The omicron variant's rapid spread is driving a spike in COVID-19 cases on campus and in the community, increasing the need for easily accessible testing options. Beginning today, Jan. 20, ISU employees and students can pick up a free rapid antigen test at five campus locations, senior leaders announced in a Jan. 19 campus message.
Rapid antigen tests are self-administered kits that provide results within 15 minutes based on a nasal swab and are most effective at detecting COVID-19 when symptoms are present. While supplies last, symptomatic employees and students can find a rapid antigen test at:
- Maple Willow Larch hall desk (8 a.m.-6 p.m. weekdays, weekends 1-5 p.m.)
- Memorial Union information desk (7 a.m.-10 p.m. daily, except 11 a.m. opening Sunday)
- Thielen Student Health Center front desk (8 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays, except 9 a.m. opening Wednesday)
- Union Drive Community Center mailroom (8 a.m.-6 p.m. weekdays, Saturday 1-5 p.m.)
- Vet Med room 2270 (8 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays)
Employees and students also can find free surgical and N95 masks at those five locations. Following the recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), senior leaders encourage wearing a well-fitting face mask when around others indoors, including classrooms, shared offices and other common spaces. Masks are required in some campus spaces, such as on CyRide.
Self-testing access expands
Increasing the availability of at-home rapid tests has been a national priority in recent weeks. In a federal initiative that launched Jan. 18, all U.S. households are eligible to request four at-home tests kits. Submit a request online. Kits are expected to ship in one to two weeks.
New federal rules also require health insurance plans to reimburse members for over-the-counter test kits they purchase on or after Jan. 15. University officials are working with ISU insurance providers on how the reimbursement process will work. Details will be released soon.
Instructions for various at-home tests vary, but for a general primer on self-testing, see the CDC's guidance.
Other testing options
Faculty and staff also have these options for COVID-19 testing, if needed:
- Hy-Vee continues to operate a drive-thru testing site in Lot F, west of Stephens Auditorium. It is open weekdays 9 a.m.-1 p.m., except Wednesday. Schedule a required appointment online. PCR lab tests are free, and rapid PCR tests are $119.
- Free Test Iowa kits can be picked up at any of the five campus locations that offer at-home tests and face masks. Test Iowa results are available by email within 24 hours of the lab receiving the self-collected saliva sample, which is submitted by mail.
- Symptomatic students can schedule an appointment online for a test at Thielen, which has the capacity for 200 PCR testing appointments daily and provides results by email within 48 hours.
Vaccine clinics set
Senior leaders encourage students and employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19, including boosters. Vaccines are safe, effective and the most important tool among the Cyclones Care public health measures to help prevent the spread of the virus.
Three on-campus vaccination clinics for students and employees are set for the next six weeks, with Hy-Vee partnering with the university to offer first, second and booster doses in State Gym on Jan. 26, Feb. 9 and March 2.
The Jan. 26 vaccination clinic will run 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Appointments are required and can be scheduled online. The deadline to schedule an appointment is 10 a.m. Jan. 25.
How to respond
For information on how to respond to a COVID-19 diagnosis or exposure, review the Jan. 6 campus messages about spring semester public health measures. Guidelines for isolation and quarantine, along with other updates and relevant information, are available on the Moving Forward webpage.
Patient volume is high at local health systems, stressing their treatment and testing capacity. Senior leaders asked employees to ease some of the pressure by following guidance provided by McFarland Clinic, Mary Greeley Medical Center and UnityPoint Health to determine if medical care is required.
With the launch of spring semester, Sharon Perry Fantini ("fan-CHEE-knee") began her new role as Iowa State's vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion Jan. 18.
She comes to Ames from a 20-year career at Tiffin University, Ohio, where she had served as vice provost for equity, access and opportunity and Title IX coordinator since 2009. She also was an associate professor of management, teaching courses in human resources, organizational behavior and organizational communications.
Previously, she served in several capacities, including executive director, for the management department's degree completion center at Tiffin.
Perry Fantini earned bachelor's degrees in organizational management and human resources management and an MBA, all from Tiffin University. She also completed a Ph.D. in human resources and organization management from Minneapolis-based Capella University.
Perry Fantini's office is in 2680 Beardshear. She can be reached by phone at 294-8440, by email at email@example.com.
She succeeds Reg Stewart who accepted a similar position last summer at Chapman University in Orange, California. Charles Small, senior associate athletics director for student services, served as interim vice president.
President Wendy Wintersteen has reappointed senior vice president and provost Jonathan Wickert to a third five-year term, effective July 1 and pending approval by the state Board of Regents.
Wickert's reappointment follows the Faculty Senate's 2019 comprehensive review of the office of the senior vice president and provost that included a survey completed by more than 1,000 faculty and staff. In addition, this fall, the provost's direct reports and office staff, senior administrators and presidents of the Faculty Senate and Professional and Scientific Council were asked to complete an administrative survey of Wickert's performance.
Collectively, they noted successes in promoting all areas of Iowa State's mission, championing inclusion and diversity across the university, supporting interdepartmental and interdisciplinary collaboration, providing transparent communication, improving professional development opportunities and advancement guideance, and leading new initiatives.
"Provost Wickert has done an outstanding job bringing forward innovative ideas, collaborating across campus and leading efforts that strengthen Iowa State's academic programs, support the scholarship and creative activities of our faculty and improve student outcomes," said Wintersteen. "I'm so pleased he will continue in this key leadership role to help advance Iowa State as a top land-grant university."
Wickert's accomplishments during his second term include:
- Restructuring the academic affairs division to add the offices of admissions, student financial aid and registrar in order to streamline enrollment management with the colleges and align with national best practices.
- Strengthening efforts to recruit and retain diverse faculty, expanding online education opportunities, and enhancing high-impact educational practices that engage students outside the classroom.
- Maintaining strong support for faculty scholarship through the office of the vice president for research, including several years of record or near-record external funding, and supporting Extension and Outreach in its mission to serve Iowans in all 99 counties.
- Providing exceptional leadership for the university's comprehensive response to COVID-19.
- Maintaining a strong commitment to shared governance and transparent communication with the Faculty Senate and Professional and Scientific Council.
- Working with the academic colleges and Board of Regents to add numerous degree programs that meet student demand while addressing Iowa's workforce needs.
- Fundraising, visioning and administrative oversight of the Student Innovation Center, which opened in 2021.
In 2020, Wickert was installed as the inaugural holder of the Presidential Professorship. That position, made possible through a gift from an anonymous alumni couple, provides resources for strategic initiatives in the division of academic affairs. As one example, Wickert directed resources to the COVID-19 Exceptional Effort Awards for 52 individuals or teams of faculty, staff and graduate students.
"I am grateful for the opportunity to continue serving students and colleagues across campus," Wickert said. "Working with President Wintersteen and her leadership team to advance Iowa State's academic mission, particularly during this challenging and historic time, is a great privilege and responsibility."
Wickert joined the Iowa State faculty in 2007 as chair of the mechanical engineering department. From 2009 to 2012, he served as dean of the College of Engineering before being appointed provost in July 2012 in a national search. He is the longest-serving provost at Iowa's regent universities and in the Big 12 Conference.
Senior vice president for student affairs Toyia Younger shared student mental health trends from fall semester at the Jan. 18 Faculty Senate meeting.
Students continue to struggle with mental health needs during the pandemic. For example, student inquiries with the office of student assistance increased by 43% last fall.
"Within the first six weeks of the fall 2021 semester we reached the total number of student hospitalizations that are typically seen in an entire year," said Younger of the mental health issue. "The complexity of issues staff sees from students requires that they take more time."
Food insecurity also continues to be an issue on campus with 31% of students acknowledging some hardship last fall, up from 24% spring semester. Multicultural students had even greater struggles, with 48% dealing with food insecurity.
Iowa State results from the National College Health Assessment Survey continue to be tabulated, but Younger shared three early results:
- 41% of Iowa State participants in the survey reported not getting the recommended seven-plus hours of sleep at any point within the last two weeks
- 20% were screened for serious psychological distress
- 21% disagreed with the statement: "At my university, we are a campus where we look out for each other"
To help deal with some of the issues, student affairs launched the Cyclone Support campaign last fall. The positive response from students has led to it becoming permanent.
"This campaign promotes the use of on-campus student resources with an emphasis on self-help and online space," Younger said.
Many of the resources are self-guided to meet students where they are. One example is Therapy Assistance Online. It is a self-help tool managed by student counseling services and funded by Student Government.
Younger said resources also are provided for healthy sleep habits, financial help, meal planning and skill-building videos to manage anxiety and other concerns.
"Currently, we are seeing students looking for help online, and we want to be there for support," she said. "We hope this is a good first step for students who might need a bit more of a push toward the variety of on-campus services we have."
Request for faculty assistance
Younger outlined several steps faculty can take to help. Those include sharing the Cyclone Support website in class and syllabi to alert students to the campaign, encouraging students to use self-help resources on campus as a first step and continuing to create a community of care and inclusivity.
"I encourage faculty to reach out to staff in student affairs to get advice or answer any difficult questions as you navigate any difficult situations with students," she said. "This is truly a partnership."
Senators rejected an addition to the bylaws to clarify what should be included in the meeting minutes by a vote of 41-22. The proposal called for a concise record of what is done at a meeting, not a complete record of what is said during debate and discussion. It also would avoid attributions of statements made during debate or discussion.
Those against the change said at a public university, detailed minutes are needed to accurately reflect why senate decisions are made. Other senators were concerned about the timely availability of meeting transcripts or video recordings if detailed minutes were discontinued.
School of Education associate professor E.J. Bahng was named the chair of the U.S. diversity course requirement committee that began its work this semester. The permanent committee is responsible for approving courses proposed to satisfy the U.S. diversity requirement and is overseen by the academic affairs council.
Sarah Bennett-George, associate teaching professor in apparel, events and hospitality management, was voted the next president-elect. She will take office in May, when president Andrea Wheeler (architecture) passes the gavel to president-elect Jon Perkins (accounting).
- Senators approved discontinuing the undergraduate interdisciplinary wind energy minor. No students are enrolled and none have graduated with the minor since it was added in 2013.
- Senators will vote at their February meeting on a proposed change to the catalog in effect policy to clarify students can graduate under a catalog from the previous six years. The change would add a year due to students taking longer to graduate. The years a catalog can be chosen covers the period a student is enrolled at an accredited college or university, not just ISU.
Employees thinking about their retirement planning have a more convenient option for getting a personalized financial check-up.
Earlier this month, TIAA began offering ISU faculty and staff a regular schedule of on-campus meetings with a financial consultant, an addition to their occasional seminars and requested departmental meetings.
"This is the first time they'll have a consistent presence on campus," said Ed Holland, university human resources (UHR) benefits director. "I think it will prove valuable to employees."
The one-on-one consultations are held two days per month, with either consultant Jay Albrecht and Paige Phillips. Meetings are available in 3680 Beardshear Hall the second Tuesday and third Thursday, and once per month in 1027 Communications Building (third Thursday).
Consultations may occasionally be available in other campus locations on a less regular schedule, such as a handful of Wednesday sessions offered this spring in 128B General Services Building. See TIAA's online booking calendar for details.
TIAA consultations are available to all benefits-eligible employees, even those who selected IPERS as their retirement plan. Consultants can review an employee's financial and savings plan to ensure it's on-track to meet long-term goals.
Employees can schedule an on-campus meeting or a virtual session with the online calendar or by calling 515-268-8621. One-on-one consultation meetings also are available at TIAA's local office in Somerset, 2713 Stange Rd., and can be scheduled online or by phone.
Ready, Set, Retire
For employees approaching retirement, UHR offers a quarterly two-day workshop called Ready, Set, Retire that offers a variety of informational seminars on various retirement issues, including:
- ISU retiree benefits
- IPERS and TIAA retirement plans
- Social Security
- ISU voluntary savings plans
- Medicare and the Senior Health Insurance Information Program
- Emotional and mental health impacts
Presentation slides and video from prior sessions are available online. The next Ready, Set, Retire event is planned for Jan. 27-28. To join, register online by noon Jan. 20 to attend any or all of the free sessions. Separate registration is required for one of the Ready, Set, Retire workshops, TIAA's session on Social Security (Jan. 27, 1-2 p.m.).
Faculty Senate president Andrea Wheeler begins each meeting by telling all in attendance the senate is a collaborative, collegial and cooperative body. She reminds senators shared governance happens best in an environment of mutual trust and respect.
Wheeler is adding action to those words with three clinics that focus on leadership and inclusivity. Clinics set for Feb. 1, March 22 and May 10 will be conducted in collaboration with the Professional and Scientific Council. The goal is to help committee and council members be better prepared for leadership roles, and encourage participation and diversity in the senate and council.
"This came from conversations more than a year old," said Wheeler, an architecture associate professor. "We want to ensure Faculty Senate and P&S Council are inclusive environments. We want to make sure they are diverse and have a wide range of perspectives."
The clinics are aimed at senate and P&S Council members, but Wheeler said they are open to all faculty and staff. Skills learned can be applied in roles across campus.
Wheeler said committees and councils drive much of the work the senate does before it reaches the full body. Without training or experience, chairing these groups in an inclusive way can be a challenge.
"The clinics will be very practical and focus on working well together," she said.
The clinics -- limited to 100 people each -- are built around the theme of influence and will be led by Treo International, an interpersonal skills research and corporate training company out of Des Moines. Each clinic focuses on one topic:
- Asking questions
The 90-minute online Zoom clinics are designed to be interactive sessions with multiple breakouts for group discussions. To keep participants engaged, the activity shifts about every 15 minutes.
"We will have video clips, there are several polls, breakout groups on specific topics for a peer-learning component and opportunities to talk as a group," said Tero International founder Rowena Crosbie, who will lead the three clinics. "We started the virtual clinics during the pandemic and found that 90 minutes seems to be just about perfect when utilizing all the tools."
All attendees will receive an email in advance of the clinic with questions to consider.
"We also provide several digital resources as learner prep so they can apply it to their world," Crosbie said. "It allows us to provide support to people and any changes they are looking to make."
Topics are simple ideas of asking questions or listening during meeting. Understanding why people don't do them more often and effectively is the biggest benefit, Crosbie said.
Wheeler said she hopes the clinics will be an eye-opening experience for faculty and staff to realize they can step into a leadership role.
"There is support for those who want to step up into committee and council roles," she said. "Senate and P&S Council leaders really want people to take part, and it is not just for the very vocal or only for those who have been at the university a long time. The point is that we welcome new voices and opinions."
Welcome back for spring semester. If you were away from campus for part or all of the winter session, here's a quick summary of news you might not have seen:
Leaders and staff members in admissions and the registrar's office working in the Enrollment Services Center are starting spring semester in temporary locations. An early morning Jan. 3 sprinkler pipe break, unfortunately above the third floor, caused extensive water damage in the building. The registrar staff will receive walk-in clients at 2157 Hixson-Lied Student Success Center, and admissions staff will serve walk-in guests at 2630 Memorial Union (office of new student programs).
Following on-campus interviews for four finalists the first week of December, President Wendy Wintersteen announced Dec. 16 the hiring of Sharon Perry-Fantini, Tiffin College, Ohio, as Iowa State's next vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion. She started in her new post earlier this week.
Expanding cleaning services
In December, senior leaders announced they identified funds for additional custodial positions to support a return to pre-pandemic cleaning services. Earlier this month, they shared the revised plan, which relies on ISU's ability to hire about 20 more custodians.
Status quo for now
At the state Board of Regents' Jan. 12 meeting, board president Michael Richards said fall semester guidelines for campus operations at the regent universities will remain in place for spring semester. Campus policies should continue to reflect the guidelines, he said.
Richards also said the board is keeping an eye on legal challenges to federal COVID requirements and awaiting additional court decisions "before determining how to proceed at regent institutions."
A new state law that took effect Jan. 1 prohibits the use of state dollars -- appropriations or grants -- for lodging, meetings or banquets at Iowa businesses that aren't certified in human-trafficking prevention. The requirement impacts about 1,500 businesses in Iowa that pay Iowa hotel/motel taxes. And it impacts ISU employees, who run the risk of not being reimbursed for their in-state expenses if they haven't checked ahead on their hotel's certification status.
About 650 employees -- excluding those in department pilot projects -- began their WorkFlex schedules this week. Nearly 95% of employees who submitted a proposal were approved, and nearly 85% of approved plans included a remote work component, according to university human resources leaders who provided a summary to the Professional and Scientific Council.
Personalized landing page
On Jan. 10, ISU employees met Workday's revamped landing page. The change personalizes the landing page for each employee and what's relevant to them. The intent is to help employees find information about themselves and use self-service tasks that previously were difficult to locate. The new site includes a chatbot, improved search function and a navigation menu that appears on every page.
Name badge design
With an equipment purchase and subsequent discussions with university marketing, ISU's printing services now is the primary provider of employee name badges. A two-badge set (red and white) costs $21 and can be ordered on printing services' website.
The Cyclone football team faced No. 19 Clemson in the Dec. 29 Cheez-It Bowl in Orlando, and couldn't overcome a 20-3 third-quarter deficit. The final score was 20-13, pushing the Cyclones out of the Top 25 in the final Associated Press (AP) ranking of the season.
The men's and women's basketball seasons got off to strong starts, with both teams breaking into the AP's national Top 10: Men's basketball was ranked No. 9 the week of Dec. 20 and No. 8 the next week. The Cyclone women earned AP's No. 9 spot the week of Jan. 10, and rose to No. 7 this week.
The Iowa Songwriter Showcase at Stephens Auditorium's Goldfinch Room resumes Sunday, Jan. 23, with a 5 p.m. concert by Des Moines native Joshua Sinclair.
During the pandemic, to keep guests and performers safe, the Stephens stage has become the Goldfinch Room. Sinclair will perform on the stage and the audience will be seated in the theater house to maintain social distancing. Masks are encouraged.
Songwriter and singer Sinclair has played the guitar since he was 10, and was in and out of bands throughout high school and into college. He has recorded 15 albums and performs 120-140 shows around the Midwest each year. His songs range from pop to crossover country.
Admission is $10 at the southwest tower door, which will open at approximately 4:30 p.m.