Democracy at work, one precinct at a time

Students vote in the Union Drive Community Center on campus

Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Nearly 40 percent of registered voters in Ames precinct 4-3 participated in the Nov. 6 election, including just over 600 who voted Tuesday at their polling place, 136 Union Drive Community Center (pictured). Four of Ames' 20 polling locations are on campus. County-wide, voter participation topped 60 percent.


Specialists improve service delivery in LAS

When Stacy Kilstofte and Venita Currie were introduced to the WorkCyte initiative, they saw how it would change the way finance and human resources work is done at Iowa State. As they learned more, Kilstofte and Currie, who lead the human resources and finance operations in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, also saw an opportunity.

"We were interviewing candidates for open jobs with both financial and HR duties," said Currie, the college's academic fiscal officer. "Stacy and I looked at each other. We had been in enough Workday meetings to know that we couldn't fill the positions as vacated -- we needed to figure out if it's HR or fiscal."

So, for the past year, they've taken a forward-thinking improved service delivery approach when positions with combined HR and finance responsibilities opened in LAS departments and programs.

"Most academic departments have a departmental coordinator [often administrative specialists]. They're the person who usually is doing administrative functions for the chair, some HR and some finance," said Kilstofte, the HR business partner in LAS.

Instead of replacing the positions as-is, the duo worked closely with department chairs to inventory the position's responsibilities. They were divvied up into three categories -- finance, HR and administrative. What they found were opportunities to move the HR and finance work to specialists, while keeping administrative support -- such as project coordination, calendars, meetings, events and receptionist duties -- in the department. Nearly half of the college's departments and programs have moved to the new structure.

"We talked about where we could put subject matter experts in place to facilitate business processes," Kilstofte said. "As attrition occurs, we're creating functional specialist roles."

The LAS structure for its HR and finance operations has similarities to the proposed university-wide improved service delivery models introduced last month. Those models also create HR and finance specialists who serve units locally and report to supervisors with similar expertise and knowledge.

Central HR support

The HR duties -- in many cases, a small portion of the department coordinator's responsibilities -- were moved to Kilstofte's central LAS team, which now has three human resources coordinators. She said the move actually eased some of their own work.

"In some cases, we'd hand-hold through every step of an HR process. That's more labor-intensive than having someone who is a subject matter expert complete the activity," Kilstofte said.

The HR coordinators work closely with their assigned departments to shepherd processes and manage HR issues. Kilstofte said having specialists focus solely on human resources has improved their effectiveness and efficiency -- for example, in the staff recruitment process.

Embedded financial experts

Currie has five fiscal coordinators and an account clerk on her central LAS team. Each coordinator handles a few of the 15 departments/programs that shifted their finance work centrally. The fiscal coordinators are embedded in the departments they serve, working directly with chairs while reporting to Currie.

"I've found that we're starting to standardize. All our departments are getting the same, consistent service," Currie said. "If someone is unavailable or will be out for an extended amount of time, their duties can be picked up immediately and handled."

An employee perspective

Currie hired Jessy Jackson as an account clerk in February, one of the specialist roles created in the new LAS structure. Jackson, who moved to LAS from ISU Dining, handles transactional support for LAS central administration and some programs and departments. She said the work -- and the variety of people she supports -- are ideal.

"I like working with all of the different departments and interacting with different people," Jackson said.

With her knowledge of guidelines and rules, she's become an expert resource for more than just the 10 departments she serves. Office administrators look to her for help with things she handles regularly but which may be infrequent for them -- for example, foreign travel. And Jackson said her tasks, which range from travel reimbursements to P-Card purchase verifications, are anything but tedious.

"I like doing this stuff. For me, it was a no-brainer when the job came up," she said. "It gives you the opportunity to really learn the area, have the expertise and know the rules. If you have to focus on so many other things, you may not have time to be as knowledgeable."

A departmental perspective

When psychology's departmental coordinator accepted a specialist role on the central LAS finance team, she took her fiscal responsibilities with her and picked up finance work for another department. Psychology chair Susan Cross said working with a fiscal coordinator who is familiar with her department's needs is key.

"It's fabulous because she knows us well," Cross said. "We are getting the service that we need. She's excellent."

HR duties assigned to the departmental coordinator moved centrally to Kilstofte's team.

"Because we hire relatively infrequently, it's really great to have someone who does that regularly. I'm very happy with how that has worked for us," Cross said. "Having someone who knows the rules and stays on top of that, who's not so overburdened that she can't respond to us quickly, that's worked. I feel like I have not just someone who's helping with the paperwork, but someone I can go to with other kinds of substantive questions."

With the HR and finance responsibilities moving into the LAS structure, Cross created a new administrative role for departmental support. The position picked up administrative duties that made up about half of the previous department coordinator's role, assumed some responsibilities from a position vacated last spring and took on newly created tasks.

"She's been able to absorb some losses all around, and she has the time to do some new things that we want to do," Cross said. "That's been good for us."

With its move to the new LAS structure, Cross believes her department likely is better prepared for the changes the Workday system will bring.

"I'm optimistic for us. We're going to be in good shape, given the arrangements we have," she said.

Better service

Kilstofte and Currie are energized by their changing structure and agree that a team of experts provides better, uninterrupted service to their departments and programs.

"That's the joy of it. We are able to provide expert, needed support. We have people who can step in and provide back-up support to make sure things move along," Kilstofte said.

"For the first time in my 19 years here, I didn't have to approve something while taking time off work," Currie said. "It was covered by my team while I was gone."

They said the LAS structure will continue to evolve, especially when processes change with the launch of the Workday system.


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Better-connected and bearing more data, advising takes leap forward

There are four questions Autumn Cartagena, an adviser to open option students in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, likes to ask each of her new students: "How are your classes going? How's your roommate situation? How do you plan to get involved? Are you feeling homesick?" 


Email questions about EAB Campus to

"Those lead naturally to some meaningful conversations," she said. "I want to know what's going on with you as a person that is going to impact what's going on with you academically." 

The opportunity for that sort of deeper engagement, proactive discussion that extends beyond course registration, is why academic advising is crucial in improving student success and reducing retention and graduation gaps for first-generation, low-income and underrepresented students. 

"Academic advising is often the only required one-on-one interaction between a student and an employee of the university," said Karen Zunkel, director for undergraduate programs and academic quality. "It's where everything comes together in a relationship." 

A software platform recently expanded for use across campus makes it easier for advisers and other staff to have connect-the-dots conversations, meeting with more students for more reasons with more information at their fingertips. Users can design student outreach tailored to specific segments, see notes about students’ interactions with other campus units and access predictive analytics models that crunch years of ISU data to help identify students who need support. 

"It's a leap forward for us technologically," said Amy Slagell, LAS associate dean for academic programs. "It really is transformative." 

Coordinating care 

The student-success platform -- EAB Campus, often referred to as EAB -- was piloted beginning in 2015-16, expanded campuswide to undergraduate academic advisers last school year and is adding student affairs departments this year. Ninety-four percent of undergraduate students can now use EAB to schedule an appointment with their adviser or many other student-support offices using the platform, a growing list that eventually will include most of student affairs. More than 700 staff are trained to use the system, Zunkel said.  

"It's a way for students to connect with campus offices for appointment scheduling, and a way for campus offices to connect with each other about student success," she said. 

The goal is to create a coordinated care network. When an adviser or another staff member meets with a student, they document it with a brief report that anyone who meets with the student can see. Nearly 84,000 reports were loaded into the system during the 2017-18 school year, according to data shared by Zunkel. 

Who's connected

Besides undergraduate academic advisers, the following offices and departments are linked to EAB Campus (more will be soon):

Detailing contact with students makes subsequent meetings more fruitful and efficient. For open option LAS students, it's a huge advantage, Cartagena and Slagell said. Students don't have to start from scratch when they move to a new adviser.  

"We know sometimes students get exhausted having to tell their story over and over," Slagell said. 

National leader 

Advisers also can see if students are following through with referrals to campus resources, said Jessica Van Winkle, a 10-year advising veteran who was hired this summer as the provost office's EAB student success coordinator. 

"It's not this whole, 'Did they or didn't they,'" she said. "If they're having problems with a roommate, we can see if they talked with someone in residence."

Data-driven software platforms aimed at coordinating student-success efforts are increasingly common in higher education. It's an initiative of the University Innovation Alliance in which Iowa State and 10 other large universities share promising ideas for making college degrees more accessible. But Zunkel said by next fall she believes ISU will be a national leader among large universities with the breadth of student affairs offices connected through the EAB platform.

"Our division of student affairs is really embracing the broad use of platform. I can say fairly confidently that we will be among the national leaders, based on what I've heard from other campuses of our size," she said. 

Laura Doering, associate vice president for enrollment management and student success, said student affairs units are excited to join the EAB system and expand the coordinated care network it helps build. 

"The data we have access to in this platform will help the campus make better-informed decisions about how to lean in and support our students academically and holistically,” Doering said.

Sensitive private information isn't shared -- for instance, student conduct details or information from health center or counseling visits, Zunkel said. Staff are trained how to broach issues with students in ways that aren't intrusive, she said.  

"You don't say, 'Well, I see your hall director said X,'" she said. 

Student feedback has been positive, largely because it makes scheduling appointments easier. Van Winkle said undergraduates who grew up in an interconnected era expect coordinated note-sharing among campus staff.  

"I think a lot of them are shocked we didn't have this before," she said. 

Reinvesting time 

When she had the opportunity to try the platform in her previous position as an adviser in the mechanical engineering department, Van Winkle said she embraced it because it would simplify handling her 360-student advising load. Mandatory meetings with graduating seniors, for instance, became much easier. 

"Instead of tracking this in Excel, it did it for me. It really saved me time," she said. "It changed how I advised." 

That means more chances to seek out meaningful connections with students. Users can conduct email "campaigns" offering resources and advising appointments for specific reasons to customized groups -- those who are first-generation, got a C in calculus or are on academic probation, for example. In many cases, that outreach was difficult or impossible before. Advisers often wouldn't know which students were first-generation and couldn't easily sort who had trouble with calculus.

Cartagena uses email campaigns to request those initial check-in meetings with her first-year students. Before EAB, a similar effort was more difficult. 

"Anecdotally, I think it's made a huge difference. It's made my job easier and more rewarding. I am able to do so much more resource-referring," she said. 

A May survey of academic advisers found that on a five-point scale, with five being they "strongly agree" that EAB made an action more efficient, the average response from advisers was 4.16 on scheduling appointments, 4.04 on documenting advising meetings and 3.6 on targeting students for outreach. More than half of advisers said they reached out to students in new ways since using the platform. 

Not all campaigns are targeted at students who may need remedial help. For instance, Van Winkle said some advisers have used the customized emails to reach out to high-performing students to recommend high-impact experiences such as undergraduate research. 

Breaking the model 

The heightened connectivity is paired with big data. When advisers meet with students, they access an EAB dashboard through AccessPlus that includes predictive analytics that suggest whether a student is struggling or thriving. That includes EAB's own model, which analyzes 10 years of Iowa State academic data to show a risk status of green, yellow or red. The dashboard also shows two to three other predictive assessments:

  • A model specific to success in STEM fields
  • A model based on a student’s odds of earning a 2.0 GPA in the first term
  • Results from Mapworks that include student survey data 

“You get a lot of instantaneous information,” Zunkel said.  

Another key metric displayed is whether a student has missed any department-specific success markers -- most often, grades achieved in courses that correlate with likelihood of graduation. Reviewing data analysis from EAB, department leaders select four to eight success markers, Zunkel said. More than half of departments have set their success markers, and the goal is to have all departments set them by the end of the school year, she said. 

Sometimes those predictive courses are within the major. For instance, meteorology students who earn an A in Meteorology 206 are 38 percent more likely to graduate than students who earn a B, Van Winkle said. Other times, the courses that show a correlation are more surprising. In mechanical engineering, graduation rates for students who take Economics 101 and earn a B or better are 23 percent higher than students who earn a C, Van Winkle said. 

While advising analytics are useful, it's important to use them as a way to spot support needs instead of flagging risk factors, Slagell said. 

"I always say when I'm talking about EAB in terms of a student success initiative, its real goal is to break the predictive model," she said. 

Analytics help advisers reach hard-working goal-setters who may lack the confidence to talk about their struggles, Van Winkle said. 

"We want them to know there are people who are going to help them get where they want to be," she said.  

Other benefits 

The ease of accessing Iowa State data with EAB has other upsides. Slagell said LAS uses it to assess departments in new ways. University data showed a sharp drop in persistence for students with less than a C in English 250, the second of two mandatory communications courses, which is why a C in the class is now a graduation requirement, she said.   

"There are all sorts of things in the data analytics that help us function more successfully," she said. 

EAB has improvements in store, too. Van Winkle said an option might be added next fall to seek progress reports from faculty who opt in. That would give advisers a way to know if a student is having issues in a class before midterm reports, which often is too late. Athletics already uses that function for NCAA compliance requirements, she said.  

Slagell hopes to integrate adviser waivers, replacing the existing paper-based process for advisers to approve policy deviations. And email campaigns will be studied to see what works and what doesn't with an eye toward improving future efforts, Zunkel said.  

"It has promoted a lot of conversation and a lot of thinking," Slagell said. "I think we're just at the beginning of learning how to leverage the tool."

Merit employees will keep their AFSCME representation

AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees) will remain the contract bargaining representative for the university's approximately 1,300 merit employees, according to preliminary results from a retention election held Oct. 15-29. Following a 10-day challenge period that ends this week, the Iowa Public Employment Relations Board is expected to certify the election results.

In an election where not voting equates to a "no" vote and a simple majority is required, the results favored keeping AFSCME representation. Among the four AFSCME bargaining units that include ISU merit employees, 77 percent of eligible members cast a "yes" vote.

University human resources has posted the initial ballot tallies and shared them with merit employees.

"The university values the work of all of our employees and continues our commitment to work together to advance Iowa State University as a premier place to work and learn," said interim vice president for university human resources Kristi Darr.

The 2017 state law that limited collective bargaining rights for public employees also requires a retention vote prior to each new union contract with the state. The state of Iowa and AFSCME negotiate their collective bargaining agreement every two years; the current one expires June 30, 2019.


CyRide wants your input on service options

CyRide is asking for public input on eight possible service tweaks to the new route structure -- dubbed CyRide 2.0 -- it implemented in May and August following nearly two years of study. Iowa State faculty, staff and students are invited to fill out an online survey before Dec. 3 and/or attend a public forum Nov. 13 (6-7:30 p.m., Ames Public Library, 515 Douglas Ave.), at which transit staff will summarize the possibilities and receive feedback. All of the options increase service levels.

CyRide director Sheri Kyras said the options respond to a majority of comments received during spring, summer and early fall. In addition to the eight, individuals may propose other changes to CyRide 2.0 service. There is no guarantee any changes will be implemented, due to costs, but she said board members want to know what customers think of the proposals before they weigh their options. Any changes would take effect next August.

Here's a quick summary of the eight proposals:

  • Two for the Cherry route, which provides service between campus and southwest Ames via South Dakota Avenue and Lincoln Way on ISU class days. One proposal adds evening service (through 10 p.m.), the other adds service during ISU breaks.
  • One for the Lilac route, which which provides service between campus and southwest Ames via Mortensen Road and State Avenue on ISU class days. It extends service through midday (currently service halts between 9:45 a.m. and 2:35 p.m.).
  • Two for the Peach route, which provides service from North Grand Mall to the Veterinary Medicine campus via the east part of campus on weekdays. One shortens the service interval from 60 to 30 minutes all day, the other applies the shorter interval only during peak hours (7-10 a.m. and 3-6 p.m.).
  • Two for the Gold route, which provides service between Schilletter University Village (SUV) and the Towers residence communities via central campus on ISU class days. One adds service from 10 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., the other adds summer and ISU break service only between campus and SUV.
  • Add early morning service to three yet-to-be-determined existing routes to allow employees to get to work by 7 or 7:30 a.m.

The survey lists the estimated cost of adding each option and asks participants to rank them in importance. It also provides space for participants to suggest up to three other service options.

Kyras said it will be up to the transit board to determine whether CyRide can afford any or some of the changes. Declining enrollment at ISU means less student fee revenue for CyRide, but she also expects additional federal funding next year.

"The information we gain from the public meeting and online survey will assist the board in determining the best service level it can provide in light of the funding available next year," she said.

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Three World War II servicemen to be honored at Gold Star Hall ceremony

Gold Star Hall in blue light

Gold Star Hall in the ISU Memorial Union. Photo by Christopher Gannon.

In 1914, Iowa State College student Floyd Wambeam penned an editorial in the student newspaper calling for a student union building on campus.

Fourteen years later as construction of the Memorial Union was completed, Wambeam's was one of 117 names of Iowa Staters killed in World War I engraved on the limestone walls of Gold Star Hall.

As we mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I this year, the 2018 Gold Star Hall ceremony will include the story of how the Memorial Union came to be following the deaths of more than 100 Iowa State students and alumni in WWI.

The annual Gold Star Hall ceremony honors Iowa Staters who lost their lives in war. Former students' names are engraved on the Gold Star Hall walls if they attended Iowa State full-time for one or more semesters and died while in military service in a war zone. As names become known, they are added to the wall and the service members are honored in the university's Veterans Day observance.

This year's Gold Star Hall ceremony will begin at 3:15 p.m. Monday, Nov. 12, in the Memorial Union Great Hall. Three servicemen who died in World War II will be remembered:

Richard Suesens, U.S. Navy


Robert Rannels, U.S. Air Force Reserves


William Butler, U.S. Air Force


William Howard Butler, Indianola, studied agricultural engineering at Iowa State in the 1940s. He enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Force three months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, in 1942. He was killed when his plane crashed shortly after takeoff in China in July 1945.

Robert Vance Rannells, Dunlap, enrolled at Iowa State in 1936, studying agronomy. A month before receiving his degree, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force Reserve. He died in April 1945 when his B-29 bomber went down in the Pacific Ocean near Japan.

Richard Wayne Suesens, Burlington, came to Iowa State in 1937 to study mechanical engineering. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy Reserve in 1938. He was announced missing in action during the Battle of Midway in June 1942, and a year later was declared killed in action.

While their names already are engraved on the wall, these men have not yet been honored in a Gold Star Hall ceremony.

Today, Gold Star Hall includes the names of the nearly 600 Iowa Staters who have died in war: World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Somalia and in the Global War on Terrorism.

This ceremony is part of a week of events dedicated to honoring veterans.

Honor veterans this week at Iowa State

  • All week, Nov. 9-16: During Veterans Week, visitors to the ISU Book Store may make a donation to support the ISU Veterans Center.
  • Friday, Nov. 9, 6 a.m.: Join ROTC cadets at Lied Rec Center in an intense workout to honor and support our troops.
  • Sunday, Nov. 11: All active-duty military and veterans admitted free to Reiman Gardens.
  • Wednesday, Nov. 14: Annual community supper honoring veterans and their families.
  • Thursday, Nov. 15: Lecture: “Iowa State and the Great War," alumnus Douglas Biggs, University of Nebraska, Kearney.

A full schedule of events is online.