Finishing the job

students in line wait to enter test room

Students wait next to their assigned number outside the Carver Hall test center Monday morning, the first day of final exams. Upon arriving to take an exam, students check in to be added to a virtual queue. When their position number switches to 15, they move into the line to wait to enter the test center. Photo by Christopher Gannon.




Jason Keith is Iowa State's next provost


Editor's note: This story was added on May 21.

Jason Keith has been named Iowa State's next senior vice president and provost, pending approval by the state Board of Regents.

Jason Keith head shot

Jason Keith

Keith has served for the past 10 years as dean of the James Worth Bagley College of Engineering at Mississippi State University, Starkville. Previously, Keith was director of Mississippi State's Dave C. Swalm School of Chemical Engineering (2011-14) and led the MSU Energy Institute (2013-14).

"Jason Keith has a proven record of academic leadership at a land-grant university," said President Wendy Wintersteen. "He will be an excellent fit to work with our faculty and university leaders in innovating the future of our academic programs and advancing our teaching, research and extension missions."

Keith will begin his tenure at Iowa State on Aug. 1 as a member of the president's senior leadership team and cabinet. And as the university's chief academic officer, he will oversee:

  • Seven academic colleges
  • Graduate College
  • University Library
  • Enrollment management
  • Office of the Vice President for Research
  • Office of the Vice President for Extension and Outreach

The director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames National Laboratory also reports to the provost.

"President Wintersteen's vision for Iowa State University resonates perfectly with my belief in what a public land-grant university should be all about," Keith said. "I am thrilled to join her leadership team and have this opportunity to lead academic affairs to new heights in teaching, research, extension and service."

The selection process involved a national search led by an 18-member search committee chaired by David Spalding, vice president for economic development and industry relations and dean of the Ivy College of Business.

"We had a strong pool of candidates and are thrilled to welcome Dr. Keith to Iowa State University," Spalding said. "He is an accomplished academic leader who brings a wealth of experience, and his expertise will be invaluable in working collaboratively with our talented team of deans."

Keith earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Akron, Ohio (1995) and doctoral degree from the University of Notre Dame, Indiana (2000), both in chemical engineering. He then joined the chemical engineering faculty at Michigan Technological University in Houghton as an assistant professor. He earned tenure and promotion to associate professor in 2006 and full professor status in 2011.

His research uses mathematical modeling to improve air quality and energy efficiency through the applied fields of reactor design and alternative energy. Keith is an active member of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and American Society for Engineering Education.

Keith succeeds Jonathan Wickert, who is returning to the faculty as professor of mechanical engineering after serving 12 years as provost.

Wintersteen thanked Wickert for his leadership and members of the search committee and campus community for engaging in the search process and providing thoughtful feedback on the finalists.


Congratulations, university award recipients

Eighty Iowa State faculty and staff -- 63 individuals and two teams -- are receiving one of the university's awards for 2024. They'll be honored at a community celebration this fall, scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 25 (3:30 p.m., Durham Great Hall, Memorial Union, reception follows).

No new awards were introduced this year, the most recent universitywide award, recognizing a significant impact on student success, debuted last year.

Following are the employees and the promotions or awards for which they've been recognized.


Distinguished Professor

The title of Distinguished Professor, first awarded in 1956, is Iowa State's highest academic honor. It recognizes a faculty member whose accomplishments in research or creative activities have had a significant impact on their discipline nationally or internationally and who has demonstrated outstanding performance in at least one other area of faculty responsibility. Nominees must hold the rank of professor and have served at least five years on the Iowa State faculty. The awardee retains the title for the remainder of their career at the university.

  • Michael Bailey, professor, history; and interim chair, world languages and cultures
  • Hui Hu, professor, aerospace engineering; and Martin C. Jischke Professor in Aerospace Engineering
  • Robyn Lutz, professor, computer science
  • James Vary, professor, physics and astronomy
  • Kan Wang, professor, agronomy; and Global Professor in Biotechnology, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences


University Professor

The title of University Professor is awarded to a faculty member who has acted as a change agent by making significant contributions to improve the university and who has demonstrated outstanding performance in at least one other area of faculty responsibility. Nominees must hold the rank of professor and have served at least 10 years on the Iowa State faculty. The awardee retains the title for the remainder of their career at the university.

  • Ingrid Lilligren, professor, art and visual culture


Morrill Professor

The title of Morrill Professor is conferred on a faculty member who has exhibited excellence in undergraduate or graduate teaching or extension and outreach programs and who has demonstrated outstanding performance in at least one other area of faculty responsibility. Nominees must hold the rank of professor and have served at least five years on the Iowa State faculty. The awardee retains the title for the remainder of their career at the university.

  • Raj Agnihotri, professor, marketing; and executive director of industry engagement
  • Michael Dorneich, professor, industrial and manufacturing systems engineering; and Joseph Walkup Professor in Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering
  • Kelly Reddy-Best, professor, apparel, events, and hospitality management
  • Christopher Seeger, professor, landscape architecture
  • Arthur Winter, professor, chemistry


Regents Award for Faculty Excellence

The award is presented by the state Board of Regents to recognize tenured faculty members who are outstanding university citizens and have rendered significant service to the university or the state of Iowa.

  • David Peterson, professor, political science; and Lucken Professorship in Political Science
  • Ann Smiley, professor, kinesiology
  • Emily Smith, professor, chemistry; and director, division of chemical and biological sciences, Ames National Laboratory
  • Gary Taylor, professor, community and regional planning
  • Robert Wallace, associate professor, ecology, evolution and organismal biology


Regents Award for Staff Excellence

The award is presented by the state Board of Regents to recognize professional and scientific or merit staff who are outstanding university citizens and have rendered significant service to the university or the state of Iowa.

  • Kirsten Abel, faculty recognition director, office of the senior vice president and provost
  • Kelly Boesenberg-Smith, manager, quality service program, Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory
  • Nancy Qvale, manager, business administration, civil, construction and environmental engineering
  • Jamie Sass, director, Ivy Writing and Speaking Center, Ivy College of Business


Award for Inclusive Excellence

The award recognizes faculty, professional and scientific staff and merit staff who have advanced the university's mission of diversity, equity and inclusion beyond their usual job responsibilities.

  • Jennifer Shane, associate professor, civil, construction and environmental engineering; and W.A. Klinger Teaching Professor
  • Arnold Woods III, director, multicultural student success, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


International Service Award

The award recognizes a faculty member for outstanding international service in teaching, research or administration within the United States or abroad.

  • James Dickson, professor, animal science; and Morrison Chair in Meat Science, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences


Award for Impact on Student Success

The award recognizes outstanding achievement by professional staff and faculty who have a sustained impact on undergraduate student success. This positive impact may be with individual students or a group of students, inside or outside the classroom.

  • Stacy Cordery, professor, history
  • Shalika Khindurangala, coordinator, career services, Ivy College of Business
  • ISU Student Centered Learning Workshop Team:
    • Erin Baldwin, associate vice president, student health and wellness; and director, Thielen Student Health Center
    • Laura Bestler, program specialist, Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT)
    • Tony Dirth, director, recreation services
    • Paul Hengesteg, data analyst, CELT
    • Sara Marcketti, Morrill Professor, apparel, events and hospitality management; assistant provost and executive director, CELT
    • Kristen Sievert, director, counseling services
    • Brian Vanderheyden, director, student wellness


Award for Outstanding Achievement in Teaching

The award recognizes a faculty member for outstanding teaching performance over an extended period of time.

  • Michael Lyons, teaching professor, biomedical sciences
  • Louis Thompson Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching designation: Neysa Goodman, associate teaching professor, world languages and cultures
  • Louis Thompson Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching designation: Suzanne Millman, professor, veterinary diagnostic and production animal medicine; and Scott and Nancy Armbrust Professor in Veterinary Medicine


Award for Early Achievement in Teaching

The award recognizes a faculty member who has demonstrated outstanding teaching performance unusually early in their career.

  • Luke Roling, assistant professor, chemical and biological engineering
  • Clay Thomas, assistant teaching professor, management and entrepreneurship


James Huntington Ellis Award for Excellence
in Undergraduate Introductory Teaching

Established by a 1928 Iowa State graduate, the award recognizes a faculty member for exceptional achievement in teaching introductory courses.

  • Kaoru Ikuma, associate professor, civil, construction and environmental engineering


Margaret Ellen White Graduate Faculty Award

Established by a longtime staff member of the Graduate College, the award recognizes superior performance by a member of the graduate faculty in enriching the student-professor relationship and enabling students to finish their work in a timely and scholarly manner.

  • Kenny Cook, professor, English; co-coordinator, MFA program in creative writing and environment
  • Dipali Sashital, associate professor, biochemistry, biophysics and molecular biology


Award for Departmental Leadership

The award recognizes a department chair or school director who has demonstrated exceptional leadership qualities in advancing the faculty, staff, students and programs in their department.

  • Kristie Franz, professor and Smith Family Foundation Departmental Chair in Geology, geological and atmospheric sciences
  • David Sanders, professor and Greenwood Department Chair in Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering


Award for Early Achievement in Departmental Leadership

The award recognizes the exceptional impact of a department chair or school director within the first three years of their leadership role.

  • Jason Ross, professor and chair, animal science; and Lloyd L. Anderson Endowed Professor in Physiology


Award for Academic Advising Impact

The award recognizes outstanding performance by an academic advisor over an extended period of time.

  • Mindy Cooper, academic advisor, landscape architecture


Award for Early Achievement in Academic Advising

The award recognizes outstanding performance by an academic advisor early in their career.

  • Grace Wolf, academic advisor, psychology


Award for Outstanding Achievement in Research

The award recognizes a tenured faculty member who has a national or international reputation for contributions in research and/or creative activity.

  • Amy Andreotti, University Professor, biochemistry, biophysics and molecular biology; and Roy J. Carver Chair of Biochemistry, Biophysics and Molecular Biology
  • Jianming Yu, professor, agronomy; Pioneer Hi-Bred Distinguished Chair in Maize Breeding; and director, Raymond F. Baker Center for Plant Breeding


Save the date

University Awards Ceremony
3:30 p.m., Sept. 25
Durham Great Hall, MU

Award for Mid-Career Achievement in Research

The award recognizes a tenured or tenure-track faculty member who has demonstrated exemplary performance or scholarship in research and/or creative activity as documented by peers or experts in the field.

  • Daniel Linhares, associate professor, veterinary diagnostic and production animal medicine; and Roy A. Schultz Professor in Swine Medicine
  • Amy Erica Smith, associate professor, political science; and Dean's Professor, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
  • Jean-Philippe Tessonnier, professor, chemical and biological engineering; and Richard C. Seagrave Professor, chemical and biological engineering


Award for Early Achievement in Research

The award recognizes a tenured or tenure-track faculty member who has demonstrated outstanding accomplishments in research and/or creative activity unusually early in their professional career.

  • Roy Sturgill, assistant professor, civil, construction and environmental engineering
  • Yang Yang, assistant professor, biochemistry, biophysics and molecular biology


Interdisciplinary Team Research Award

The award recognizes an interdisciplinary team of two or more faculty researchers with outstanding achievements who have made a significant contribution to the university's research and scholarship mission through successful interdisciplinary collaborations.

RegenPGC Team (Regenerating America's Working Landscapes to Enhance Natural Resources and Public Goods through Perennial Groundcover):

  • Daniel Andersen, associate professor, agricultural and biosystems engineering
  • Cynthia Bartel, research scientist, agronomy
  • Amani Elobeid, teaching professor, economics; and Ron and Lynn Deiter Endowed Chair for Sustaining Excellence in Ag Business
  • Shuizhang Fei, professor, horticulture
  • Susana Goggi, professor, agronomy
  • Amy Kaleita, professor and chair, agricultural and biosystems engineering
  • Anne Kinzel, project deputy director; agricultural and biosystems engineering
  • Thomas Lubberstedt, professor, agronomy; and K.J. Frey Chair in Agronomy
  • Marshall McDaniel, associate professor, agronomy
  • Ken Moore, Distinguished Professor, agronomy
  • Raj Raman, project director; Morrill Professor, agricultural and biosystems engineering


Professional and Scientific Research Award

The award recognizes a professional and scientific staff member employed at Iowa State at least five years for excellence in research.

  • Brian Gelder, manager of research, agricultural and biosystems engineering


Award for Achievement in Economic Development in Iowa

The award recognizes individuals or teams of faculty or professional and scientific staff for outstanding university-based achievements in advancing the state of Iowa's economic development.

  • Eric Cochran, professor, chemical and biological engineering; and Mary Jane Skogen Hagenson and Randy L. Hagenson Professor in Chemical and Biological Engineering; and Christopher Williams, professor, civil, construction and environmental engineering; and Gerald and Audrey Olson Professor in Civil Engineering
  • Chris Hill, director, engineering services, Center for Industrial Research and Service


Award for Achievement in Intellectual Property

The award recognizes individuals or teams of faculty and professional and scientific staff for outstanding university-based achievements in producing intellectual property.

  • Thomas Lubberstedt, professor, agronomy; and K.J. Frey Chair in Agronomy; and Ursula Frei, research scientist, agronomy


Carroll Ringgenberg Award

Named for a longtime staff member in purchasing and facilities, the award recognizes an extraordinary professional and scientific staff member who exhibits constant and contagious dedication to and goodwill for Iowa State.

  • Dawn Miller, program specialist, civil, construction and environmental engineering


Professional and Scientific Excellence Award

The award recognizes contributions made by a professional and scientific staff member within and beyond the university and career progress demonstrated by accomplishments at Iowa State.

  • Jessica Hansen-Moench, assistant director of academic advising, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
  • Theresa McLeod-Hughes, teaching lab coordinator and teaching laboratory specialist, physics and astronomy
  • Shelley Taylor, director, Global Engagement, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences


Professional and Scientific
Outstanding New Professional Award

The award recognizes a professional and scientific staff member who has demonstrated outstanding accomplishments unusually early in their professional career.

  • Breanna Kixmiller, academic advisor, mechanical engineering
  • Jean Walsh, program specialist, Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship


R.K. Bliss Extension Award

Named for the director of Extension from 1912 to 1946, the award recognizes outstanding achievement of an extension staff member for developing an overall or continuing extension education program.

  • Lesia Oesterreich, senior manager, Human Sciences, ISU Extension and Outreach; and state extension specialist, early childhood education programs


Award for Distinguished Service in Extension and Outreach

The highest award bestowed on an extension professional recognizes sustained distinguished performance and educational contributions to Iowa State's clientele through extension programs.

  • Keli Tallman, director, program development and evaluation, ISU Extension and Outreach


Award for Outstanding Achievement in Extension or Professional Practice

The award recognizes a faculty or staff member who has demonstrated outstanding performance in statewide leadership in extension or professional practice, and has achieved national recognition for outreach activities.

  • Phillip Gauger, professor, veterinary diagnostic and production animal medicine
  • Christine Hradek, senior manager, nutrition education program, College of Human Sciences


Award for Early Achievement in Extension
or Professional Practice

The award recognizes a faculty or staff member who has demonstrated outstanding accomplishments in extension or professional practice unusually early in their career.

  • Brett Ramirez, associate professor, agricultural and biosystems engineering; and interim director, Egg Industry Center
  • Luke Seaberg, field specialist, community and economic development, ISU Extension and Outreach


Editor's note: The September ceremony will reflect faculty promotions that were announced this spring and take effect this summer.

New graduation reveal rolls out this week

Of the thousands of students who will walk across the stage in Hilton Coliseum this weekend, one will be sure to stand out in the crowd.

Red bird mascot in football uniform waves flag on field

Crayton Mitchell as Cy performs with other Iowa State students during the 2023 Liberty Bowl in Memphis. Mitchell will don Cy's feet for his graduation ceremony Saturday. Submitted photo.

As part of a new commencement tradition, graduating members of Iowa State's mascot squad are encouraged to wear Cy's feet as part of their commencement regalia. It's a special recognition since the names of students are kept secret for the duration of their time appearing as Cy for the mascot squad.

"Iowa State wants all graduates to celebrate their unique ISU experience," said Jennifer Suchan, university registrar. "Adding Cy's feet as part of the many academic adornments for graduates is a great way for the students who participated in the mascot squad to celebrate and recognize their experience."

Crayton Mitchell, a graduating senior in industrial design, joined the mascot squad in 2021. He'll be the first to take part in this tradition when he crosses the stage during the College of Design commencement ceremony at 2 p.m. Saturday, May 11.

"I am very excited and proud to be the first Cy to wear the feet for commencement," Mitchell said. "Being Cy has been one of the greatest college experiences. From running the football team out at home games, traveling to BYU, Las Vegas and March Madness, to going to weddings as Cy, it has all been so much fun."

4,598 students earning degrees

Nearly 4,600 students are expected to complete one or more Iowa State degrees this spring. That includes an estimated 3,866 undergraduate students, 575 graduate students and 157 veterinary medicine candidates. The university community will celebrate them during five commencement ceremonies May 9-11:

  • Master's and doctoral candidates, 7 p.m. Thursday, Hilton Coliseum
  • Doctor of Veterinary Medicine candidates, 1 p.m. Friday, Stephens Auditorium
  • Undergraduates in the colleges of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Business, 9 a.m. Saturday, Hilton
  • Undergraduates in the colleges of Design, Engineering, 2 p.m. Saturday, Hilton
  • Undergraduates in the colleges of Human Sciences, Liberal Arts and Sciences, 7 p.m. Saturday, Hilton

Each ceremony will be livestreamed (links).

More celebrations

The six undergraduate colleges also will honor graduating students at their own convocations and receptions on Friday or on Saturday morning. The college name includes a link to the event livestream or reception details.

Parking suggestions

Due to CYTown construction, some parking lots between Hilton Coliseum and Jack Trice Stadium will be unavailable during commencement weekend. Additional parking is available at Jack Trice Stadium, Maple Willow Larch residence halls, Lied Recreation Center and the Memorial Union (parking maps and CyRide, golf cart information). Visitors parking north of Lincoln Way are asked to cross the road at traffic-controlled crosswalks. Handicap parking is available in lot C2, immediately south of Hilton.

David Spalding to retire in 2025

David Spalding, Raisbeck Endowed Dean of the Ivy College of Business and vice president for economic development and industry relations (EDIR), will retire from Iowa State during the summer of 2025.

David Spalding head shot

David Spalding

Spalding, the longest serving Business dean in Iowa State history, began his service in 2013 after serving eight years at Dartmouth College, including as senior vice president and senior advisor to the president. He was reappointed as dean in 2018 and 2023. Spalding was appointed to lead EDIR in 2023 after serving as interim vice president since 2018.

"David has been an exceptional leader of both the Ivy College of Business and our economic development programs," said President Wendy Wintersteen. "His work has made a profound difference for our students, faculty and staff, helping them realize academic and entrepreneurial success while also generating economic growth across Iowa's 99 counties."

The searches for Spalding's successors will begin in the coming months.

Spalding's achievements as dean include growing undergraduate and graduate enrollment to record levels, establishing new academic programs to address Iowa workforce demand, completing a 45,000 square foot addition to the Gerdin Business Building, unprecedented success in fundraising including a $50 million gift to name the Ivy College of Business, raising the college's profile and record high rankings in "U.S. News & World Report."

During his tenure as vice president of EDIR, the university was recognized with numerous awards for its work in economic development, including the top award from the Innovation and Economic Prosperity universities in 2023. In 2021, the ISU Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship won the model program award from the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship and in 2022 received the NASDAQ Center for Entrepreneurial Excellence Award from the Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers.

The Ivy College of Business has 4,820 students, 146 faculty and 88 staff among six academic departments and 14 undergraduate and nine graduate degree programs. One of only 2% of schools globally to be accredited in both business and accounting by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, the college is known for its high-impact programs, including entrepreneurship, supply chain management and MBA programs, as well as its affordability compared to peers.

The office of economic development and industry relations helps external stakeholders harness Iowa State's unique capabilities and services, including the Center for Industrial Research and Service, Iowa Small Business Development Center, ISU Research Park, office of innovation commercialization and Pappajohn Center.


Four informational updates on employee benefits

It's been an active semester for members of the Employee Benefits Advisory Committee and  university human resources team. They share four summaries of recent discussions and steps taken on future considerations for employee benefits.


No plan design changes for 2025; premium process continues

What's new: In February and March, the Employee Benefits Advisory Committee (EBAC) reviewed preliminary information on variables affecting ISU health care costs, including trend and market information. As a result, EBAC will not be considering plan design changes for 2025. The only decisions to be made relate to premium increases for both employer and employee.

Who's impacted: All benefit-eligible employees will be impacted by premiums set for 2025. They can anticipate the same plan design as 2024.

Next steps: This month, EBAC will review premium increase options for 2025. The committee will provide feedback to senior leaders, who will review and make a final decision in June. Then preparations are made for the proposal to be considered by the state Board of Regents, which will take final action at its September meeting. Prior to board approval, a university communication will be shared on the proposal. Open enrollment information and resources will be available Oct. 1 for an open enrollment window of Nov. 1-22.

Learn more: A new Employee Benefits Advisory Committee website keeps employees informed with the latest updates on the work of EBAC. The website features a communications and resources section with important documents and articles. It also includes committee membership, meeting agendas and the EBAC charter, which outlines the committee's charge to advise the president through the senior vice president of operations and finance.


New free service for health care options upon separation

What's new: ISU has partnered with When Insurance to offer a free service to help employees or their dependents with a recent loss of health care coverage. The service will help them understand their options and find a new plan suited to their situation.

Who's impacted: Employees who are separating or retiring, those whose dependents are turning age 26 (i.e., aging out of university coverage), those whose position is less than half-time and new hires who did not enroll in benefits within the prescribed time window.

Benefits/advantages: COBRA coverage still is offered to those who qualify (COBRA is the federal act that requires employers to extend health benefits in certain situations). The When Insurance service will help employees determine whether COBRA is the right fit or other coverage options may potentially save them money.

Next steps: A task has been added to the Workday offboarding process that includes information on both the When Insurance service and COBRA coverage.

Learn more: Benefits Upon Separation (see Health, Dental and Vision coverage section).


Exploring pay-based contributions to health plans

What's new: Last year some ISU employees inquired about an option to set premiums based on salary levels. Recently, EBAC members learned more about pay-based contributions for health care coverage from ISU's benefits consultant.

Some key considerations: Pay-based contributions can make health care more affordable by increasing take-home pay for lower-paid workers, contributing to equity within the organization. However, not everyone perceives that approach as equitable -- especially those who are just above the threshold in a higher pay category. An employer can only reasonably count the “pay” coming from its organization; some employees may be in a household with much higher total income and end up contributing less than those in a lower-income household. There will be situations when an employee gets a promotion or raise, subsequently moving into a higher pay category with higher health care contributions -- a potentially dissatisfying result from what should be a positive experience. Lastly, these types of programs are more difficult to administer and take extra time and effort to communicate.

Assessing affordability: As part of EBAC’s information-gathering, an external benefits consultant provided an analysis of affordability risk among ISU employees. Examining multiple factors and data points, the analysis found 95% of ISU employees were considered low risk for affordability concerns, primarily due to their low contributions for medical coverage (88% of health care premiums are paid by the university, 12% by employees).

Status: Because affordability of health care plans is a high priority nationally for public-sector and education employers, EBAC’s goal was to explore the idea of pay-based premiums and discern affordability issues -- not to develop a recommendation or move toward a new kind of premium-setting structure. The committee noted that while pay-based contributions may be a fit for some employers, currently they are more prevalent in the financial services and hospitals/health care industries and less so in other industries, including the public sector and education. EBAC members will continue to review new information and monitor different premium structures that could benefit the university and its employees.


Exploring high deductibles and health savings accounts

What's new: ISU employees also inquired about these options last year, so EBAC members recently reviewed information about high-deductible health plans and health savings accounts.

In a nutshell: High deductible health plans and health savings accounts are linked. High deductible plans are subject to IRS regulations that change annually. In 2024, maximum out-of-pocket expenses for high deductible health plans were set at $8,050 for individuals and $16,100 for families (ISU’s current plan deductibles are $250 for individual/$500 for family for HMO; and $400 individual/$800 family for PPO). High-deductible plans add complexity, and the financial implications would require significant employee education. Advantages may include lower employer costs and potential savings for some employees. High deductibles might be welcomed by employees who have the financial means, but not all employees would have the ability to absorb higher costs without the risk of going into debt. A significant caution: Under this option, employees may be tempted to make decisions solely based on cost, rather than what’s best for their health.

HSA versus FSA: A health savings account (HSA) is very different from a flexible savings account. (ISU offers two FSAs, one for health care, one for dependent care.) While both apply pretax dollars to pay out-of-pocket expenses, an HSA can only be offered in conjunction with a high-deductible health plan. An FSA can be offered regardless of plan type. An FSA limits how much can be carried forward into the next plan year; HSAs can be rolled over -- and grow -- year after year, and they stay connected to employees even if they leave the university.

Status: EBAC members have become more knowledgeable about advantages and disadvantages of high deductible health plans and health savings accounts and will continue to monitor whether further exploration of this option would be beneficial to the university and its employees.

Learn more: Flexible Spending Accounts that are part of ISU Plan benefits.



Making the most of the employee pharmacy benefit

Paying for prescription medications isn't always easy to figure out. That's why Iowa State's benefits team is offering a few midyear reminders to help employees make the most of their pharmacy plan. Many of these are summarized in a new document, Unexpected Pharmacy Costs?, on the benefits website.

Employees enrolled in either Wellmark's Blue HMO or Blue PPO medical plans automatically receive prescription drug coverage through Express Scripts. There is no prescription deductible to meet, but there are co-pays or coinsurance and prescription drug out-of-pocket annual maximums ($2,000 per employee or $4,000/household). And remember, the medical and pharmacy out-of-pocket maximums are separate.

Express Scripts' 2024 plan summary for Iowa State employees is now online. It outlines processes for filling a prescription or requesting reimbursement on an out-of-network purchase, spells out co-pay and out-of-pocket responsibilities and lists what is and isn't covered in the prescription drug plan for ISU employees.

For example, a category of drugs currently not covered is those intended for weight loss.

"We know weight loss medications are important to our faculty and staff, and we're monitoring coverage opportunities," said Ed Holland, ISU benefits director. This is one of many health plan considerations the Employee Benefits Advisory Committee keeps an eye on, he said.

Here are a few other strategies for holding down costs on prescriptions for routine medications:

  • Similar to preventive health services, the federal Affordable Care Act designates a set of preventive drugs that are 100% covered with no co-pay or deductible. The categories are: generic aspirin, bowel prep products, breast cancer primary prevention, contraceptives, oral fluorides for children, folic acid supplements, HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis, iron supplements, single-agent statins for heart disease prevention, tobacco cessation and routine vaccines.
  • Choose a 90-day supply option -- known as SMART 90 -- for maintenance medications when you can, available through home delivery from the Express Scripts pharmacy or the local pharmacy. Plan ahead because once you hit your third refill on a 30-day supply, out-of-pocket costs may jump.
  • Ask questions. Talk to your doctor or local pharmacist about lower price options, or call Express Scripts, 800-987-5248, to speak to a staff pharmacist.
  • Set up an account on Express Scripts' free app.

Additional help to pay for specialty medications

Specialty medications are drugs used to treat complex or chronic conditions such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer or hemophilia. While a very small percentage of health plan participants need them, these medications are expensive, often require special handling and most require preauthorization. To avoid paying full cost for these medications, employees should do two things: First, fill these prescriptions through the Accredo Specialty Pharmacy; call 1-800-803-2523 to start this process. Accredo's service also includes education resources, refill reminders and more.

Second, a new feature to Express Scripts' coverage this plan year is copay assistance for specialty medications. It's administered by SaveOnSP, and reduces the employee's copay on 300+ specialty medications, in some cases to $0. It does this by enrolling a participant in the drug manufacturer's copay assistance program (when it's available) to lower the cost for their medication. SaveOnSP contacts ISU employees by mail about their eligibility for the program, and the employee gives SaveOnSP permission to monitor their pharmacy account on behalf of Express Scripts. While the SaveOnSP copay assistance program is an optional service for specialty medications, opting out can result in significantly higher out-of-pocket costs.

Learn more about your benefits

For more information about your benefits, check out the Employee Benefits website. Contact the benefits team, 515-294-4800 or, with questions about your benefits.

Senate supports name change for Human Sciences

The Faculty Senate supports a name change for the College of Human Sciences, to the College of Health and Human Sciences. Senators acted on the proposal at their May 7 meeting with a unanimous advisory vote that doesn't require a second reading. Senior vice president and provost Jonathan Wickert and President Wendy Wintersteen need to approve the change before final approval by the state Board of Regents.

According to supporting documents, the change reflects the continued work in the college in teaching, research and extension and outreach programs. Majors offered in the college include nursing, nutritional science, pre-athletic training, food science, dietetics, human development and family studies, and hospitality management. 

The change also reflects a national trend. For example, the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities' Board on Human Sciences changed its name to the Board on Health and Human Sciences. Six of 10 ISU peer institutions have colleges similar to the College of Human Sciences, four of which include "health" in their college name.

This would be Iowa State's first college name change since the College of Agriculture became the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences in 2007. A financial gift from Debbie and Jerry Ivy led to the naming of the College of Business in 2017.

Faculty promotions

Wickert, who is stepping down as provost in July and was recognized by the senate for attending  120 meetings, gave his annual review of faculty advancement data. The regents approved promotion recommendations last month.

Sixty-six faculty members received promotions including tenure. The group included 24 cases of promotion to associate professor with tenure and 42 promotions to full professor for tenured faculty. The list includes 31 women and 25 men across all seven colleges. Three cases were denied.

Of the 63 tenure-eligible faculty hired in fiscal year 2018, 33 received tenure this spring, more than 50%. Another 13 faculty took advantage of tenure clock extension options and 18 left the university, a departure rate similar to past averages. 

The provost's office also approved promotion for 56 term faculty. The promotions span six colleges and include 25 cases of advancement to the professor level and 29 cases to the associate professor level.

Cybersecurity certificate

The senate approved an undergraduate cybersecurity certificate in the electrical and computer engineering department without a second reading so it can be offered this fall. The certificate is for professionals with two-year degrees working in a security or information technology field. The 21-credit (one three credit course) certificate will be offered online as a series of two-credit courses. After earning the certificate, students will be able to anticipate cyberthreats, have skills to obtain mid- to advanced-level positions in cybersecurity and communicate complex concepts to a professional audience.

AI undergraduate minor

The computer science department is proposing an undergraduate minor in artificial intelligence (AI) in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. It's intended to appeal to undergraduates with a strong quantitative background to learn basic AI and machine learning techniques to help solve practical problems. The 15-credit minor would be offered in person.

This minor would add to Iowa State's AI offerings. The senate also approved an interdisciplinary undergraduate minor in applied AI in March. The interdisciplinary minor focuses on foundational knowledge with little to no coding necessary.

New major

Senators will vote in September on a proposed interdisciplinary bachelor of science in integrated health science in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences with five possible tracks. Students could choose an emphasis in:

  • Science of health and disease
  • Human health and nutrition
  • Data science and human studies
  • Public policy, ethics, communications and human health
  • Behavioral and mental health studies

The major's focus is on developing holistic health care professionals who understand the biological, behavioral, environmental and social determinants of health. The program would seek to form partnerships with medical schools and health care institutions to help students who want advanced training.

New leaders

Senate president Sarah Bennett-George (apparel, events and hospitality management) passed the gavel to 2024-25 senate president Rahul Parsa (finance). Meghan Gillette (human development and family studies) assumed the role of president-elect.

Other business 

Senators approved:

  • The 2024 spring graduation list, with 4,598 students expected to earn degrees this semester.
  • A bachelor's degree in game design in the College of Design. The degree is multidisciplinary, incorporating art, storytelling, psychology and technology through courses in several colleges.
  • A bachelor's degree in education studies in the College of Human Sciences. The degree focuses on education careers outside the classroom in settings like museums, zoos or libraries. It is a non-licensure degree.
  • Changes to the student academic misconduct policy. They are:
    • Each course syllabus must have the instructor's policy for grading for cases of academic misconduct.
    • Discipline for misconduct is at the instructor's discretion.
    • Removes mentions of college-specific policies in favor of a university policy.

Senators will vote at their September meeting on:

  • A proposed merger of the food science and culinary food science majors into one: food science. Students would have the option of choosing an emphasis in food technology or culinary science. Both options have 90 credits of general education and food science courses with 30 credits unique to each option.
  • A proposal to discontinue the master's degree in transportation in the College of Engineering. The degree was designed to attract students from the humanities and business, but has drawn low numbers. No students currently are admitted or enrolled.
  • A proposal to discontinue the rural agricultural, technological and environmental history doctoratal program in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences with a five-year sunset period. Budget reductions are driving the decision, and eliminating the program would save the college about $110,000 annually. Admissions would be suspended starting this fall.
  • Changes to the academic dismissal policy that would require any student not meeting the requirements of their academic probation to be dismissed. The academic standards committees would not make the final decision. Students with extenuating circumstances could petition for early reinstatement. Information would be added about the timeline for possible reinstatement. Students who would be academically dismissed but have met graduation requirements would be allowed to graduate.
  • Changes to the reinstatement policy for students dismissed for academic reasons. It would establish a consistent reinstatement process for all colleges. All students would be able to apply for early reinstatement with extenuating circumstances, not just juniors and seniors. Revisions also would be made to the student appeal process of an academic standards committee decision.
  • Changes to the prerequisite policy with the move to Workday. Students would be notified at the midpoint of each semester to review their present and future schedules to ensure they have not dropped or are at risk of failing a course that is a prerequisite for future courses. At the end of the semester, students who have not met prerequisite requirements will be dropped from any future courses that require it. A student can request a prerequisite override and present evidence that would be reviewed by the department.


Live music returns to Jack Trice on May 25

Billy Joel and Elton John, Pink Floyd, U2, Paul McCartney and the Rolling Stones. They all made Ames concert stops at the football stadium in the 1990s. On Saturday, May 25, live music returns.

Country music icon George Strait and eight-time Grammy Award winner Chris Stapleton will take the stage at Jack Trice Stadium as part of a nine-stadium tour that also will feature the Grammy Award-winning band, Little Big Town. Concert tickets, starting at $90, are available at Ticketmaster. The north, east and south stadium gates open at 4:15 p.m. with the first act taking the stage at 5:45 p.m.

Fittingly, Strait was the headliner for the last concert held at Jack Trice when he brought his music festival tour in April 1999. He was joined by fellow country music performers Tim McGraw and the Dixie Chicks.

The concert will closely mirror a football gameday. Permitted items include one unopened or empty water bottle, clear totes and backless cushions. The athletics department's usual list of prohibited items also will be enforced.

Car parking lots (see map, below) open at noon on Saturday, and RV Village opens Friday, May 24 (8 a.m.-11:59 p.m.) and reopens at noon on Saturday. Parking passes also should be purchased online. Drivers will be directed to a stall within the zone purchased (they won't pick a stall). 

Additional car parking is available at the ISU Research Park south of Highway 30 or in campus parking lots. Parking also is available in the neighborhoods near Jack Trice Stadium. "Cyclone Trolley" golf carts will run throughout the stadium lots starting at 4 p.m. on May 25. Trolleys won't run after the concert.  



Available parking for the May 25 concert in the areas around Jack Trice Stadium. Courtesy of ISU athletics department.