Labor of lumber


Students take a study break on the "TwoXTwo" installation in the College of Design's atrium. Photo by Christopher Gannon.

For the past month, 77 second-year architecture students have worked together to imagine, design and build a structure using 1,600 2-by-2 pieces of lumber and deck screws. Appropriately named "TwoXTwo," the 25-by-20-foot installation is on display in the College of Design's atrium through March 11.  

Though it looks like a work of art, faculty, staff, students and visitors are encouraged to interact with the structure. Its built-in nooks, benches, tables and pathways invite sitting, climbing, studying and relaxing.

The project was a lesson in collaboration as well as design. The students, enrolled in five sections of Architecture 202, first studied the atrium to determine how people use the space. From there, each of the five classes developed and refined various design concepts until selecting just a few to incorporate into the final project.

While all students worked in shifts to construct the installation, they divided into teams for other tasks. Some teams created digital diagrams, a physical scale model and construction documents, while others documented the process with photos and videos, and created promotional materials.

After March 11, the structure will be dismantled and possibly moved off campus for display.

Harmon named to senior VP for student affairs post

Martino Harmon has been tapped to become Iowa State University's next senior vice president for student affairs. The appointment is subject to approval by the state Board of Regents.

Martino Harmon


Harmon, ISU's current associate vice president for student affairs, will make the transition to his new position over the next month.

President Steven Leath selected Harmon after a national search

"Iowa State's reputation for providing a first-rate student experience is due in large part to the dedicated efforts of our division of student affairs," Leath wrote in a letter to the university community. "Dr. Harmon is exceptionally qualified to lead this division -- he has outstanding credentials, he is passionate about Iowa State and he is deeply committed to helping all students recognize and reach their potential."

Harmon has served in the associate VP post since arriving at Iowa State in 2013. Previously, he served as executive director of student success and retention at Cincinnati State Community College, Ohio; dean of student development at Rhodes State College, Lima, Ohio; and dean of admission, retention and student life at Washtenaw Community College, Ann Arbor, Mich.

At the University of Toledo, Ohio, he held several posts -- interim assistant dean of students, director of the African-American student enrichment office, director of freshman admission, associate director of admission and multicultural recruitment and coordinator of campus visits and admission counselor.

Harmon earned a bachelor's degree in business administration (1987), master of education (1998) and doctorate in higher education and administration (2013), all from the University of Toledo.

Harmon succeeds senior vice president for student affairs Tom Hill, who is retiring after leading Iowa State's student affairs division for nearly 20 years. Hill continues to serve as a policy adviser to Leath on student experience issues and as Iowa State's representative on the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions.

'Daily' group expands into creative services

Lawrence Cunningham in the Daily newsroom

Iowa State Daily publisher and general manager Lawrence Cunningham drove the creation of an agency to give students more on-the-job experiences before they graduate. Photo by Christopher Gannon.

The publishers of the university's student newspaper, the Iowa State Daily, have added a creative services unit to provide project help in photography, videography, graphic design and copy writing. Model Farm -- a nod to ISU's first name, Iowa Agricultural College and Model Farm -- is intended to provide additional job experiences for students and revenue streams for the reincorporated Iowa State Daily Media Group, said publisher and general manager Lawrence Cunningham. He called it a student-run, professionally managed agency.

"We found products and services that are within our core competency as a business," Cunningham said, "so we're able to keep the Daily enterprise financially strong without having to make a lot of capital improvements to do that."

Model Farm

Phone: 294-4120

Cunningham estimates that 85 percent of Model Farm's clients will be Iowa State departments or programs or have a connection to the university. He also estimates that about two-thirds of the workload will follow a fee-for-service model. But he's excited about a second model: linking faculty with outside businesses on experiential learning projects for Iowa State students. The first of those, a package redesign project for Capital City Fruit Co., Norwalk, involves students in Sunghyun Kang's Graphic Design 484 spring course.

"We were the connector. We're well-suited to bring in those corporate partners," Cunningham said.

Student opportunities beyond newspaper journalism

Red and white Model Farm logo

Cunningham said Model Farm initially will create about 40 additional jobs for students beyond the 70 or so on the Daily payroll each month. A majority of the agency jobs will be on a per-project basis, which has involved a professional vetting of students and their portfolios.

"We put students in our queue and when a project pops up that we feel is a good fit for their skill set, we hire them for the duration of the project," he said. "It creates a lot of flexibility --  for students who can't commit to 20 hours a week on a continuing basis -- and for us."

Cunningham said the two options -- community journalism and creative services -- also make it possible to build student career tracks within the media group. The student newspaper has been the traditional entry point for students, but many of them leave by their junior or senior years for other campus jobs that can use their skills. Model Farm gives students a chance to expand their experiences before they graduate, he said, but the Daily no longer needs to be the draw. Model Farm also hires students "with zero interest in ever working on a publication," he noted.

In addition to on-the-job experience, Cunningham said students acquire some professional intangibles through Model Farm: appropriate work attire, email and in-person communications with a client and what good customer service looks like, for example.

"We have high expectations for our students. The only way for us to reach our business bottom line is to deliver high-quality executions to our customers," he said. "It's a real-world business these students work for."

What about university marketing?

Cunningham said Model Farm will complement the office of university marketing. While marketing director Carole Custer "drives marketing strategy for the university," he called his student teams "execution partners."

"Our customers will come to us with a developed strategy, in need of some manpower to put some key products into the marketplace, for example for internal student or employee communication, event promotions, marketing videos."

About a year ago, Cunningham began surveying about 30 campus employees with marketing responsibilities to find out what their needs are. He said he learned the university can help units with high-level strategic work and "really high-level" services. The challenge, he said, is that not every department has the budget to use those services.

"We decided that our opportunity is with people who already understand their strategy but lack the budget to do full-scale implementation," he said.

Cunningham said Model Farm won't get involved in high-level assignments, including university student recruitment.

"The hope is that we can aid [university marketing] in adding some consistency to the Iowa State brand, at a different level of execution," he said. Model Farm charges $50 per hour for any of its services.

Custer said she has agreed to provide training on the university brand to Model Farm staff members. As part of the student learning process, she also offered to periodically review a set of finished projects so the designers have an opportunity to learn more about applying the university brand to their work.

"From my perspective, [Model Farm] provides a unique opportunity for students who come to Iowa State," Custer said. "This gives them real-client projects and it totally supports the university's brand of educating students who are prepared for their careers from the day they graduate."

Not your typical agency

Model Farm's typical clients will be people "who value that we're helping to build student professional and personal skill sets," according to Cunningham.

"If you compare us to a traditional firm, we might have to go through an extra proof. We'll work very hard to get it right, but from time to time, we won't," he said. "There needs to be an understanding, a respect for the fact that these are student employees. We're very clear about that on the front side."

The goal is to serve as many clients as possible, but it's also important to offer a positive work environment to students, he said.


Better health is one click away with new website

The ISU WellBeing employee wellness effort leaped forward recently with the launch of a new website. In the works for several months, the site was developed by a group of information technology and university human resources (UHR) employees and student workers.

One-stop wellness

Employees who visit the new website will experience one-stop shopping for all things related to wellness at Iowa State. There are links to other ISU websites that support wellness, and news and announcements about upcoming campus wellness opportunities. The site also includes information about several health elements and categories that go beyond the obvious physical component. In other words, the ISU WellBeing program emphasizes employee health beyond just eating right and exercising.

"As we move from wellness to well-being, it will require a shift in how we think about and perceive well-being," said Stephanie Downs, ISU's employee wellness coordinator. "This more comprehensive view includes a blending of culture, health and organizational development. Therefore, we support and encourage a wider, more inclusive vision that embraces physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, financial and community well-being."

Downs said employees should expect new information on the site frequently, especially since news from other UHR programs, like retirement planning, learning and development, and the employee assistance program, are part of the mix. Employees also may follow Downs' blog, where she shares her thoughts and perspectives on wellness.

Website 2.0

Though the website just launched, Downs already is looking ahead to some enhancements. She and Ed Holland, director of benefits, currently are pursuing vendors who can help build an individual-specific wellness portal into the site, hopefully by this fall.

"The portal will help employees with their individual needs, such as exercising more, eating healthier, reducing stress and so on," Downs said. "The portal is designed to support employee participation and provide constant feedback to help their individual success."

For example, the portal could include 10- to 12-week wellness programs, fitness trackers, personal assessments, how-to articles and videos.

On the horizon

The website is only one component of a larger ISU WellBeing program.  An action plan, also available on the site, details the overall program's philosophy, guiding principles, priorities and phased implementation process over the next few years. Future well-being programs employees can expect include:

  • Work-life balance programs
  • Finance workshops
  • Stress workshops
  • Medical self-care programs
  • Community support efforts for chronic health conditions (i.e., diabetes and hypertension)
  • Collaboration among Ames organizations and the university's health plan administrator to address top employee health challenges

Related story:

Sustainability symposium takes two-evening format

Iowa State's Symposium on Sustainability, an annual event to highlight achievements and progress toward becoming a more earth-friendly campus, will be held Monday and Tuesday evenings, Feb. 29-March 1, in the Memorial Union main floor ballrooms.

Monday's events include a poster reception (6:30-8 p.m.) of green-focused campus projects and the keynote address (8 p.m.) by David Orr, an environmental studies professor at Oberlin College, Ohio, and national leader and author in sustainability.

Tuesday's events include a continuation of the poster reception (5-8 p.m.), a showcase of campus ideas to "green it yourself," presentation of Iowa State's annual sustainability excellence awards (7:45 p.m.) and a screening (8 p.m.) and student-led discussion of the 2015 documentary, Racing Extinction.

The symposium's full schedule is online.

The best of the Big 12

Kate Hall participating in the long jump.

Freshman Kate Hall will compete in the long jump and 60-meter dash for the Cyclones. Photo courtesy of athletics communications.

Iowa State's Lied Center will be filled with Big 12 Conference track and field teams this weekend as the site of the league's indoor championships, Feb. 26-27. Pentathlon and heptathlon events begin at 10 a.m. Friday; running and field events get underway at 3 p.m., concluding with the distance medley relays at 8:40 p.m. (women) and 9 p.m. (men). Heptathlon events open Saturday's action at 11 a.m., with field events at noon and running events at 1:30 p.m. An awards ceremony will be held at 6 p.m.

Daily admission is $7 (cash only) at the door. Meet information, including a complete schedule of events, is available on the Big 12 championships website.

'Dangerous' start for spring

"Les Liaisons Dangereuses" title characters.

Junior Taylor Millar (left) and senior Michael Clinkscales portray the scheming French aristocrats Marquise de Merteuil and Le Vicomte de Valmont in ISU Theatre's production of Les Liaisons Dangereuses. Photo by Nancy Thompson.

ISU Theatre opens its spring semester lineup on Friday, Feb. 26, with a two-weekend run of Les Liaisons Dangereuses in Fisher Theater. The two-act drama, set in late 1700s France, is for a mature audience.

Translated to Dangerous Liaisons, the production is headlined by a pair of scheming aristocrats the audience will love to hate. Junior Taylor Millar and senior Michael Clinkscales assume the roles of La Marquise de Merteuil and Le Vicomte de Valmont, respectively. The former lovers use others as pawns in their scandalous plans for conquest and revenge.

"The two leading characters are interesting, witty and funny," said Jane Cox, theater professor and the show's director. "It's interesting for the audience. In some ways they'll be attracted to these people, but on the other hand, they're not good people."

Merteuil and Valmont use sex as a way of controlling people, which is conveyed throughout the production by innuendo and suggestion.

"It's a game to them," Cox said.

Show times are 7:30 p.m. on Fridays (Feb. 26 and March 4) and Saturdays (Feb. 27 and March 5), and 2 p.m. on Sundays (Feb. 28 and March 6). Tickets are $18 for adults, $16 for seniors and $11 for students, available at the Iowa State Center ticket office (10 a.m.-4 p.m. weekdays), Fisher Theater (prior to show time) and Ticketmaster.