mirroring at least the last decade.

Leath, who recommended that as much as 60 percent of the state appropriation follow Iowa resident students, said this year's enrollments and state allocations show little connection between the two:

University FY14 general ed appropriation Fall 2014 resident student FTE* Appropriation/resident student FTE
Northern Iowa   $83,222,819   9,502  $8,758
Iowa State $173,986,353 19,005  $9,155
Iowa $222,041,351 15,346 $14,469

*Includes undergraduate, graduate and professional students

Leath said a new model should be more accountable to state taxpayers. Currently, he said, Iowa State receives 63 cents and UNI 60 cents for every general education dollar Iowa receives in a distribution formula based on history and tradition but not achievement.

Differing viewpoints

While the presidents agreed on some possible metrics – student progress toward a degree measured by credits completed, not simply retention, was one – they defended metrics specific to their schools' missions as well. The possibility of common metrics and university-specific metrics is one of the many questions the task force faces.

Leath asked for a metric that inspires expanded access for Iowans, particularly minority, low-income, community college transfer or first-generation college students. Iowa State educates the most Iowa residents each year, and he encouraged a metric based on a three-year rolling average of total in-state student FTEs (undergraduate, graduate and professional).

Mason asked for metrics that accommodate higher costs of instruction and reward quality, for example the quality of entering students, as measured by admissions standards, or the quality of academic programs as recognized by various ranking bodies or publications. She said nearly a third of Iowa students are graduate or professional students who, upon graduation, contribute to the state's "human infrastructure." She also proposed metrics that reward the universities for placing their graduates in Iowa jobs and for raising private scholarships that lower attendance costs for students.

Mason said focusing too much on Iowa residents "penalizes us for bringing in new blood to Iowa" and puts the three universities "in competition for a flat demographic."

Noting that 91 percent of UNI students come from within the state, Ruud said he favors a model in which at least 75 percent of the funds are tied to enrollment. He asked foremost for a redistribution of state funds "to level the playing field" before any performance measures are applied. Ruud said UNI has a "different kind of student" than Iowa or Iowa State and that faculty productivity is measured differently at his university.

Ruud experienced performance-based funding at his previous job in Pennsylvania. He said that state tried many different metrics over time, trying to find the right combination that reflected priorities.

"The problem is that our [Iowa] funding model is based on nothing. The missions of the schools are so different and over time, the schools have matured in different directions," Ruud said.

He proposed tying a small amount – perhaps 8 to 10 percent -- of the state funds to performance initially, and increasing that in future years.

Next meeting

The task force's next meeting is scheduled for April 17. Miles said he still expects to present the group's recommendation to the regents at the board's June meeting, as initially planned.

Innovation hub supports online, blended learning

The Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) has established an Online Learning Innovation Hub to spur development and use of online and blended learning approaches.

According to CELT director Ann Marie VanDerZanden, the hub will serve as "idea central" to foster collaboration across campus and allow Iowa State to maintain a national presence in the rapidly evolving field of online learning.

Roundtable, April 1

The Online Learning Innovation Hub will host its first event, a roundtable discussion on remapping the curriculum, on Tuesday, April 1 (12:10 p.m., 1230 Communications).

"Students are taking online and blended courses in record numbers," notes VanDerZanden. "At the same time, faculty continue to expand their use of learning technologies."

Ralph Napolitano, CELT associate director for online education, said virtually all students are involved in some form of online learning. "Used properly, online and blended approaches (which combine online and face-to-face instruction) can be powerful tools for enhancing the learning experience. We are actively developing such approaches and are deeply engaged in the national conversation about the best ways to integrate these tools into on-campus and distance-based programs.

"Our goal is simple," adds Napolitano. "We aim to provide a rich educational experience of the highest quality to all students, wherever and however we reach them."

The hub will provide institutional leadership, direction and support for the most effective implementation of online and blended approaches in Iowa State's academic programs. Projects will focus on four main themes:

  • Quality: Promoting excellence in online and blended instruction through outcome-oriented course design and student-centered pedagogy
  • Innovation: Fostering innovative technology-enhanced instruction across campus by working with faculty to develop new tools and creative teaching methodologies
  • Collaboration: Building and nurturing a community of excellence across the institution for idea sharing and cooperative development 
  • Support: Providing assistance and guidance in the use and integration of learning technologies, online resources, and related instructional techniques 

These efforts will complement existing programming offered through CELT, including the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Institute, the Preparing Future Faculty and New Faculty Scholars programs, and the Center for Integration of Research in Teaching and Learning.

Initial efforts focused on continuous improvement of online, blended courses

First-year projects include intensive faculty training and support in course design and teaching methods that focus on high-quality instruction. As a part of this initiative, the hub is implementing the "Quality Matters" program, which provides rubrics, training, peer review processes, and course certifications to help faculty continuously improve the quality of their online and blended courses. While participation in the program is voluntary, CELT leaders hope faculty will take advantage of the opportunity.

Other hub projects include the Blended Learning Booster program (helping faculty to improve their course through the appropriate use of new technology) and the Blended Learning Roundtable (bringing together campus leaders in online instruction and learning technologies to share ideas and discuss new innovative approaches to support learning). The hub also will provide seed funding for Iowa State faculty to develop or implement new methods of online teaching.

Innovation hub to be located in Library

The Online Learning Innovation Hub will be located at the Parks Library, in the former Map Room, beginning in August. The newly renovated space will house the CELT Learning Technologies team and will feature collaboration space for faculty and instructional support staff.

Tips on separating ISU mail from phony look-alikes

Not so long ago, email scams mostly came from generous "millionaires" kindly seeking our assistance. While these emails annoyed, they didn't cause much trouble because most of us smell a rat when a rich stranger offers to share loads of cash with us.

Today, however, many scams arrive in our inboxes under the guise of official university business. Some sport the university mark. Some take us to phony web pages that look just like the AccessPlus or Blackboard login. It's all too easy to be fooled into accidentally giving up personal info on these fake sites.

Don't Get Hooked poster

This visual shows suspicious signs of phishing scams in a sample email. Download here.

To help thwart identity thieves, we need to become more adept at spotting the sophisticated fakes in our inboxes daily and more active in reporting suspicious email to information technology services staff.  Here are some tips from ITS staff on spotting and stopping scammers.

Don't trust any email that seeks user names, passwords or personal info

Iowa State units won't ask you for your user name, password or other personal info via email.

Scrutinize the "FROM," "TO," and "CC" fields in email addresses

A telltale sign of a scam is a personal email address (for example, janedoe@hotmail.com) in the "FROM" field of an email coming from a well-known business or organization. It's also suspicious if a lot of names or email addresses that you don't recognize appear in the "TO" or "CC" fields.

Don't access ISU services via email

Be wary of email that directs you to ISU services, such as the AccessPlus, Outlook and Blackboard login sites.  The safe way to access these services is from the university homepage.

Don't click links, attachments or downloads, unless you're sure

Unless you're sure of the sender's identity, don't click. Links, attachments and downloads in email can be used to install malware on your computer.   If you hover over a link, the link's true destination should pop up. If the real destination doesn't match the message link, don't  follow it.

Keep your operating systems, antivirus software and browsers up-to-date

Some scams use viruses or holes in the security of popular operating systems, like Windows and Internet Explorer, to get into your system.

Report suspicious email promptly to abuse@iastate.edu

If you receive suspicious email on your ISU account, forward it promptly to ITS at abuse@iastate.edu. If the email turns out to be a scam, ITS staff will take these steps:

  • To protect those reading mail on campus, ITS blocks the domain from which the scam came. Once the domain has been blocked, it doesn't matter if you're lured into clicking a nasty link. You'll simply be redirected to an ITS site warning that you just dodged a malware bullet.
  • Unfortunately, the domain block won't work if you're reading email at home or anywhere else off-campus. That's why ITS staff always contact the host provider for the malware-bearing site and submits a "take down" request. If you're off campus when you click on an email scam link, you're OK if the host provider has already complied with the request. You'll simply see a "not found" message. However, if the host provider hasn't fulfilled the "take-down" request (and that's often the case), you'll need ITS assistance to deal with the aftereffects of that unfortunate click.

What you should know about workers' compensation

By all accounts, it was a rough winter. The snow, ice and wind were unrelenting, which may explain the uptick in the number of workers' compensation claims from slip and fall injuries here and across the state. Fortunately, warmer weather is creeping back, but accidents can happen any time of year.

Julie Nuter, associate vice president for university human resources (UHR), said it's important for employees to understand the claims process.

"First and foremost, injuries are serious matters," she said. "We want employees to be informed and take action."

Following are the steps employees should take in the event of a workplace accident or illness.

File a report

All merit, professional and scientific, faculty and student employees must complete a first-report-of-injury form, available on AccessPlus (select "Employee" then "Work Injury"), within 24 hours following a workplace incident, even if no medical treatment is required.

More questions?

For more information about workers’ compensation, call UHR at 4-8917 or visit the FAQ on the UHR website.

Employees who sustain non-life threatening injuries or illnesses while on the job should contact their supervisors right away; employees who need emergency assistance should seek medical treatment immediately. Medical care for non-life threatening injuries or illnesses can be arranged with Occupational Medicine at McFarland Clinic in Ames, 239-4496. Staff at ISU occupational medicine, G11 Technical and Administrative Services Facility (TASF), can treat minor work-related injuries or conditions that require only first aid. Employees located off campus and outside Ames can find a list of local workers’ compensation providers on the UHR website.

What happens next?

Sedgwick Claims Management, Iowa State's third-party workers' compensation administrator, determines which claims are covered under Iowa law. Once a claim is filed, a Sedgwick claims examiner works with the employee throughout the process.

Nuter noted that Sedgwick closely analyzes claims to determine acceptance or denial. Employees or supervisors with questions about this process should contact UHR's employee and labor relations staff at 4-8917 for more information.

Sheldon Avenue reconstruction begins April 7

The city of Ames will remove and reconstruct Sheldon Avenue along the west side of campus, beginning Monday, April 7. The project includes the section of Sheldon from Lincoln Way to Hyland Avenue (Sheldon veers west behind Iowa State's biorenewables complex). It does not include the Sheldon Avenue extension behind the College of Design.

The work requires road closure and will be completed in four stages, some of which may overlap depending on weather and progress made. Here's an estimated timeline:

  • Lincoln Way to Union Drive, April 7-May 31
  • Union Drive intersection, work won't begin before June 2
  • Union Drive to west side of Howe Hall, TBA
  • West side of Howe Hall to Hyland Avenue, work won't begin before May 12

Parking lot access

The road reconstruction work will close Sheldon Avenue driveways to university parking lots during at least two of the stages. Most of the affected lots (1, 59A, 2 and 3) have a second access that drivers may use. For users of lot 7 (west of the Thielen Student Health Center), a temporary driveway will be created on West Street to keep the lot open.

University road projects

Iowa State will coordinate its own group of road reconstruction projects this summer. Construction dates are not finalized yet for these projects:

  • State Avenue (near cross country course): between Mortensen Road and Highway 30 bridge. Work is anticipated to occur during May/June and will require lane closures.
  • Christensen Drive (Vet Med campus): between parking lots 93 and 96. Construction window is May 18-Aug. 1. The work will require full closure of the drive and be completed in two stages to maintain access to parking lots 96, 96A.
  • Stotts Road (north-south artery in Schilletter-University Village): between Blankenburg and Edenburn drives. Construction window is June 2-Aug. 1. The work will require full closure of the road.

Crews also will seal cracks and joints on numerous campus roads from mid-May to Aug. 1. Watch for temporary lane closures this summer on: 13th Street; Stange, Beach, Wallace and Bissell roads; Union Drive; South Fourth and South 16th streets.

Blooms at the Brunnier


Contributed photo.

Spring will be in full bloom March 28-30 at the Brunnier Art Museum during the sixth annual "Brunnier in Bloom" exhibition. The event features floral designs by central Iowa florists, garden clubs and students that complement the museum's works of art.

The show opens Friday, March 28, with a Flowers After Hours reception (6-8 p.m.). Visitors will enjoy live music, cupcakes and a cash bar while learning which designs receive top honors. Judges for this year's event are Stewart Burger, lecturer in apparel, events and hospitality management; Ann-Marie Fiore, professor in apparel, events and hospitality management; and Letitia Kenemer, fine arts coordinator for the Memorial Union. Attendees also will have a chance to cast a vote for the People's Choice award.

Activities March 29 and 30 (11 a.m.-4 p.m.) include crafts for kids (both days) and a calligraphy demonstration on Sunday (1-3 p.m.). Visitors may purchase raffle tickets throughout the weekend for various prizes. Proceeds will benefit University Museums educational programs.

"Brunnier in Bloom" is free and open to the public. 

April 3 conference is devoted to student success

Academic success, retention and instructional learning outcomes are the focus of the 2014 Student Success Summit planned for April 3 in the Memorial Union (8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.). Anyone who works directly with students, including faculty, staff and graduate students, is invited to attend this free event. Registration is available online.

The summit evolved from the work of the Student Experience Enhancement Council (SEEC), which was created in 2012 to ensure that Iowa State continues to offer its students a rich educational experience.

The summit's goals are to:

  • Provide an overview of ISU retention data and efforts to increase student retention
  • Build an understanding of why some students are at greater risk of not succeeding, in order to enhance the individual student experience and achievement of all undergraduate students
  • Identify retention practices that support the progress of students at greater risk of not succeeding and other student subpopulations
  • Enhance partnerships between student affairs and academic affairs to increase student achievement
  • Share current resources and develop new resources for faculty, staff and student use
  • Provide an outline that helps develop individual, departmental and college/division action plans based on knowledge gained at the summit

Ann Gansemer-Topf, assistant professor in the School of Education, will present a morning keynote address followed by two breakout sessions (PDF) and a luncheon keynote by Terrell Strayhorn, associate professor in the educational studies department at Ohio State University. The day's events will conclude with sessions on action plan development and next steps.