Sarah Rajala (Rye-AH-lah) began her duties as dean of the College of Engineering (PDF) on April 1. Rajala comes to Iowa State from Mississippi State University, where she had served as Engineering dean since 2008. Previously, she served for 27 years on the faculty at North Carolina State University, Raleigh, including 10 years as an associate dean. Her background is in electrical engineering.

Rajala's office is in 104 Marston; she can be reached by phone at 4-9988, by email at rajala@iastate.eduPhoto by Bob Elbert.

Leath discusses legislature, coach contracts, initiatives with senators

The legislative outlook, coach contracts, new faculty hires, plans to raise Iowa State's profile, MOOCs and lessons learned from the Harkin Institute flap were part of the discussion as president Steven Leath addressed the Faculty Senate Tuesday.

Legislative outlook

After many years of cuts, Leath said he was pleased with last year's increase in the recurring budget line and is "quite confident we'll see increases in our general appropriations again this year.

"We're still not where we were three or four years ago, but if we're trending up, I think it says a number of things. It says Iowa is still committed to funding higher education. And it says that they are looking favorably on what we're doing."

Leath told senators he's sensitive to salary issues.

"We had very modest increases last year, which is better than no increase. We're looking at a salary increase again this year, which again is good. It will not be as large as I hoped for or you hoped for, but hopefully over time we can raise those numbers."

Federal relations downsizing

Iowa State has considerably downsized its federal relations unit, Leath said.

"We were spending a lot of money on federal relations. We have hired one person now to do federal relations for us, a former student body president, and Sophia [Magill] is doing a good job.

"It's tough right now in federal relations. There's not a lot of harmony in Washington and there's not a lot of money right now in Washington. But much of our effort is being spent on big policy initiatives -- like Pell Grants and the other things that are directly important to the academy."

Coping with record enrollment

Leath said he was proud of the record enrollment of students, but recognizes the burden it puts on faculty.

"We've grown almost 25 percent in student numbers over the last 10 years and we essentially didn't grow at all in our faculty numbers. There comes a limit to how much we can ask individuals to do with bigger class sizes and other demands and maintain quality and maintain morale."

Leath said he and senior vice president and provost Jonathan Wickert have committed to hiring 200 more faculty within a couple of years.

Athletics and academics

"Athletics has been a bright spot," Leath said, pointing to athletic successes in various sports. "But I want to take the opportunity to say we're not going to be one of those schools where the tail wags the dog.

"I think we've done a good job with athletics here and Jamie [athletics director Pollard] has got the culture of the athletics group right. They want to win. They want to win, though, in a way I think we can be proud of. If you look at our academic success, it's really tremendous among the student-athletes. We put a lot of demand on student-athletes. But they're doing better than just about any other group in the country in terms of academic success."

Coach contracts

Leath said a fundamental change in coach contracts at Iowa State now ties coaches' raises more directly to academic performance.

"Coach [Fred] Hoiberg was the first to agree to that new kind of contract. It set a model. We just did Christy Johnson-Lynch's that way, too.

"When we first brought it up, the agents told us, 'We don't do contracts that way,' and I told them, 'Well, we don't do them the old way anymore, either.'"

Two initiatives

Leath mentioned a couple of initiatives that are under way -- one to enhance institutional excellence and another, to build a collaborative science culture.

A committee and several subcommittees are working on the first initiative, which involves such goals as increasing Ph.D. enrollment and national recognition for faculty.

"I'll be challenging the committee next time we meet to give me some specific examples of what we can do to enhance the arts and humanities faculty," he said.

Many initiatives involving the National Academy of Sciences, big grant programs or private funding from companies tend to be in the ag sciences/engineering sides of the campus rather than arts and humanities, Leath said. He called upon faculty to provide some ideas on how to help move arts and humanities forward.

The second initiative, a large interdisciplinary research initiative, will provide funding to three teams developing large-scale research proposals. Leath said he was pleased at the "huge number" of faculty members represented on the 14 proposals.

"Some of these proposals had faculty in engineering, the sciences and humanities all in the same proposal."

"We also have a number of smaller proposals we want to give, more as seed grants to help foster innovation and entrepreneurship. I'm a firm believer that a lot of the big problems in society that are left are the complex ones that are solved by multidisciplinary approaches."

Fundraising for scholarships

Leath pointed to recent success in raising funds for scholarships.

"In an effort to hold down tuition costs, we've got this kind of agreement with the legislature and the regents that if we can raise $150 million in scholarship money in five years that they will help provide additional funding for need-based student aid," he said.

"Since July when we started this, we've already raised $39 million of $150 million. So if we have a $30 million a year goal, we're way ahead of schedule. We will hopefully have some leverage to put on folks to show that we as a university did our part in raising scholarship money."

MOOCs and other online learning

In response to a question about MOOCs (massive open online courses) and other online education, Leath said he and administrators are paying attention to the literature, going to sessions and talking with a "flagships group" started by Bill Powers, president of the University of Texas, Austin, about some collaborations.

"I think we have to be very careful not to let people outside this campus drive our priorities in education delivery systems," he said.

"Over the next year or so, we'll probably have a better idea of where we'd like to see it go at the top level, " Leath added. "This is largely faculty-driven, and what might be an acceptable approach in one department and one discipline does not fit well in some other disciplines."

"As administrators we have to be careful not to manage this from the top down, but more set the philosophical stage. I think you'll find we're still going to have a strong residential experience. We'll be supportive of blended learning and some online. We'll be real supportive of online programs or degrees past the bachelor's level. I don't anticipate them at the bachelor's level. And you'll see more coordinated development of the bigger classes than just taking one off the shelf, so to speak."

The Harkin Institute

Asked for his "take home" on the Harkin Institute, Leath offered three lessons learned during the prolonged controversy over the institute.

  1. "There's a lot of inherent risk in naming any institute or entity at a public university after a sitting politician. We should have been more thoughtful and more careful when we did it. My personal approach would have been to form the institute, if the faculty wanted it, vet it properly, form it, make it a public policy institute and not name it after anyone. And if and when a politician retired and wanted to bring papers and maybe be a scholar-in-residence, we'd embrace that."
  2. "To have any institute formed on this campus that overlapped with another entity on this campus and not tell the first entity, was a mistake. In this case, the Harkin Institute was going to cover agriculture as one of its primary functions. That's probably fine, but to not tell CARD [Center for Agriculture and Rural Development] and not tell the dean of agriculture that you're making a duplicative institute is naturally going to create some distrust on that side. I think we should be cooperative and collaborative and how is that possible if you start that way?"
  3. "Similarly (there's enough blame to go around here), once that was done, I think to create an MOU [memorandum of understanding] forbidding the Harkin Institute from working in ag and not telling the Harkins and not telling the Harkin Institute Advisory Committee was equally bad, because now you've created distrust on the other side of the issue."

Senate business

The senate:

  • Approved changes to a policy on promotion and tenure voting procedures. Under a guiding principle of "one-person, one-vote," the policy stipulates that a faculty member who already voted as part of a departmental P&T committee cannot vote again at the departmental, college or other levels.
  • Approved a clarification to Faculty Handbook policy on renaming academic units as a result of a philanthropic gifts. The revised policy affirms that "appending a name to an academic unit as a result of philanthropic gift is within the purview of the president." It also states that "the faculty of the unit will be informed and provide advice to the president prior to the naming or renaming."
  • Elected Eric Burrough, assistant professor in the department of veterinary diagnostic and production animal medicine, to a three-year term on the Athletics Council.

Iowa State's telephone service moves to the 'cloud'

Imagine. You’re walking on campus at lunchtime and your cell phone rings. It’s a call that’s coming in on your ISU telephone number, not your cell number. You take the call. You’re still having the conversation when you return to your desk, so you pick up the receiver on your desk telephone and continue the call.  Different phone, same line, same call. This is possible because of the “integrated lines” feature on your computer.

Integrated lines is just one of the many features that will be available through the university telephonic system beginning next month.  Campus-wide telephone replacement will take place between May 1 and July 1.

The following Q&A from information technology services (ITS) explains the change.

Why are we getting new telephones?

ITS has been investigating telephonic systems for more than a year because the current service contract expires on July 1. ITS was seeking a cost-effective solution that would keep up with rapidly changing technology. The goal is to provide more features, better integration and enhanced user control at a lower cost.

What is replacing the current telephonic system?

ISU will contract through Internet2, an advanced networking consortium led by research and educational institutions, of which Iowa State is a member. Internet2 will host Iowa State's telephonic services through "cloud computing," which means ISU's telephonic services will be housed off site. Aastra will be the university's cloud service provider, storing ISU's telephone data digitally, initially in Texas and New York. More cloud storage locations will be added as the network grows.

Iowa State is the first educational institution to switch its entire telephonic system to Aastra in the cloud using the Internet2 network. Along with other colleges and universities using Internet2, Iowa State is helping to develop communications programs in higher education.

What's the advantage of using "the cloud" for telephone services?

The new system will provide flexible service levels, upgrades, support and an integration of services. And because ISU is purchasing a service rather than just hardware, this system is more cost effective.

What's the initial cost to the university to switch to this new telephone system, and how is it being funded?

The capital outlay for the telephone system, for which ITS had planned and budgeted, is $1.5 million to replace the telephones and $50,000 for local gateways (systems that connect to local phone companies such as CenturyLink). ISU will realize a savings of approximately $600,000 per year. There will be no initial cost to individuals or departments; you actually will pay less and receive more services.

Who is getting a new telephone?

Most telephones on campus (about 8,000) will be replaced. This includes telephones in residence hall lobbies and dens.

What is happening to the old telephones?

The old telephones are going to ISU asset recovery.

When will my telephone be replaced?

An installation crew will begin replacing telephones May 1 (1,000 phones each week for eight weeks).

Will the new telephone installation cause any disruption to my telephone service?

There should be minimal disruption to your telephone service when the new telephone is installed. Generally, your new telephone will be installed up to a week before your scheduled “cut over,” leaving your current telephone in place. On a specified date, your telephone will be removed from the old system and activated on the new system. The installation crew will return to remove your existing telephone when functionality has been verified.

Can I keep my current telephone number?

You will keep the same telephone number, and basic functionality will remain the same.

What features will my telephone have?

The new telephones will have several new capabilities. Employees may choose to integrate their university telephone numbers with personal cell phones and/or their university computers. The telephone system also will be linked with Microsoft Outlook and Exchange, and configuration changes such as the "busy" indicator and call forwarding can be edited through a user interface on the Aastra website. It's up to you how many, or how few, of the new capabilities you use.

Will I get trained on how to use my new telephone?

Yes. All department telephone coordinators will be invited to an informational session on April 11. Most user training will be provided through online tutorials with specific training requests accommodated as needed.

Will 911 calls or ISU Alert be impacted with the changes?


Will the university's telephone service be impacted if campus Internet servers go down?

Iowa State has redundant, or multiple, connections to the Internet. If a complete outage occurred, the telephone systems' local survivability gateways would take over and handle telephone service for the university until the connection is restored.

Who can I contact with questions about the new telephones?

You may contact the ITS implementation team or the ITS support team at 4-8565.

Three finalists named in College of Business dean search

Three finalists have been named in the search for the next dean of the College of Business.

The finalists are:

  • J. Chris Leach, senior associate dean for faculty and research in the Leeds School of Business, University of Colorado, Boulder
  • Jay Sa-Aadu (pronounced SAW-ah-doo), associate dean in the Tippie School of Management, University of Iowa
  • David Spalding, senior vice president and adviser to the president, Dartmouth College, Hanover, N.H.

"We are pleased to present three accomplished finalists to lead the College of Business," said Pam White, co-chair of the search committee and dean of the College of Human Sciences. "On behalf of the search committee, I encourage business students, faculty and staff, and the entire campus community to attend the open forums and provide feedback."

Leach will be on campus April 4-5; Spalding, April 8-9; and Sa-Aadu, April 10-11. Each will meet with members of the university community and College of Business, and participate in a 3 p.m. open forum in the Gerdin Building. The forum schedule is:

  • Leach, April 4, 1148 Gerdin
  • Spalding, April 8, 0330 Gerdin
  • Sa-Aadu, April 10, 1148 Gerdin

Those who wish to comment on the finalists should submit an online evaluation by noon on April 15. The evaluation form will be available once the forums begin.

About the finalists

J. Chris Leach, a professor of finance, serves as senior associate dean for faculty and research in the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado, a position he has held since 2011. His 19-year career at Colorado also has included two terms as division chair of finance.

Leach earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Oral Roberts University, Tulsa, Okla.; an MBA in finance from the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque; a master’s degree in management-economics; and a doctorate in finance from Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.

Jay Sa-Aadu, a professor of finance and real estate, is associate dean in the Tippie School of Management at the University of Iowa, a position he has held since 2008. His 32-year career at Iowa has included 12 years as chair of the department of finance.

Sa-Aadu earned a bachelor’s degree in land economics from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, Ghana, and a master’s degree in real estate and doctorate in real estate and finance from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

David Spalding serves as senior vice president and adviser to the president and chief of staff, at Dartmouth College. His professional career includes serving as Dartmouth’s vice president for alumni relations, as well as positions with Chase Manhattan, First National Bank of Chicago, GE Capital Corporate Finance Group and the Cypress Group.

Spalding earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Dartmouth, and an MBA in finance from New York University.

Photos and vitae of the candidates are available online.


Fountain preservation is first step to bringing new life to historic courtyard

The History of Dairying mural and fountain

It is a historical work of art that is largely hidden from students, faculty and staff on the Iowa State campus. Christian Petersen’s seven-panel mural and fountain The History of Dairying can be found along the east wall of the Food Sciences courtyard. However, a 1986 building addition enclosed the wall, making the courtyard accessible only through the Food Sciences Building.

It is Ruth MacDonald’s hope to once again make the mural and courtyard -- listed on the National Register of Historic Places -- a focal point on campus.

“It’s an important part of our building,” said MacDonald, professor and department chair of food science and human nutrition. “In the early days, it was used a lot for the president’s parties. They had weddings, lots of events happened out there because it was a very nice space. Over the years, the space has lost its appeal. We want to try and make it a nicer area.”

For nearly three decades, the sculpture's fountain has not worked. Water from the fountain would flow into a pool, giving the impression that the dairy cows on the mural were drinking from a trough. But plumbing to the fountain was cut during the 1986 construction and ongoing structural issues with the pool made it inefficient.

“I occasionally would raise the question about filling in the pond and making it flat because it would collect water and leaves and looked ugly. If we did fill up the pond, it would leak down into the steam tunnels that run underneath the building,” MacDonald said.

Partnership for preservation

Christian Petersen

Christian Petersen working on his "History of Dairying" mural, 1934. Photo courtesy of University Museums.

With the help of University Museums and facilities planning and management, water is flowing from the fountain again. The mural was repaired and a new filtration system was installed to recirculate the water and make the fountain more efficient. Funding for the project was provided by the Office of the Senior Vice President for Business and Finance. The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences will handle the annual maintenance.

“It always is satisfying to preserve or maintain -- more importantly to maintain -- an artistic legacy,” said Lynette Pohlman, director of University Museums. “Iowa State has done a great job of maintaining Petersen’s artistic legacy and then building on it with all the other art on campus.”

Petersen’s sculpted mural is the first sculpture created as part of the federal Public Works of Art Project in Iowa during the Depression. Pohlman said Petersen’s art was part of Iowa State College president Raymond Hughes’ goal to create public art on campus.

“That program was important during the Great Depression because it employed artists, musicians and literary people. It was the jobs program; it was the TARP program of the 1930s,” Pohlman said.  “For Iowa State, the two murals -- both Petersen’s and Grant Woods’ -- were really the start of a serious public art collection for the education of our students.”

To celebrate the newly restored mural, the food science and human nutrition department is hosting a reception from 4-6 p.m. on Friday, April 19, as part of Veishea festivities. The public is invited to attend.

MacDonald wants this to be the first step in making the space more inviting and user friendly. That will take careful planning and funding because of the courtyard’s designation as a historic landmark. But MacDonald believes the preservation of the courtyard will be worthwhile.  

“I would like to make it a nice space for classes to go out there, or for students to go out and have lunch, or for people to come by and enjoy the gardens, because I think it could be a nice garden space,” MacDonald said.

Federal cuts will end ISU's host role with national pork center

A national public-private partnership for pork research and education no longer will be hosted at Iowa State.

Effective July 1, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences will withdraw as the host of the U.S. Pork Center of Excellence, one action the college is taking to address budget cuts forced by the federal sequester. The decision will save the college approximately $100,000 in overhead and administrative costs and salary for a half-time position.

Last week, the center's board of directors met via phone and accepted an offer from the National Pork Board to transfer oversight, management and staffing of the center to the pork board's Des Moines offices. It's uncertain whether the center will maintain three other full-time positions (funded with member fees), but they no longer would be university positions.

The current estimate of the sequester's impact is more than a 7.6 percent reduction in "formula" funds for research – federal funds distributed annually to the nation's land-grant schools. This translates to an annual cut of more than $600,000 from the college's budget. At Iowa State, these funds support research carried out through the Iowa Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment Station.

The college has hosted the U.S. Pork Center of Excellence since its establishment in 2005. Housed in the National Swine Research and Information Center, the center has worked to add value to the pork industry by facilitating research, continuing education and publications for U.S. pork producers. Funded primarily through member fees, the center has been a collaborative effort of 25 land-grant universities, 18 state and national pork industry groups and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Iowa State will remain a partner member of the center.

Changes at nutrition, wellness center take effect in May

Iowa State's Nutrition and Wellness Research Center, located primarily in the Research Park, will undergo changes next month intended to increase operation efficiencies. The center's programmatic components, such as community outreach efforts and symposiums, will be discontinued. And when the three-year terms of faculty co-directors Mike Spurlock (food science and human nutrition) and Greg Welk (kinesiology) end on May 16, the center will be managed by the FSHN department, in collaboration with the kinesiology department.

Spurlock and Welk will continue their individual research activities.

The focus of the 6-year-old center will shift to providing space and state-of-the-art equipment that facilitate health, nutrition and activity-related research by faculty in the College of Human Sciences. Faculty members will continue to pursue funding opportunities with corporations, foundations, government agencies and other sources to support their work.

Assistant scientist Jeanne Stewart, who is located on site, will continue to assist researchers conducting work at the center.

A global celebration

ISU Bhangra at Global Gala 2012

The Student Union Board's 8th annual Global Gala event will take place Friday, April 5, in the Memorial Union Great Hall. The multicultural celebration showcases fashion, music and performances by student organizations. Pictured is the ISU Bhangra student organization -- a competitive Punjabi Indian dance team that performs the traditional Indian Bhangra dance style -- participating at last year's event. Refreshments also will be served. Doors open at 5:30 p.m., the program begins at 6 p.m. Admission is free and open to the public. Contributed photo.