Tweaking the student experience for spring semester

Associate teaching professor Darin Wohlgemuth

Associate teaching professor Darin Wohlgemuth leads his Economics 207 class in the LeBaron auditorium Monday morning. Photo by Christopher Gannon.

From a course delivery perspective, spring semester at Iowa State will look much like fall semester, with instructors offering in-person, hybrid and online options to students. What's different is the university is beginning to restore on-campus opportunities and spaces that encourage, or at least allow, students to collaborate and study in the same room.

"Processes we had in place for fall were appropriate for the time -- there was still so much uncertainty about the disease," said associate provost Ann Marie VanDerZanden, who chairs the academic continuity working group. "Seeing how well students responded to Cyclones Care expectations and what worked last fall, and knowing those spontaneous interactions are so important, the working group reevaluated some of the fall protocols for spring semester.

"We also learned a lot about how to continue navigating through this very complicated time," she said. "So, we'll keep learning for another semester and reevaluate for summer."

Where they learn

VanDerZanden said the mix of course delivery options offered fall semester worked, evidenced by students' academic performance. The university's annual assessment of grades, done each fall semester, showed consistency from a year ago. This fall, 78.4% of all undergraduate grades awarded were a C or higher, compared to 77.5% during fall 2019.

When students registered for spring courses, the delivery mode for each class and section was indicated in the registrar's class schedule so they could select among the options offered. In dozens of courses, enrollment in online sections outpaced that of in-person sections.

Overall, 38% of Iowa State's spring courses have an in-person component. This includes the 21% of courses fully face-to-face and 17% taught in a combination of in-person and virtual instruction.

VanDerZanden noted that course delivery needs to remain fluid so instructors can respond to pandemic-related variables: student absenteeism rates and spikes in student quarantine or isolation numbers, for example. Like a COVID-19 test, course modality is a snapshot in time.


Two snapshots: Delivering ISU courses

Delivery mode*

January 2021

September 2020

Face to face















Face-to-face component



*A Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning graphic outlines differences among the delivery modes in location, timing and interaction.

Lab, studio, experiential course sections

VanDerZanden said pandemic mitigation efforts, including lower room capacities and cleaning protocols, continue to impact the hands-on courses the university prides itself on. Many feature a structure that brings students into labs or studios in smaller numbers, supplemented with synchronous online time with the instructor. The important thing, she said, is that one-on-one time between instructor and student is occurring.

"Our faculty have done a great job finding that mix," she said. "Our College of Design faculty especially have done a fantastic job finding ways to use technologies to help with experiential learning. They may not be in a studio at the same time, but the students are showing their work and a faculty member is coaching them through a design process in real time."

According to data from the registrar's office, experiential learning this semester should look something like this:

  • Laboratory sections: 81% (837 of 1,030) offered face-to-face or with in-person components through hybrid or arranged offerings.
  • Studio sections: 85% (181 of 213) offered face-to-face or with in-person components.
  • Experiential course sections: 94% (190 of 203) offered face-to-face or with in-person components.

Computer labs

Many computer labs -- for the most part closed for fall semester -- are open for the spring semester, with reduced capacities. This includes computer labs and printing stations in the residence halls. Students and others who use the labs need to observe the posted capacity limits. They're also required to clean their workstation with the cleaning supplies provided when they are finished. Colleges and departments are monitoring these labs, and if cleaning and sanitizing practices prove effective, additional lab hours could open as the semester progresses.

Study spaces

This week, the room scheduling team shared an expansive list of smaller classrooms and building common areas available to students for indoor studying this semester. VanDerZanden said the spaces also provide an option for a few classmates in an online synchronous course to "attend" class together. Students don't have to reserve the classrooms, but they must observe physical distancing and wear face coverings. Occupant capacities and hours are posted on the 34 classrooms in 11 buildings; the 43 common spaces across 23 buildings are available during regular building hours.

Field trips

Out-of-class learning experiences of a few hours to a day were allowed during the fall semester, and the academic continuity working group, in collaboration with the public health working group, developed guidelines for overnight field trips this semester. VanDerZanden said this option is especially critical to some curriculums in the colleges of Design and Agriculture and Life Sciences, so it was important to restore overnight opportunities. The guidelines cover destination planning, transportation, housing and meals.

Student organizations

VanDerZanden said many student co-curricular opportunities were limited by safety protocols last fall. While the COVID-19 mitigation strategies remain in place, she said there is a new emphasis on encouraging students to safely interact with each other this spring.

"Across campus, we heard the concern from students -- and from faculty -- about the impact on students' social contact, so the working group has tried to be thoughtful about ways to pull that back in as much as possible while still following the safety protocols we have. We have to remain vigilant," she said.

'It had to be done': Devotion fueled effective contact tracing


Maria Pringle, an advanced registered nurse practitioner at the Thielen Student Health Center, has been essential in designing and operating Iowa State's contact tracing system, sometimes this fall sending hundreds of texts daily to campus community members in quarantine. Photo by Ryan Riley.

For the past eight months, Maria Pringle has spent a lot of time on her cellphone at night -- not as a diversion from the COVID-19 pandemic but to accomplish an essential and arduous aspect of how Iowa State has responded to it. 

Pringle and her colleagues at the Thielen Student Health Center, with help from many others across campus, built and for months staffed the university's contact tracing operation, which identifies students and employees who need to quarantine after being exposed to someone who tested positive.

Before a late September upgrade to a more automated process, staff personally texted every contact daily during their quarantine to check on symptoms. The heavy workload often extended late into the evening, and Pringle -- an advanced registered nurse practitioner currently devoted to the center's COVID-19 efforts instead of her usual patient appointments -- was the primary texter. 

After the initial spike in cases when students returned in August, as many as 1,200 contacts were in quarantine at the peak. Pringle was texting hundreds of them every day, with assistance from health center medical assistants. 

"It had to be done, and there was no other way to do it. We had to take care of our students, our staff and our faculty. We just put everything else on hold and took care of it," Pringle said. "A lot of people just gave up their lives for a couple of months."

Pringle was among many ISU personnel who embraced new roles and spent long hours to create, run and refine Iowa State's contact tracing system, which usually notifies contacts within a couple days of a positive test.

"The structure built at Iowa State to produce that turnaround isn't happening anywhere else in the state," said Kurt Beyer, senior risk and systems analyst in the risk management office.

Results of Iowa State COVID-19 tests, processed at the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, can take up to 48 hours but usually come back within 24 hours. Those who test positive are interviewed often within hours of the results, and the contacts they identify get an instant text.

"Our ability to turn around a test within 24 hours, have a case contacted typically within a few hours after their test, then have contacts notified by text immediately -- it's about as short as you can get," said student wellness director Brian Vanderheyden.

Move to automation

Contact tracing is a two-step process. Case investigators call people who test positive to offer support, answer questions and -- most importantly, from a public health perspective -- determine their close contacts dating back to two days before they first developed symptoms (or two days before the day they were tested, if they don't have symptoms). Then contacts are notified and asked to quarantine for 10 days, with check-ins throughout that period to see if they develop symptoms.

After the pandemic began in the spring, it wasn't immediately apparent that the university would need to provide its own contact tracing, though the practice is a vital and longstanding method of slowing the spread of an infectious disease. Iowa State's contact tracing began in tandem with Story County Public Health. But as case counts rose in the late spring, the need for an independent campus system became clear.

"The most important factor is time. You have to reach the contacts as quickly as possible. As the numbers got higher, it was evident we had to do it or it wasn't going to get done in a timely way," Pringle said.

Pringle and Sara Parris, associate director of the health center, created a largely manual process during the summer based on Smartsheets and health center staff and a few other ISU employees making calls and sending texts. When infections surged in August, the pool of about 30 contact tracers needed to expand.  

"I felt tremendous support from university leadership because when the numbers spiked, they started reaching out to get us assistance. It was overwhelming, but at no point did we feel like there wasn't help on the way. Everyone pitched in, knowing that we would have support and that it would work out," Pringle said. 

By the end of September, new infections had fallen sharply, and the contact tracing shifted to a new system built on the health center’s process but based in the Qualtrics platform, designed in part by Beyer and international risk manager Shaun Jamieson, a pair who also began overseeing the contact tracing team. 

The system automatically texts contacts as soon as they're identified and sends the daily check-ins during quarantine, saving time. A tracer follows up by phone 24-48 hours after the initial notification text, and the system triages those calls, prioritizing contacts that didn't receive or respond to the text or indicated in a survey that they had questions.

"The Qualtrics system allows us to quickly scale up and down and have fewer contact tracers managing a greater number of cases," Jamieson said. 

The automation proved useful when cases increased again and more than 1,000 students and employees were in quarantine during the last two weeks of November.

"The fact that we finished last semester in person is a testament to the fact that it worked," Parris said.

How the calls go

More than 4,000 contacts have been identified by ISU's tracing operation. An analysis during a 10-week period in the fall, after the Qualtrics system was in place, found that 98% either filled out the survey sent by text or spoke on the phone with a contact tracer, Jamieson said. Most people are responsive and appreciative.

"A very, very small number of people are recalcitrant, obstinate or rude," he said.

Contact tracing calls typically take about five minutes. Case investigation calls are much more intense, a half hour or longer and covering more emotional ground, said Vanderheyden, who took over management of the case investigation team when the system moved to Qualtrics.

"It definitely takes some skill to help somebody think through identifying contacts. We usually have them pull out their phone and think about activities they've done, classes and social events they've attended, roommates, intimate partners -- we're asking about really specific things," he said.

The 44-person contact tracing team and the 60-person case investigation team take an online training workshop from Johns Hopkins University. The training includes tips on conducting calls with people who are scared, anxious, angry or unhelpful, Vanderheyden said.

"For the most part, it helps to express some empathy and meet them where they're at," he said.

Jamieson said one occasional challenge is when people assume they know who has identified them as having been in close contact, which is defined as being within 6 feet of someone for 15 consecutive minutes when one of the parties isn't wearing a face covering properly.

"By design, neither the contact tracer nor the contact know who the positive case is. All the tracer has is the date of the contact," he said.

Pringle is still involved in the case investigation side of the process, helping make assignments and calling difficult-to-reach patients. She has noticed investigation calls were more difficult earlier in the pandemic when people had less COVID-19 knowledge and experience.

"There was a lot of shock, a lot of fear, a lot of misinformation. It was rough sometimes," she said.

All hands on deck

While leading the case investigation team, Vanderheyden also has day-job obligations heading up the student wellness office. That means constant multitasking and frequent night and weekend work. He said double duties have been common during the pandemic for staff across the student health and wellness unit -- which also includes the health center, student counseling and recreation services.

"The reality is, all of us are doing multiple full-time jobs the best we can. It's been an around-the-clock thing since last spring," he said. "We know it's critical to the health and well-being of our community, and the entire staff has really rallied behind that. We take a lot of pride in it, which really helps when people are tired."

Beyer and Jamieson were involved in other aspects of the university's COVID-19 response before pivoting to contact tracing, said Beyer, whose pre-pandemic role in event authorization remains busy, as well.

"Our running joke is that we have our old jobs and our new jobs and our newest jobs. I think for both of us, it's our third new role. But there's so many people who have been doing that all across campus all the time," he said. 

That includes support staff, too. Parris and Pringle would often tweak the contact tracing system in late-night conversations, devising incremental improvements that they relied on the health center IT staff to implement. 

"You would never hear anyone here say it's too much work to do it that way," Parris said.

Which doesn't mean that Pringle isn't looking forward to the day -- coming soon, at the start of February -- when the last bit of contact tracing texts are automated via Qualtrics, and she can leave her university cellphone on her desk at the end of the day. Until then, she's still sending texts nightly to notify people who tested positive that their isolation period is over.

"I don't know what I'll do with my time!" she joked.


Related stories

Learn more about ISU’s pandemic response in a collection of stories highlighting some of the hard work, dedication and collaboration across campus.


Vice president for research Peter Dorhout

Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Peter Dorhout ("DOR-howt") arrived on campus Jan. 25 as Iowa State's vice president for research and a professor of chemistry. He comes to Ames from Manhattan, Kansas, where he served as vice president for research (2016-21) and dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (2012-16) at Kansas State University. He previously served for nearly 20 years on the faculty at Colorado State University, Fort Collins, including in leadership roles as an associate college dean for research and graduate education, vice provost for graduate studies and assistant vice president for research. He served as interim provost at the university's Pueblo campus in 2011.

Dorhout earned a bachelor's degree in chemistry from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and a doctorate in inorganic chemistry from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He previously worked on campus as a postdoctoral fellow at Ames Laboratory (1989-91), and was a research collaborator for two decades (1986-2006) with another U.S. Department of Energy facility, Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico. His research specialties include thin film materials, environmental chemistry, and actinide and radiochemistry.

Dorhout was elected a fellow of two national societies: American Association for the Advancement of Science (2017) and the American Chemical Society (2013). He served as president of the latter in 2018.

Dorhout's office is in 2610 Beardshear, and he can be reached by phone at 515-294-1785, by email at

Faculty, student freedoms discussed at Faculty Senate

For the second time in two months, university counsel Michael Norton and senior vice president and provost Jonathan Wickert addressed faculty academic freedom and student freedom of expression during the Jan. 26 Faculty Senate meeting.

Faculty workshops

University counsel Michael Norton, senior vice president and provost Jonathan Wickert and associate provost for faculty Dawn Bratsch-Prince will lead a pair of faculty workshops through Zoom on Feb. 3 (11 a.m.-noon) and Feb. 18 (noon-1 p.m.) to discuss faculty academic freedom and student freedom of expression and answer questions.

Norton gave a more comprehensive overview to senators as the issue continues to be significant on campus and at the other Board of Regent universities.

The university and its employees cannot restrict expression because of its message, ideas, subject matter or content. The required syllabus statement sets a standard of how the First Amendment affects the classroom and students, Norton said.

"We are trying to be proactive and be out in front of these issues," Wickert said. "This is to protect students' constitutional rights, but also to affirm our commitment to academic freedom of our faculty."

The syllabus statement is not introducing anything new since ISU policy and the law have always protected student free expression, Wickert said. An FAQ has been posted by the provost's office.

The syllabus statement was first used for winter session courses.

"Generally speaking, faculty did not report any significant problems," Wickert said. "Some said it was helpful, some said it didn't make any difference in their class."

Academic freedom allows faculty to discuss any topic related to their expertise in the classroom and applies to assignments, discussions and materials as long as it is relevant to the subject matter of the course. Faculty members select the course material and decide how best to present it. They also have the responsibility to teach in a professional manner while respecting the rights of students to offer differing opinions.

"Students have the right to disagree with faculty members and express divergent opinions," Norton said. "But they can't steer the discussion in class to unrelated topics, can't monopolize discussion to the point others can't participate and they are expected to express viewpoints in an appropriate manner."

Whatever a student's personal viewpoint is, they are responsible for learning the course material, Norton said.

"Faculty members have to hold students responsible for the fundamental understandings of what is being taught, but not impose that view on them or require them to have the same view as the faculty member," Norton said.

Norton has given the presentation to deans, department chairs and also will present to the provost council and college workgroups in the coming weeks. Senators had numerous questions following the presentation, and there are two faculty workshops through Zoom scheduled for Feb. 3 (11 a.m.-noon) and Feb. 18 (noon-1 p.m.) to help address them. An invitation will be emailed to faculty this week.

Trolling and doxing

Wickert addressed the rise of trolling and doxing of faculty at ISU and on campuses across the country. Trolling is deliberately following and provoking others online, often with offensive content. Doxing is publishing private or other identifying information with malicious intent.

"There are external actors looking to criticize higher education," Wickert said. "The attacks -- a tweet, Facebook post -- can become intense extremely fast.

"If you or anyone in your department is subject to one of these attacks, elevate it immediately to your chair, dean and my office."

The university has developed a safety resource document to help faculty, departments and colleges understand and manage situations that may occur.


Jon Perkins, associate professor of accounting, was voted the next president-elect. He will take office in May, when current president Carol Faber (graphic design) passes the gavel to president-elect Andrea Wheeler (architecture).

Other business

Senators voted to approve:

  • A name change for the department of sociology to the department of sociology and criminal justice. It reflects the current makeup of the three distinct majors in the department -- sociology, criminal justice, and agriculture and society. In fall 2019, 376 undergraduates were enrolled as  criminal justice majors and 61 in sociology.
  • Revisions to the Faculty Handbook that include faculty documenting equity, diversity and inclusion activities and the impact of that work on teaching, research, extension and other areas of job responsibilities.
  • Changes to the Faculty Senate Constitution to replace "nontenure eligible" with "term" faculty, use gender neutral language and note a past-president is a voting senate officer of the executive board and Faculty Senate.

All leftover flex money from 2020 can be used in 2021


For questions regarding flex account changes, contact the university human resources benefits team at 294-4800 or For questions about flex plan rules, future legislative changes and tax impact, contact the payroll, benefits and tax office at

The normal use-it-or-lose-it rules of flexible spending accounts (FSA) for health and dependent care are suspended for 2020 contributions, due to a temporary change in federal law. All funds left in a health care FSA or a dependent care assistance program (DCAP) account at the end of 2020 are available to cover 2021 expenses. 

A provision in the COVID-19 relief package Congress passed in late December provides for the additional temporary flexibility. Throughout 2021, the following changes are in effect for the accounts, which are used to save taxes on payroll deductions set aside to cover eligible health and dependent care costs.

Relaxed FSA carryover

Previously, the carryover amount for the health care FSA was limited to $550. The new rules temporarily eliminate the cap and allow all unused funds from the 2020 plan year to carry over into 2021. This will allow additional time to incur expenses and spend funds that would otherwise be forfeited. 

Extended DCAP grace period

Dependent care accounts typically have a grace period, allowing expenses incurred before March 15 to be paid with leftover funds from the prior year. In 2021, the grace period is 12 months, allowing any eligible expense through Dec. 31 to be reimbursed with unspent contributions made in 2020. 

Changes allowed

Broadening and continuing a temporary change offered in 2020, employees will be allowed to change their flex account elections at any point during 2021. Contribution levels to the accounts, which are set for the following year during November open enrollment, usually can be changed only when an employee has a qualifying change in family status. The option to make adjustments will help employees better manage fluctuations in child care and medical expenses.

Dependent care eligibility age

The maximum age of eligible dependents to qualify for reimbursement from a DCAP account is being temporarily increased from 12 to 13.

Multi-phased revitalization of Iowa State Center launches next month

Stephens Auditorium at night

Stephens Auditorium was the first of four specialty venues at the Iowa State Center to open, in 1969. Photo by Nick Tremmel.

A sweeping plan to revitalize the Iowa State Center as an arts, culture and entertainment district anchored by Stephens Auditorium takes a first step next month when the university sends to the state Board of Regents a proposal for a pedestrian gateway bridge across University Boulevard adjacent to Jack Trice Stadium. Scheduled for completion in summer 2022 and funded through donor support, the gateway bridge will provide year-round safe passage for students, fans and community members and link the stadium to enhanced game day parking on the east side of the road.

Since August 2019, the athletics department has had oversight of all Iowa State Center facilities and was charged with spearheading an effort to reimagine the future of the complex in a way that better serves the university and Ames communities. Representatives of both serve on a planning committee. That fall, the university announced a comprehensive vision to rededicate the Iowa State Center as an arts, culture and entertainment district. In that vision, Stephens Auditorium and the entire complex are transformed.

"The Iowa State Center has served as an arts, athletics and engagement hub for the university and the Ames community since it was originally envisioned by President James Hilton," said President Wendy Wintersteen. "The center is an incredible asset, and it's time to reimagine the future of this complex. I believe this plan will mark a new era, just as Stephens Auditorium did when it was first built -- and is the best way forward as we recommit to the auditorium's important role in enriching the student experience and the entire Ames community."

Phased development of the district

Future phases for the entertainment district would involve renovated event space and improvements in the Scheman Building and Hilton Coliseum, paved lots on the east side of University Boulevard and additional parking for patrons adjacent to Fisher Theater, Stephens and Scheman. As feasibility studies move forward, plans call for a hotel and convention center south of Scheman. A final step would develop the area between Scheman and the football stadium as a multi-use arts and entertainment district. Over the long term, such a district is expected to breathe new life into Stephens Auditorium.

Pollard's message

Athletics director Jamie Pollard lays out plan for the district in a Jan. 25 video.

"The project uses the excitement surrounding ISU athletics as a catalyst to create an arts, culture and entertainment district that ultimately will generate funding to reinvest in all of the facilities," said athletics director Jamie Pollard. "This year, the financial impact of the pandemic has been devastating and unprecedented for the entire university, including for fan- and audience-dependent programs like Cyclone athletics and the performing arts. That's why we're more committed than ever to a vision that can be a win for all of us."

An opportunity for Stephens Auditorium

Since its 1969 opening, Stephens Auditorium has been a revered university icon, but like many performing arts centers, it has faced financial challenges in recent years. Newer venues such as the Civic Center in Des Moines compete for audiences and revenue. Ticket sales cover the costs of performances, and most series shows are underwritten by generous support from loyal donors or sponsored by local companies. Rental income helps greatly, and planners are committed to researching additional revenue streams, but the facility is challenged to maintain its nearly 130,000 square feet of space. As the university celebrated Stephens' 50th anniversary last year, the facility faced an estimated $15-25 million in deferred maintenance.

Each year, Iowa State allocates nearly $1 million in operational support to Stephens. It would need to more than double that to address necessary facility improvements and deferred upkeep. A bold plan is needed to ensure the auditorium's long-term sustainability.

"As we all look to the future, it's important to reinvigorate the venues of the Iowa State Center to attract new audiences from campus and beyond for performing arts at Stephens and new conference attendees to Scheman as well as for more student uses," said Tammy Koolbeck, executive director of Stephens Auditorium.

Donald Simonson, chair of the department of music and theatre and member of the planning committee, concurred.

"Re-energizing the center will draw in students and the public, encourage them to explore the area, and promote a more cohesive vision of all that the Iowa State Center stands for and offers," he said. "One day, we may look back on the construction of the gateway bridge and see it as ushering in the next dynamic era for the Iowa State Center -- the moment it was reinvented as the heart of our Cyclone culture and spirit."

Iowa's Building of the Century

Stephens Auditorium is more than a venue where thousands of students have graduated, performed or enjoyed arts experiences. President James Hilton introduced his vision to create an educational, cultural and athletics complex for Iowa State in 1954, believing it would expand the university to become a center of culture as well as science and technology. From the seed of his idea, between 1969 and 1975, the Iowa State Center was created. 

Stephens Auditorium was first of the four specialty venues to open. Alumnus Clifford Y. Stephens shared Hilton's vision and spearheaded a fundraising effort for the auditorium. He, too, believed all students should have an opportunity to develop an appreciation for the fine arts. Since the inaugural concert in 1969 by the New York Philharmonic, more than 8,000 events have been held at Stephens, including national-level performances and student-focused events such as graduations, concerts by Iowa State music ensembles, lectures and the student-run fashion show.

In 2004, the Iowa chapter of the American Institute of Architects named Stephens Auditorium the Building of the Century.

Faculty asked to complete two surveys this semester

Iowa State faculty will be asked to share their work experience and typical weekly schedule through two surveys they'll receive during the next two months.

In a letter to faculty this week, senior vice president and provost Jonathan Wickert and Faculty Senate president Carol Faber said the feedback will be used to better serve and promote the development of all faculty, create better understanding among policymakers of faculty work and ultimately enrich the overall faculty experience at Iowa State.


The Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education (COACHE) Faculty Job Satisfaction Survey is administered every four years by Harvard University' Graduate School of Education. It provides a snapshot of faculty satisfaction across nine broad areas such as tenure and promotion, mentoring and collaboration, shared governance, institutional leadership and department-level engagement and collegiality.

Full-time faculty will receive a link to the survey from COACHE ( the week of Feb. 1. Part-time faculty as well as full-time faculty who began their service after Nov. 1, 2020, will receive a similar survey administered by Iowa State's Center for Survey Statistics and Methodology (CSSM) to ensure the broadest range of feedback.

Iowa State has participated in the COACHE survey since 2005. Results from previous surveys were used to create and improve the university’s faculty development programs. Examples include:

  • Initiatives focused on the transition from associate to full professor
  • Flexible policies for faculty
  • Faculty Work-Life Advisory Committee
  • Promotion and tenure debriefs that share best practices with department leaders.

Board of Regents

The state Board of Regents' biennial Faculty Activities Survey illustrates a typical faculty work week across appointment types. The survey reveals not only how many hours faculty work, but how those hours are divided among teaching, research and creative work, extension and outreach, clinical activities and administrative service to the department, college or university.

CSSM also will administer this survey over an eight-week period beginning Feb. 8, with one-eighth of full-time faculty asked each week to complete it. Results from the three regent universities are shared with the regents in the fall.

Questions about either survey may be directed to Tera Jordan, assistant provost for faculty development, or 294-9804.

New work-life sessions scheduled for employees

Professor of psychology Doug Gentile is expanding his work with meditation on campus. Gentile helps lead midmorning mindfulness sessions for ISU WellBeing about twice a month for people dealing with the stresses of the pandemic. 

Beginning Feb. 1, he is directing meditation and contemplative techniques that work with anxiety and other difficult emotions through a new offering -- Meditation 301: Beyond Mindfulness - Working with Difficult Emotions.

"People are dealing with a lot of anxiety and difficult emotions," Gentile said. "Meditation is fantastic to practice and allows us to change our relationship with our difficult emotions. A lot of people feel victimized by their own emotions, and that is not a healthy relationship."

Gentile is a certified meditation instructor and an ordained Zen monk who leads meditation groups in Ames and Des Moines. Online sessions are Mondays (2:30-3 p.m.) from Feb. 1 to April 26. Participants can register online.

Gentile will address several themes including how to understand the wisdom of our emotions and the ongoing process of emotional maturation. Participants examine their habits of mind and emotion and produce more positive ones.

"Meditation is a practice of rebalance," he said. "There are myths about meditation that it is always meant to make you feel good. I am going to take people to some tough places because that is how you learn to work with difficult emotions."

Research has shown that meditation can change the brain, and make people feel better and more compassionate over time, Gentile said.


A three-day beginners mindfulness practice for employees also is being offered by ISU WorkLife on Feb. 17, Feb. 24 and March 3 (8:30-10 a.m.) Attendance is required for all sessions and limited to 50 individuals.

The sessions will cover three meditation practices of sitting, walking and body scanning -- tuning into one's body and noticing any sensations without judgement. The first week requires 10 minutes of daily commitment at home, and the second week requires 15 minutes and an additional 25 minutes for body scanning twice during the week. Participants can see physical and emotional benefits taking part in the program.

Free assessment

Twenty-five volunteers are needed for free nutrition and health assessments being offered by ISU WellBeing and the food science and human nutrition department. Juniors studying nutrition and dietetics conduct the assessments for employees.

The assessment, which takes about 30 minutes, includes a blood work report, nutrition and physical activity analysis reports and 100 points awarded for the Adventure2 program. Each volunteer will take part in two assessments -- one each in February and March -- have an in-person meeting on campus and a virtual meeting with three to four students, wear a pedometer for three days and track physical activity and food intake for three days.