Flood warnings test new mitigation measures

Scheman Building flood gate

Partial installation of the flood gate at the north entrance of the Scheman Building. Photo by Bob Elbert.

As river levels continued to rise last week and the forecast called for additional rain, flood gates were installed at the Scheman Building, Hilton Coliseum and the Maple-Willow-Larch residence halls. Equipment also was relocated at Veenker Memorial Golf Course and the Lied Recreation Center was closed (twice) for sandbagging work.

The projected rains diminished and the flood warnings were allowed to expire, but university officials were able to use the threat to evaluate their preparations in real time.

Hilton Coliseum flood gates

Flood gates on the east side of Hilton Coliseum. Photo by Bob Elbert.

"We do a practice drill every spring, but this is the first time we truly used the flood gates," said Dave Miller, associate vice president for facilities. "The time to put the panels in place is probably 80 percent less time than the time it would take to sandbag. That's a real blessing, given the quick up and down of Squaw Creek."

The university remained open and activities continued as scheduled throughout the preparations. Some of the flood gates still are in place, Miller said, and the sandbags remain on standby at the Lied Center.

"They will stay up until the current threat is passed or until building activity levels and occupancy necessitates having more building exits available for egress," Miller said.

Presidential Initiative for Interdisciplinary Research awards announced

Four research teams will receive up to $4.5 million over three years to pursue competitive grants to fund large-scale, multidisciplinary research efforts of national and international importance.

The grants are part of the Presidential Initiative for Interdisciplinary Research, a program launched by president Steven Leath to support research efforts that could lead to major advances, discoveries and technologies.

Leath said he was pleased with the enthusiastic response to the initiative (51 teams vied for funds through the initiative) and the quality of the proposals.

"These proposals are just what we wanted to see," Leath said. "They pull together talented researchers from our university, other institutions, national labs and industry to tackle some of the grand challenges facing our world. I believe we will see real progress coming out of these scientific collaborations.

"The projects also will further the excellence of Iowa State University, building upon the strengths of the university and expanding the overall research structure," he added.

Pursuit funding awards

During the funding period, project teams will submit multiple proposals for external large-scale research grants. Successful proposals at that scale are a time-consuming venture. Pursuit funds can be used for such things as teaching releases, hiring consultants to add value to teams and holding workshops to strengthen connections among ISU and external partners.

Projects receiving "pursuit funding" awards are:

  • Integrated, Interdisciplinary Vaccine Research Against Antigenically Diverse Viruses

    Principal investigators: Michael Cho, biomedical sciences; Jim Roth, veterinary microbiology and preventive medicine; K.J. Yoon, veterinary diagnostic and production animal medicine

    Description: Antigenic variation is a defense mechanism viruses commonly use to evade host immune responses. Viruses such as HIV-1 and influenza virus are good examples, and they epitomize the next level of scientific challenge that mankind faces in a fight against infectious diseases. The proposal calls for creation of an interdisciplinary team of investigators at ISU and collaborators from other institutions to develop novel strategies with a long-term goal of producing efficacious and cost-effective vaccines against these viruses. An integral part of the proposal is the establishment of two centers -- one for AIDS research and another for influenza research and surveillance -- within several years.

  • Systems Design of Nanovaccines

    Principal investigator: Balaji Narasimhan, chemical and biological engineering

    Description: The vision is that nanovaccines will revolutionize prevention and treatment of disease. The proposal calls for a systems approach -- integrating nanotechnology, materials science, immunology, clinical science and social science to transform the design and manufacture of vaccines and enable rapid commercialization. Forty-three investigators from five universities, two national labs, three research institutes and five companies have been assembled to collaborate on vaccine development and seek large-scale funding to launch a national center on nanoscale technologies for the development of next generation vaccines.

  • Global Food Security Consortium

    Principal investigators: Manjit Misra, seed science and Max Rothschild, animal science

    Description: With a world population of 9 billion people predicted by 2050, the grand challenge is to provide sufficient food and nutrition for all, while protecting natural resources. Advances in sustainable crop and livestock science and transferring technology to the private sector and communities is at the very heart of solving this grand challenge. The proposal calls for a Global Food Security Consortium, a worldwide initiative centered at ISU that will bring an interdisciplinary, comprehensive, and innovative approach to this problem through focused research efforts in five major platforms: germplasm and seed systems; climate resilient healthy crops; climate resilient healthy animals; post-harvest and utilization; and policies, regulations and trade.

  • ISU Crop Bioengineering Consortium

    Principal investigator: Martin Spalding, genetics, development, and cell biology

    Description: An urgent grand challenge is to provide sufficient food, feed, fiber, biofuels and biorenewable chemicals for the world's burgeoning population. Technologies that complement traditional management and breeding, but dramatically accelerate the production and testing of improved crops, are in critical demand. The proposal addresses the challenge through development of a Crop Bioengineering Consortium, comprising researchers from several universities. Using an innovative and transformative genome engineering technology, the consortium will build a platform that allows for rapid integration of promising traits into crop plants.

Proof-of-concept awards

Three projects received awards under a smaller, proof-of-concept category. These awards provide pursuit funds for emerging research areas that are more limited in scope or require proof of concept before investigators can pursue larger funding. Each project will receive up to $100,000 for one year.

Projects receiving proof-of-concept awards are:

  • Computationally Engineered Plant Institute

    Principal investigator: Daniel Attinger, mechanical engineering

    Description: Food security will be among the top three challenges of humanity in 2050. Nine ISU engineers and plant scientists are collaborating to design optimum crops with better yields and better tolerance to climate change. With two excellent programs in plant sciences and engineering, Iowa State is uniquely positioned to become a world class place for interdisciplinary research on crop design.

  • The Language of Writing in STEM Disciplines

    Principal investigator: Carol A. Chapelle, applied linguistics

    Description: The vision is to create a national center of scholarship for the study of language in academic and professional writing in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. The center will conduct research on linguistic practices in STEM disciplines, to improve pedagogy of writing in STEM disciplines, and to develop and apply computational methods for analysis and assessment of discipline-specific writing.

  • Identifying Potential RNA Therapeutic Targets in Infectious Disease

    Principal investigator: Drena Dobbs, genetics, development and cell biology

    Description: The primary goal of this proof-of-concept proposal is to establish the core of a future Consortium for RNA-based therapies. The team of interdisciplinary researchers is pursuing an innovative strategy for integrating new high-throughput experimental technologies with computational methods to identify and characterize novel targets for RNA-based therapies to treat infectious disease.

About the initiative

"This initiative is intended to create a new culture of interdisciplinary and collaborative research at Iowa State, a culture that encourages thinking big," Leath said in his installation address last fall.

Leath released details on the presidential initiative in late September. By the December deadline, 23 teams seeking pursuit funds had submitted concept papers and 28 teams had submitted concept papers in the proof-of-concept category.

The President's Committee for Institutional Excellence, with assistance from experts in industry, higher education and government laboratories, led the review process.

FY14 salary parameters set

Faculty and professional and scientific staff who receive satisfactory performance evaluations will see a salary increase on July 1 of at least 1 percent (1.5 percent for those with salaries of $60,000 or less).

Iowa State's 3-year-old salary policy, which covers faculty, P&S staff, employees on contract and post docs, applies to all funding sources. It requires university leaders each year to set minimum and maximum increases (PDF) for employees receiving a satisfactory – or better – performance evaluation. For FY14, those parameters are:

  • 1 percent minimum increase for those with salaries above $60,000
  • 1.5 percent minimum increase for those with salaries at or below $60,000
  • 5 percent maximum increase (proposals above this threshold require approval from the division's senior vice president)

Humanities salary initiative

Read about the special allocation intended to boost humanities salaries.

Employees with exemplary evaluations may receive merit-based increases in addition to the required minimum. Employees with unsatisfactory performance evaluations will not receive salary adjustments on July 1.

Assistant vice president for financial planning and budgets Dave Biedenbach said president Steven Leath recommended the two minimums last year to recognize that cost-of-living increases have a more significant effect on employees with smaller salaries. Leath recommended the same structure this year, but noted that it shouldn't be considered a standard practice for future years.

Biedenbach said the proposed FY14 General Fund budget includes about $7.3 million for performance-based salary increases. That figure is about 2.5 percent of the current General Fund payroll for faculty and P&S staff. Salary increase decisions will be based on available funds in each unit.

Market, equity and promotion considerations

Salary increases also may help correct external market equity issues or internal disparity among like positions. Total increases above 5 percent are permissible, but as outlined in the salary policy, require approval from the appropriate senior vice president. The form (PDF) supervisors should use to request a salary increase above 5 percent is on the Human Resource Services website.

Salary increases for the FY14 faculty promotions ($6,500 for Distinguished Professors, $6,000 for University and Morrill Professors, $5,500 for full professors and $4,600 for associate professors) and increases due to P&S reclassifications don't replace or eliminate performance-based increases.

ISU Plan cost changes

Biedenbach said the proposed FY14 budget includes an anticipated 5 percent increase in the university's cost for the ISU Plan when the new benefits year begins Feb. 1, 2014. If projected plan costs prove higher than that, employee participants could see a modest increase in the premiums they pay. An employee wellness component under development also could impact costs, depending on how it's structured.

Merit salaries and benefits

The state's new contract with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Iowa chapter, which covers nearly all university merit employees, calls for no salary increase on July 1. Merit employees who haven't reached the maximum salary in their pay grades will receive a 4.5 percent increase on their anniversary date at the university.

Biedenbach said the university is budgeting for a 7 percent increase in its cost for merit employees' participation in the state health care plan next year (Feb. 1, 2014). Actual contributions for merit employee health care will not be finalized until this fall.

Special allocation intended to boost humanities salaries

Next year's salary lines for faculty in the humanities are getting special attention and dollars from the ISU administration.

President Steven Leath, provost Jonathan Wickert and Liberal Arts and Sciences dean Beate Schmittmann have allocated $450,000, collectively, toward humanities salaries and benefits. The allocations, which are permanent, are intended to bring the average salaries of tenured and tenure-track Iowa State humanities faculty closer to salaries of their peers at other institutions.

FY14 salary parameters

Officials have set parameters for pay increases for faculty and P&S staff receiving satisfactory or better evaluations.

The humanities comprise six departments -- English, the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication, history, music and theatre, philosophy and religious studies, and world languages and cultures.

Average salaries of tenured and tenure-track faculty in these departments are significantly below peer averages; in some cases, more than 20 percent below. 

"Humanities departments play a huge role in providing our students with many of the skills employers prize so highly in employees," Schmittmann said. "These include communication skills, critical thinking and an understanding of the cultural and historical contexts in which Americans and people around the world live."

Schmittmann said faculty representatives and department chairs in the humanities have long advocated for a systematic way to address the salary gap with their peers, and she shared these concerns with university leaders. She thanked president Leath and senior vice president and provost Jonathan Wickert for making the initiative possible.

"We pride ourselves on the student experience we offer at Iowa State," Leath said. "Humanities are key to that experience and to our determination to turn out students who are broadly educated and ready for their next venture."

Schmittmann noted that the additional salary funds will not be used for across-the-board increases.

"This is an opportunity to show how much we value our most effective faculty -- the productive scholars, the engaged teachers and the faculty who strengthen our community through their service."

Self-serve station ... for bikes

Bike service station

Campus bikers can air their tires and make repairs at a new bike station strategically placed near the bike rack on the Memorial Union's west side. The stainless steel station includes a mount that lifts bikes up for easy access, and provides eight bicycle tools and a tire pump. All are securely bolted or cabled to prevent theft.

The project was a joint effort, funded by the Government of the Student Body and the Inter Residence Hall Association. Products of Minneapolis-based Bike Fixation, the repair stand with tools costs roughly $1,000, and the pump is about $750. An additional stand-alone pump will be installed near Parks Library later this summer. Photo by Bob Elbert.

Regents move on salary, budget and capital project items

The Iowa Board of Regents convened June 5 in Iowa City with two new members appointed by Gov. Terry Branstad just a day earlier. Larry McKibben (Marshalltown) and Milt Dakovich (Waterloo) will need approval from the Senate next year. Interim board president Bruce Rastetter (Alden) was elected president, serving through April 30, 2014. He succeeds Craig Lang (Brooklyn), whose term expired April 30. Katie Mulholland (Marion) was elected president pro tem.

Salary policy

The board approved Iowa State's FY14 salary parameters for faculty, professional and scientific staff and postdoctorates. Minimum increases for satisfactory or better performance evaluations are 1.5 percent for employees with a salary of $60,000 or less, and 1 percent for those who earn more than $60,000. The P&S pay matrix will be raised 1.25 percent to reflect market changes. Merit employees are subject to collective bargaining agreements made with the state.

Capital improvements

Three campus capital projects received approval, including:

  • A request to move forward with planning for renovations at Marston Hall, which houses the College of Engineering. The project would encompass about 60,000 square feet in the 110-year-old building at an estimated cost of $20 million, paid with university funds and private gifts.
  • A $4 million upgrade and expansion of the electrical substation on Haber Road, using utility repair funds. The budget includes the purchase and installation of a new transformer for the campus electrical system.
  • Changes to renovations in Lagomarcino Hall for the School of Education, increasing the budget by more than $1.3 million (to about $5.1 million). The scope of the project was expanded with additional funding identified by the college.

NGO in Uganda

The board authorized the creation of a branch office in Uganda for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences' Center for Sustainable Rural Livelihoods. With oversight by the university's global programs board, the ISU Uganda Program will seek registration as a nongovernmental organization (NGO) in the country to continue service learning programs, outreach, research and internship and collaborative efforts.

"This is a program that has been in place for over a decade and has strong philanthropic support," said president Steven Leath. "It gives us an opportunity to show our global impact, where we can make a real difference in the world -- especially in developing countries."

Senior vice president and provost Jonathan Wickert said the move would help position the program more competitively for sponsored funding opportunities and university counsel Paul Tanaka outlined the legal advantages for NGO registration, which would help the center conduct business abroad (for example, opening an independent bank account, hiring employees or signing a lease).

This would not be a first for the university. Tanaka said the College of Design's Rome program established NGO status with board approval in 1999.

Bond sales

Bids were accepted for the sale and issuance of refunding bonds, taking advantage of savings through better interest rates. Iowa State bonds included:

  • Utility system revenue bonds, saving an estimated $1.1 million, or $136,000 annually
  • Dormitory revenue bonds, saving more than $559,000, or $65,000 annually

Leath's report

In his report to the regents, Leath applauded the more than 3,700 students who graduated last month, noting that a high percentage already are employed or committed to graduate studies. He also pointed out that some graduating students returned to campus to help prepare for possible flooding due to heavy rains and recognized junior Nicole Donato, who received the ROTC Medal of Heroism for life-saving acts at the scene of a car accident.

“It really makes you feel good to see that in our students,” he said.

Leath told the regents he was pleased to see “great support” for Iowa State across Iowa during the 2013 legislative session, and thanked the legislature for its support, particularly the $12 million appropriation for expansion of the ISU Research Park.

Other business

Additional Iowa State agenda items approved by the board, include:

  • The appointment of David Spalding as College of Business dean, effective Aug. 1, and reappointment Joan Piscitello and Pam Elliott Cain as ISU treasurer and secretary, respectively
  • FY 2014 capital plans that include more than $169 million in new projects at Iowa State
  • Renewal of the operating agreement with Iowa Public Radio, for a term of six years (until June 30, 2019). The agreement includes a requirement to conduct meetings and maintain open records consistent with Iowa's open meeting laws.
  • A lease agreement with the ISU Foundation, allowing ISU to operate the Vondra Geology Field Station in central Wyoming. The geological and atmospheric sciences department has used the facilities for 55 years. The 25-year agreement sets rent at $1,000 annually through June 30, 2038.
  • The donation of a one-acre tract of land from the Committee for Agricultural Development. The tract is adjacent to ISU's McNay research and demonstration farm near Chariton in Lucas County.
  • An amended FY13 operating budget, which reflected an increase of $3.8 million in tuition revenues from record enrollment numbers and savings in utilities ($1.2 million) and supplies and services ($8.9 million). Additional expenditures were made on hourly wages ($2.65 million) and building repairs ($12 million).