A little dusty now, but it's going to be nice

Worker sands drywall mud

A crew member from Grabau Construction, Boone, sands drywall mud in a new collaboration space for students on the second floor of Pearson Hall. Photo by Christopher Gannon.

A large open space at the north end of the second floor of Pearson Hall, where students can work together before and after class, is part of a $1.9 million project to upgrade general university classrooms on the floor. Replacing 11 smaller classrooms will be eight modern classrooms -- three with seats for 80; four with seats for 32, one with a capacity of 28 -- fitted with state-of-the-art classroom technologies. The project also includes new mechanical/air handling systems, lighting and furnishings. Construction should wrap up by June 1, followed by technology and furniture installation and testing this summer. The classrooms will be ready for fall classes.

A separate but adjacent project in Pearson Hall this spring will convert the music and theatre department's second floor rehearsal room and office area into graduate assistant and faculty spaces for the department of world languages and cultures, currently at home on the third floor. Since July 1, 2016, world languages and cultures has included anthropology faculty and degree programs, still housed in Curtiss Hall. The project also will create an anthropology teaching lab and collections space in the Pearson basement. The merged world languages and cultures department will expand to the second floor, and the music and theatre department will move to the third floor of Carver Hall.

Iowa State must trim another $1 million

Iowa State leaders learned late last week that they'll need to trim nearly $1 million more from the current year's budget.

Chief financial officer Miles Lackey said the cuts will be allocated across the same four categories used to make $8 million in reductions last month:

  • Postponing nonessential deferred maintenance and repairs
  • Delaying some searches or eliminating vacant positions
  • Reducing expenditures for professional development, equipment, travel, printing and communications
  • Temporarily reducing some campus-wide services

Lackey reiterated President Steven Leath's commitment to minimizing the impact on students, both this spring and in the future.

"There are no plans to reduce financial aid packages to achieve savings," Lackey said, but added "the cuts do present considerable challenges for the university as we try to make progress in scaling services and programs to account for ISU's enrollment growth."

Why more, why now?

University leaders knew a second reduction was possible -- but they also were hoping it wouldn't happen. The deappropriations bill approved by legislators and signed by Gov. Terry Branstad on Feb. 1 included a "miscellaneous" division that contained a section authorizing the state Department of Management to identify $11.5 million in operational savings among state agencies. On Feb. 24, department leaders assigned $2.75 million of that amount to the three regent universities.

Besides Iowa State's $990,000 reduction, the University of Iowa received a reduction of $1,237,500 and Northern Iowa of $522,500.

With the direct deappropriations signed into law last month, the regent universities will make a total of $20.75 million in mid-year cuts.

Where Iowa State cut $8 million

Lackey provided this summary of how Iowa State units met the first reduction:

  • $4.7 million: Postponing nonessential deferred maintenance and capital improvement projects. Key projects are a renovation of the Scheman Building, carpet and furniture replacements in the library's Learning Connections Center and a classroom renovation project in Kildee Hall.
  • $2.2 million: Personnel savings, primarily achieved by leaving vacant positions unfilled
  • $1.1 million: Reductions in operational expenditures and certain services, including scheduled computer replacements, scholarly journal subscriptions, professional development and services specific to the research enterprise

Newton tapped to lead ISU Police

Michael Newton

Michael Newton

Michael Newton will be Iowa State's next chief of police, an expanded role that also includes an assistant vice president post that reports to senior vice president for university services Kate Gregory. His appointment is effective April 3.

Newton has served in the University of Wisconsin, Madison, police department since 1998, climbing the ranks to captain in 2010. He has experience in emergency management, patrol, and planning and development. Newton currently oversees the field services division, which includes approximately 100 officers and employees.

"Michael brings strong experience in community collaboration and emergency response to Iowa State," Gregory said. "We had a diverse, broadly experienced and talented group of candidates from across the U.S., and the search committee had a very hard job. ISU has an outstanding police force and Michael's background and experience will make it even stronger."

Newton will oversee the public safety department, which includes the police and parking divisions. In addition, his responsibilities will include community engagement and outreach; emergency planning and management; threat assessment and response; and Clery Act compliance.

Newton earned a criminal justice degree from Mount Senario College, Ladysmith, Wisconsin; a master's degree in administration of justice from the University of Louisville, Kentucky; and a Ph.D. in business administration from Northcentral University, Prescott Valley, Arizona. He succeeds former police chief Jerry Stewart and Aaron DeLashmutt, who has served as interim chief since Stewart's retirement in 2015.

Collaborative study examines new student onboarding

The academic and student affairs divisions are collaborating on ways to help new students successfully transition to life and learning at Iowa State. A 31-member task force has been appointed to examine, report and recommend new student "onboarding" procedures that impact 6,000-7,000 students each year.

"The broad charge is to refine how we bring new students on board and prepare them to be successful. The biggest focus is from when they're admitted, to the end of their first year," said associate provost Dave Holger, who co-chairs the task force with interim dean of students Keith Robinder.

Motivation for change

Holger said a couple of experiences prompted the study:

  • Student government president Cole Staudt introduced a proposal to combine mandatory student training (diversity, sexual assault prevention, Library 160, university resources and financial literacy) into a single orientation course
  • Gralon Johnson, a postdoc and University Innovation Alliance (UIA) fellow in student affairs, attended a process mapping workshop in which UIA member Michigan State presented a communications analysis that found more than 400 university emails were sent to new students, from recruitment to the time they arrived on campus

"Those two things are what motivated this, more than anything else," Holger said.

The task force plans to have a report and set of recommendations to senior vice president and provost Jonathan Wickert and senior vice president for student affairs Martino Harmon by the end of the 2018 spring semester.

"It will have implications for a lot of campus," Holger said. "I think everybody feels we're doing a lot of it very well. This isn't because somebody thinks it's broken. It's really because we want to do it better, in a way that really impacts the students in a positive way. No matter if you're doing a good job or not, you can always do it better."

Study and analysis

After a couple of large-group meetings, Holger said five initial subcommittees are being formed -- a similar approach used in the development process for the university's latest strategic plan. Each group will focus on different student populations, including:

  • Direct-from-high school undergraduates
  • Transfer students
  • Graduate students
  • Veterinary Medicine students
  • Distance education and other non-degree students

The subcommittees, coordinated by a six-person steering committee, will create what Holger called a "reasonable inventory" of current onboarding efforts -- communications and programming already in place to help students make a successful transition to ISU.

Holger said once that comprehensive list is compiled, the next step is analysis.

"We're going to be asking the question, 'what's the baseline information we want students to know about and be familiar with?' We want people on the subcommittees to be thinking about gaps and redundancies, and come up with a short list of what students -- no matter what their backgrounds are -- need to know in order to be successful," he said.

After the broad initial study, Holger said the subcommittees will take a closer look at more defined student populations, such as international students, student-athletes or student veterans.

"There are a lot of ways you can slice this. For the first cut, we're not trying to slice it too fine," Holger said. "The idea is that this summer and next year, the group will be doing that further analysis."

Growth at ISU Research Park meets needs of employees, community

If you build it, they will come.

This may be an over-used movie phrase, especially here in Iowa. But it's a mantra that Iowa State University Research Park and university leaders have taken to heart, and it's working.

If you build it …

The ISU Research Park was established in 1987 south of U.S. Highway 30 in Ames as a not-for-profit corporation operated by a board of directors, appointed by Iowa State and the ISU Foundation.

Today, the research park has grown to more than 70 companies, 1,700 employees and 200 acres, with an additional 200 acres ready for development. With more companies recognizing the advantages of partnering with Iowa State on research and development initiatives, the research park is expected to employ 5,000 people by 2025.

As was the case 30 years ago, ISU Research Park continues to help existing Iowa-based companies develop their potential, as well as nurture new scientific businesses with cutting-edge ideas, innovations and technologies. For example, John Deere announced last week that it's opening a strategic technology office at the research park to focus on developing integrated solutions for the company's agriculture and turf, and construction and forestry divisions. John Deere joins other businesses that are innovators of animal health, biotechnology, software development, genetic engineering, medical imaging and more.

… They will come

More companies create a need for additional talented employees, including ISU students seeking opportunities to participate in technological breakthroughs. To compete globally for the best individuals, the research park must offer attractive amenities.

"We want employees to feel part of something that is more than just a work environment," said Steve Carter, president of ISU Research Park. "We want to meet the needs of these companies as they attract and retain people.


According to Carter, employees value access to conveniences and services that balance work and life.  

"These companies are looking for talented individuals straight out of school, such as ISU students, and those employees want to conduct their life activities in close proximity to where their work is," Carter said.

Facilities in various construction phases to help satisfy this goal are:

  • Provisions Lot F, a bistro-style restaurant at the north end of the research park, owned and operated by the owners of The Café, located in Somerset. The eatery will serve patrons morning through evening (exact serving hours are yet to be determined) beginning in late April or early May. The restaurant eventually will offer bakery and catering services.
  • Ames Racquet and Fitness, a full-service workout facility, is nearing completion southwest of the Economic Development Core Facility, on the south end of the research park. It's scheduled to open July 15.
  • McFarland Clinic recently announced that it's breaking ground on a clinic northwest of the Economic Development Core Facility at the beginning of April. Up to 13 physicians will practice family medicine, sports medicine and optometry at the facility. Physical therapy services also will be available. The clinic is scheduled to open in spring 2018.
  • Lily Pad Learning Center, a daycare facility, also will be housed in the new McFarland Clinic building. The center will serve 125 children -- infants through prekindergarten -- and will open in summer 2018.  
  • Story County Conservation Board is partnering with the research park to develop outdoor learning and recreation areas. The Tedesco Environmental Learning Corridor will occupy about 30 acres inside the research park between Workiva, to the north, and the Economic Development Core Facility, to the south. New bike and walking paths will connect to Ames' existing trail systems and the High Trestle Bridge Trail. Tree clearing begins this week. Completion will take from three to five years.

Community outreach

ISU Research Park administrators have developed various events to encourage Ames community members, including ISU faculty, staff and students, to visit the park and its facilities. Some upcoming events include a blood drive (Sept. 27), early summer bike race (date TBD) and the next Lucky Star Market, an art and vintage collections show scheduled for May 13 (9 a.m.-4 p.m., parking lot of ISU Research Building 2). 

"We're working to get greater community involvement so everyone can see what's happening out here," Carter said. "The research park is a bridge between ISU and Ames and the central Iowa business community."

In the future, it's possible the "if you build it, they will come" mantra could flip-flop into "if they come, you will build it." With the number of employees at the research park expected to double over the next few years, Carter said it's likely new amenities and activities will continue to sprout up to satisfy the needs of both research park employees and the surrounding community.

"We know there's going to be more people in the research park in the future," Carter said. "We want to get a feel for what else will be needed and what will be good for our community and our companies."


Iowa State University Research Park. Submitted photo.


Gardens project, park sale clear regents

Iowa State will sell a small west Ames park to the city and move ahead with plans to redevelop the southwest corner of Reiman Gardens, following state Board of Regents approval on Feb. 23.

The sale price for the four-acre Franklin Park on South Franklin Avenue is $166,000. Iowa State has owned the land since the early 1940s and leased it to the city of Ames since 1960.

The Sycamore Falls project at Reiman Gardens develops 1.25 acres of a hillside as part of the gardens' 20-year master plan. The project features a series of pools on multiple levels with water cascading between them. It also incorporates seven 80-year-old sycamore trees on the east side of the site. Work will begin in April, with final plantings occurring next spring. The $3.4 million budget will be completed with private gifts, including a $1.7 million lead gift from Roy and Bobbi Reiman, for whom the gardens are named.

Retention, graduation rates

The board received an annual report on student retention and graduation rates at the three universities. Iowa State recorded its highest one-year retention rate last fall, 88.1 percent for the fall 2015 freshman class, as well as its highest six-year graduation rate, 74.3 percent for the fall 2010 entering class. By contrast, the six-year graduation rate for the fall 2001 class was 65.6 percent. The lowest one-year retention rate in the last decade was 83.7 percent, for the fall 2007 entering class.

Fall 2015 ISU Freshmen: One-year retention rates



Financial aid received


     Pell grant


     Federal subsidized loan (no Pell)


     Federal unsubsidized loan (no Pell)


Regents Admission Index score*


     245 or higher






     224 or lower


     Unknown score






     American Indian








     Pacific Islander


     Two or more races


Iowa regent universities


Public 4-year colleges (national average)


*Percentage listed for resident students only

Audit: Weapons policy

Iowa State administrators requested a weapons audit last fall, in connection with an audit completed of ISU flight service and university-owned airplanes. Its purpose was to review documents that gave President Steven Leath a waiver to Iowa State's weapons policy regarding storage of weapons at the Knoll and transport of weapons on university planes.

The policy, in place since 2005, prohibits the possession, use, storage or transport of weapons on campus unless a waiver is granted from the office of risk management and approved by the director of ISU police and senior vice president for university services. Police officers and military science students and faculty are authorized to use weapons.

The board's chief audit executive Todd Stewart told members of the regents' audit committee that "what is clear and very important" is that former public safety director Jerry Stewart toured the Knoll before the Leaths moved in to look at the potential for safe storage of weapons, and that director Stewart verbally expressed his satisfaction with safe options to former senior vice president for business and finance Warren Madden. Transport of weapons was not part of this conversation, chief auditor Stewart said.

At a minimum, Madden gave oral approval to Leath to store weapons at the Knoll, Stewart said. A search of university files as part of the audit failed to produce written proof of a waiver. In January, senior vice president for university services Kate Gregory authored a statement that covers both storage of Leath's weapons at the Knoll and his transport of them on university planes going forward.

The audit contains a single recommendation: A weapons waiver for the university president also should be approved by the board office's executive director.

The full board will take action on the audit report at its April meeting.

Also up for the board's final approval in April is:

  • The athletics department's purchase of a new tennis practice facility for $2.7 million from the Iowa Youth Basketball Foundation (developer Dickson Jensen). A five-year lease agreement the board approved in April 2016 included a purchase option during the life of the lease. Funding sources include operating revenues and existing athletics department funds and a $500,000 naming gift from alumnus and Des Moines attorney Bruce McKee.
  • Parking permit fees for the year that begins July 1. All stalls managed by the parking division would remain unchanged. Permits for the Memorial Union ramp would go up an average of 2.5 percent ($5 to $12 increases), as proposed. The illegal exit fee at the ramp would go up a proposed $20, to $120.
  • Student housing and dining fees for next year. The residence department proposes to raise residence hall and apartment rates about 3 percent (in whole dollar amounts), with the exception of Schilletter and University Village apartments, where the proposed increase is 2 percent. Assistant vice president for student affairs Pete Englin told board members that Iowa State's entry into a prime food vendor contract with the other two regent universities last year already has saved the university about $350,000 in food costs. As a result, proposed meal plan increases are less than 1 percent. Meal blocks and guest rates in the dining centers would go up about 3 percent, as proposed.
  • Eliminate the Community College Policy Center in the School of Education and the interdisciplinary Information Infrastructure Institute.

Bond sale

The board approved the sale of $8.295 million of dormitory revenue refunding bonds to advance refund the 2018-28 maturities on $13.4 million in bonds sold in 2007 to partially cover costs of renovating the Oak-Elm and Maple Willow Larch dining centers. Lower interest rates will save the university an estimated $615,000.


New student onboarding task force

Task force members

Co-chair: Dave Holger, associate provost
Co-chair: Keith Robinder, interim dean of students

  • Lequetia Ancar, multicultural liaison officer, Engineering student services
  • Claire Andreasen, Faculty Senate
  • Ashton Archer, graduate and professional student senate
  • Tonia Baxter, Professional and Scientific Council
  • Cameron Campbell, associate dean, College of Design
  • Cinzia Cervato, Morrill Professor, geological and atmospheric sciences
  • Laura Doering, registrar
  • Pete Englin, director, residence
  • Patrice Feulner, senior associate director, athletics
  • William Jenks, chair, chemistry
  • Gralon Johnson, University Innovation Alliance fellow, student affairs
  • Joel Johnson, director, Engineering student services
  • Roberta Johnson, director, student financial aid
  • Liz Kurt, director, new student programs
  • Jen Leptien, interim director, learning communities
  • Matt Pistilli, director, student affairs assessment and research
  • Nicci Port, project director, diversity and inclusion
  • Mark Rowe-Barth, director, student wellness
  • Zoey Shipley, student government
  • Amy Slagell, associate dean, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
  • Kelsey Smyth, advising professional development coordinator, Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching
  • Judy Strand, program coordinator, Graduate College
  • Marlene Strathe, director, School of Education
  • Katharine Suski, director, admissions
  • Howard Tyler, co-chair, university academic advising committee
  • Deb Vance, interim director, international students and scholars
  • Susan Vega-Garcia, Faculty Senate
  • Cody West, student government
  • Karen Zunkel, director, undergraduate programs and academic assessment

Steering committee members

  • Cameron Campbell
  • Dave Holger
  • Gralon Johnson
  • Keith Robinder
  • Kelsey Smyth
  • Katharine Suski


High-flying fun at Stephens

Cirk La Putyka's Slapstick Sonata show

Submitted photo.

A night of comedy and breathtaking action suitable for the entire family is part of Cirk La Putyka's "Slapstick Sonata" performance at Stephens Auditorium on Friday, March 3 (7:30 p.m.). The smile-inducing show features physical feats and theater without dialogue, engaging the audience through movement and music. Based in Prague, Czech Republic, the Cirk La Putyka troupe includes actors, musicians, acrobats and dancers. Tickets, available at the door or through Ticketmaster, range from $25 to $55 for adults, $25 to $47 for youth and are $25 for students.