Finishing a top floor

Workers guide copper piping into an open window

Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Workers carefully lifted piping into the under-construction fifth floor of the six-story Advanced Teaching and Research Building last week. The science building opened in spring 2017 with an unfinished fifth floor that just recently had been assigned to the new Nanovaccine Institute. The institute formalized a 2013 interdisciplinary research venture that now includes nearly 70 researchers at 21 universities, research institutes, national laboratories and companies.

Construction on administration and collaborative research areas and faculty offices for the institute began in January and is scheduled to wrap up in August. In the meantime, the institute is headquartered in Sweeney Hall.

Implementation approved for new P&S structure

A new classification and compensation system for Iowa State's professional and scientific (P&S) employees has the green light for implementation. President Wendy Wintersteen and senior vice presidents Pam Cain, Martino Harmon and Jonathan Wickert approved a two-phase process that begins next month and should wrap up by May 31.

At the end of implementation, every P&S employee will have a new classification. Job duties and annual salary will not change.

Emma Mallarino Houghton, director of classification and compensation for university human resources (UHR), said a two-phased approach will be used in order to classify employees into the new structure without the bias of pay. It also gives employees time to request a review if they believe their assigned job title is not accurate. In the new P&S structure, some 600 job titles will more accurately reflect the work employees do.

Looking ahead

During March, HR service delivery teams will meet with unit leaders and together they'll connect each employee's position in that unit to the appropriate job and level (if that job has more than one level), based on the nature and complexity of an employee's work. Once local meetings are complete, employees will learn their new job titles. During April and early May, HR service delivery teams will work with UHR central compensation/classification staff to complete job title reviews requested by P&S employees.

Mallarino Houghton said collaboration with unit leaders throughout phase one is critical. The passage of time and changes implemented at Iowa State since the P&S class/comp review began may have changed the work some employees are doing.

In the second implementation phase, targeted for the end of May, the new P&S system will go live in Workday. Employees will be able to view their final job assignment and level in the system.

The new structure, under development for nearly two years, is intended to reflect and keep pace with the market and adopt best practices for classification and compensation. Mallarino Houghton said the overarching goal is to improve Iowa State's ability to attract and retain P&S employees.


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Nine years into the experiment, students are still helping their own

Belinda Heckman in the Freddy Court SHOP location

Junior Belinda Heckman, serving as president of the SHOP, explains the inventory in the satellite location at the Frederiksen Court Community Center, which is accessible whenever residence staff are on duty. Student residents in Schilletter-University Village have 24/7 key card access to their community center and SHOP satellite. Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Students Helping Our Peers -- the campus food pantry known more commonly by its acronym, SHOP -- is nine years old this month. From a single location in the Food Sciences Building open three hours a week in 2011 to three locations open between 30 hours per week and essentially 24/7, it has grown up. Smaller satellite locations in the community centers of the two student apartment communities, Schilletter-University Village and Frederiksen Court, opened in fall 2014 and 2018, respectively, to provide convenient service. Another satellite pantry operated off campus during the time the residence department leased and operated multiple apartment buildings in southwest Ames (2013-18).

Junior Belinda Heckman, who recently assumed the student organization's president role after several months as a SHOP volunteer, said awareness among students remains a top goal. SHOP tracks its traffic by individuals helped per week, not number or pounds of food items shared. The pantries serve about 50 students per week, but she thinks the need is more widespread. Her opinion is influenced by two ideas: When she asks students if they know about the SHOP, most do not. She also cited a 2018 national survey that found one in three college students is food insecure.

SHOP locations

  • 2616 Food Sciences Building
  • Mail room, Frederiksen Court Community Center
  • Kitchen, SUV Community Center

"We don't want hunger to limit any student's academic or career success," she said. "Part of our job is to diminish the stigma of using a food pantry."

The good news, Heckman said, is there's interest in spreading the word about SHOP. She estimated about 75 students volunteer to keep the main location in the Food Sciences Building open 30 hours each week. Residence department student employees ensure access to the pantries in the community centers as part of their duties. And many campus groups -- Greek teams, student organizations, dean of students office, student wellness, for example -- organize donation drives that both help fill the shelves and alert students the shelves exist.

SHOP adviser Breanna Wetzler, communications specialist in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, called the collection process "very grassroots."

"The campus community has been great about donating to SHOP," she said. For example, so far this month, about 1,200 pounds of donations have come in. SHOP keeps a recommended donations list on its website. SHOP executive team members use cash donations mostly to purchase what Heckman termed "fast" items -- pasta, sauces, rice and similar high-demand foods.

Faculty and staff are among the donors, Heckman noted.

"It's impactful when professors care about their students outside the classroom. We appreciate it when they share information about SHOP with students, and we are grateful when they spend the time to purchase items and donate to SHOP.

"The student need often is unseen," she added.

New campus chalking policy took effect this week

Following a public comment period, Iowa State's chalking policy went into effect Feb. 17. The policy permits chalking on many campus sidewalks "to announce programs, promote events, exchange opinions, share messages and otherwise express ideas," while also preserving university priorities such as public safety, protection of property and an aesthetically appealing campus. It applies to all university students, employees, affiliates and visitors.

Campus areas in which chalking is prohibited changed slightly from the draft to final version of the policy. The central campus restricted area shrank, from a broader area bordered by Osborn and Union drives, Morrill Road and Farmhouse Lane, to the central green space instead bordered to the north and east by MacKay and Curtiss halls, respectively. Added to the final list of restricted areas was the sidewalk immediately outside the Memorial Union south door.

As first proposed, restricted areas still include the Anderson Sculpture Garden near the Hub, Jack Trice and George Washington Carver plazas north and south of Beardshear Hall, Memorial Union north lawn, The Knoll, indoor and outdoor facilities used by Cyclone sports teams and health care facilities such as the Thielen Student Health Center, Student Services Building and Lloyd Veterinary Medicine Center.

The policy limits chalkers to using water-soluble chalk on uncovered sidewalks, and bans chalking on benches, bus stops, buildings, steps, trash and recycling bins, monuments and sculptures. It prohibits chalking that violates the student conduct code, federal or state laws and any other ISU policy. Consistent with other ISU policies, it prohibits chalking for commercial advertising or sales purposes.

An interim policy in place from early November through last week restricted chalking on campus sidewalks to registered student organizations publicizing an upcoming event open to all students. It also put limits on the content and length of chalked messages. The interim policy was prompted by an increasing volume of sidewalk chalking on campus last fall. Prior to the interim policy, Iowa State didn't have specific rules on chalking.

Survey will help shape facilities planning

Town hall sessions

  • March 24, 127 Curtiss, 3-4 p.m.
  • March 25, 022 Sukup, Noon-1 p.m.

A strategic facilities plan is being developed and the team working on it wants the campus community to weigh in via a short, online survey. Check your email inbox for an invitation from facilities planning and management (FPM) to "share your experiences with Iowa State University facilities," or complete the online survey now. 

The confidential survey gauges perceptions about the use, quantity and quality of Iowa State's facilities and spaces. Sarah Lawrence, campus planner in FPM, said qualitative information gathered from the survey and campus forums add to the quantitative data analysis.

"Having widespread feedback from the campus community is critical to ensuring that the plan's recommendations reflect the needs of campus users," Lawrence said. 

The survey is open through Feb. 28 and should take less than 10 minutes to complete. Its content mirrors the questions used during drop-in open house sessions held in November and January. Although the content is the same, open house participants are welcome to complete the survey. 

"While we had good participation in the recent open houses, the dates and times didn't fit into everyone’s schedule," Lawrence said.

Results shared in March

A team from Ayers Saint Gross, the planning firm working on the strategic facilities plan, will present survey and forum results during public town hall meetings on March 24 and March 25. The presentations will summarize the initial planning analysis, campus observations and survey/open house input.

"This survey is a great opportunity for people to share their experiences with campus facilities and engage in this important planning effort," Lawrence said.


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Financial help available for students dealing with emergencies

Life can send someone a curve at any time. That includes students who may be taxed trying to make ends meet. When something happens that puts them in an unexpected bind, Iowa State can lend a financial helping hand with emergency scholarships to keep them progressing toward a degree.

"They are for one-time things a student could not have foreseen happening," said director of student financial aid Roberta Johnson. "It can get them through that particular emergency or crisis and get them back on track, at least financially."

Every emergency is different

Whether the problem is overdue rent, a death in the family or needed car repairs to make the commute to Ames, each case is handled individually. There are no formal criteria for an emergency scholarship, but Johnson said she needs documentation to verify need before disbursing funds. She estimates emergency funds are used 20 to 30 instances each year. It comes from a variety of funds.

"We do have some residual dollars in scholarship accounts," Johnson said. "We might have a student walk in with an emergency, and they otherwise meet the criteria for a scholarship, but they didn't get it. Maybe we can offer them money from that scholarship because we have some residual funds left."

College student services offices or the dean of students office often are the primary contact for students in need of financial assistance. Student services staff then work with Johnson's staff to try to resolve the issue.

"Our colleges have done an excellent job of making the faculty and staff aware that if they see a student in distress, they refer them to student services or to our office," Johnson said. "Student services staff really are our eyes and ears on the ground."

Often the need is just a few hundred dollars, but it can make a big impact.

More aid

Iowa State has three main sources of financial aid available to students: scholarships, completion grants and emergency scholarships. Scholarships are earned through academic merit and other criteria.

Iowa State offers three types of completion grants with a broad spectrum of criteria, but Johnson said the goal is the same.

"Those dollars assist students to continue their education, and without it they would be very challenged," she said. "They have already utilized all other resources, and we don't have any other resources for them."

The University Innovation Alliance is an initiative among 11 public universities that share best practices for graduating more students from all socioeconomic backgrounds. This academic year is No. 3 in an initial three-year window in which ISU received $168,000 in seed money. The main criteria to receive this completion grant are for a student to be within two semesters of graduation and in good academic standing.

"Being part of the alliance means we are  required to find some matching funds, so it has led to the idea of completion grants within the ISU Foundation," Johnson said. "We have some donors who are giving dollars for completion grants at Iowa State."

The third type of completion grant is funded through a gift from the athletics department, which in 2018 pledged $1 million over five years. They were named Cyclone Success Grants.

"They [athletics] told us to craft them the way we wanted to best use them," Johnson said. "We are able to identify strong students who need some assistance to complete the current academic year they are in."

Being able to offer grants to a variety of students is important because some criteria eliminate certain populations on campus.

"Some completion grants are limited to only those who complete the FAFSA form, and the only students who can complete the form are U.S. citizens or eligible noncitizens," Johnson said. "We have international students who experience a crisis as well."

Working together

Johnson said in recent years, the office of student financial aid has partnered more often with colleges  to provide money to students in emergency situations. A need may be more than one office can provide, but working together pools resources.

"We had a young lady whose mother died, and she is trying to navigate how to pay for the funeral while also paying for school," Johnson said. "It always amazes me how our students have the tenacity in a very difficult situation to stay in school and navigate that."

More donors have contributed to the completion grant program as word has spread. Donors often sympathize with students, recalling having to take time away during their college years to earn money to be able to return and complete their degree, Johnson said.

"We appreciate whatever support we receive to help our students remain in school and graduate," she said. "That is the ultimate goal, to have them at Iowa State."

Brockovich lecture highlights sustainability symposium

Live Green, Iowa State's sustainability initiative, is hosting its 11th annual Symposium on Sustainability next week. The two-night celebration begins Feb. 24, highlighted by a keynote lecture from Erin Brockovich.

Brockovich was a legal researcher whose work investigating decades of groundwater pollution by Pacific Gas and Electric in Hinkley, California, resulted in the utility company paying residents $333 million in damages in 1996, the largest medical lawsuit settlement in U.S. history. Her lecture, "The Power of One," is in the Memorial Union Great Hall, following Live Green's annual awards for excellence in sustainability ceremony at 7 p.m. in the adjacent Sun Room.

Before the awards ceremony and Brockovich speech, representatives of sustainability in research, academics, student affairs, operations and community engagement will be available to provide information in a poster and table session at 6 p.m. in the South Ballroom. Brockovich will hold a post-lecture meet and greet at 8 p.m.

The symposium's second night is Sustainapalooza, 5-8 p.m. Feb. 25, in the MU Great Hall, South Ballroom and Sun and Oak rooms in the Memorial Union. Students, faculty and staff are invited to contribute to a collective visioning board and a Cy-lebrity Wall, participate in a clothing swap, learn sustainable living skills at green-it-yourself centers, enjoy local food and network with sustainability organizations.

All events are free and open to the public.