Thankful for a break

Freshman Ashlyn Haack studies in a quiet corner

Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Mechanical engineering freshman Ashlyn Haack escaped the November cold earlier this week and grabbed a peaceful study corner in Hoover Hall. Students get an awaited break from classes during Thanksgiving week. They'll return for one week of class, dead week and final exams week, with graduation events scheduled for Dec. 14-15.

HR overhaul gets more detailed, with role added to help hire staff


The refined proposed HR model for improved service delivery.

The university's top human resources official on Nov. 13 gave a more detailed look at an evolving plan to shift HR work to specialists next year, including a newly added role to support staff job searches and reduce the time it takes to fill open positions. 

Kristi Darr, interim vice president for university human resources, also outlined a draft timeline for the transition to the proposed improved service delivery (ISD) models, which create teams of HR and finance specialists who are supervised by managers with experience in their areas. The Institutional Effectiveness Leadership Team super group, the committee developing the proposal, submitted a report on the recommended reorganization to President Wendy Wintersteen on Nov. 14, asking her to endorse its broad strokes.  

Darr said she expects Wintersteen's response will be more focused on a path forward than a "yes or no" reaction.

"The president is looking to figure out what we can accomplish in the timeline we have. Is that a phased approach? What can we do to be successful and be thoughtful about the impact that has on staff as we do that?" Darr said.

Dividing duties

The ISD proposal is driven largely by the move July 1, 2019, to Workday, a new platform for ISU business processes that requires specialized HR and finance expertise. But it also is a chance to make work in those areas more uniform, efficient and balanced, with better opportunities for development and advancement. In many offices, under the current structure, HR and finance duties are handled by the same staff member. Any staff member who handles either type of transaction will be affected by ISD, even if they don't fill a specialist position. 

On Oct. 31, the Professional and Scientific Council, which represents the P&S staff who would be most directly impacted, passed a motion saying it needed more information before supporting a major restructuring. Darr's town hall -- and one with interim senior vice president for finance and university services Pam Cain set for Nov. 27 -- aimed to meet that need, relaying more granular details about the new positions and the transition.

As proposed in draft job descriptions released this week, ISD would create teams of HR coordinators to provide front-line guidance and support for units -- large groupings of colleges, departments and offices that Darr said she's close to determining.

Coordinators would, for instance, process employment and pay changes, ensure compliance and troubleshoot issues. Other HR duties would include updates to local position descriptions, interview support, employment actions related to tenure, employee accommodations and support for international faculty, students and post-docs. Timekeeping, student hiring, support for faculty performance reviews and tenure materials, and interview scheduling likely would remain unit tasks.

HR coordinators would report to HR partners, who would handle more complex issues and advise leaders within units on recruiting strategies, employee engagement and other workforce needs. HR partners would report to a senior HR partner who would ensure consistency, improve service and collaborate with UHR and senior leaders.

Tentative timeline

New associate vice presidents in finance and HR would lead their respective customer service systems. Advertisements for those positions will post soon, as the new AVPs will help lead the transition next year, Darr said.

The size and alignment of units -- and the number of specialists and supervisors needed -- should be set before the end of the year, according to a draft timeline Darr shared at the town hall and pending approval of the plan by Wintersteen. An equal opportunity plan for ISD and a survey for staff seeking specialist roles also will be developed in November and December, she said. The survey will streamline hiring, which will be offered first to existing staff and consider interest, experience and qualifications, current alignment, and input from units and supervisors.

"If you want to come into the model, we're trying not to say, 'Fill out the application, do all these things,'" said Darr, adding that units will be defined before staff are asked to complete an interest survey.

In January, the tentative timeline calls for a job fair, sending the staff interest survey, identifying unit transition teams and drafting transition plan templates. It's also the month pegged for outlining the service commitments expected of HR specialists.

"Essentially, what can you expect from a person doing work in this model? What's their turnaround time? What's the feedback mechanism?" Darr said.

The HR associate vice president and senior partner should be in place by February, Darr said. At the same time, HR officials will be drafting a training plan, identifying matches for coordinator positions and finalizing HR partner roles, she said. The aim is to finalize all new staff roles and departmental transition plans in March, Darr said. Beginning in April, the focus will be training for new roles and Workday while executing transition plans, she said.

Hiring help

Darr encouraged employees to continue providing feedback, noting that it was part of the reason another new position -- a staff recruiting specialist -- is now proposed in the ISD model.

The recruiting specialist role, reporting to the senior HR partner, would handle job search support duties initially planned for the HR coordinators, making filling open positions a priority that doesn't compete with day-to-day HR transactions, she said. Assisting searches across campus would allow the recruiting specialist to maintain a pool of strong candidates who weren't hired and propose potential top applicants for future openings.

The recruiting specialist would work closely with hiring managers but take on much of the work now spread among several employees, such as posting jobs, screening candidates and performing reference checks. Darr said managers would still have final say over their involvement in candidate screening, who is hired and hiring terms. Faculty searches would remain local, with support from HR partners, she said.

There are about 1,300 managers at Iowa State, and occasional hiring is "disheartening and stressful" for many, Darr said. Additional support should ease that stress and shorten the average time it takes to fill a staff job, which Darr said was 112 days after the approval of a position description. 

"I've been here 10 years. For 10 years, this has been an issue," she said. "This is our opportunity to think about it differently."

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Phased approach proposed for service delivery changes

Instead of a formal recommendation, the team charged with developing an implementation plan for improved service delivery in human resources and finance submitted a report to President Wendy Wintersteen this week. It's the first of what may be several status updates during a phased process.

In a Nov. 14 email to employees, co-chairs Sarah Nusser and Beate Schmittmann said the Institutional Effectiveness Leadership Team (IELT) and its extended "super group," are seeking Wintersteen's endorsement to proceed in "incremental phases."

The proposed service delivery models introduced last month change responsibilities and reporting lines for staff working with human resources and finance transactions, creating teams with new specialist positions that no longer handle duties in both areas. On Oct. 31, the Professional and Scientific Council passed a motion asking Wintersteen to delay approving the models until more details are provided.

In its report, the IELT proposed a phased approach that keeps the needle moving on service delivery while helping to clarify specifics related to the models. Service delivery also is an integral part of Workday, the new campuswide software system Iowa State will use for finance and human resources transactions as of July 1, 2019. The report states that "critical features" of the models must be determined by Nov. 26 to keep Workday on track for its go-live date.

 Work already underway as part of phase 1 includes:

  • Drafting job profiles for specialist positions
  • Defining units
  • Providing specifics about responsibilities -- what stays in the unit, what moves to the model
  • Coordinating with the Workday go-live schedule

Examples of phase 2 work include:

  • Hiring associate vice presidents in university human resources and finance to help with service delivery development and implementation
  • Finalizing specialist position descriptions
  • Clarifying responsibilities assigned to specialist teams and unit staff
  • Establishing HR and finance teams, in terms of size and numbers needed

A second status update is expected early next year.

Staffing review is a first step toward aligning finance, HR positions with likely service delivery models

Campus leaders have announced an additional review step for vacant finance and human resources positions while the improved service delivery (ISD) models are refined and the new service structure is developed. The review applies to all relevant vacant positions and reclassification requests, whether in the colleges, central administration or other campus units.

Current staff will have first pick of the specialized HR and finance positions in the proposed ISD structure before jobs are posted externally. Interim vice president for university human resources (UHR) Kristi Darr said the additional review is intended to minimize changes in job duties for staff during ISD implementation.

Effective Nov. 12, UHR will review:

  • Vacant positions related to human resources and finance for potential impact of ISD-related changes. Positions may be held or not posted, depending on the review, needs of the hiring unit and availability of other resources.
  • Requests for reclassification or modifications to position descriptions for any professional and scientific or merit position related to ISD.
  • Requests for staff salary adjustments outside of the annual review process.

The reviews will include evaluation by interim senior vice president for finance Pam Cain on finance positions and Darr on HR positions.

"Even as the proposed models are discussed, refined and communicated, and feedback is being received, we know the university still needs to fill or reclassify HR and finance positions," Darr said. "However, to minimize future position changes for our current staff, we want to align these actions as much as we're able with the likely ISD structure."

Getting the work done

Darr said campus leaders recognize work needs to get done, even if a position can't be filled immediately. She said supervisors may consider alternatives such as:

  • Temporary or emergency P&S positions
  • Temporary merit positions, including assistance from Advance Services Inc. (approved ISU vendor)
  • Interim roles or special assignments for current employees
  • Pay programs for specific accomplishments: Extra Meritorious Pay Program for P&S, Pay for Exceptional Performance for merit
  • Adjusted work hours
  • Professional development opportunities

Departmental HR liaisons can help units assess these alternatives and the best options for their needs.

Vacancies in non-ISD positions

Positions not associated with the ISD models -- for example, academic advisers or communications specialists -- will continue to be filled or reclassified through the normal process. Questions about whether a position would be affected by ISD implementation may be directed to an HR liaison.



Cyndi Wiley standing in front of the Durham Center

Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Cyndi Wiley, an associate professor at Grand View University, Des Moines, stepped into the role of digital accessibility coordinator this week. She'll work part time through the spring semester to fulfill her commitment at GVU and assume her full-time role at Iowa State on May 1.

As digital accessibility coordinator, Wiley will work with campus partners to comply with state and federal laws that require accessible online and information technology systems and resources -- for example, software, web content and classroom technologies. She also will provide information, training, tools and resources related to digital accessibility.

Wiley's appointment is in information technology services. She succeeds Zayira Jordan, who served as the inaugural digital accessibility coordinator from January 2016 to February 2017.

Wiley has served as a faculty member in Grand View's art and design department since 2012. She earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Missouri, Columbia, and a Master of Fine Arts from Iowa State, both in graphic design. She also holds a doctorate in human computer interaction from ISU.

Wiley's office is in 205 Durham Center. She can be reached by phone (294-8765) and email (

Antimicrobial research institute, athletics facility proposals go to regents

Iowa State will begin the approval process for a new institute in the College of Veterinary Medicine when the state Board of Regents meets Nov. 15-16 in Cedar Falls.  ISU would be the host university for the National Institute of Antimicrobial Resistance Research and Education, overseen by the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities and the American Association of Veterinary Medicine Colleges. The institute expands Iowa State's three-year-old Antimicrobial Resistance Research (AMR) Consortium, which includes partners from the universities of Iowa and Nebraska, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Mayo Clinic and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service, Ames. Iowa State and the University of Nebraska would provide annual startup funding of $275,000 and $250,000, respectively, for three years.

Dr. Paul Plummer, associate professor of veterinary diagnostic and production animal science, would serve as institute director, a part-time position. Full-time positions include associate director, program assistant and communications specialist. As proposed, the staff would have offices in the ISU Research Park.

The proposal goes to the board's academic affairs committee this month and to the full board in February 2019.

The full meeting agenda is online, and audio of all open portions of the meeting will be livestreamed on the board's website.

Faculty professional development

Iowa State will seek academic affairs committee and full board approval for 50 faculty professional development assignment (PDA) requests for the year that begins July 1, 2019. A year ago, there were 43 faculty requests. The requests include 16 for fall semester 2019, 17 for spring semester 2020 and 17 for the full academic year.

At Iowa State, all faculty members employed at least half time are eligible to apply for a PDA. There is no requirement for length of service; however, priority may be given to tenured faculty over term faculty and to individuals who have not received a PDA in the past five years. Whenever possible, department chairs and deans approve flexible approaches to managing the workload and associated costs, including reassignment or alternate scheduling of courses. Salary savings from faculty members on assignment for a full year offset the replacement costs for other faculty members. The FY2020 estimated cost is $36,649 ($397,950 in costs and $361,301 in salary savings).

Building projects

Iowa State will seek final board approval, including budgets and schematic designs, of three projects:

  • A $90 million athletics plan to update and expand the area north of the football stadium. The proposal would build a four-story sports performance center east of the Bergstrom football complex; demolish the Olsen building and build a stadium entry plaza in its place; remodel part of the ground level of the Jacobsen Building for football game day use by the visiting team, officials, media and marching band; extend the stadium concourse around the north side of the Jacobsen Building; and add a one-story equipment and storage space to the west side of the Bergstrom complex. The work would be done in four phases between June 2019 and August 2021. Athletics department operating funds and private gifts would pay for the project.
  • A $7 million plan to finish the fifth floor of the Advanced Teaching and Research Building for the Nanovaccine Institute. Funding features $4.5 million in private gifts and $2.5 million in university funds. As proposed, construction would begin in April and wrap up one year later (April 2019).
  • A $3.2 million residence plan for life cycle improvements in Helser Hall, including replacing the asbestos-containing tile floor, repairing and painting interior walls, installing LED lighting and new room furnishings. The residence department's improvement funds would cover the cost.

Iowa State also will ask the board to approve a revised budget and plan for the previously approved poultry farm on South State Avenue, due to higher than anticipated costs. The budget goes up $750,000, to $5.75 million. Six buildings for teaching and research functions will be merged into one, eliminating duplicate mechanical spaces, restrooms, showers and public spaces. The project will be covered by private gifts. Construction is scheduled to begin yet this fall, with completion next fall.


The board or its committees will hear multiple presentations over two days. They include:

  • ISU admissions director Katharine Johnson Suski and her peers from Iowa and Northern Iowa will share highlights of the undergraduate admissions landscape, including aspects of recruiting. They'll present to the board's academic affairs and campus/student affairs committees at approximately 9:30 a.m. Friday.
  • David Spalding, interim vice president for economic development and business engagement, will present Iowa State's economic development and technology transfer annual report to the full board at approximately 1 p.m. Friday.
  • Police chief Michael Newton and his colleagues will give a presentation on campus safety, with a focus on physical safety and the campus response when tragedies occur. They'll speak to the campus and student affairs committee at approximately 10:15 a.m. Friday.
  • Mark Wiederspan, executive research officer at the Iowa College Student Aid Commission, will present the commission's biennial report, The Condition of Higher Education in Iowa 2018, to the full board Thursday afternoon, approximately 1:30 pm. The report describes the current state of demographics, college readiness and success, financial aid and student debt in Iowa.
  • Todd Pettys, professor of law at the University of Iowa, will give a presentation on freedom of expression issues that arise frequently on university campuses. He's scheduled to present at approximately 1:30 p.m. Friday.
  • Board office staff will present an annual enrollment report on the three regent universities to the full board at approximately 1:15 p.m. Thursday. The chart below captures a small fraction of the data in the report.

2018 fall enrollment shifts (compared to 2017)


Iowa State


Northern Iowa

Total headcount








Graduate/professional students




First-year students




Resident students




Out-of-state students*




*Domestic non-Iowans, excludes international students


Senate could eliminate summer readmission option

Meeting coverage

Senators will vote next month on a proposal to eliminate a summer option for readmission available to students placed on academic dismissal status following the spring semester. The change, introduced at the Nov. 13 Faculty Senate meeting, is the recommendation from a subcommittee that studied data collected from fall 2008 to summer 2016.

"A concern was raised because it was recognized that students who used this summer option are typically not successful. There was also a fear about the inequity of the policy, based on whether students are due for dismissal in the fall or spring semester," said Andrea Wheeler, chair of the academic affairs council.

Wheeler said the subcommittee's evaluation determined the "program generally has no benefit to students." If approved, the summer option would be removed from the academic progress and probation policy in ISU's catalog.

The motion also included two additions for the catalog's reinstatement policy:

  • Clarification that the summer session does not count as a semester for academic dismissal periods (students cannot be reinstated until at least one semester has elapsed; two if they have more than one academic dismissal)
  • Ability for juniors and seniors "with extenuating circumstances" to request a waiver

Name change on hold

Program name changes introduced to the senate last month were sent back to the academic affairs council by the executive board. The proposal -- changing the name for the undergraduate major and minor degree programs in industrial technology to applied engineering and technology management -- met with questions, including a concern about the use of "engineering" in the name. The programs are administered by the agricultural and biosystems engineering department in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Other business

Senators unanimously approved an interdisciplinary minor degree program in feed technology. The program, offered by the animal science and agricultural and biosystems engineering departments, includes the study of grain handling and storage, biosecurity and the formulation, manufacturing, safety and processing of feed.

In addition to a decision about the summer option, the senate will take action next month on three other proposals:

  • A name change for the College of Design's master's degree in graphic design, to Master of Arts in experiential graphic design. The program would absorb a master's degree with a specialization in environmental graphic design, reducing the number of graduate degrees in graphic design from three to two (Master of Fine Arts in graphic design).
  • An online master's program in event management, administered by the apparel, events and hospitality management department in the College of Human Sciences. The 36-credit program is aimed at event management professionals, employees with event management responsibilities, international students and ISU event management alumni.
  • A request from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences to discontinue undergraduate and graduate minor degrees in technology in social change. Since 2000, only seven students have enrolled in the cross-disciplinary programs.

Watch for monthly updates from WorkCyte

The WorkCyte change management team launched a monthly email newsletter in October to keep ISU employees updated on the campuswide initiative. The next issue of "Monthly Matters" sent from the WorkCyte program will hit employee inboxes this week.

The intent is to promote awareness about campuswide changes and help employees prepare for them prior to the July 1, 2019, go-live date for the Workday software system. The monthly newsletter will connect employees with training opportunities, provide an inside look at what's on the horizon and communicate the latest program developments.

Delivered the second week of each month, the Monthly Matters newsletters will have regular components, including:

  • "New Concept Corner," an introduction to subjects or terms related to Workday
  • "What's Changing," a quick look at changes for specific topics or areas
  • "WorkCyte Roundup," highlighting the latest news and developments
  • "Meet WorkCyte," short profiles of Iowa Staters working on the initiative (including students)
  • A message from interim vice president and chief information officer Kristen Constant

In addition to the Monthly Matters newsletter, the change management team is engaging campus members through workshops, outreach meetings, unit-level "PIT crew" teams, the WorkCyte website and social media (Twitter, Instagram). A WorkCyte news archive and links to previous Monthly Matters emails also are available.

What to know when we get snow


Snow blankets central campus on Jan. 6, 2015. Photo by Christopher Gannon.

It's almost time to break out the ice scrapers and snow shovels. Here's what employees should keep in mind when winter weather hits.

Classes aren't canceled often

If CyRide is running and streets/sidewalks are passable, class likely will remain in session. The bar for calling off classes is set high because it's disruptive. There are no makeup days built into the calendar. Plus, most students live within walking distance of either campus or a bus stop.

Cancelling classes doesn't automatically close the university

Even if classes are called off, Iowa State offices usually will stay open and employees should plan to work their normal schedules. If you can't get to work safely, contact your supervisor and request to either make up missed time or take vacation or leave without pay. Put safety first. Supervisors should accommodate employees who can't make it to work.

On rare occasions, the university closes

When this happens, only employees involved in essential operations -- for example, law enforcement, utilities, food service, animal care and, of course, snow removal -- need to report to work. Employees already at work may leave. Staff who aren't sure if they are supposed to work when the university closes should contact their supervisor. Faculty and professional and scientific staff whose work responsibilities aren't based on a specific schedule should adjust as needed in consultation with unit leaders. All other employees are expected to either make up the missed time or take vacation or leave without pay.

How will I know about cancellations or closings?

Check out local media or the Iowa State homepage, Twitter and Facebook accounts. You can also call the IT Solution Center at 294-4000.

Where can I park?

Campus services works to keep parking lots, sidewalks and roads clear during winter storms. If accumulation is heavy, the priority is first on roads, then parking lots, sidewalks and building entrances (in that order). Don't park in your usual lot if it's not cleared. Instead, park in one of the three lots designated for general use during winter weather, where all ISU parking permits will be honored:

  • Iowa State Center, southwest corner (lots A3, A4, B5 and B6)
  • North of Molecular Biology (lots 29 and 30)
  • North of General Services Building (lot 41)

Consider using CyRide when road conditions are poor. Free shuttles run to campus from the Iowa State Center lots every 5 to 10 minutes.