Growth in online learning helps set another summer enrollment record

Male student studies in the Hach Hall lounge

Senior chemical engineering major James Williams studies in the Hach Hall lounge between his two classes Tuesday afternoon. Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Iowa State has set a new summer enrollment record, 12,060 students, surpassing last summer's record by 118 students. Undergraduate enrollment is up about 3.5 percent (278 students) over last summer, with graduate enrollment down about 5 percent (175 students). The colleges of Engineering and Business showed overall growth of 203 students (6 percent) and 91 students (8 percent), respectively.

The census day for summer enrollment is the 10th day of the second session, though the count reflects all registration through that day and includes classes that concluded prior to it.

Summer enrollment by college




Agriculture and Life Sciences












Human Sciences



Liberal Arts and Sciences



Veterinary Medicine



Interdisciplinary (graduate)






Post docs






Online learning is still climbing

The 3,876 students who enrolled only in online courses make up nearly one-third of all summer school students this year. The group's size increased about 15 percent -- a net 488 students -- over last summer's group of online-only learners.

The university offered 26 more course sections at the undergraduate level this summer over last. The College of Business added 10 course sections (from 1 to 11); the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences added 15 (from 91 to 106). But online enrollment growth also is achieved by adding the teaching assistant positions necessary to support more online learners, said Mark Woolley, program director for Engineering-LAS Online Learning.

The Business college offered six 200- and 300-level core courses online this summer from five departments: accounting, marketing, management, management information systems and supply chain management. Most of them previously were offered on campus in the summer. Associate dean Scott Grawe said the college's "Learn While You Earn" campaign was a strategic decision to allow students to continue earning credits while working in internships or living away from campus and to help them stay on track for graduation. It also served to shift some demand for popular courses away from a "capacity crunch that we see in the fall and spring semesters," he said.

Overall, enrollment in those courses is up from last year, he said. College leaders also received feedback from students that will be helpful in marketing its summer course offerings next year, he said.

LAS dean Beate Schmittmann noted the college is in year two of its Discover Summer Online (DSO) promotion. She said the intent is to keep the DSO lineup consistent so students across the university can build those courses into their four-year plans.

The courses selected for DSO, she said, are those "with high enrollments, are required for many majors across ISU or are popular electives to meet the U.S. diversity and international perspectives requirements."

The LAS college also is testing a new promotion this summer, Discover Your Minor Online, and that also has driven the college enrollment increases, Woolley said. The promotion focuses on five minors: leadership studies, criminal justice studies, political science, women's studies and sociology.

"Students may not realize they're a class or two from earning a minor, and we thought summer might be a good time for them to get those courses in," Woolley said.

Enrollment in online courses tied to those minors is up nearly 20 percent over last summer, he said.

Top 10: Summer courses with highest enrollments

Course number

Course name


Offered online

ENGL 302

Business Communication



ECON 101

Principles of Microeconomics



MATH 166

Calculus II



ENGL 314

Technical Communication



SP CM 212

Fundamentals of Public Speaking



ACCT 284

Financial Accounting



I E 305

Engineering Economic Analysis



HIST 370

History of Iowa


Online only

MATH 165

Calculus I



W S 201

Introduction to Women's Studies


Online only

Seven of the top 10 courses included at least one online section. Two more in the group, History of Iowa (No. 8) and Introduction to Women's Studies (No. 10), were offered exclusively online.

Five things to know about the Grants Hub

How to contact the Grants Hub

Researchers looking to consult with the Grants Hub can call 294-4220 during business hours or email

Numerous resources also are available on the hub's website. The Grants Hub office is at 1138 Pearson.  

Researchers seeking funding from the National Science Foundation have 15 pages to make their case. For a National Institutes of Health grant, it's 12 pages. Complex proposals vying for lucrative and prestigious federal grants gobble up that real estate quickly. Brevity matters.

"A picture or a graphic can be worth 1,000 words. You can save a lot of that space," said Guru Rao, associate vice president for research.

That sort of advice is one way the dedicated experts at Iowa State's Grants Hub can help researchers. They also can design that graphic. Or prep budgets. Or edit text. Or assist in finding the opportunity in the first place. Or simplify management of the award.

With its wide variety of services, the Grants Hub has worked with more than 450 researchers and research administrators in landing more than $56 million in external funding since the office of the vice president for research established the hub in January 2015. In the hub's first full fiscal year, 2016, Iowa State secured a record amount of external research funding, topping $252 million.

"The Grants Hub was established to help investigators tackle new challenges, from their first grant as a new faculty member at Iowa State, to pursuing funding from a new agency, to large collaborative inter-institutional proposals. The staff have really made a difference in the capacity of faculty to seek funding for their research," said Sarah Nusser, vice president for research.

Here are five things to know about the program that gives Iowa State's research funding an efficient boost:

It's unique

When Grants Hub director Liz Zuercher and her staff go to conferences, they get a lot of questions. Few, if any, top research universities have similar centralized programs designed to support finding, getting and handling grants.  

"There's not too many of us," Zuercher said.

Rao said outside faculty who visit campus often are envious of the hub, and officials from other institutions have inquired about using it. 

"They go, 'Wow, you guys are so lucky to have something like this. It makes life so much easier,'" he said. "Word travels very quickly."

Walter Moss, an assistant professor of biochemistry, biophysics and molecular biology, said there was nothing like the Grants Hub at Yale University, where he was a postdoctoral fellow before joining the Iowa State faculty in August 2016.

"No one was actually there to help you," he said. "They would tell you what is wrong, but they wouldn't tell you how to fix it."

It's an advantage

Proposal preparation is the most common service the Grants Hub provides. Hub staff can make sure a budget is in the required form and fine-tune writing for clarity and impact, and they can lighten the load by helping with administrative forms to describe facilities, data management plans, prior support and other non-scientific parts of the proposal.  

"Our goal is quality out the door. Not quantity, but quality out the door," Zuercher said.

Both big-picture issues and granular details can make the critical difference in an investigator's proposal, Rao said.

For instance, panels reviewing applications for major grants often include nonexperts, Rao said. It's important to remember that in writing a proposal. At the same time, funding agencies have their own specific expectations about formatting and other minutiae.

"It really is a huge, huge difference between success and failure," Rao said.

For Moss, having a hub staff member lead him through the nitty gritty details of his still-pending application for an NSF early career award – and having copy editors to catch his typos ­– made the process less intimidating and anxiety-inducing. His focus was on the science, he said.

"All the other stuff is just added stress on top of that," he said.

It's complementary

New faculty and major grants are the hub's main focus, but staff will consult with any Iowa State researcher or their staff. The hub usually will respond within 24 hours of an initial request for help, Zuercher said.

Grants Hub staff typically play a bigger-than-usual role when working with faculty in departments that don't have a high volume of major grants, Zuercher said.

But the hub doesn't replace the expectation that faculty read and understand funding requests, Rao said. "We are not dotting the 'i's and crossing the 't's at some elementary level that they should have taken care of," he said.

Nor does it eliminate the need for faculty mentors and other research support systems at the department and college level, Rao said. The point is to spare researchers and their teams some of the burden of rules and regulations.

"That's what we're here for," Rao said.

It's collaborative

The Grants Hub's eight-person staff works closely with many other research support units, including the Office of Sponsored Programs Administration, which signs off on all Iowa State research proposals. OSPA's office space is in the same Pearson Hall suite as the Grants Hub.

"Both departments collaborate very well," Rao said. 

The hub also aims to work cooperatively with other research support staff. Even if hub staff are dealing directly with a faculty member, they will give that researcher's staff a heads-up.

"Usually we get, 'Oh, thank you, we really appreciate your help,'" Zuercher said.

The hub is especially critical in coordinating complicated interdisciplinary research proposals, which federal agencies increasingly are seeking, Rao said. The hub staff is working with four active interdisciplinary teams at the moment, Zuercher said.

It's growing

It's too soon to track year-by-year growth of the Grants Hub, as it's only been fully staffed for 12 months, Zuercher said.

But she said the volume of requests has been growing in the last year. Just before summer, the hub began offering a project management service, which allows researchers with multiple projects to get a better handle on their deadlines.

"We've seen investigators come back two to three times," Zuercher said. "I consider that a measure of success."

Moss said he knows of numerous assistant professors who have used the Grants Hub, and the feedback has been positive. 

"I'm definitely going to use it again," he said. "It was pretty impressive, actually."


Regents approve nursing program and phased retirement policy; give green light for Gerdin expansion planning

Meeting telephonically in a special session June 28, the state Board of Regents gave final approval to Iowa State's proposal to offer a bachelor's degree in nursing for registered nurses, beginning in fall 2018. The program will be housed in the food science and human nutrition department, and emphasize the connection between nutrition, activity, health promotion and nursing care management. The program will be offered on campus, which will distinguish it from the University of Iowa's online program.

Phased retirement

The board also approved a new phased retirement policy for the regents system to replace the one that sunsets on June 30. The replacement provides one- and two-year phased options. If a two-year phasing is selected, the maximum appointment in year one is 65 percent, and 50 percent in year two. Compensation matches the phased work percentage in both years, but in the first year only, the university has the option of offering up to an additional 10 percent of the employee's full-time salary.

The terms of a one-year phased retirement match the second year in a two-year phased period.

During both years of the phasing, university and employee contributions for life insurance, health insurance, disability insurance and TIAA retirement accounts continue at the employee's full-time rate. Contributions to the Iowa Public Employees Retirement System or federal Civil Service System are based on the employee's actual salary during the phased period.

Eligibility for phased retirement isn't changing. Faculty, professional and scientific staff and merit staff who are at least 57 years old with a minimum 15 years of accumulated service to the university may request participation in the program.

The new policy is in effect through June 2022.

Gerdin addition

The board gave Iowa State permission to begin planning for an east addition to the Gerdin Business Building that will expand the College of Business facility by 35 to 40 percent. The estimated cost, $22 million, would be covered by a combination of university funds and private gifts.

According to the agenda item, the college has outgrown its space in Gerdin, and the university's growth likewise has left no space for expansion in other academic buildings. The addition would include offices for faculty, staff and graduate students; classrooms with capacity for 50-75 students; conference/collaboration spaces; and computer labs.

Centers closing

The board approved Iowa State's request to close two centers, the Center for Integrated Animal Genomics and Midwest Agribusiness Trade Research, which have been inactive since 2012 and 2011, respectively.

Executive director search

The board also directed the three-member governance and evaluation committee to work with interim executive director Keith Saunders on the search for the next executive director of the board of regents. Earlier this month, Robert Donley announced he would resign from the position on July 15. Saunders, who serves as the board's state relations officer for the University of Iowa, will begin his interim leadership July 16.

The regents who serve on the governance and evaluation committee are Patty Cownie (chair), Sherry Bates and Nancy Boettger.

A tentative timeline calls for the position to be advertised in July. In August, committee members will narrow the candidate pool, interview selected semifinalists and forward a list of finalists to the full board. In September, the full board would interview the finalists and select its next executive director.

Volunteers make cleanup a success

College Creek cleanup team.

Volunteers remove a tractor tire from College Creek during the annual cleanup effort. Contributed photo.

In its ninth year, the June 24 College Creek cleanup yielded nearly 1,000 pounds of trash and debris from the stretch of College Creek that winds through campus. A group of 31 volunteers spent a combined 43 hours bagging discarded items and pulling large pieces -- including a tractor tire, bike, safety barricade, fence posts, foam insulation, lengths of pipe and lots of plastic bags -- from the banks and bed of the waterway. The annual cleanup is part of the Live Green program and Keep Iowa State Beautiful initiative.

Tracking WorkCyte progress

The WorkCyte deployment tracker is located on page three of the June update (PDF).

In the latest monthly update posted to the WorkCyte website, a timeline shows the progress of teams working to plan, configure and implement campuswide (enterprise) programs.

The WorkCyte "deployment tracker" begins with the selection of Workday and Okta in fall 2016 and extends through the implementation process with initial "go-live" activities planned for the last half of 2018. Each stage in the deployment of the Workday enterprise platform, which is in the architect phase, runs across the top of the tracker.

"Everything follows the same drum beat of the Workday timeline," said WorkCyte project director Francis Quinn.

He said the tracker illustrates how all of WorkCyte's moving parts -- the Workday and Okta enterprise platforms, and the overall improved delivery of services -- are working toward the same goal.

"It tells you that this a complex project, with multiple work streams, and it's advancing," Quinn said.

Examples of the work streams moving in tandem on the timeline include:

  • Technical elements, such as a foundation data model* (the framework for data analytics, financial reporting and management reporting)
  • Change management, such as training and communication for new business processes*
  • Service delivery, such as the organization, roles and responsibilities for positions that handle transactions

*Some terminology used in the tracker is defined in the WorkCyte glossary of common terms.

Interactive version in the works

The communications team is working on an interactive tracker, which would provide users an opportunity to "roll back the layers" for more details.

"We want to provide something that all Iowa Staters can access, understand and use to drill up or drill down to get as much information as they want," said Cara Roesch, a WorkCyte consultant working with the change management team.

Until the interactive tracker is available, the latest version will be provided in the monthly updates posted online.

Related stories

Mallapragada joins research staff

Surya Mallapragada

Surya Mallapragada

Surya Mallapragada, Distinguished Professor and Carol Vohs Johnson Chair in chemical and biological engineering, will join the office of the vice president for research July 1 as a half-time associate vice president for research. She will focus on research advancement, to include engaging with research foundations, developing interdisciplinary collaborations and nominating faculty for prestigious awards.

Mallapragada also is a scientist in the Ames Laboratory's division of materials science and engineering, and a researcher with the Nanovaccine Institute. She has served as a faculty fellow in the office of the senior vice president and provost since 2015, as chair of the chemical and biological engineering department (2009-13), and as program director of material chemistry and biomolecular materials at Ames Lab (2004-08).

Her research program focuses on designing polymeric biomaterials and bio-inspired materials for delivery of genetic material or vaccines. She was named a fellow in the National Academy of Inventors last year. Her research group has six patents, with more in the works.

Fireworks, fun planned for holiday celebration

The city's annual Independence Day fireworks display is scheduled for Monday, July 3, and Reiman Gardens will extend its hours and offer free admission after 6 p.m. Folding chairs and coolers with food and drinks are allowed, but fireworks (including sparklers) are prohibited within the gardens.

Spectators who watch the fireworks display from the ISU recreational fields and parking lots are asked to collect and dispose of sparkler wires and other trash to ensure the safety of the surrounding area, which is used for sporting events. The fireworks display begins at dusk and will be rescheduled to July 5 in the event of inclement weather.

Ames' Independence Day celebration continues on July 4 with a pancake breakfast (8:30-10:30 a.m., City Hall), 5K run/walk (8 a.m., Ada Hayden Park), talent competition (9-11 a.m., Main Street and Burnett Avenue) and parade (11 a.m., downtown route).

Fireworks reminder

Although the sale of fireworks was legalized this year by the Iowa Legislature, a 1987 Ames city ordinance remains in effect that prohibits using them within city limits. Violation of the ordinance could result in a misdemeanor charge with a minimum $250 fine.