South entrance to Catt Hall is back in use



New granite steps at the south entrance to Carrie Chapman Catt Hall opened the last week in January after about a year of non-use due to questions about the integrity of the staircase. The steps were closed in January 2011, pending an engineer's assessment and repair plan. In September, demolition of the former steps uncovered deterioration of the support columns underneath. Redesigning and constructing that structural support added a few months to the project. Photo by Bob Elbert.

Leath seeks support from legislative subcommittee

Leath at Legislature

Iowa Rep. Ron Jorgensen and legislative staffer Phyllis Peterson talk with president Steven Leath following a Feb. 8 education appropriations subcommittee meeting at the Statehouse. Photo by John McCarroll.


President Steven Leath told legislators Feb. 8 that any increase in state funding for fiscal year 2013 will be used to enhance the student learning experience at Iowa State and to help cover unavoidable cost increases.

In a meeting with members of the legislative joint education appropriations subcommittee, Leath said that Iowa State next fall expects to have a third consecutive record enrollment -- possibly topping 30,000 students -- while state support has been on a downward trend.

"We need your support," he told the subcommittee.

Leath appeared before the subcommittee, with the presidents of the universities of Iowa and Northern Iowa, the president and president pro tem of the state Board of Regents, and the superintendents of Iowa's two special schools.

Craig Lang, president of the board of regents, told the subcommittee the regents are requesting $470.8 million -- a $22 million increase -- in higher education operating appropriations for the year that begins July 1. He noted that state funding for the universities has declined 25 percent since FY09.

"The current trend is one of the state providing less monetary support than our students and their families are providing in tuition dollars," Lang said. "Today, the state provides less than 36 percent of general education funding, with 58 percent funded from student tuition. We would like to begin to reverse this trend."

ISU efficiencies

Leath pointed to numerous steps taken by Iowa State to improve efficiency and accountability during years when state funding was significantly reduced. These included: merging two colleges, reorganizing and merging administrative functions in colleges, closing some research centers and institutes, and merging several information technology departments.

Among the regents' proposals for FY13 is a renewable energy and biosciences initiative that would involve Iowa State as well as the universities of Iowa and Northern Iowa. Leath, noting Iowa State's strong reputation in agriculture and biorenewables research, said the initiative has huge economic potential for the state.

Wednesday's appearance was President Leath's first before the subcommittee, and he told the legislators he was proud to serve as Iowa State's 15th president. He said Iowa State "has a unique and important mission as Iowa's land-grant university," and he outlined achievements under each of Iowa State's three responsibilities to the state of Iowa: providing a superior education to students, conducting research to solve real problems, and extending knowledge through extension and outreach.

"I'm going to work hard to give you confidence in Iowa State University," he said.

Campus events scheduled for Nobel laureate Shechtman

Dan Shechtman


For the first time since receiving the chemistry prize, Nobel laureate Dan Shechtman will return to campus for a few weeks this month. He will meet with students and members of the Iowa media on Feb. 14 and give a public lecture on Feb. 20.

In October, Shechtman was named the recipient of the 2011 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the discovery of quasicrystals. Shechtman is a research scientist for the U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory and an Iowa State professor of materials science and engineering. For about eight months each year, he serves as the Philip Tobias Professor of Materials Science at the Technion -- Israel Institute of Technology.

Feb. 14 events

Shechtman will meet with members of the Iowa media the morning of Feb. 14 (10-11 a.m., 205 TASF). Due to size limitations of the room, the news conference will be streamed live online. Members of the university community may access the streaming at this ISU Extension website.

"Your discovery of quasicrystals has created a new cross-disciplinary branch of science, drawing from, and enriching, chemistry, physics and mathematics. This is in itself of the greatest importance. It has also given us a reminder of how little we really know and perhaps even taught us some humility. That is a truly great achievement."

Prof. Sven Lidin
Dec. 10, 2011, Stockholm

From noon to 2 p.m. that day, Shechtman will meet with students at a reception in the Memorial Union Oak Room. The event will include student demonstrations of materials science, an autograph/photo session with Shechtman, tattoos and refreshments.

Public lecture

During his Feb. 20 lecture, Shechtman will talk about his initially controversial discovery of quasi-periodic crystals in 1982. He was on a two-year sabbatical from the Technion at what's now the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Md. His findings, crystalline materials whose atoms didn't line up periodically (in an array of 1, 2, 3, 4 or 6) like every crystal studied during the previous 70 years, changed long-held ideas about matter and atomic arrangement.

At the Nobel award ceremony in December in Stockholm, Sven Lidin, a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and the Nobel committee for chemistry, noted that "this year's chemistry laureate was forced to do battle with the established truth."

"The disbelief that met Dan Shechtman was appropriate and healthy. Questioning should be mutual to promote the growth of knowledge," he said. "The ridicule he suffered was, however, deeply unfair."

Shechtman's lecture begins at 7 p.m. in the MU Great Hall, a reception will follow.

Sustainability minor has broad-based appeal

Iowa State's new sustainability minor is only a few months old. But a hundred students are enrolled in one of the minor's core courses this semester.  In a recent show of hands, some three-fourths of the students in the class indicated their intent to minor in sustainability.

"In the first lecture, I talk about philosophy and Aristotle and happiness. The reason we want to be sustainable is we want to sustain human flourishing. We want to continue to flourish long into the future, we don't want to use up everything we have currently, and we want to bring people who are less advantaged along to have a higher standard of living."

Arne Hallam, on the "Global and Sustainability" course

Arne Hallam, associate dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said the "Globalization and Sustainability" course and a second required course, "Globalization and the Human Condition," lay the groundwork for the sustainability minor.

"From the very beginning, we thought this needs to be a university-wide minor that fits for everyone and is really broad-based," Hallam said.  "Sustainability is a holistic concept, involving economics, social areas and the environment. We wanted students to be exposed to all these ideas, not just one part of it."

Here's a quick look at Iowa State's new minor:


Students need 15 credits -- six from two core courses and nine elective credits, selected from a list of 50-plus courses

Enrollment, so far

A handful of students have enrolled in the minor, since it opened in December. Many students in the core classes have indicated their intent to enroll.

Who's interested

Students currently enrolled in the "Globalization and Sustainability" course come from all kinds of majors -- engineering, agriculture, education, economics, sociology, history, business, environmental science, global resource systems, animal science, forestry, women's studies and many more.

Hallam noted many of the students in the class are active in university recycling, campus cleanups and other sustainability efforts.

How it started

The idea for the minor grew out of a casual conversation in the office of then-LAS dean Mike Whiteford in 2009. The dean and professors Hallam (economics), Richard Lesar (materials science engineering) and Mark Bryden (mechanical engineering) were discussing existing global and local sustainability activities at Iowa State. They pondered creating a sustainability class, then moved on to a bigger idea -- creating a university minor.

Time, not money

Organizers of the new minor spent many hours pulling everything together, but little else. All of the courses in the minor, except the introductory "Globalization and Sustainability," already existed. The original instigators of the new minor (Hallam, Lesar and Bryden) created and are co-teaching the new course.

Sponsoring colleges

Four ISU colleges are sponsors of the sustainability minor: Agriculture and Life Sciences; Design; Engineering; Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Good building weather


An unusually mild winter allowed mason work to continue at the athletics department's Cyclone Sports Complex east of the Towers residence halls. Additionally, some ground/site work in the spring timeline was completed last fall. As a result, work is about 40 percent complete on the new practice and competition venues for the Cyclone soccer, softball (pictured) and track and field teams. They'll use the facility when team practices begin in August. Photo by Bob Elbert.

Athletic training gets its own bachelor's degree

Iowa State undergraduates completing the athletic training program in May will receive a bachelor of science degree in athletic training, under a change approved Tuesday by the state Board of Regents.

Since the early 1980s, Iowa State had offered athletic training as an option in a more general bachelor's degree (in physical education, health and human performance, or kinesiology and health, depending on the era).

The accreditor of athletic training programs, the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education, mandated that all programs must be stand-alone degree programs to maintain accreditation, beginning with the 2014-15 academic year. Iowa State's program has been accredited since 2001. Graduation from an accredited program is a prerequisite to taking the test for certification by the National Athletic Trainers Association.

Financing the new football facility

The board approved Iowa State's request to sell up to $25.85 million in athletic facility revenue bonds to serve two purposes:

  • Finance construction of the football program training facility, an estimated $20.6 million project already under way
  • Refund in advance about $3.8 million in bonds sold in 2003 to partially finance the athletics department's Bergstrom practice facility

With a lower 3.158 percent interest rate, the 2012 bonds will save the athletics department more than $300,000 in interest on the latter project.

Flood recovery and reimbursement

Vice president for business and finance Warren Madden reported that Iowa State has received reimbursements for nearly 25 percent -- $10.1 million – of the $41.5 million in cleanup and mitigation costs following the Squaw Creek flood of Aug. 11, 2010. He told the board he learned recently that the Federal Emergency Management Agency approved another $1.5 million in initial cleanup expenses, which is not included in the $10.1 million figure.

"We'll continue to work through their (FEMA) processes, at their pace," he said, noting that 2011 summer storms created more demand for FEMA assistance and FEMA employees' time.

In other action, the regents:

  • Welcomed president Steven Leath to his first board meeting. Leath said he and his wife, Janet, are "thrilled to be here." Expressing gratitude to the university's leadership team for a smooth transition and a good start, he said, "I've worked harder in the last few weeks than I've ever worked, and I enjoyed it more than I ever have."
  • Approved an increase to the project budget for phase 1 of the Curtiss Hall renovation, up about $1.1 million, to $13.1 million. The addition (covered with university funds) would add 125 more window replacements and central AC for about 5,400 square feet, eliminating all remaining window air conditioners in the building. Phase 1 includes the Student Services Mall and Harl Commons on the ground level, window replacement and a building-wide sprinkler system.
  • Approved a $12 million, 4-phase project to install a fire sprinkler system in Friley residence hall, home to more than 1,200 students. The work will be completed during the summers of 2012 through 2015. A heat and smoke detection system previously was phased in from 2007 to 2010. Dormitory system improvement funds will pay for the project.
  • At the board's request, received oral updates from each regent institution's president or director on policies in place to protect children on their campus. Leath expressed confidence in Iowa State's policy review and said it is including considerations as varied as building access/security practices, employee background screenings and children in the workplace policies.

ISU Theatre brings Chekhov stories to life


To promote their upcoming Chekhov production and with a little help from PhotoShop, ISU Theatre cast members insinuated themselves into a historical photo of the Russian author reading to members of the Moscow Arts Theatre.


ISU Theatre's adaptation of Chekhov's Short Stories, created by lecturer Matt Foss and the show's cast of 11 Iowa State students, debuts in the Memorial Union Maintenance Shop Thursday, Feb. 9, and runs for one weekend.

The play is based on two of Russian writer Anton Chekhov's (1860-1904) short stories, The Kiss and The Lady with the Lapdog. The cast, under the direction of Foss, has collaborated on the play since September, writing the script, designing the costumes and building the set.  Foss is pleased with the result.

"As a teacher, you work really hard to stay as quiet as possible when students are trying to work out a problem," Foss said. "Often, they came up with better solutions [than me]."

Cast members include seniors Michael Brandt, Kathleen Hoil, Kelsey Kovacevich, Ben Millar, Brittny Rebhuhn, Heather Smith, Madison Welterlen and Jeff White; juniors Nick Neal and Ethan Peterson; and freshman Dan Poppen.

ISU Theatre's adaptation of the drama takes place in two acts, the first focusing on The Kiss and the second on The Lady with the Lapdog. Music and additional excerpts from other Chekhov short stories bridge the acts together.

Show times are Feb. 9-11 at 7:30 p.m., and Feb. 12 at 2 p.m. in the Maintenance Shop. Tickets are $16 ($14 for seniors, $8 for students) and available at the M-Shop ticket office (4-8349), online at MIDWESTTIX or at the door. Due to limited seating, advanced ticket purchases are encouraged. 

Stop and smell the orchids



The beautiful, fragrant orchid takes center stage at Reiman Gardens during the third annual Orchid Fest Feb. 11-12 from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., both days. Visitors will enjoy viewing and purchasing a wide selection of orchid plants, plus several other orchid-themed events, including:

An Orchid Affair

Reiman Gardens members also may participate in an Orchid Affair, Feb. 10 (6:30-8 p.m., Reiman Gardens). The reception will feature orchid vendors, hors d'oeuvres and wine samples. Cost is $10; bring a guest who signs up to be a member and you'll both be admitted for $5. Register online.

Feb. 11-12 (all day) -- A question-and-answer booth, staffed by the Central Iowa Orchid Society, will provide support for novices and experienced orchid growers alike. 

Feb. 11 (10-11 a.m.) -- Dr. Robert Bannister, a Des Moines surgeon and orchid expert, will present "Growing Orchids Under Lights." (Make a reservation.)

Feb. 11 (2-3 p.m.) and Feb. 12 (10-11 a.m.) -- Tom Hillson, retired ISU employee from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, will give a repotting demonstration ($10 additional fee). (Make a reservation for Feb. 11; make a reservation for Feb. 12.)

Feb. 12 (2-3 p.m.) -- Carson Whitlow, known for his orchid hybrids, will present "Orchids, in General." (Make a reservation.)

Admission to Orchid Fest is free for gardens' members and ISU students. The general public must pay the gardens' regular price of admission