Honoring our soldiers

Visitors look over an exhibit in Gold Star Hall

Photo by Christopher Gannon.

A wreath and Gold Star banner stand inside the Memorial Union's Gold Star Hall Nov. 7 as visitors look over exhibits honoring four fallen soldiers who attended or graduated from Iowa State. The four, three of whom served in Vietnam and one during World War II, were remembered through stories and photos during a ceremony in the adjacent Great Hall. Their names have been in the limestone walls of Gold Star Hall since 1984. The gold star represents an individual killed in action while serving in the U.S. military.

Friday is the federal Veterans Day holiday; Veterans Week events on campus continue through Friday.

Senate opens business with diversity and inclusion endorsement

Members of the Faculty Senate took their first vote of the academic year at the Nov. 8 meeting, unanimously approving a resolution in support of diversity and inclusion.

Senate president Jonathan Sturm shared the resolution (PDF) during his regular report, getting a motion and  second to put it before the body for a vote.

"I hope that we can unite today and into the future as a faculty of individuals behind the basic tenets of equality, fairness and inclusivity on the campus of Iowa State University that will allow all our students -- regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual identity, disability or other individuality -- to be safe, welcoming and proud to learn at Iowa State University," he said.

Sturm also read prepared remarks in support of President Steven Leath, who is working with the state Board of Regents on a review of his use of university aircraft.

"When concerns arise that the senate is being passive or that the president is not being transparent at this time, I need to dispel both concerns as false," he said. "In fact, President Leath has solicited my input on multiple occasions and, additionally, at my request, he discussed the circumstances at a meeting with campus leadership.

"Regardless of what you have read in the media, the senate executive board -- following various contacts with the president -- feels that he has been forthcoming and transparent with faculty leadership throughout the past two months," Sturm said.

New name, new online degree

Senators approved a name change for the women's studies program, to women's and gender studies. The program, housed in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, was established in 1977.  The proposal states the name change will align with national trends and represent research, instruction and content that no longer is limited to women.

A proposed online graduate degree also was approved. The master of human computer interaction (M.HCI) is intended for industry professionals and practitioners. The interdepartmental program will be delivered through Engineering/LAS Online Learning.

P&T appeals

Senators will vote next month on proposed changes to Faculty Handbook language that outline the appeal process for promotion and tenure decisions.

"From my perspective, there is no substantive change," said Mike Owen, chair of the appeals committee. "It makes the language in chapter five copacetic with chapter nine."

Administration reports

When former senior vice president of business and finance Warren Madden retired earlier this year, his reporting units were reorganized into two divisions. Senators heard reports from administrators heading up those divisions.

Kate Gregory, senior vice president for university services, outlined her responsibilities supervising about 650 employees in six primary areas -- facilities planning and management; business services; public safety, environmental health and safety; Reiman Gardens; and university museums. She said her focus is on four major themes -- performance, satisfaction, transparency and safety.

"I wanted to get us focused on things I thought reflected the message that I received during my interview process, the message I received in the Faculty Senate report on business and financial services, and the message I received since I've been here from all of you and the president on what you want to see from my organization," Gregory said.

Miles Lackey, chief financial officer and Leath's chief of staff, highlighted his realigned financial division. In addition to budget and capital planning, Lackey oversees capital financing, financial reporting, treasury functions, the tax unit and TIER (Transparent Inclusive Efficiency Review) reporting.

"It brings into the same structure the financial reporting, the capital projects financing as well as the treasury functions at the university," he said.

Lackey outlined priorities and actions for the future, including:

  • Recruitment of nonresident students
  • Adoption of a modern enterprise resource planning system (ERP)
  • Alignment of prices and costs for services across campus
  • Expedited capital expansion
  • Enhanced policy compliance

Online, in-person training helps answer FLSA questions

Training began last week for employees who will become eligible for overtime pay (nonexempt) beginning Dec. 1 and their supervisors. The change is the result of new overtime regulations mandated by the U.S. Department of Labor through the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

The training is a blend of online courses and in-person sessions. To complete the FLSA training, log in to Learn@ISU, select "My Menu" and "My Requirements" for the necessary links.

"University human resources wants to partner with the campus as a whole in an effort to not only educate, but also navigate the cultural shift these changes present to the campus community," said Kristi Darr, interim vice president for UHR.

Online courses

Individuals who will become nonexempt and their supervisors are required to take an online course, available at Learn@ISU. The employee session lasts about 30 minutes, and the supervisor session about 38 minutes.

In-person sessions

In-person working sessions for supervisors and training for time entry staff are scheduled throughout November and December. Enroll in these sessions at Learn@ISU

Some supervisor work sessions already have occurred.

"The feedback has been positive as to how customized the sessions are for participants," Darr said.  "While a PowerPoint presentation serves as a script and provides examples, these working sessions are really about getting the supervisors’ questions answered."

Supervisors have an opportunity to discuss their department's specific needs and concerns with UHR facilitators. Resources, such as UHR's FLSA website, are used to enhance the understanding of the FLSA changes and offer reference tools for later.  

Questions, comments or concerns about the FLSA changes may be emailed to FLSA@iastate.edu.

Related stories

Overtime changes, pay structure top council discussion

In a Nov. 3 update to the Professional and Scientific Council, university human resources (UHR) representatives fielded questions about the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) overtime regulations that go into effect Dec. 1. Some voiced concerns about the added responsibilities of supervisors who manage impacted (nonexempt) employees.

Interim vice president for UHR Kristi Darr said there is a need for a shift in culture between supervisors and employees, based on good communication and planning.

"The next few months, those conversations need to be very frequent -- they need to be forecasting," Darr said.

"This is going to be behavior change. It's going to create different conversations, different interactions that may be uncomfortable for folks," she said. "I encourage you to offer some grace -- not only for yourself, but for your supervisor. Work together to have the conversations, and really help folks change through this process."

Pay structure review

The search for a consultant who will help with a comprehensive review of the P&S classification and compensation system has been narrowed to three finalists. UHR staff will interview those vendors this month.

UHR director of classification and compensation Emma Mallarino Houghton said work on the FLSA changes could be considered phase one of the pay structure review, which is a long-term process.

"We are pulling up foundation and laying new, so it could take as long as two years for full implementation," Mallarino Houghton said.

She said the scope of the classification and compensation review remains unchanged, focusing on:

  • Definitions of related jobs (job families) and career paths
  • Pay structures (including nonexempt) that consider market, equity and performance
  • Pay administration and policies

Provost update

During his remarks, senior vice president and provost Jonathan Wickert summarized Iowa State's progress on items in the state Board of Regents' strategic plan. The metrics, as compared to a year ago, include a:

  • $1.6 million increase in need-based aid for resident undergraduate students ($21 million total)
  • 1.3 percent increase in six-year graduation rate for underrepresented students
  • 2.5 percent increase in four-year graduation rate
  • 5 percent growth in online education
  • > 1 percent increase in academic programs with student outcomes assessment plans (95 percent total)
  • 9 percent increase in sponsored funding, exceeding target of $97 million
  • Total of 19 continuous quality improvement (efficiency) initiatives

"I thought it was important to see some of that," Wickert said. "Basically, every single one of these indicators the board holds important for us is up over the last year."

Review of learning management system has begun

The Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) and Information Technology (IT) are leading a review of Iowa State's learning management system (LMS) needs.

The license with the current LMS provider, Blackboard Learn, ends in December 2017. IT systems and operations director Mike Lohrbach said the current configuration of Blackboard Learn, hosted locally, has reached the end of its life span. Replacement options include a newer, cloud-based version of Blackboard Learn (Blackboard Ultra) or a different product.

Functions of a typical LMS include:

  • Managing access to syllabi and other course materials
  • Posting assignments, quizzes and tests
  • Maintaining a grade book
  • Providing written comments or messaging to students
  • Connecting to other learning tools such as Panopto, Top Hat and Class Climate surveys

"Moving to a new system will offer users a wider variety of features and capabilities to support student learning," said CELT director Ann Marie VanDerZanden. "For faculty who may not have used Blackboard extensively in the past, the change will be an ideal time to incorporate the technology into classes and course administration."

The LMS review will address the benefits and limitations of the current system and identify future needs in areas such as learning analytics and integration with other third-party products. An LMS review website is available for interested faculty, staff and students.

The review includes extensive outreach to campus stakeholder groups, including associate deans for academic programs, undergraduate and graduate student leaders, Faculty Senate members and college instructional designers. Central unit staff who work with the LMS also will be consulted, including the web accessibility coordinator, registrar's office, student disability resources, library, IT and CELT.

All may complete a short survey

All faculty, staff and students are encouraged to complete an LMS review survey to offer feedback on a future LMS. The survey will close on Dec. 1. Questions are based on the LEARN ecosystem report completed in 2014.

Review timeline

  • October-November: Gather input from stakeholders
  • December: Finalize request for proposals (RFP) for new system
  • January 2017: Issue RFP
  • February: Review RFP responses
  • March: Award contract
  • March-August: To prioritize transition and training efforts, identify fall 2017 courses that will use the new LMS
  • August-December: Identify spring 2018 courses that will use the new LMS to further prioritize transition and training efforts


UHR recommends flexible spending accounts to save money

The annual benefits open change periods for nonsupervisory merit and ISU Plan participants closes Nov. 18. In addition to reviewing and changing existing benefits, university human resources (UHR) recommends employees look over their flexible spending account (FSA) contributions. And if you don't participate in an FSA, you may sign up during the open change period.

What are flexible spending accounts?

A health care FSA helps pay for out-of-pocket health care expenses not covered, or only partially covered, by the university's medical, dental or vision insurance plans. UHR estimates enrollment in an FSA could save employees 25 to 40 percent on the cost of eligible expenses, such as prescriptions or approved over-the-counter purchases. A list of eligible expenses is available online.

The dependent care assistance program (DCAP) helps employees save money on child- or dependent-care expenses, including daycare, before- or after-school care and in-home care for older, disabled adults.

A third program is a health reimbursement account (HRA). This account only is available to faculty, professional and scientific, or supervisory merit employees who have excess ISU credits because they have elected the "no coverage" option instead of choosing medical, dental or basic life insurance coverage through Iowa State. Any excess credits not applied to medical, dental or basic life, if applicable, go into the HRA to be used similarly to the FSA. Employees also may choose to direct their excess credits toward their DCAP, instead of the HRA. 


An FSA and the DCAP help employees save money because contributions are deducted from paychecks pretax (before federal, state and social security taxes) in either 12 (for year-round employees) or 10 (for individuals with nine and 10-month appointments) equal amounts. ISU requires a minimum contribution of $20 per month.

The FSA or DCAP contribution amount employees elected for 2016 will carry over to 2017; no change is necessary for those who want to maintain those contribution levels. But if employees want to change the amount they are contributing to these accounts, they may do so during the open change period.

For 2017, employees may put up to $2,600 in the health care FSA, a $50 increase from 2016. The maximum amount allowed for the DCAP is $5,000 per year, per tax household.


Iowa State works with ASIFlex, a third-party administrator, to distribute employees' reimbursement requests. Here are a few things to remember about the process:

  • Reimbursement payments cannot begin until contributions are deducted from paychecks
  • The deadline for submitting reimbursements is April 30 of the year following the dates of service. For example, 2016 reimbursements must be submitted by April 30, 2017.

Employees have four options for filing reimbursements:

  • Online: Set up a user name and password online. Call ASIFLex at 800-659-3035 for assistance.
  • Mobile app: Download the free ASIFlex mobile app from the Google Play or Apple App stores, or scan the appropriate codes online
  • Fax: 877-879-9038
  • Mail: ASIFlex, P.O. Box 6044, Columbia, Missouri, 65205. Additional claim forms are available online.

Unused contributions

A combined total of up to $500 of unused FSA and HRA contributions automatically will carry over from one plan year to the next following the April 30 deadline. The carry-over amount will not reduce the election amount, but will be added to it. For example, if an employee set aside $400 in an FSA for 2016 and only claimed $200 in reimbursements, the remaining $200 will be carried over into 2017 and be added to the employee's contribution.

Claims rollover option

ISU employees enrolled in the university's FSA/HRA accounts and also its health, prescription or dental plans (with no additional supplementary insurance plans) may qualify for the claims rollover option. Here's how it works: Health claims, such as copayments, filed to the employee's medical, prescription and/or dental insurance automatically will be "rolled over" to ASIFlex, which processes the claim and initiates reimbursement. There's no need to submit reimbursement requests for the eligible deductible.

Qualified employees interested in participating in the claims rollover option must complete an authorization form.

How to enroll

Through Nov. 18, all Iowa State employees may enroll in an FSA and the DCAP program. To enroll, log into AccessPlus and select the Employee tab. Click "Benefits Info" in the left column and follow the appropriate links. Employees who qualify for an HRA automatically are enrolled by the university. However, they may choose to direct excess credits to their DCAP instead. Contact the UHR service center, 294-4800, with questions.

Three-minute thesis competition is Tuesday afternoon

Thirty Iowa State graduate students will summarize their research (in three minutes or less) to a non-expert audience next week and compete to represent Iowa State at a similar regional event next April. More than 100 applied for the 30 spots.

The Graduate College's first "3 Minute Thesis" (3MT) event will be on Tuesday, Nov. 15 (2 p.m., 1213 Hoover), and the university community is invited to sit in. While ISU's graduate and professional student senate has included a three-minute competition in its annual spring conference the last few years - and will continue to -- the desire to send an Iowa State entry to Indianapolis on April 7 compelled the Graduate College to organize a fall event, said associate dean William Graves.

The winner will receive a $500 scholarship and an expenses-paid trip to the regional competition. The runner-up and third-place contestants receive $250 and $100 scholarships, respectively.

Why three minutes?

The University of Queensland, Australia, started 3MT in 2008 to help its Ph.D. students effectively -- but concisely -- explain their research in language that nonspecialists in their field understand. Today, 3MT is practiced at universities around the world.

Graves likened it to visiting extended family members over a holiday and trying to explain to them "in an enticing, compelling way what you do.

"It's fun and challenging for students to do that," Graves said.

Graduate students accustomed to preparing long, colorful, perhaps animated slide presentations also are challenged by 3MT's limit of a single, static slide, Graves added.

Other rules of the competition are:

  • A contestant who goes even one second over three minutes is disqualified
  • No props, show-and-tell, singing or performing is allowed
  • No time is built in for questions from the audience or judges

The logistics

Iowa State's 3MT competition will be divided into two halves, with 15 students presenting in each half and a 15-minute break between halves. About a minute lapses between presentations, so audience members won't be allowed to arrive or leave once a half begins. Graves estimated that the second set of presentations will begin around 3:15 p.m.

For those unable to steal away to Hoover Hall, the event will be streamed live online.

A five-member judging team will use a 20-point scorecard that assesses criteria such as clarity of presentation, ability to leave out technical jargon, helpfulness of the slide, ability to engage the audience and oral communication skills such as voice projection and eye contact.

The judging team is:

  • Jane Acker, president, Ames Public Library Board of Trustees
  • Sherry Bates, member, Iowa Board of Regents
  • Dean Borg, program host, Iowa Public Television
  • Amy Mayer, reporter, Iowa Public Radio
  • Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, member, Iowa House of Representatives (District 45)