Engineering college will reclaim Marston Hall next month

stairwell lit by skylight

This junction shows the third floor corridor (center), glass curtain lining the fourth floor corridor (top) and the skylight-bright stairs leading to a conference center on the third level of the Marston rotunda.

From the outside, Marston Hall is starting to look like its old self again. Windows are reinstalled in west side openings that for nearly two years held exit tunnels for demolition debris and later received new construction materials. New doors recently replaced plywood gates in the east entrance and groundskeepers noticeably have returned to the landscaping on three sides of the building.

Step inside, though, and it's an all-new Marston. With the exception of the east foyer and its winding stairs to the second floor, the interior has been gutted (literally) and rebuilt. Gone are the dark central corridors, the cobbled cooling system and the odd little rooms that evolve in a building past its century mark.

Key pieces in the new Marston are three state-of-the-art classrooms seating up to 80 students each; a 177-seat auditorium; special events center; student lounge/welcome center; office suites for the College of Engineering's dean, communications, career services, student services and development staffs; and lots and lots of spaces for students -- to work in teams, get ready for class, interview with prospective employers or follow up with an instructor after class.

The building has two new west staircases and two elevators that serve all four floors as well as the three levels of the west rotunda. A large central skylight and accompanying glass wall in the fourth floor shoot daylight down to the third floor. Project manager Kerry Dixon, facilities planning and management, said the Marston roof at one time contained seven skylights, all of which had been removed long before the renovation began.

Earlier this week, crews were installing flooring, placing radiator panels, applying some Cyclone red paint to a few strategic walls and removing construction debris.

Furniture installation begins Monday (June 13) and continues in waves for about six weeks. The first tenants, the college's student services unit, are scheduled to move in July 20, with all offices in by the end of July.

Marston Hall will reopen to the public and the curious on July 25. A building rededication is scheduled for 4 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 29.


Project manager looks at empty office suite

Project manager Kerry Dixon, facilities planning and management, checks out a nearly finished fourth-floor office suite in Marston Hall. Photos by Christopher Gannon.

Original Carnegie steel beam

The fourth-floor ceiling in Marston features exposed sections of four Carnegie steel beams, dating to 1901 and original to Marston Hall.

Marston auditorium without seating

A sloped auditorium floor on the second level of the Marston rotunda also is raised eight inches to create space for ventilation ducts. Later this summer, the auditorium will contain 177 theater-style seats.

Related stories:

Marston project headed for June completion, March 3, 2016
Marston Muses are getting a makeover, Aug. 6, 2015
A peek inside Marston Hall, May 21, 2015
Demo work in Marston turns up a few treasures, Jan. 22, 2015
Interior demolition at Marston begins next month, Nov. 6, 2014
Marston tenants are starting to move, June 5, 2014

Online directory to include street addresses

Pearson Hall sign

The new sign outside Pearson Hall. Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Two final pieces of the campus street address project will be completed this month.

By the end of June, crews will finish installing new panels that feature the building's street address and university nameplate on 170 outdoor building signs. And, as of Saturday, June 11, entries in the university's employee directory will include building street addresses. The database will be populated with the additional address line overnight; employees do not need to update their own entries -- unless and until they move to another building. A similar conversion for students living on campus in the residence system should be completed prior to fall semester.

Last fall, a university working group assigned street addresses to all university buildings -- and a few outdoor locations such as central campus, Lake LaVerne and the cross-country course. Subsequently, the U.S. Postal Service assigned new ZIP+4 codes to all those street addresses. Employees are asked to become familiar with their full office addresses, and to share them with outside vendors, publications, associations and others who send mail or packages.

University marketing and ISU printing services developed new product templates for business cards, letterhead and other stationery items for when units use up their current supplies and need to reorder.

In addition to the online directory, building street addresses previously were loaded into the building information database on facilities planning and management's website.

Related stories:

Progress continues on campus street address project, Jan. 7, 2016
Campus building addresses are set, Oct. 15, 2015

New delivery plan means fewer semis on campus

Semis on campus are about to become scarce. Beginning Monday, June 13, semis and large box trucks carrying campus goods will stop at an ISU facility on Airport Road. Central stores staff will take over from there, making scheduled forays onto campus to deliver or pick up supplies.

"It's all about safety," central stores director Norm Hill said. "We don't want semis on campus mixing with 36,000 students. Our new central receiving model takes semis and large box trucks off campus.

"Central stores employees will be able to schedule deliveries better, avoiding class change times," he added. "And with one central stores truck making the rounds, we'll also avoid the disruptions of 10 to 12 large vehicles a day looking for a place to park and unload."

Hill said the central receiving facility, located at 925 Airport Road (the old Van Wall dealership) will receive, track and redistribute university-funded materials to ISU departments at no additional charges. (Some charges will be applied for outbound shipping, assembling goods, storage and moving services.)

Central receiving services include inbound and outbound freight deliveries, Office Depot deliveries and moving services, such as office items and lab equipment.

Hill noted several kinds of vehicles will continue to deliver on campus. UPS, FedEx and USPS trucks will operate as usual, as will vehicles carrying food and perishable items.  Trucks delivering supplies for construction projects or third-party events also will be allowed on campus.

Student wellness finalists on campus

Four candidates for a newly created director of student wellness position will be interviewing on campus this month. The interviews include one-hour public forums, each held from 11 a.m. to noon in the Memorial Union Gold Room.

The student wellness director, housed in the division of student affairs, will develop, coordinate and oversee a campus-wide student wellness program that includes mental health/counseling services and financial health. 

The four finalists and public forum dates include:

  • June 10: Mark Rowe-Barth, associate director of student wellness, University of Northern Iowa
  • June 15: Moira Johnson, employee wellness administrator, Texas A&M University, College Station
  • June 16: Youmasu Siewe, former director of the Center for Rural Health Practice, University of Pittsburgh, Bradford, Pennsylvania
  • June 22: Donna Schoenfeld, director of wellness promotion, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb

Evaluation forms and candidate résumés are available on the position search website.

The art of alt text

Websites flunk accessibility tests for many reasons. Right at the top of the list are alternative text errors, which prevent visually impaired individuals from fully accessing websites.

Accessibility assist

Got questions? Contact web accessibility coordinator Zayira Jordan,

Many of these individuals as well as others use text-to-voice screen readers to browse the web. Those screen readers need alt text -- brief descriptions of images and graphics -- to decipher visual elements on web pages.

Web pages that contain images without alt text are considered inaccessible.

Technically, alt text errors are easy to correct: Simply include alt text with every image on a web page. But doing alt text right -- that is, creating text that's useful and informative without being distracting -- requires a bit more effort. Here are some tips for creating strong alt text that enhances website accessibility.

How to add alt text

In HTML code, alt text looks like this:
<img alt="Description of my image" src="http://pathtoimage">

However, most needn't bother with code. Generally, photos are added (or uploaded) to websites via forms and those forms include an input box for the alt text. Look for a box labeled "alt text," "alt attribute," or something similar and add the image description there.

Butterfly on a leaf

Alt text: Butterfly on a leaf

Keep it short

Generally, alt text should provide a concise description of the image. Screen reader users have to listen to a lot of copy being read in a synthesized voice, so brevity is a virtue.  "Butterfly on a leaf," for example, would generally suffice for a butterfly image. Don't use "Image of  butterfly on a leaf." That would be redundant. Screen readers recognize and announce images prior to reading the alt text. For the butterfly, the screen reader would intone something like "Graphic ... butterfly on a leaf."

Iowa State University

Alt text: Iowa State University

Logos and other word art

Many graphics merely convey text. These graphics might include company names, logos or sections of text that have been turned into art. In such cases, the alt text is easy; simply restate the text included in the graphic.

Buttons and icons

Right arrow

Alt text: Next page

Alt text for icons and buttons should convey the button's function. So the alt text for a magnifying glass indicating a search would be "search" -- not "magifying glass." A right arrow linking to the next page should be labeled "next page" in the alt text, not "arrow."

When to leave the alt tag blank

Decorative stars

Alt text should remain blank on decorative graphics

Decorative images, such as colorful lines, stars and swirls, are visual tidbits that may brighten up a website visually but add nothing to the content. Imagine a web page with lines of stars separating sections. It's very unlikely that screen reader users will appreciate hearing, "graphic, star," "graphic, star" repeated dozens of times. In such cases, make sure that alt text is empty, with no spaces between the quote markers (alt=""). The screen reader will ignore the art.  


Related stories


Freepik icon credits

Star and right-arrow icons made by Freepik from are licensed by CC 3.0 BY

ISU Dairy Farm to host June 10 open house

Children petting calves at the 2015 ISU Dairy Farm open house.

A video recap of last year’s open house highlights many of the activities visitors can enjoy at the annual ISU Dairy Farm celebration. Video by Dave Olson.

By the numbers

  • 1 cow = 84 pounds milk per day
  • 1 cow = $23,445 community economic activity ($4.9 billion statewide)
  • Iowa is nation’s No. 12 milk producer
  • Iowa has 1,400 dairy farms
  • Iowa has 212,000 dairy cows

The ISU Dairy Farm’s annual open house is Friday, June 10 (6-11 a.m.). Now in its eighth year, the free public event includes tours, samples, giveaways, displays and more in celebration of national Dairy Month.

The farm, located about three miles south of campus at 52470 260th St., houses 400 milking cows on nearly 900 acres. Tours will be conducted every 30 minutes, beginning at 6:30 a.m., and include a stop in the milking parlor and a trolley ride through the farm. Demonstrations and presentations will be set up in the ag discovery center, along with dairy samples.

Please note: Individuals who recently traveled abroad are asked to wait at least five days before visiting any ISU farm. Visitors should not bring food, and change clothing and footwear if arriving from another farm.

Visitors keep campus busy during summer

Many events -- from local to global -- will bring thousands of visitors to campus this summer. The following is a look at the groups (expecting 100 or more participants) that Iowa State will welcome over the next couple months.

Group Dates Participants Housing Venues    
Special Olympics Iowa summer games May 19-21 3,000 yes Lied, Forker, Beyer, Hilton
Odyssey of the Mind World Finals May 25-28 12,000 yes Campus-wide  
New student orientation May 23-July 1 6,000 yes Campus-wide  
USA Ultimate Iowa High School Championships June 4 100 no Rec fields  
PEGASAS (Partnership to Enhance General Aviation Safety, Accessibility and Sustainability) annual meeting June 7-9 150 no Town Engineering  
International Social Theory Consortium Conference June 9-10 125 no Morrill  
Agriculture Credit School: Iowa Bankers Association June 13-17 100 no Scheman  
OPPTAG summer youth programs June 13-July 22 400 yes Campus-wide  
USA Track and Field Iowa state meet June 18-19 1,000 no Cyclone Sports Complex  
USA Hockey Bantam Central District Select Camp June 19-24 150 yes Ames/ISU Ice Arena  
Cyclone Volleyball camps June 21-23, 12-14, 25-27 400 yes Forker, Hilton, Lied  
Miniature Hereford Breeders Association Junior Nationals June 22-26 200 no Hansen Ag Center
School Foods Short Course June 23, 19-21 445 no Scheman  
GoServ Global 5th Anniversary Celebration June 25 350 no Sukup Endzone Club  
Iowa 4-H Youth Conference June 28-30 830 yes Campus-wide  
Iowa Reading Association Conference June 28-29 600 no Scheman  
BravO National Dance Competition July 5-10 1,000 no Iowa State Center  
Universal Dance Association Camp July 7-10 150 yes State Gym  
Iowa Masters Golf Tournament July 8-10 100 no Veenker golf course  
Iowa Games July 9-10, 15-17, 22-24 14,500 no Campus-wide  
Project Lead the Way core training July 10-22 285 yes Howe, Sukup, Elings  
National Cheer and National Dance associations July 15-17 200 yes State Gym  
83rd Annual Custodian/Maintenance School July 18-22 100 no Scheman  
National Beep Baseball World Series July 24-30 500 no Rec fields  
Mary Greeley Medical Center Birthday Party Aug. 7 1,000 no Scheman