Vice President Joe Biden visits campus


With the C6 virtual reality facility as a backdrop, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden addressed a full house in the Howe Hall atrium March 1. Photo by Bob Elbert.


U.S. Vice President Joe Biden's visit to campus March 1 included a public talk on innovation and domestic job creation, a tour of the aerospace engineering department's "Make to Innovate" undergraduate laboratory complex in Howe Hall, and a private event held at the ISU alumni center. Engineering students Katie Goebel, Jared Juel, Shannon Krogmeier and Thomas Naert summarized their lab work for the vice president.

During his talk to an estimated crowd of 650 in the Howe Hall atrium, Biden praised the projects and the necessary innovation they represent.

"You and your colleagues across the country are going to be part of putting tens of millions of people in America back to work, in entire new industries, making products that you perfected and supporting industries we never imagined," he said to student members of the audience.

Biden also praised American education, saying students are allowed, even encouraged, to "challenge orthodoxy." Noting that 30 of the world's top 50 universities are in the United States, he said this is, in part, because American universities encourage "cross-pollination across disciplines," which leads to innovation.

Warm winter shrinks utility bills

More warm weather in February should translate to smaller utility bills for units around campus again this month. It's a trend we've enjoyed all winter, according to director of utilities Jeff Witt, and is a result of a drop in both campus coal use and market prices for electricity.

He said that during December, January and February, the university used about 4,100 fewer tons of coal – 10 percent less than average for this period – and sold 87 million fewer pounds of steam (heat) to campus units. This represents more than $1.6 million in savings for colleges and other campus customers.

You can track your building's consumption on this utilities website.

Witt noted that in a typical year, steam sales through January are 61 percent of budget for the fiscal year. Using the same annual average, steam sales were at 41 percent of budget through January 2012.

But he also noted that an unusually humid and warm July and August last summer created a greater demand for chilled water (building cooling). That tends to be a smaller piece of energy use, so units' utility budgets still may be in better shape than a year ago.

To cogenerate or not

The Iowa State power plant's capability for cogeneration means that coal produces multiple sources of energy, in this case steam for heat and hot water, chilled water for cooling, and electricity.

With warmer-than-average winter temperatures lowering the demand for building heat, the opportunity to cogenerate also drops. Cogeneration normally is the lowest cost method for generating electricity. The university took advantage of electricity market prices that are down 25 percent from last winter.

"When the steam demand is down, we cogenerate less and, in this case, we purchased electricity rather than generated it ourselves," Witt said.

Crum will serve as interim Business dean


Michael Crum

The search for the next dean in the College of Business will be temporarily halted until Iowa State's next provost has been selected. The decision was a joint one announced March 6 by president Steven Leath and executive vice president and provost Elizabeth Hoffman.

Michael Crum, associate dean of graduate programs in the college and inaugural holder of the Ruan Chair in Supply Chain Management, will serve as interim dean and holder of the Raisbeck Endowed Dean position, effective July 1. Labh Hira, dean of the College of Business since 2001, announced in October that he would step down on June 30. Later in October, Hoffman launched the search to find his successor.

"I am so pleased that a faculty member with such a distinguished record in teaching, research and administration has agreed to lead the College of Business in the interim," Hoffman said. "We are grateful to Mike for his willingness to take on this responsibility.

"The president and I are in agreement that this is the appropriate order for these searches. Business dean candidates will want to know the provost with whom they would work," she added.

Crum will serve as interim dean for up to two years. He will continue to hold the Ruan chair during his service as dean.

Last month, Hoffman announced her plans to leave the provost's post no later than the end of the calendar year. College of Agriculture and Life Sciences dean Wendy Wintersteen is leading the search committee tasked with finding her successeor.

The new provost will make decisions about resuming the Business dean search. It is anticipated that the position would be readvertised.

Council sets issue priorities

The Professional and Scientific Council executive committee began working on a list of policy priorities and issues in January. The council's seven committees (awards; communications; compensation and benefits; policies and procedures; representation; retention and recruitment; and peer advisory) were asked to brainstorm on ideas for consideration.

In a recent message to P&S employees, council president Dan Burden identified five "major issues" gleaned from that process, including:

  • Salaries
  • Effective implementation of a performance management program
  • Professional development
  • Position descriptions (understanding and utilizing them)
  • Inequities in the resource management model (RMM)

Nine additional items also were identified during a tally of prioritized rankings by council members. Burden said all 14 issues were shared with president Steven Leath and executive vice president and provost Elizabeth Hoffman.

What's next

Burden said the range of issues will require different approaches, such as tweaking the focus of existing council committees or partnering with other campus groups to work on common goals.

"Some issues, due to funding levels for example, are pretty much out of our hands; but we need to keep them before university leadership so everyone is aware there are problems out there that continue to impact our university mission," he said. "Some issues are things on which we can take a more proactive stance."

Burden said the council's top priorities, which deal primarily with funding and human resources issues, are additionally impacted by changes in the university's top administrative positions.

"Campus leadership and [human resource services] are committed to addressing salary and equity issues, as well as meaningful professional development. There is a great deal of change in the works. Couple that with the review of the RMM that will come out -- surely there will be some tweaks or changes to RMM -- and streamlining the performance-based pay models, and you can see that it could end up being a very interesting year," he said.

Call to action

Participation and engagement of P&S employees and council members continue to be important, Burden said. An online question form is being developed for the council website as a tool to help bring forward questions and discussion topics of any type. He said the executive council will review submissions, contact appropriate campus leaders for responses and present them at council meetings.

"P&S staff are critical to creating, funding and managing the teaching, research and outreach programs of this university," Burden said. "We have campus leadership that recognizes that contribution. I'm very upbeat."

Leath, Hill address Faculty Senate

President Steven Leath was the featured speaker at the March 6 Faculty Senate meeting, outlining some of his priorities and fielding questions from senators.

Leath touched on some of the same topics he covered at last week’s open forum hosted by the Professional and Scientific Council, such as student debt, research and extension. He told senators his management style will blend his academic administration background with his recent experiences working with two very successful businessmen -- including former White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles.

“We should never run a university like a business, but we can certainly run universities in a more business-like fashion,” Leath said.

Cultural sensitivity

Vice president for student affairs Tom Hill updated senators on some outcomes from recent racial tensions exacerbated by comments in the "Just Sayin" feature of the Iowa State Daily. He asked faculty to get involved, “because some of these things are taking place in the classroom.”

“We all have a role in repairing the image of Iowa State for some of our students,” senate president Steve Freeman said. “We want every student to be in a classroom where the environment is encouraging them to learn, not creating an environment where they feel uncomfortable.”

Conflict of commitment

Some senators balked at proposed Faculty Handbook changes that would add language from the university's conflicts of interest and commitment policy, which was updated in July 2011. Concerns centered on the vague definition of conflict of commitment.

"We cannot change the conflict of commitment policy," Freeman said. "What we are putting in our handbook is a reference to the new university policy that did not contain conflict of commitment as a concept until December, when that policy was passed and signed by the president. This is not a faculty policy, this is a university policy."

The proposed changes were narrowly approved by a one-vote margin.

Other business

Charles Schwab, professor in agricultural and biosystems engineering, was voted Faculty Senate athletics council representative, running unopposed. This will be Schwab's second 3-year term on the council.

Four items will be up for a vote at the April 3 senate meeting, including:

  • Recommended items for syllabus inclusion
  • Discontinuation of the engineering studies minor, which involves four departments (electrical and computer engineering, material science, industrial engineering, and agricultural and biosystems engineering)
  • A proposed energy systems minor in the mechanical engineering department
  • Faculty Handbook (section 3.1) revisions dealing with the summer appointment policy for B-base faculty, aligning it with effort-reporting requirements

No. 1 spot adds to CyRide pride

CyRide commuter lot

CyRide buses bunch up in Iowa State Center commuter lots. Next fall, a couple of long, articulated buses will help ease congestion at these busy lots. Photo by Bob Elbert. 

According to the averages, CyRide buses should provide something like 16.4 rides per capita in a year. That's the national average for small urban transit systems in communities with populations under 200,000.*

CyRide, to put it mildly, is above average. Last year, the ISU-Ames community bus system provided 106 rides per capita -- the same ridership as Washington D.C.'s transit system.*

That stat pushes CyRide to the No. 1 spot in ridership among small transit systems nationally. It's an honor the local transit system may repeat this year.

CyRide buses tallied 5.4 million rides in 2011, according to CyRide transit director Sheri Kyras. She estimates ridership will climb for the sixth straight year, hitting 5.8 million this year.

CyRide's success attracts attention, particularly from other university communities. Kyras said she gets many calls about the bus system, and recently hosted a visit from city officials, students and media from Columbia, Mo.

"We're a unique model around the country," Kyras said. "I attribute that to a university and city that work very well together.  You don't always see that around the country."

A good idea in 1982, and now

CyRide began in 1982 with a visionary idea -- that students, university and city would put money into a new transit system, Kyras said. In most places, a single entity, such as the city or university, funds and runs the transit system.

The cost-sharing arrangement in Ames has provided CyRide with the funding to be successful and to run its buses more frequently than other communities, Kyras said.

The Government of the Student Body (GSB) is by far the largest CyRide funder, kicking in a subsidy that allows all students to ride free. Eighty-nine percent of riders are students.

ISU parking also partially subsidizes bus passes for faculty and staff. Employees have a number of CyRide pass options. For example, employees could buy semester CyRide passes for $90 last September, and approximately 250 employees did just that.

There are 125 drivers wheeling around in CyRide buses. More than half are ISU students. All drivers must undergo 140 hours of rigorous training and get a commercial driver license, Kyras said.

What's next?

Kyras said over the coming year CyRide passengers will see a couple of innovations on their favorite bus system.

  • Articulated buses. These extra-long buses with a flexible accordion-like center sections will be maneuvering Ames intersections next fall. Kyras said two of the 62-foot buses (normal buses are 40 feet) will be added to the CyRide fleet. She anticipates the buses will be on the orange route, helping to ease congestion at busy stops at the Iowa State Center commuter lots and residence halls.
  • Smartphone app en route: By next fall or spring, riders should be able to use their smartphones to track the progress of their buses on their routes. GSB is funding development of the app, which will track all the CyRide buses in real time. 


* Figures are from the Federal Transit Administration report, "FTA Fiscal Year 2012 Apportionments, Allocations, and Program Information."

Council committee to change name, purpose

The Professional and Scientific Council retention and recruitment committee would like to change its name and focus. Committee members introduced a resolution at the council's March 1 meeting.

Originally formed to assist with student recruitment and retention initiatives, the committee awarded more than $460,000 in grants from 1994 to 2009. In FY10, that grant funding fell victim to budget cuts. Without continued funding, the committee has turned its focus to professional development.

The proposed resolution (PDF) outlines initiatives for the professional development committee, including:

  • Establish a recurring professional development conference
  • Provide year-round professional development opportunities in various formats (classroom, video, online)
  • Develop focused tracks for personal and department/program needs
  • Identify experts to facilitate training and development programs

Council members will vote on the name change and corresponding bylaws changes at their April 5 meeting.

It's all coming back to me


"Style Tribes: Fashions from the 1960s" is on exhibition in the Mary Alice Gallery, Morrill Hall, through April 22. Photo by Bob Elbert.


Feeling nostalgic for the '60s? More specifically, some of those one-of-a-kind fashions? As a textiles/clothing fall class project, five Iowa State juniors and seniors curated an exhibition for Morrill Hall's Mary Alice Gallery that pays tribute to four style "tribes" – or subcultures – that prevailed in the 1960s. Reminisce over examples from each of the tribes: optical art, space age mods, collegiate/professional and the environment – exemplified in this photo featuring paper dresses.

The exhibition, the first curated by undergraduates for class, runs through April 22. The gallery is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, with afternoon hours the weekends of April 14-15 and 21-22.