Lighter than air

Lighter than Air competition

Thirty six student teams designed and created "lighter than air" vehicles in professor Richard Wlezien's aerospace engineering introductory classes. The final projects were showcased in a Dec. 7 fly-off in the Howe Hall atrium. Teams were judged on the construction of their aircraft, and how the aircraft performed required tasks on an obstacle course. A video recap of the daylong event is online. Photo by Bob Elbert.

Commencement events are this weekend

An estimated 1,708 students are completing Iowa State degrees this week and many of them will celebrate the milestone this weekend in a cap and gown. As of Dec. 10, the registrar's office reported that 110 doctoral candidates and 210 master's students are scheduled to graduate. They'll be joined by an estimated 1,388 students completing their bachelor's degrees.

All students will be honored during a single commencement ceremony on Saturday, Dec. 15, beginning at 1:30 p.m. in Hilton Coliseum. Tickets are not required.

Lt. Gov. and former Iowa Senator Kim Reynolds will give the commencement address. Her talk is titled "The Power of the Unknown and You." Among her many duties as lieutenant governor, Reynolds serves as co-chair of the Governor's STEM Advisory Council, whose goal is to increase student interest, participation and achievement in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields in order to provide the state with a skilled workforce.

Honorary degree

During the ceremony, Iowa State will confer an honorary Doctor of Science degree on James Barnard, one of the world's leading environmental engineers. The South Africa native is renowned for his innovative research in water quality, particularly wastewater treatment. Since the 1970s, he has focused on using biological methods, such as algae, on a massive scale instead of expensive chemicals to remove nutrients (such as nitrogen and phosphorus) from wastewater. This, in turn, prevents excessive algae growth that can lead to environmental impacts such as the "dead zone" where the Mississippi River empties into the Gulf of Mexico.

Faculty members in the civil, environmental and construction engineering department prepared Barnard's honorary degree nomination.

Colleges will honor their own graduating students during college events on Friday and Saturday. The ISU Alumni Association will host a reception for all graduates and their guests at the alumni center immediately after the commencement ceremony.

Summer graduates

About 825 Iowa State students who completed their degrees during the summer term have the option of participating in either the May or December commencement events.

Final countdown

Students studying in The Hub

The Hub offers the perfect trifecta during finals week -- food, caffeine and wireless access. There's not a table top to spare in common spaces across campus as students power through finals week, which ends Friday at 2 p.m. Photo by Bob Elbert.

Winter break: What you need to know


With a university-approved partial shutdown over the holidays, this campus cardinal may be hard-pressed for human companionship. Photo submitted to ISU Photostream by Alyssa Miller.

For the past few years, Iowa State administrators have offered departments and units the option of closing down -- partially or fully -- over the holidays. That trend continues this year with a partial university shutdown planned for Dec. 22 through Jan. 1.

Open or closed?

Winter break schedules

In September, university officials approved a partial shutdown of campus during winter break. This period includes three university holidays (Dec. 24, 25 and Jan. 1), four weekend days and four workdays (Dec. 26-28, 31). Employees who choose not to work Dec. 26-31 may use vacation time or take unpaid leave. The partial shutdown is optional; the university is not requiring departments to close. Units involved in critical services, maintenance and research will remain open.

Building supervisors should contact Bob Currie in facilities planning and management by 5 p.m. Dec. 19 to indicate whether a building will be closed or to request a temperature setback.

If your department or building will shut down during break, remember these tips to keep your office safe and energy-efficient.

Flip switches and more

  • Shut down all computers, printers and other accessories. Leave your office computer on if you need remote access from home, but power off the monitor, printer, speakers, etc. A computer's sleep mode uses less energy than full power, but information technology services guidelines recommend shutting down computers completely to protect data. A machine may be left on during break if it's providing access to a critical application. If possible, plug computers and printers into a power strip and then shut off the power strip before you leave.
  • Turn off and unplug copiers.
  • Shut off and unplug small appliances, like coffeepots and microwaves.
  • Unplug chargers for electronic devices, such as cell phones.
  • Check faucets in bathrooms and break rooms to make sure they are completely turned off and not dripping. If you notice a dripping faucet, contact the FPM Service Center, 4-5100.
  • If you can manually adjust the thermostat in your office, turn it down to 65 degrees.
  • Close fume hood sashes completely or open them only minimally.
  • Shut down unnecessary climate-controlled plant growth chambers.
  • Shut down cooling water systems to eliminate potential flooding issues.
  • Remember to turn off your office lights and as much public lighting (hallways, bathrooms, conference rooms) as possible before you leave.
  • Check windows to make sure they're tightly closed.

Keep in touch

If your department is closing over break, discuss how to handle incoming phone calls. One option is to direct all departmental calls to one voicemail box to be checked periodically by designated employees during the break. Employees also should change their personal voicemail and email messages. Consider stating the dates you will be absent, and if you'll be checking your voicemail or email messages. If necessary, include an off-campus number where you can be reached. Also consider posting holiday hours on your department's website.

Wear your boots

Facilities planning and management crews will work reduced hours during the partial shutdown. From Dec. 22 through Jan. 1, snow removal will be limited, which means parking lots and building entrances may not be plowed by 8 a.m. FPM staff also will not plow lots or sweep sidewalks for less than 2 inches of snow outside of weekday business hours (Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.).

Winter break schedules

Following is a list of closures for various campus facilities during winter break. But you may want to call ahead or check websites before venturing out.

Winter break

What you need to know

Athletics ticket office, Jacobson Athletics Building

Closed: Dec. 24-27, Dec. 31, Jan. 1 
Holiday hours: 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Dec. 28
Hilton Coliseum ticket office opens one hour prior to events.

Brunnier Art Museum (290 Scheman)

Closed: Dec. 17-Jan. 7

Christian Petersen Art Museum (1017 Morrill)

Closed: Dec. 15-Jan. 13

Farm House Museum (central campus)

Closed: Dec. 15-Jan. 13

Hotel Memorial Union

Closed: 5 p.m. Dec. 21-8 a.m. Dec. 26

ISU Dining

Winter break hours

ISU Postal and Parcel

Operating normal hours. Service will continue to accessible buildings. Temporary schedule changes may occur.

Lied Center/Beyer Hall/State Gym

Winter break hours (PDF)

Maintenance Shop, Memorial Union

Closed: Through Jan. 13

Memorial Union

Closed: 5 p.m. Dec. 21-8 a.m. Dec. 26

Reiman Gardens

Closed: Dec. 25 and Jan. 1

University Book Store

Closed: Dec. 22-25, Dec. 30, Jan. 1, Jan. 6, Jan. 13
Winter break hours: Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; closed Sundays except Dec. 16 (open noon-4 p.m.)

University Library (all sites)

Closed: Dec. 15-16, Dec. 22-Jan. 1, Jan. 5-6, Jan. 12-13
No evening hours Dec. 17-21, Jan. 2-4, Jan. 7-11

Reminder: Flexible spending dollars must be spent by Dec. 31

If the holiday season wasn't busy enough, here's another item for your to-do list: spend your 2012 flexible spending account dollars by Dec. 31.

All 2012 flexible spending account (FSA) expenses for health and dependent care must be incurred by Dec. 31. If you miss the Dec. 31 deadline, you'll lose any unclaimed money that was deducted from your paycheck to cover qualified expenses in 2012, according to Internal Revenue Service rules and ISU policies.

Iowa State's FSA administrator is ASIFlex. Claim forms (PDF) are available on the ASIFlex website. Claims for 2012 must be filed by April 30, 2013.

FSAs provide employees the opportunity to reimburse health care or dependent care expenses with pre-tax dollars.  More information on flexible spending accounts is available in the benefits section of the human resource services website.

Senate floor opens for leadership discussion

President Suzanne Hendrich took advantage of a short agenda to set aside time for topical conversation at the Dec. 11 Faculty Senate meeting.

"I hope these conversations will facilitate our action plans to work on important, long-term issues facing the senate, ISU faculty and academia as a whole," Hendrich wrote in an email to senators.

Tuesday's "Faculty Senate conversation" focused on the topic of "collaborative strategic leadership." Senators broke into small groups to discuss it, with some sharing their conversation takeaways after the senate regrouped. Comments included concerns, ideas and opinions about issues such as administrative leadership, accountability, faculty support and engagement.

Hendrich plans to continue the topical conversations, as time allows, in future senate meetings.

P&T voting procedures

Senators have been asked to solicit feedback from their constituents on proposed changes to promotion and tenure voting procedures. Revisions to the policy are intended to clarify "one person, one vote" and conflict-of-interest requirements.

Proposed changes were introduced at the senate's October meeting, but sent back to the P&T task force for continued work. Feedback on the modifications should be sent to task force chair Steve Freeman.

Harkin Institute materials

Senior vice president and provost Jonathan Wickert gave senators an overview of the public disagreement currently surrounding the Harkin Institute of Public Policy, which was established by a state Board of Regents vote in April 2011. The institute is named for ISU alum and U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, and will house his papers.

"President [Steven] Leath has been in discussions with the advisory board of the Harkin Institute and the Board of Regents to put into place an agreement for how the new institute should interact, collaborate and connect with the pre-existing center -- CARD (Center for Agriculture and Rural Development) -- we have on campus," Wickert said.

"Why would we want to create another that would duplicate it, or perhaps even diminish or undermine it?" he said.

Wickert reminded senators that Sen. Harkin's papers will be made available to anyone. When the materials arrive on campus, they will be part of the library's special collections department and fully accessible. He said the collection eventually will be digitized, beginning with materials about the farm crisis and ADA legislation, and put online for global use.

Other business

  • Senators will vote next month on a name change for the women and minorities committee, to the committee on equity, diversity and inclusion.
  • Veronica Dark (psychology) and Michael Martin (landscape architecture) will represent the Faculty Senate on the newly created committee on undergraduate education.
  • Associate provost David Holger responded to concerns about the Nov. 30 failure of the Class Climate survey system. He said ITS and CELT are working to identify alternate software packages that could handle the amount of traffic on the system and continued expansion of use.

P&S Council committee seeking input on representation

A pending motion to change the Professional and Scientific Council's organizational areas of representation was withdrawn at the council's Dec. 6 meeting. The representation committee is seeking feedback on the issue.

Committee chair Dick Pfarrer showed council members the six current representation areas (academic and research; extension; business and finance; student affairs; IPRT and Ames Laboratory; and president's office), and a proposed reconfiguration into four areas (academic affairs; business and finance; president's office; and student affairs) that align more closely with the university's organizational chart.

"We want to find a best practice so that you feel value and that you're representing appropriately, and that all of your constituents feel that they have representation," Pfarrer said.

Open forum on excellence

Senior vice president and provost Jonathan Wickert was the featured speaker at the council's open forum that preceded the meeting. His "Excellence at Iowa State" presentation outlined ways to measure the quality of the university, including its membership in the Association of American Universities (AAU).

 Wickert listed four ways ISU measures its excellence, including:

  • Quality of programs in education, research and extension
  • Quality of the student experience
  • Progress on strategic plan (measured by the state Board of Regents)
  • Reputation and the company ISU keeps (such as AAU membership)

AAU membership
The Association of American Universities has 62 members, including 36 public and 26 private institutions. Membership is by invitation and restricted to the leading research universities in the United States and Canada.

Wickert stressed that AAU membership is an important factor in attracting quality faculty and graduate students, and large-scale research funding. He said two of president Steven Leath's initiatives -- the institutional excellence committee and the student experience enhancement council -- support areas important to continued membership in the AAU.

Iowa State has been an AAU member since 1958. The universities of Texas and Kansas are the only other Big 12 Conference institutions on the membership list. The University of Iowa also is a member.

In closing, Wickert encouraged all members of the campus community to continue their contributions toward institutional excellence. He included four priority areas:

  • Maintaining academic excellence
  • Enhancing ISU's research footprint
  • Promoting economic development
  • Improving the campus environment

The piano man


Still have a hard-to-buy-for person on your holiday shopping list? Perhaps an evening with the soft, romantic music of award-winning pianist and songwriter Jim Brickman is the answer.

Brickman brings his "On A Winter's Night" holiday show to Stephens Auditorium Dec. 20 for a 7:30 p.m. performance. He'll perform classic and contemporary holiday favorites plus several selections from his latest album, Believe.

Brickman has sold more than seven million records, making him today's best-selling solo piano artist. His signature style has earned him six Gold and Platinum albums, 30 charted radio hits and two Grammy nominations.

Tickets are $35, $45 and $65. Limited availability remains for the top tier ticket package, which includes rows A-C and a post-performance opportunity to meet Brickman. Tickets are available at the Iowa State Center ticket office and through Ticketmaster. Contributed photo.