Need not run

Lawn mower against backdrop of red-leaved trees in a row

Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Bundled up against cool morning temperatures, freshman Engineering student Ethan Belby mows the Cyclone cross country course along Mortensen Road against a backdrop of trees transitioning to vivid autumn colors late last week. Belby said he mows 10-12 hours a week for the athletics department. Every week this fall he has mowed the cross country course and athletic practice fields to earn some extra income.

"It's been especially fun to watch this row of trees shift color each week," he said.

Virtual guide helps take guesswork out of benefits decisions

Screen shot from ALEX compares the HMO and PPO health insurance

A screen shot from a session with ALEX, Iowa State's new virtual benefits counselor, shows a comparison of the HMO and PPO health insurance plans.

A newly available virtual counselor can help faculty and staff navigate Iowa State's employee benefits options as they consider their choices for the upcoming year.

The free tool, called ALEX, is an interactive guide that explains how benefits work, analyzes the pros and cons of different offerings, asks questions that can help inform choices and proposes personalized suggestions for what benefits to select. Personable spoken narration using plain language and visual aids leads employees through a review of available benefits – helpful preparation for the open enrollment period for 2023 benefits that runs Nov. 1-18. All benefits options on ALEX reflect updated costs.  

Getting smart about health plans

In an opportunity separate from ALEX, UHR and ISU Extension and Outreach are jointly offering employees a one-hour workshop to learn more about using health insurance. The free virtual sessions will cover health care terminology, health insurance coverage, in-network versus out-of-network providers, preventative services, estimating costs and more. Register online for a session on Oct. 24 (3-4 p.m.) or Oct. 25 (noon-1 p.m.).  

Personal information provided during the virtual sessions is confidential and helps create more accurate recommendations. For example, ALEX asks about expected medical needs to calculate out-of-pocket costs and suggest which health insurance plan may work best, which also helps it propose an amount to devote to a flexible spending account and estimate the tax savings.

Using ALEX is optional, and the benefits choices it suggests are only recommendations. Employees still must choose their benefits in Workday during open enrollment. A link to ALEX is on the university human resources (UHR) website and will be available throughout the year, even after open enrollment closes.

ALEX will be useful to new hires and employees eligible for midyear benefits changes, and it includes information about some additional employee benefits that don't come up in open enrollment.

Offering a virtual advisor accessible online at any time is another method for helping faculty and staff learn about the extent of the benefits available to them and to understand those options, said Ed Holland, UHR director of benefits and WorkLife.

"ALEX is a new way to support employees and educate them about the tremendous benefits ISU provides," Holland said.

Individual consultations are still available from UHR's benefits team, which can be reached at

Research continues for committee considering Catt Hall name

The committee considering requests to remove Carrie Chapman Catt's name from Catt Hall continues to work through historical research on Catt and the women's suffrage movement.

"We have some very good historical information," said Carol Faber, chair of the Standing Committee for the Consideration of Removing Names from University Property and associate professor of graphic design. "We've been through a lot of historical documents. It's a long process for everyone, but it's important that we be as thorough as possible."

The committee continues to receive support from its research firm, History Associates, Inc. The firm recently gained access to an archive of material that previously was unavailable.

"We're looking forward to taking a look at the contents of that archive," Faber added.

The committee's task is to develop a draft report that includes an initial recommendation on whether Catt Hall should be renamed. The draft, currently in development, will be available for public comment for 60 days.

After receiving and reviewing comments, the committee will vote on its final recommendation. A two-thirds vote of the committee is required to recommend name removal.

The committee, appointed in 2021 by President Wendy Wintersteen, has pored through the research, held numerous meetings and interviewed individuals with expertise or interests in the Catt Hall renaming issue.

Extension VP finalists to visit campus over next two weeks

Five finalists have been identified in the search for the next vice president of Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. The successful candidate will succeed John Lawrence, who is retiring in 2023. The finalists are scheduled to visit campus on these dates:

  • Candidate 1, Oct. 27-28
  • Candidate 2, Oct. 31-Nov. 1
  • Candidate 3, Nov. 3-4
  • Candidate 4, Nov. 14-15
  • Candidate 5, Nov. 17-18

Public forums

The names of candidates will be made public one business day before their visit. Each will meet with faculty and staff, visit a county extension office and hold an open forum in 202 Carver on the first day of their visit:

  • Candidate 1, Thursday, Oct. 27, 2 p.m.
  • Candidate 2, Monday Oct. 31, 2 p.m.
  • Candidate 3, Thursday, Nov. 3, 3 p.m.
  • Candidate 4, Monday, Nov. 14, 2 p.m.
  • Candidate 5, Thursday, Nov. 17, 3 p.m.

The open forums will be livestreamed for faculty, staff and extension council members, and those links will be made available with the announcement of each candidate. The sessions will be recorded and made available after all the finalist visits are completed.

Check the provost's office search page for details about the finalists as they become available. The search committee encourages individuals to use the form on the search page to submit feedback on the finalists.


Related stories

Senators discuss requirements for posthumous degrees

Senators debated qualifications for a student to receive a posthumous undergraduate degree during the first reading of a proposed policy change at the Oct. 18 Faculty Senate meeting.

History associate professor Brian Behnken asked to further amend proposed changes and remove a credit requirement, and president-elect Sarah Bennett-George followed by amending the original amendment to also remove a GPA requirement.

"Speaking as a parent of a deceased child, once our children are gone, there is very little left to memorialize them or remember them," Behnken said. "This is a nice thing and something Iowa State can do for its students, the parents and family that costs us nothing. It is a degree that will never go on a CV or a resumè, but for those families it will hang on the wall and be a reminder of the student's accomplishments."

Senators unanimously approved the amendment to remove both requirements from the updated policy to ensure enrolled students would be eligible for a posthumous degree.

A proposed change to the policy would have required the deceased student to be in good academic standing with at least a 2.0 GPA and at least 32 credits completed at the university.

Anthony Townsend, information systems and business analytics associate professor, was part of the committee that drafted the new policy, and said he didn't recall any academic standards required in the original draft. He said the committee's intention was to "make it extremely easy to have a posthumous degree available to the family of deceased students." The student's college would make the recommendation for the posthumous degree, and the provost's office would make the final decision.

Senators will vote on the amended policy after its second reading at the November meeting.


Senators approved a change to the Faculty Handbook on who may file appeals, removing "constitutional rights" from the options for grounds for an appeal. Faculty serving on investigative committees have been reluctant to deal with constitutional rights violations because it is a legal question outside the senate's scope.

New business

Senators will vote at the November meeting on:

  • The proposed discontinuation of the Latin undergraduate and graduate minors in the world languages and cultures department. Due to insufficient student demand, the required 400-level course has not been taught since spring 2012, when the last students graduated with the minor.
  • A new minor in Spanish translation and interpretation studies in the world languages and cultures department. The proposed 15-credit minor would be a first for the regent universities. The minor focuses on developing analytical skills, linguistic competence, cultural literacy and knowledge of cultures in the Spanish-speaking world. 
  • A new interdisciplinary bachelor's degree in biomedical engineering, based primarily in the chemical and biological engineering department. Graduates would be prepared to address health care challenges in injury prevention and recovery, neurodegenerative disorders and antibiotic resistance, and to improve personal protective equipment. Nationally, the biomedical engineering major graduates the second highest percentage (48.1%) of female students among engineering majors. Currently, about 18% of ISU engineering bachelor's degree recipients are women. Before the final reading, more discussion will occur among departments involved in the proposal to ensure the right courses are included for the degree.
  • A proposed change that removes a limit on the number of courses undergraduate students can drop. The current limit is five, but over the past 12 academic years, students averaged fewer than two drops in their career. Additionally, no other regent or Big 12 Conference university has a drop limit, and a drop policy would be difficult to administer in Workday. 
  • An updated Faculty Handbook reviewed by a task force for consistency across sections and chapters while avoiding any substantive changes. Their changes addressed inconsistencies of reference, style and completeness. The task force of five former Faculty Senate presidents spent 16 months reviewing the handbook and updating the style guide. The updated Faculty Handbook was moved from the consent agenda to new business to allow faculty more time to review all changes.

Other business

Senators sent a policy revision in the Faculty Handbook for nondisciplinary corrective action related to faculty misconduct back to the executive board for more discussion.

Surveys will help improve Iowa State

Members of the Iowa State community soon will be asked to share their perspectives through two surveys -- one to evaluate employee benefits and the other to comprehensively assess the campus climate. Brief overviews of both surveys are below. More information will be provided ahead of each survey's launch date. 

Employee benefits survey opens Nov. 1

All faculty and staff will be asked to complete a survey about Iowa State's health care and other benefits. The purpose of the survey is to understand how much employees know about the available benefits at Iowa State and which benefits are most important to them. The results will help guide the university in future decisions about employee benefits.

University human resources is administering the survey with assistance from consulting partner, Mercer. A link to the survey will arrive in email inboxes on Nov. 1 and will remain open through Nov. 15. The survey will take 15-20 minutes to complete, and all responses are confidential.

Campus climate survey coming in early 2023

Early in the spring semester, Iowa State will conduct a comprehensive survey to assess the campus climate. This will be an opportunity for all faculty, staff and students to share their thoughts on the learning, living and working environment at Iowa State.

The survey is an action item for the university's new strategic plan, which includes the goal for Iowa State "to be the university that cultivates a diverse, equitable and inclusive environment where students, faculty and staff flourish." The survey results will be used to develop a diversity action plan to help Iowa State advance this goal.

Vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion Sharon Perry Fantini is leading the survey planning with university leaders and campus partners.

Green Dot training is just the beginning

Green Dot training is useful for faculty, staff and students across campus to learn about and show intolerance for power-based personal violence. But what comes after the training?

That is where October's Green Dot Action Month takes the baton to ensure ideas taught during training are reinforced throughout the year, even years after the initial training. It focuses on proactive efforts to prevent violence and includes wearing green clothing and posting messages on social media.

Show Green Dot in action

Carrie Giese asks individuals and groups who are taking part in Green Dot Action Month to record their proactive efforts by filling out a short online participation form. Have questions about anything Green Dot? Email Giese.

"Action month is a way to mobilize groups and individuals on campus to do those proactive green dots," said Carrie Giese, student wellness violence prevention and community engagement coordinator. "It is designed to energize the campus community and support it around Green Dot."

Scrolling through social media this month, you are likely to see several colleges posting pictures of department and unit employees wearing green to show their support. Thielen Student Health Center used green Band-Aids during its flu shot clinic, and the fraternity Alpha Kappa Lambda is hosting a green eggs, ham and pancake breakfast where members will distribute information about Green Dot. An academic department also is spreading the word with the first slide of each lecture this month dedicated to violence prevention information.

Small things like wearing a Green Dot pin or including Green Dot training options in an email signature can have a big impact, Giese said. Action month allows groups to come up with ideas that are authentic and useful for them and their audience. Having faculty and staff model the behavior can be impactful for students.

"Students often look to faculty and staff within their department for leadership, so it shows that this initiative is for everyone, not just students," Giese said. "We also know power-based personal violence doesn't just happen in the student community; it is for the ISU community."

Green Dot training

Giese described Green Dot training as an introduction to a lifelong conversation about how to be an active bystander and how to prevent power-based personal violence like stalking, sexual assault and dating violence.

There are three kinds of training, beginning with a Green Dot overview, a 60-minute introduction. It focuses on bystander intervention, generating campus buy in, and begins the process of behavioral change.

Bystander training is available to anyone who has completed the overview. The three-hour program consists of lecture, individual reflection, small group interaction and activities. Different scenarios are presented through a bystander lens as participants work to determine effective proactive and reactive strategies.

Green Dot enhancement acts as a booster session for anyone who has completed the overview or bystander training. The hour sessions are recommended annually and build on previous lessons.

"The overview session is not a checked box, it is a launch," Giese said. "The enhancement sessions talk about what has changed since taking the training and how you are implementing proactive and reactive green dots."

Giese said a significant percentage of the ISU population has completed at least the overview training. Training is conducted by the Green Dot Campus Team -- composed of faculty and staff -- and can be requested for individual or group sessions.

Growing reach

Green Dot's impact continues to grow. Destination Iowa State included Green Dot training for the first time this fall. New Cyclones received a student-tailored overview of the program and its goals. The Green Dot Trot kicked off Green Dot Action Month on Oct. 1 with a 4K run/walk that encouraged a donation to SHOP, the student-run food pantry.

Student Wellness also is in the process of adding another staff member to serve as the Green Dot coordinator.

Halloween fun

Kumar family stencils two pumpkins

Spouses Mouly Kumar (left), lecturer in electrical and computer engineering, and Debra Kumar, assistant professor of practice in human computer integration, assisted by 3-year-old daughter Maya, stencil pumpkins during a volunteer session Oct. 14 at Reiman Gardens. Photos by Christopher Gannon.

Preparation continues this week for Reiman Gardens' annual "Spirits in the Gardens," which features activities, entertainment, candy and a thousand hand-carved jack-o'-lanterns. Pumpkin stenciling occurred last weekend, and volunteer carvers, who began their work Wednesday, will wrap up Friday prior to a 7 p.m. preview at the gardens.

Saturday and Sunday events (Oct. 22-23) run from 5 to 9 p.m. nightly. The first two hours include Simon Says games and performances by ISU's chemistry, cosplay and juggling/unicycling student clubs. All evening, guests can enjoy the jack-o'-lanterns, hologram projections, candy and treats, and a lighted tower at Sycamore Falls. Boy scouts will sell snacks and warm drinks as a fundraiser.

Tickets must be purchased online in advance and cost $15 ($13 for members and ISU students, $7 for youth ages 2-12 years). As of Wednesday, Saturday night was sold out. Tickets remain for the 8 p.m. entry time Friday and the 5, 7, 8 and 9 p.m. entry times on Sunday. 


Ida Schwab stencils a pumpkin

Volunteer Ida Schwab of Ames filled in an elaborate face stencil during an Oct. 14 session to prepare 1,000 jack-o'-lanterns for Spirits in the Gardens this weekend. 

Amy Taylor stencils a pumpkin

(Front) Amy Taylor, a junior in animal science, and friends were among volunteers stenciling pumpkins at Reiman Gardens Oct. 14.


Liz Harris carries a stenciled pumpkin

Academic advisor Liz Harris, human development and family studies, turns in a freshly stenciled pumpkin during a volunteer session last week.