Settling in

Male and female students study on a couch.

Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Senior religious studies major Alex Shadley (left) and junior dietetics major Bailey Marrah found a quiet, comfortable spot for studying Monday in the Memorial Union's Multicultural Center. There are just four weeks left in the semester, including dead week. 

Presidential search will be open

In a special meeting on Monday, the state Board of Regents appointed former Business dean and provost Benjamin Allen as Iowa State's interim president, effective May 9 and lasting until the next president begins. Allen succeeds President Steven Leath, who on March 20 accepted the presidency at Auburn University, Alabama. Leath's last day at Iowa State will be May 8.

Benjamin Allen

Ben Allen

To aid in the transition, Allen will arrive on campus April 17, working with Leath and serving as a senior policy adviser through May 8.

"It is indeed an honor to be asked to serve as interim president of Iowa State University, a leading land-grant university on a steep upward trajectory, and a place (my spouse) Pat and I care deeply about," Allen said in a statement issued by the board. "I appreciate the opportunity to serve the university, the Board of Regents and the state of Iowa. We especially look forward to meeting and serving ISU students."

Open search

The board also authorized its executive director, Bob Donley, to hire a search firm, establish a search committee and determine a process and timetable for identifying Leath's permanent successor. Donley will provide a search update at the board's next meeting, April 19-20 in Council Bluffs.

Board president Bruce Rastetter, whose term on the board expires April 30, said the search will be open and transparent. He said he and board president pro tem Katie Mulholland directed Donley to develop a template that's similar to the process used six years ago that resulted in Leath's hire. Rastetter said that template should include:

  • A search committee with representation from a wide group of constituency groups, both on campus and off, "reflecting today's university"
  • A confidential first phase, during which the committee pares the applicant group down to 10-12 candidates for initial interviews
  • Public visits to campus, including a town hall-type meeting with the university community, for a smaller group of finalists -- four to five, he estimated
  • Following the campus interviews, the board's selection of the next president

The transition

Leath noted that Allen is a great choice to lead Iowa State through the presidential transition because of his ties to the university and because he is "a beloved member of the Cyclone family."

"I look forward to working with him on a smooth transition that ensures Iowa State's momentum and progress continue," Leath said.

Allen's academic career in Iowa

A familiar face on the ISU campus and in the Ames community, Allen held key faculty and administrative roles over three decades. He joined the Iowa State faculty in 1979, became chair of the transportation and logistics department in 1984, and was named the first Distinguished Professor in business in 1988. That same year, Allen and a colleague from the University of Iowa established the Midwest Transportation Center (now InTrans) at Iowa State. Allen directed that center for two years. He served as interim dean (1994) and dean (1995 to 2001) of the College of Business. He was interim vice president for external affairs from 2001 to 2002, and ultimately served as vice president for academic affairs and provost from 2002 to 2006.

Allen then led the University of Northern Iowa as its ninth president from 2006 until his retirement in 2013. Under his leadership, UNI increased undergraduate student achievement and provided statewide leadership in pre-K through 12 education, including the university's role in the Iowa Mathematics and Science Education Partnership. Allen served as co-chair (with Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds) of the Governor's STEM Advisory Council.

Since his retirement, Allen and his wife, Pat, have made their home in St. Louis. Allen will relocate to Ames, but not live at the Knoll. His annual salary, beginning April 17, will be $525,000.

"Returning to Ames, one of the best college towns in America, and to Iowa State, where I spent so many years as a faculty member and administrator, is very special," Allen said. "I look forward to working with the leadership team, the Faculty Senate, the leaders of the professional and scientific staff and merit staff, student leaders and alumni during this time between presidents to ensure the continued success of the university."

Allen received a bachelor's degree (1969) in business/managerial economics from Indiana University, Bloomington; and a master's (1973) and doctorate (1974) in economics from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Lawrence assumes interim VP role

John Lawrence headshot

John Lawrence

John Lawrence will fill the role of interim vice president for extension and outreach, succeeding Cathann Kress, who accepted an appointment as VP and dean of the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at Ohio State University, Columbus.

Lawrence, associate dean for extension programs and outreach in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and extension director for agriculture and natural resources, will become acting VP on March 31 and step into the interim position when Kress departs on April 29. He also is a professor in economics and serves as director of the Iowa Nutrient Research Center and acting director of the Beginning Farmer Center.

Lawrence was hired as an extension livestock economist and assistant professor at Iowa State in 1991. During his career, he has served as director of the Iowa Beef Center and assistant director of the Iowa Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment Station.

The southwest Iowa native holds two degrees from Iowa State -- a bachelor's in animal science and a master's in economics -- and earned a doctorate (agricultural economics) from the University of Missouri.

A national search will be conducted for a permanent replacement. Senior vice president and provost Jonathan Wickert said the search will be launched in the coming months.

Schmittmann reappointed as LAS dean

Beate Schmittmann

Beate Schmittmann

Beate Schmittmann, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, has been reappointed to a second five-year term.

Since her arrival in 2012, Schmittmann has been successful in managing the college’s explosive enrollment growth; expanding online course offerings; improving retention, graduation and placement rates; strengthening the research infrastructure and external funding record; and enhancing the success of LAS fundraising efforts. Under her leadership, the college recently was awarded an equity gift of approximately $93 million, one of the largest gifts in Iowa State history. 

"The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is Iowa State’s most academically diverse college, encompassing everything from computer science and chemistry to psychology and theatre," said senior vice president and provost Jonathan Wickert. "Beate has done an outstanding job leading her college over the last five years, and I look forward to its continued growth."

The LAS College has 8,500 students and nearly 700 faculty among 22 academic departments, one professional school, 25 cross-disciplinary and interdepartmental programs, and six research centers.

"Leading the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and working with its students, faculty and staff, has been an exceptional and profoundly meaningful experience," Schmittmann said. "I am excited to continue our work."

Wickert expressed thanks to the LAS dean review committee, chaired by Michael Golemo, professor and chair of the music and theatre department, for managing the comprehensive review process. Wickert also noted his appreciation to faculty and staff in the college who participated in the review process through surveys, open forums and communication with the review committee.

Schmittmann earned a diploma in physics from RWTH Aachen University in Germany, and a Ph.D. from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. She served as professor and chair of physics at Virginia Tech University, Blacksburg, prior to her ISU dean post.

More gold for campus green achievements

roof containing planted vegetation

The smaller of two green roof sections on the Sukup-Elings complex. Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Iowa State's sustainability efforts received a few more endorsements in the last month. The university successfully recertified at the gold level in the sustainability tracking, assessment and rating system (STARS) sponsored by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. And Sukup and Elings halls received gold certification for new construction in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program of the U.S. Green Building Council.

STARS gold

Iowa State first received the three-year STARS certification in 2013. Gold is second only to platinum in the four-tiered STARS ranking system.

Director of sustainability programs Merry Rankin called the certification "the only recognition of its kind that provides a full campus perspective."

A university must show achievements in four areas: academics, operations, engagement and planning/administration, and can apply for additional credits in an innovation/leadership category.

"Like many [green] programs, the bar keeps rising and the sponsors continue to add items to the certification requirements," Rankin said. "This achievement touches all corners of campus.

"It reflects a commitment to policies and procedures, but it's also a reflection of many individual consumption choices," she said.

Listed below are a few strengths of ISU's application in each of the four achievement areas:


  • Every college has learning outcomes related to sustainability
  • Ninety-five percent of departments are doing research related to sustainability, 48 percent of ISU research is related to it
  • Semester and summer immersive programs that focus on sustainability


  • Practice of single-stream recycling
  • Guidelines for sustainable purchasing across commodity categories and the university
  • Transportation incentives including makeup of ISU vehicle fleet, RideShare vans, occasional parking pass option for employees who primarily walk, bike or bus to campus


  • Iowa State's sustainability collaboration with the city of Ames
  • Student opportunities to learn life sustainability skills such as the Student Organic Farm, SHOP food pantry, GreenHouse Group (campus housing)
  • Continuing education offerings, such as Master Gardeners, that address sustainability


  • Counseling, referral and wellbeing services for students and employees
  • University nondiscrimination statement and Campus Climate Response Team
  • Support programs and scholarships to help low-income students be successful

LEED gold

ISU's LEED-certified projects (13)

Platinum: College of Design King Pavilion (2010), State Gym (2012)

Gold: Biorenewables Research Laboratory (2011), Hach Hall (2011), Small Animal Hospital at the Lloyd Veterinary Medicine Center (2013), Troxel Hall (2014), Hansen Agriculture Student Learning Center (2015), Curtiss Student Services Mall (2015), Curtiss Harl Commons (2015), Sukup and Elings halls (2017)

Silver: Morrill Hall (2008), Bergstrom Football Complex (2014), Lagomarcino/School of Education (2016)

In certification process: Frederiksen Court residence halls (6), Morrill Hall operations and maintenance, Marston Hall renovation, Geoffroy residence hall

In construction: Bessey Hall addition, biosciences Advanced Teaching and Research Building

In design: Student Innovation Center

Sukup and Elings halls, home to the agricultural and biosystems engineering department and phase two of the Biorenewables Complex, are the university's 13th project in 10 years to receive LEED certification. All but three of those achieved gold or platinum levels for their environmentally sensitive design, construction, operations and maintenance.

"Sukup and Elings continue what we started with the [Biorenewables Laboratory] and show off the best of everything we have learned to date," said Kerry Dixon, project manager with facilities planning and management and ISU's LEED-accredited professional.

She noted that evolutions in the design and construction industries "actually make this easier to do" now than 10 years ago. For example, building materials such as drywall, ceiling tiles and carpet that contain recycled content -- which LEED smiles upon – have become less expensive than products made from raw materials. And nontoxic paints that used to be sold only by national paint retailers now are common at stores such as Lowe's and Target.

LEED measures achievements in five categories and awards a credit total. Extra credits are awarded for exemplary achievements in any of the five. In the Sukup-Elings submission, five of the 43 points are extra credit.

The project received all points possible in the water efficiency category for its landscaping selections; absence of an outdoor irrigation system; and dual-flush toilets and low-flow urinals, sinks and showerheads. Together, these choices reduce potable water use by 89 percent from the state building codes.

Other credit-earning features of the buildings are:

  • Office window interior light shelves (positioned above a window blind), that bounce daylight across the room and lessen or eliminate the need for overhead lights.
  • A four-story atrium with no parallel walls, designed to diffuse noise and be acoustically "dead"
  • Sidewalks and a west loading dock area made from noncolored, reflective concrete that helps keep the site cooler
  • Two roof sections contain vegetation, with the rest of the roof surfaces white to reflect light and stay cooler
  • Carpet, composite wood, paints, adhesives and sealants that emit low levels of toxins and assure indoor air quality
  • Occupants' access to public transportation, bicycle storage and changing rooms
  • Availability of community services such as restaurants, post office, fire department, library within one-half mile

LEED projects at Iowa's regent universities




Iowa State



U of Northern Iowa



U of Iowa



U of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics






*Registering a project with the U.S. Green Building Council shows intent to receive LEED certification, whether the application ultimately is successful or not. The figures include projects in design or construction phases and certified projects.


Accessible PowerPoints are on students' wish list

In a recent visit with student government representatives, web accessibility coordinator Zayira Jordan got an interesting bit of intel. Iowa State students want in-class PowerPoint presentations to be more accessible.

It's a smart request, Jordan says. Accessible documents make learning easier for everyone -- not just those who have disabilities. Students have different learning styles, and accessible PowerPoint presentations give them more options.

For example, Jordan said access features added to videos (captions and transcripts) are useful to many learners. Similarly, the descriptive text that helps the visually impaired make sense of the bars and lines on a complex chart is probably equally welcomed by many others.

Here are Jordan's tips for putting together accessible PowerPoint presentations that work well in the classroom and online.

Select built-in designs

PowerPoint's templates are well-organized, tested and work with screen readers used by those who are blind or have low vision. The templates are available under the "file" tab. Select "new" or "new from template" to see the options.

Don’t insert text boxes into your slides

Manually inserted text boxes are an accessibility problem because screen readers may have trouble reading them. The solution is to select a slide template that accommodates your content, so that you needn't add a text box. A variety of slide arrangements are available under the "new slide" option.

Use sans-serif fonts

Sans-serif fonts, like Arial and Verdana, are easier to read than serif fonts. Font size should be at least 24 points.

Do a color check

Make sure the presentation's color scheme is high contrast -- high enough to be discerned by those with low vision or color blindness. Use an online color analyzer, like Web Aim's Color Contrast Checker, to see if the font colors and sizes are accessible.

Also, check your presentation to see if you've used color to convey information. Examples might be a chart with colored bars or a form in which red labels denote required entries. To make these examples accessible to those who are color blind, find a color-less way to convey the info. For example, you might add different patterns to the bars on the chart or add the word "required" to form labels.

Give every slide its own title

People using screen readers tend to be skimmers, and a common tactic is to run through the slide titles. Putting a unique title on each slide provides a useful navigation tool.

Use the outline view to prep

The outline view, available under the "view" tab, is a handy way to build, review and make changes on presentations. It's also a good way to see the copy as it will be spoken by the screen reader.

Add alt text to images, charts and tables

Images, charts and tables all need alternative text -- meaningful descriptions of the objects. Right-click the object and follow these instructions to navigate to the alt tag form. Fill in the "description" box. Generally, the "title" box can be left blank.

Keep tables simple

Tables with too many rows and columns overwhelm both viewers and screen readers. Complex tables are best saved to PDF linked files. PDFs can accommodate more explanation of what's going on in the tables.

Don't use automatic transitions and animations

These gimmicks can distract or change the slide before the presenter or reader is ready. They also can mess with screen readers, causing them to re-read slides.

Provide captions, transcripts for video and audio

Closed captions or subtitles must be encoded into videos before the videos are added to presentations. Transcripts are a nice addition to videos and a must for any audio files inserted into presentations.

Convert to PDF for online viewing

PowerPoint presentations should be converted to PDFs for online use. The files are smaller and don't require the user to have Microsoft Office or a special plug-in. When saving, be sure to save in the PDF file format and export. (Don't use the print option to turn your PowerPoint into a "PDF;" screen readers won't work with PDFs created that way.)

Use the accessibility checker

Run your presentation through a PowerPoint accessibility checker. If you've got errors, the checker will helpfully propose a fix. Here's how to find the accessibility checker on current versions of PowerPoint presentations. 


Accessibility assist

Have questions? Contact web accessibility coordinator Zayira Jordan, 294-0982.

Related stories

Be alert when the thunder rolls


Photo courtesy of OAR/ERL/National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL).

Iowa's annual severe weather awareness week (March 27-31) wraps up tomorrow, so it's a good time to brush up on what action to take during spring and summer's severe weather.

Visit the Environmental Health and Safety website for lists of the university's weather coordinators, evacuation maps and weather radio locations. The site also offers numerous tips, detailed below, to stay safe when severe weather threatens.

Helpful hints

  • Be aware of weather conditions at all times, especially if severe weather is predicted
  • Sign up for an email or severe weather text alert from local news organizations
  • Download a weather app for smartphones or mobile devices (many are free)
  • If you receive a severe weather alert, spread the word to your co-workers, especially those who work outside
  • Follow local weather services on social media, such as the National Weather Service Des Moines (Twitter, Facebook)


Of all natural disasters, floods occur most frequently and are the most costly. They also are the leading cause of death among natural disasters.

  • Head to higher ground if a flash flood warning is issued for your area
  • Don't drive or walk through floodwaters
  • If you work in a flood-prone area, be prepared to evacuate quickly


  • All thunderstorms produce lightning. Lightning is the second most common cause of natural disaster deaths.
  • If you hear thunder, lightning is close enough to harm you
  • If you hear thunder -- even in the distance -- move to a safe place. Fully enclosed buildings are best. Sheds, picnic tables, tents and covered porches do not protect from lightning. If no safe buildings are nearby, get in a car (with a hard metal top) and close the windows. Stay there for at least 30 minutes after the last rumble of thunder.
  • If you are planning outdoor activities, know where to go for safety and how long it will take to get there
  • Consider postponing outdoor activities or moving them inside if thunderstorms are predicted
  • Don't use a corded phone while there's thunder and lightning, unless it's an emergency. Cordless and cell phones are OK.
  • Avoid touching metal, such as tools
  • Avoid using plumbing fixtures since pipes conduct electricity
  • Do not lie on concrete floors or lean against concrete walls


Tornadoes are one of nature's most violent storms, reaching wind speeds of up to 300 miles per hour.

  • If you hear a tornado siren while inside a building, go to a windowless interior room on the lowest level; bathrooms often are best. Avoid buildings with large, expansive roof structures, like the Armory. Many campus buildings have designated storm shelters.
  • If you are walking across campus and hear the tornado siren, get to the nearest building and follow the same procedures
  • If you are driving a car and debris begins flying around you, pull over and park. Your next two options are:
    • stay in the car, buckle your seatbelt and keep your head below the windows and cover it with your hands or a blanket
    • if you can safely get to a ditch or area lower than the road, exit the car, lie down and cover your head

Heat stress

Excessive heat exposure causes more deaths each year in the United States than hurricanes, lightning, tornados, floods and earthquakes combined. For yourself and your co-workers, know the signs of heat stress:

  • Muscle spasms
  • Heavy sweating
  • Fainting, collapsing
  • Blurred vision
  • Weakness, fatigue
  • Pale, clammy skin
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion, erratic behavior

To avoid heat stress, take frequent breaks in a cool, shaded area and drink water. If symptoms appear serious, seek medical help.

Become a storm spotter

The National Weather Service will present severe storm spotter training at Iowa State on April 4 (1:30-3:30 p.m., Memorial Union, Gallery Room). Training is open to all faculty and staff, but encouraged for employees in departments with outside workers. Participants will learn about severe weather climatology, severe thunderstorm types, severe weather threats and how to identify them, how to report severe weather, spotter safety and severe weather communications. Register at Learn@ISU. Contact Environmental Health and Safety for more information. 

Add alt tags in PowerPoint

PowerPoint images, charts and tables need alternative text -- meaningful descriptions of the objects. Here's how to find the alt tag box in your version of PowerPoint. Once there, fill in the "description" box. Generally, the "title" box can be left blank.

Image (PC)

  • Right-click image
  • Click Format Picture
  • Click Size & Properties icon
  • Click Alt Text

Image (Mac)

  • Right-click image
  • Click Size & Position
  • Click Alt Text

Chart (PC)

  • Right-click chart
  • Click Format Chart Area
  • Click Chart Options
  • Click Size & Properties icon
  • Click Alt Text

Chart (Mac)

  • Hover over chart to find "chart area" 
  • Click to see Format Chart Area sidebar
  • Click Chart Options Tab 
  • Click Size & Properties icon
  • Click Alt Text

Table (PC)

  • Right-click table
  • Click Format Shape
  • Click Shape Options tab
  • Click Size & Properties
  • Click Alt Text

Table (Mac)

  • Right-click table
  • Click Format Shape
  • Click Size & Properties icon
  • Click Alt Text


Use PowerPoint's accessibility checker

PowerPoint's accessibility checker helps find and fix errors in presentations. Here's how to access and use the checkers on PCs, Macs and Office 365.

Accessibility checker (PC)

  • Click File tab
  • Click Info
  • Click Check for Issues icon
  • Click Check Accessibility

Accessibility checker (Mac)Click Review tab

  • Click Check Accessibility icon

Accessibility checker (Office 365)

  • Click Review tab
  • Click Check Accessibility box

Musical version of 'Little Women' opens this weekend


A musical version of "Little Women" opens Friday for a two-weekend run in Fisher Theater. Photo by Nancy Thompson and Jim Tener.

ISU Theatre's musical adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women" opens Friday with a two-weekend run at Fisher Theater.

The story opens in the 1860s as the four March sisters -- Meg (junior Morgan Darrow), Jo (senior Maddie Olsem), Beth (sophomore Libby Peterson) and Amy (junior Emmy Cuvelier) -- along with their mother, Marmee (junior Olivia Griffith), are about to celebrate Christmas in New England without their father, a preacher serving the Union Army during the Civil War.

Meg, the oldest sister, acts like a second mother to her sisters and looks forward to someday marrying and becoming a mother herself. Jo, a tomboy, longs to be a writer. Beth is drawn to music and wishes to have a piano, while Amy yearns to be an artist. The sisters grow from children to adults during the course of the musical, experiencing the ups and downs of life's journey.

"It's a story about the bonds of familial love and the pursuit of personal discovery," said director Brad Dell.

He said Jo's character especially exemplifies this by pursuing her passion of writing while surrounding herself with the loving support of her family.

Show times are 7:30 p.m. March 31-April 1 and April 7-8, with 2 p.m. matinees on April 2 and April 9. Tickets, available at the Iowa State Center ticket office, through Ticketmaster or at the door prior to the performances, are $21 ($19 for seniors and $14 for students).