Purple highlights

Beautyberry shrub

As the leaves turn red and yellow this fall, a rare glimpse of purple can be found northeast of Sweeney Hall. Beautyberry shrubs (Callicarpa dichotoma "Issai") are found primarily in southern states. Only six are listed on facilities planning and management's campus plant inventory, and are used as teaching plants. According to the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service, the shrub can grow up to eight feet tall (three to four feet in the north). The purple berries are attractive to birds and animals, and early farmers used crushed leaves as bug repellant for them and their livestock. Photo by Rhonda Martin, FPM landscape architect.

New positions approved in high-impact hires initiative

Twenty-nine new faculty positions have been approved in the first year of funding for a presidential initiative to hire faculty in targeted areas.

President Steven Leath launched the Presidential High-Impact Hires Initiative last month to support faculty hiring in areas of strategic importance to the university and Iowa.

The initiative will be funded with $1.5 million in new state appropriations and $500,000 gained from efficiencies within the academic affairs division. Hiring units will provide matching funds.

The new faculty posts include 20 interdisciplinary positions in the areas of big data and translational health, and positions that expand capabilities in areas like communication, policy analysis and real estate economics, or address Iowa State's record enrollment.

"I am excited to see how faculty are planning to work across colleges, and across departments, to expand our capabilities in areas important to Iowa's future," Leath said. "If we combine this initiative with the 85 faculty we already were planning to recruit this year, that means we're looking for more than 100 outstanding faculty to join Iowa State."

The recruiting efforts, if successful, will surpass Leath's stated goal of hiring 200 new faculty in three years.

Senior vice president and provost Jonathan Wickert praised the colleges and units for the quality and collaboration of the hiring proposals.

"The $2 million central investment will be matched dollar-for-dollar by the academic colleges and extension and outreach," Wickert said. "The growth in the tenure-track and tenured faculty ranks resulting from this initiative will make a real difference."

The 29 high-impact hires are listed below. Visit the provost's website for a full listing of this year's open faculty positions.

Strategic importance/high enrollment

*Collaborative hiring with ISU Extension and Outreach


Teaching and research areas

Agriculture and Life Sciences

*Agronomy – integrated cropping systems and precision agriculture


*Community and Regional Planning – real estate economics (in collaboration with the College of Business)


Interdepartmental – scientific visualization and biomedical illustration (in collaboration with the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences' Biological and Premedical Illustration program)


Interdepartmental – geographic information systems, GeoDesign, geospatial technology


Interdepartmental – historic preservation

Human Sciences

*School of Education – post-secondary education, underrepresented populations, and community engagement

Liberal Arts and Sciences

English – ISUComm, written, oral, visual and electronic communication


English – science communication


Political Science – bioeconomy and energy policy (in collaboration with the Bioeconomy Institute)


Translational health


Teaching and research areas


Interdepartmental (two positions) – biological materials, diagnostic, therapeutic and medical devices

Human Sciences

Food Science and Human Nutrition – neurobiology, human health promotion, chronic disease prevention, underserved populations


Human Development and Family Studies – family health, health and wellness, and personal health


Kinesiology – obesity, exercise, physical activity, genetics and the environment

Liberal Arts and Sciences

Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology – systems biology, microbiomes

Veterinary Medicine

Interdepartmental (two positions) – infectious disease, pathogen-host interaction


Big data


Teaching and research areas

Agriculture and Life Sciences

Genetics, Development and Cell Biology – bioinformatics, maize genetics


Plant Pathology and Microbiology – systems biology, biology teaching


Interdepartmental (two positions) –business analytics


Interdepartmental (four positions) – high performance algorithms, complex systems, materials informatics, data visualization

Liberal Arts and Sciences

Computer Science – data mining in software repositories


Interdepartmental – privacy and security in the age of big data


Statistics – data mining from a statistics perspective

Veterinary Medicine

Interdepartmental – DNA sequencing, pathogen detection


A new way to distribute the dollars

A task force asked to review how the state's General University appropriation is allocated each year to the three regent universities began its work last week and hopes to present recommendations to the state Board of Regents in June. It's unlikely that the recommendations would be applied to next summer's state appropriation.

Art Hauptman, a Virginia-based public policy consultant who specializes in the financing of higher education, led the task force's first discussion. Hauptman told the group that "it's very important to have a formula, some mechanism, for taking a politically derived number and allocating it. A formula sends messages to the institutions on where/how to spend the money.

"In Iowa, you've been sort of on auto pilot in that sense," he said.

About half of state legislatures reward their public universities for good performance, most commonly based on graduation rates, Hauptman said. Noting that graduation rates can be manipulated with selective admission practices, he encouraged the task force to consider graduation numbers as a better marker. Within that might be sub groups, such as low-income graduates, minority graduates or graduates with specific skills.

"Use retrospective numbers, not prospective numbers," he urged. "You get the dollars based on what you did last year."

Board of regents staff member Patrice Sayre showed task force members that little has changed in how state funds are allocated since 1946, the earliest year for which she could find records. Since post-World War II, the three regent universities have received general instructional funding in roughly a 40-40-20 split (University of Iowa-Iowa State University-University of Northern Iowa).

Sayre said there aren't guidelines in either the Iowa Code or the board's policy manual on allocating state appropriations among the three schools.

In the 1960s and 1970s, some states began basing at least part of their appropriations on student enrollment, but Iowa has never done that, she said.

For example, basing state funding, at least in part, on undergraduate resident enrollment would benefit Iowa State, which historically enrolls more of this student population than the two other schools. Current board of regents members have demonstrated an interest in making college more affordable and accessible for the state's resident undergraduate students. Sayre's data indicated that if one took last year's (2012-13) General University allocations and factored in only Iowa undergraduates enrolled, the allocation would amount to about $20,000 per resident undergraduate at Iowa, $10,000 per resident undergraduate at Iowa State, and $9,000 per resident undergraduate at Northern Iowa. The regents have never used enrollment data to allocate state funds.

Task force members

Former regent David Miles chairs the five-member task force. He's joined by current regent Katie Mulholland and an appointee from each of the schools:

  • Iowa State: Cara Heiden, Urbandale, retired co-president of Wells Fargo Home Mortgage
  • University of Iowa: Len Hadley, Cedar Rapids, retired CEO of Maytag Corp.
  • University of Northern Iowa: Mark Oman, West Des Moines, retired senior executive vice president of Wells Fargo and member of the UNI Foundation's board of trustees

When former board of regents president Craig Lang announced the task force last April, he asked it to look at the current formula for distributing General University appropriations and find "an agreed-upon set of measurements that may help rebalance the equation and link dollars more directly to priorities."

The task force's work this winter will include discussions with the three university presidents, a higher education leader from a state that uses performance-based funding and staff with the Education Advisory Board, a provider of research outcomes and practical advice in higher education. During April and May, the group hopes to focus on a metrics set and develop its recommendations.

At Iowa State this fiscal year, the General University allocation is about $174 million, or roughly 28 percent of the operating budget. It does not include about $55 million in state funds appropriated directly to ISU units such as the Ag Experiment Station, Cooperative Extension, Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and the ISU Research Park.

The University of Iowa received about $222 million in its General University allocation this year; the University of Northern Iowa about $83 million.

ISU Plan open change period begins Nov. 1

Faculty, professional and scientific staff and supervisory merit employees have an opportunity to review and change their ISU Plan benefits during the annual open change period, Nov. 1-22.

Important dates

  • Nov. 1: Open change period begins at 8 a.m.; participation statements available on AccessPlus
  • Nov. 11: Webcast, 10:15-11:15 a.m.
  • Nov. 22: Open change period ends at 5 p.m.
  • Dec. 6: Benefit confirmation statements available on AccessPlus
  • Jan. 13, 2014: Final benefit statements of 2014 elections available on AccessPlus

What's new for 2014?

The PPO and HMO plans have no changes for 2014. However, there will be a small premium increase for family coverage on both plans. The PPO family coverage will increase $4 to $339 monthly; the HMO family coverage will go up $1 to $112 per month. The cost of all other coverage options remains the same for 2014.

Rates for Avesis vision coverage also are increasing slightly. The 2014 monthly costs are:

  • Employee: $7.26 (an increase of $0.28)
  • Employee and spouse: $13.76 (an increase of $0.53)
  • Employee and child: $14.98 (an increase of $0.56)
  • Employee and family: $19.28 (an increase of $0.73)

There are no plan changes or cost increases for the basic and comprehensive dental plans.


Employees may continue to insure children up to age 26 on their medical, dental and Avesis vision plans for 2014. To qualify, children must be under age 26 on Jan. 1, 2014. Children may be covered even if they are married or have a job with health care benefits. If children already have benefits, the ISU coverage would supplement their primary health plans.

If children turn 26 in 2014, coverage must end Dec. 31, 2014. However, if children are unmarried and enroll as full-time students during the year, they can remain on their parents' ISU health or dental plans until they either get married or stop being full-time students. There may be tax implications for employees who insure students over age 26.

Nonsupervisory merit employees may review and alter their benefits through 5 p.m. Nov. 19.

How to change your benefits

ISU Plan participants may update their medical, dental, flexible spending and Avesis coverage online through AccessPlus. Some changes may require paper forms, which are available on the benefits website or from university human resources (UHR). If you are making no changes, there's no need to update your benefits; your current choices will carry over to 2014. However, the UHR staff asks that you look through your benefits statements to confirm your dependents' information.

More information

UHR is hosting an interactive webcast for ISU Plan participants on Nov. 11 from 10:15 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. To participate, log on to https://connect.extension.iastate.edu/benefits. At the login page, enter your name under the "Enter as a Guest" heading, then click "Enter Room." 

Attention supervisors: Changes ahead for temporary employees

Beginning Nov. 1, Advance Services Inc., a temporary agency in Ames, will be responsible for hiring Iowa State's temporary hourly merit (non-student) employees.

University human resources (UHR) prompted the change to efficiently manage the use of temporary staff. As a result of new language in the collective bargaining agreement between AFSCME and the state of Iowa as well as compliance with the Regents Merit System Rules, only temporary employees hired for positions covered by the AFSCME collective bargaining agreement are impacted by this change.

Employees designated as non-AFSCME, including P&S temporary, supervisory or confidential merit, seasonal, or employees classified as helpers or clerical helpers, are not affected. For those employees and for student workers, supervisors should continue to contact UHR.

More information for supervisors

UHR has created a detailed FAQ (PDF) for ISU supervisors on its website, which covers everything from parking passes to payroll. In addition, the site contains a price guide (PDF) for each position as well as a temporary employee request form (PDF). For additional information, supervisors should contact UHR at 4-3753, your college or unit's human resources liaison or Michele Morales, 233-4333, at Advance Services Inc.

Top 10 undergrad majors

Pre-business* Designation for which a degree isn't awarded


Mechanical engineering


Kinesiology and health


Animal science


Undeclared* Designation for which a degree isn't awarded


Aerospace engineering


Civil engineering


Elementary education


Chemical engineering




Electrical engineering


Computer engineering


*Designation for which a degree isn't awarded

Source: Office of the Registrar

Enjoy dinner and a show at Stephens

Memphis the Musical

The Tony Award-winning, rock-and-roll Broadway musical Memphis brings high-energy dancing, powerful songs and a tale of forbidden love to Stephens Auditorium Oct. 24 (7:30 p.m.). Vist the underground dance clubs of the 1950s to follow the story of a black singer and a white radio DJ with careers on the rise, inspired by real events. Tickets are $46-$50 ($25 for ISU students, $28 for youth), available at the Stephens ticket office or through Ticketmaster. Tickets include admission to a Celebrity Café presentation by John Pemble, arts and culture reporter for Iowa Public Radio. Guests also may purchase a preshow barbecue dinner ($15) at Stephens' Celebrity Café, catered by Hickory Park. Submitted photo.