A decorated day


University Professor of horticulture Gail Nonnecke was one of three faculty to receive Iowa State's first Morrill Professor designation during the annual faculty and staff awards ceremony Oct. 2 in the Memorial Union Sun Room. Here, Nonnecke is congratulated by President Steven Leath (left) and Provost Jonathan Wickert. The Morrill professorship recognizes excellence in teaching in undergraduate, graduate or extension and outreach programs. Other inaugural Morrill Professors are chemistry professor Thomas Greenbowe and Leo Timms, professor of animal science and of veterinary diagnostics and production animal medicine. Approximately 40 faculty and staff members were honored during the ceremony. Photo by Bob Elbert.

Committee offers plan to enhance institutional excellence

Move forward on the president's goal to hire at least 200 top faculty. Create a central writing team for big grant proposals. Establish a presidential scholars program to help recruit Ph.D. students. These are a few of the recommendations from a committee that's seeking ways to enhance Iowa State's excellence in research and scholarship.

The President's Committee on Enhancing Institutional Excellence recently released its recommendations, which have been endorsed by President Steven Leath. The committee, co-chaired by senior policy adviser Tahira Hira and vice president for research and economic development Sharron Quisenberry, began its work during fall 2012. Quisenberry retired in July and animal science professor and Office of Biotechnology director Jim Reecy recently was appointed to co-chair the committee with Hira.

Following are action items that were recommended by the committee. For additional information, see the president's office website.

  • Continue the Presidential Initiative for Interdisciplinary Research program. The program provides three-year funding that will enable four ISU research teams to pursue large grants for multidisciplinary research efforts of national and international importance.
  • Move forward with Leath's goal to hire at least 200 high-quality faculty. Eighty faculty were hired for fall 2012 and 60 more for fall 2013. Additionally, the provost's office recently announced a matching grant program to hire more faculty.
  • Add more staff in the office of the vice president for research, including a central writing support team that focuses on large multidisciplinary grants, and additional staff in the office of sponsored programs administration and the office of responsible research
  • Establish a presidential scholars program to fund first academic year stipends for high-quality entering Ph.D. students. A central fund established this year is expected to provide $20,000 stipends to 20 new, entering graduate students.
  • Provide a bridge funding incentive program to recruit and retain Ph.D. students and post-docs
  • Establish a committee to lead the process of identifying and nominating candidates to the National Academies
  • Increase the long-term visibility of ISU research through a new digital repository managed by the university library
  • Make a list of the high-impact journals, by academic field, to encourage faculty and staff to target those journals when publishing research results and other papers
  • Provide competitive central funding to encourage faculty to seek arts and humanities fellowships

Council recommendations aim to sustain top student experience

A council charged with ensuring that Iowa State's high-quality student experience remains high, even as enrollment surges, presented its initial recommendations to President Steven Leath in June.

The president subsequently endorsed the Student Experience Enhancement Council's  recommendations to address high-priority, near-term issues.

The council, appointed last fall by Leath and led by senior policy adviser Tahira Hira, tackled urgent needs first, focusing its early recommendations on accommodating swelling numbers of students in student orientation, student housing and on CyRide.

The council also is asking students about their experiences in and out of class. In an online survey this month, some 6,600 undergraduates will be asked to rate such things as quality of instruction, classroom facilities, student organizations, recreational activities, technological amenities and more.

During FY14, the council, co-chaired by Hira and dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences Beate Schmittmann, will update Leath on implementation of action items. The council also will identify medium- and longer-term issues and recommend action items to address them.

Action plans

Following are action items that were recommended by the committee. For additional information, see the president's office website.

  • Implement short- and long-term laboratory solutions for basic science laboratories
  • Identify existing computer classrooms that could be converted to online testing centers
  • Provide one-time grants to faculty members who develop high-quality flipped classrooms* or other innovative approaches that reduce demand for large classrooms
  • Expand the Writing and Media Center to meet growing demand
  • Incorporate academic enrichment activities in Position Responsibility Statements and consider these activities in promotion and tenure.  Provide mentoring opportunities for new faculty members to become involved with student academic enrichment experiences.
  • Within colleges, increase staff positions for academic enrichment activities, such as academic advising and career services.  Also, increase staff positions for enrichment activities in the Graduate College and such programs as the Honors Program, and Program for Women in Science and Engineering.
  • Secure additional support for CyRide to reduce crowded buses and consider other alternatives that might positively impact traffic on campus. (This fall, CyRide added 10 extra hours of service weekly and hired 30 new drivers.)
  • Use the results of the university-wide diversity asset inventory and audit to support and promote diversity on campus
  • Upgrade the capacity and coverage of the campus wireless network
  • Enhance classroom learning technologies to support increased use of blended and online learning
  • Complete a classroom improvement assessment to identify classroom needs, prioritize future remodeling projects and, subsequently, develop a multi-year funding plan
  • Support growth in campus visits and summer orientation by identifying space and developing university-wide priorities for hosting summer events on campus


* "Flipped classroom" refers to a teaching model that flips the traditional routine of lecture in the classroom followed by homework at home. In the flipped classroom model, students view online lectures and materials at home, before class. Class time is used for exercises, projects, discussions and further explanation of materials.


Marching band prepares for Thursday outing

Band practice

Cyclone Football Varsity Marching Band director Steven Smyth (in lift) adopts a bird's-eye view to survey a rehearsal session earlier this week. The band's dedicated practice facility is west of the Communications Building in the northwest corner of campus. After nearly three weeks since its last performance at Jack Trice Stadium, the band was polishing its halftime show for the Iowa State-Texas football game Thursday evening. Photo by Bob Elbert.

Leath covers many topics in radio interview

Local implications of a possible federal government shutdown, spiraling upward enrollment and the challenges it creates, more meaningful national standards for universities and diversity on campus were among the topics President Steven Leath addressed during a 20-minute interview on Iowa Public Radio earlier this week. Leath was a guest on IPR's River to River Sept. 30.

The interview is available in the River to River archives. Following are a few excerpts from Leath's interview with host Ben Kieffer:

On the effect of a federal shutdown on prospective Iowa State students:

We don't know how this will affect our Pell grants, which fund our most needy students, and some of our student loan programs. We worry about the people who need help the most to get a public education, being able to find it. So, that's hugely problematic.

The other part of this is, we are a huge research university and we have many, many graduate students who contribute to solving many of the problems our society faces, improving the quality of life and making us competitive with other countries in terms of innovative new ideas and products. Much of the graduate student support at our university comes from federal grants and federal support. So, long term, it'd make it much harder for us to make good on our promise to reduce student debt. We really need the federal government as a partner in this effort.

On the specific challenges of serving a record-sized student body:

The first thing for student environment needs this year turned out to be student housing. We do consider that to be a huge challenge with the number of students we have here, making sure we have high-quality places for them to live and eat.

Second would be classroom space, especially laboratory space. Our laboratories -- for example, our biology laboratories -- are open until 10 at night during the week to accommodate our growth. So we need an adequate number of classrooms but very high-quality classrooms.

Another big one would come down to faculty. Our student body has grown nearly 25 percent over the last 10 years and our faculty has grown about 8 percent. To keep that really high-quality education and to keep a reasonable burden on our faculty who have been asked to do more and more with less, we need to hire more faculty, so we're aggressively doing that.

Our faculty and staff get it. They want to do a tremendous job for the students and the state. They've been putting in more and more time, and more and more effort, but there's a limit to how much we should ask any employee to do. And that's one of the reasons we're pushing to get more help.

On Iowa State's success with recruiting international students (11 percent of this fall's student body):

One, they want to feel comfortable where they go, and we have a very welcoming atmosphere with faculty and staff that care. At the undergraduate level, our learning communities make them feel at home because they have a core peer group that supports them as soon as they get here.

But interestingly, despite all we hear in the popular press of online distance education and new ways of teaching, there's still tremendous interest among young people in being at an institution where there's lots of other students living on campus and doing things side by side. The fact they can come to Iowa State and get all the modern learning experiences, but at the same time, live in a large campus community with the look and feel of a traditional campus makes it ideal for many students.

On President Barack Obama's proposal in August to use student outcomes (debt levels, on-time graduation rates, performance in the workplace) in national ratings of universities:

We're fairly optimistic that if standards are put in place, that Iowa State will look even better. If you think about the things the president emphasized: making college affordable, we're the least expensive of all the institutions in our peer group. If you look at outcomes, 94 percent of our students are getting jobs within six months of graduation. If you look at access, we have a regents index for application that's blind from socioeconomic standards and other standards. So, if a student does well in school, he or she can come to Iowa State. The advantage of this, in addition, is that we take very, very bright, capable students – National Merit Scholars and others – but it also gives the average student a chance to come to Iowa State and be molded into someone that can really contribute to society and the workforce. I think if we go with some types of national standards and they're meaningful, Iowa State will look even better and better.

Rico-Gutierrez is reappointed as Design dean

Senior vice president and provost Jonathan Wickert has reappointed Luis Rico-Gutierrez, dean of the College of Design, to a second five-year term, effective in July 2014.

"Luis is a tireless advocate for the College of Design, working with students, faculty and staff to create a vision for the future," Wickert said. "He is expanding academic and research programs, and forming new collaborations across the campus community."

During his first term, Rico-Gutierrez modernized the college's programs and structure through a challenging budget period. He also has improved relationships with alumni, friends and industry partners, and reinvigorated private fundraising efforts.

"It is my privilege to continue serving as dean," Rico-Gutierrez said. "I look forward to collaborating with the college's incredibly talented group of students, faculty and staff to enhance undergraduate and graduate programs, and to grow scholarly production and sponsored funding levels for our research, creative activities and service efforts."

Review of the dean

Wickert expressed his thanks to the College of Design's Committee to Review the Dean, which managed the comprehensive review process. The group was chaired by graphic design associate professor Lisa Fontaine. Joining her were:

  • Arthur Croyle, associate professor, integrated studio arts
  • Carol Faber, associate professor, graphic design
  • Michael Martin, associate professor, landscape architecture
  • Michael Miller, information technology manager, College of Design
  • Francis Owusu, professor and interim chair, community and regional planning
  • David Ringholz, associate professor and chair, industrial design
  • Jihyun Song, associate professor, interior design
  • Janis Terpenny, professor and chair, industrial and manufacturing systems engineering
  • Kimberly Zarecor, associate professor, architecture

Wickert also noted his appreciation to faculty and staff in the college who participated in the review process, either by completing an electronic survey or contacting a review committee member.

Rico-Gutierrez, a professor of architecture, earned a bachelor's degree from the Instituto Tecnologico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey in Queretaro, Mexico; a graduate degree from Fundacion Rafael Leoz in Madrid, Spain; and a master's degree in building science from Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh. He is professionally accredited in Mexico and Spain.

Prior to joining the Iowa State faculty in July 2009, he served as associate dean of Carnegie Mellon's College of Fine Arts and associate head of its School of Architecture.

OSHA changes require employee training

The federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has updated a 30-year-old safety regulation that impacts ISU employees who work with certain chemicals, both inside and outside of labs. Those employees must participate in required training detailing the changes by Dec. 1.

What has changed?

OSHA has updated the Globally Harmonized System (GHS), which affects both the Hazard Communication Standard (Chemical Right to Know) and the Occupational Exposure to Hazardous Chemicals in Laboratories (Lab Standard). The changes align the United States' regulations with global standards. Specifically, the changes address:

  • Safety Data Sheets (SDS) -- New standardized information replaces the old Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS)
  • Chemical labels -- Chemicals and products with hazardous ingredients have new labels, which combine signal words, hazard and precautionary statements, and pictograms that represent different chemical hazards
  • Training -- Employees must be trained on the changes by Dec. 1

Who should be trained?

ISU employees who work with hazardous chemicals but do not work in labs are required to complete the "Worker Right to Know" training; lab employees must complete the "Core Concepts" training.

Both courses are available online and must be completed by Dec. 1. However, the Iowa Division of Labor could cite ISU departments if employees are not trained by Dec. 1. Staff from Environmental Health and Safety will work with departments to ensure all employees receive the proper training.

There is no cost to employees for the training, which should take less than an hour to complete.

For more information about the OSHA changes or the required training, contact Jim Gunning, 4-1899.