The sum of the parts

Design sculpture

Look closely at the life-sized sculpture on the College of Design east lawn, and you will discover it is constructed of discarded farming implements. As part of a semester-long, independent study project, senior design major Nathan Daniel rummaged through scrap heaps and salvage bins to create the 700-pound work of art. The sculpture, titled "Metempsychosis," will be on display through Dec. 21. Photo by Amy Vinchattle.

It's graduation weekend

graduation ceremony

The all-university graduation ceremony begins at 1:30 p.m. Dec. 21 in Hilton Coliseum.
File photo.

An estimated 1,819 Iowa State students are expected to complete degrees this fall and will be honored at graduation events this weekend. The feat marks the first time the list of fall semester degree recipients will top 1,800. The previous mark, 1,784 degrees awarded, was set in 2002.

The university will hold a single commencement ceremony on Saturday, Dec. 21 (1:30 p.m., Hilton Coliseum). Graduate and undergraduate students from all seven colleges are invited to participate. The invitees include an anticipated 108 doctoral, 199 master's and 1,512 bachelor's degree recipients.

Commencement speaker: Peggy Whitson


Astronaut Peggy Whitson

Iowa State will award an honorary Doctor of Science degree to NASA astronaut and Mount Ayr native Peggy Whitson. Whitson is being recognized for her contributions to the U.S. and international space programs, and for her service to young people, particularly as a role model for young women who pursue careers in the science, technology, engineering and math fields. She will give the commencement address.

Whitson was selected as an astronaut candidate in 1996 and completed two years of training. Over two missions, she spent a total of 377 days in space -- the longest for a woman -- aboard the International Space Station. The first, 185 days in 2002, included a four-hour spacewalk to install and check equipment. She was the commander of the second, 192 days in 2007, which featured five spacewalks. One of the astronauts who rotated in during her six-month stay was ISU alumnus and distinguished faculty fellow Clayton Anderson.

Whitson earned a bachelor's degree in biology and chemistry (1981) from Iowa Wesleyan College, Mt. Pleasant, and a doctoral degree in biochemistry (1985) from Rice University, Houston.

College events

Six of the colleges will honor their graduating students at ceremonies or receptions Friday evening or Saturday morning. The complete list of college events is on the registrar's website.

At approximately 4 p.m., following the all-university ceremony, ISU Alumni Association staff will host a free reception for all graduates and their families at the ISU Alumni Center.

Winter break: A few reminders

Winter break begins in just a few days, and that means campus will be quiet for the next couple of weeks. Iowa State will be partially closed for a 10-day period during the break, Dec. 23-Jan. 1. This period includes:

  • Three university holidays (Dec. 24, 25 and Jan. 1)
  • Five regular work days (Dec. 23, 26, 27, 30 and 31)
  • A weekend (Dec. 28-29)

Open or closed?

Winter break schedules

Employees who choose not to work Dec. 23-31 may use vacation time or take unpaid leave. The shutdown is optional; the university is not requiring departments to close. Units involved in critical services, maintenance and research will remain open. If you need to get into your building, bring your key or access card. University officials expect many ISU facilities will be closed and locked during the 10-day period, similar to holidays and weekends.

While the shutdown isn’t mandatory, university officials encourage employees to take some time off during this slow period. Plus, it saves the university money. Last year, Iowa State reduced its energy costs by about $63,000 during the partial shutdown.

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

Remember these tips when you leave for winter break to keep your office energy-efficient and safe.

Turn off the lights 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
  • 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

Service still is key

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.

Be prepared

FPM crews will work reduced hours during the partial shutdown. Snow removal will be limited from Dec. 23 through Jan. 1, which means parking lots and secondary buildings 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.).

Distributing state dollars based on performance

Iowa can take a lesson from the starts – and stops – of states that have experimented with distributing their higher education appropriations according to some kind of student performance matrix, says a leader from a national consulting group. Matt Pellish, director of member education for the Washington, D.C.-based Education Advisory Board, met Dec. 17 with the state Board of Regents' task force studying a performance-based revenue model for Iowa's three regent universities.

Performance-based state funding has been around since the early 1990s, Pellish said, with a dozen or so states abandoning it after four years or less, for various reasons. Since 2010, there's been renewed interest in the concept and nearly 30 states currently use it or are in the process of developing a plan.

"There is no one correct model," Pellish noted.

He said states need to develop a performance matrix that reflects that state's university system and education priorities. Some of the many variables could include:

  • Portion (if not 100 percent) of state funds subject to the performance-based funding formula. If it's too low, there's little incentive to compete for it.
  • Priority student populations or programs that might be weighted
  • Should intermediate achievement – or just completion of the goal -- be rewarded? (For example, two-year progress toward graduation.)
  • How to "count" transfer students in any matrix
  • Different missions at different schools

Pellish said Tennessee is the state everyone is watching. It's been using performance-based funding the longest and its model is very competitive, with 100 percent of state funding tied to performance measures. A model that's too competitive may damage collaboration within a state university system if schools become reluctant to share the practices behind their success, he noted.

Iowa demographics, student financial aid

Three Iowa State professionals also presented to the task force. Assistant professor of sociology and extension rural sociologist David Peters said that Iowa's population is concentrated in a triangle that includes Des Moines, Iowa City and Waterloo at its vertices. Peters said trends indicate there will be fewer college-age people in Iowa in 2020, but that a higher percentage of them will attend college, whether two- or four-year schools. He also said the college-eligible pool will remain overwhelmingly white, but that there will be growth in the Asian, black and Hispanic minority groups.

Director of student financial aid Roberta Johnson and professor of human development and family studies Tahira Hira provided an update on student financial aid and student debt at graduation. Hira said the complexity of student financial aid hinders many students and families from using it well, if at all. Misperceptions persist, for example, that financial "aid" doesn't include loans that have to be paid back.

Johnson said another factor in the student debt equation is the relatively low level of state financial assistance available for Iowa's public university students, forcing them to rely more on loans. After fluctuating for a decade, state work-study dollars disappeared in 2009 and haven't returned. About $124,000 in state-funded Iowa Grants was awarded to Iowa State students this year, less than 1 percent of the total financial aid picture.

Johnson said the average debt at graduation for Iowa State undergraduates has been steadily declining since a peak in 2008 at $31,616. For last spring's graduates, the average was below $30,000.

Undergraduates with debt: Class of 2013


Average debt

Percent graduating
with debt

Iowa State






Northern Iowa




Up next

The task force's next scheduled meeting is Jan. 21, when it plans to meet with a representative of Tennessee's university governing board. The group hopes to include the three regent presidents at its February session. The goal is to bring recommendations to the board of regents in early June.

Open or closed?

Following is a list of closures for high-traffic campus facilities during winter break. You may want to call ahead or check websites before trekking to campus.

Winter break

Are you prepared?

Athletics ticket office, Jacobson Athletics Building

Closed: Dec. 23-27, Jan. 1

Holiday hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Dec. 30; 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m., Dec. 31

Brunnier Art Museum (290 Scheman)

Closed: Dec. 21-Jan. 2

Christian Petersen Art Museum (1017 Morrill)

Closed: Dec. 21-Jan. 12

Farm House Museum (central campus)

Closed: Dec. 21-Jan. 12

ISU Dining

Winter break hours (cafés, dining centers and C-stores)

ISU Postal and Parcel

Operating normal business hours (except for university holidays). Service will continue to accessible buildings. Details.

Lied Center/Beyer Hall/State Gym

Winter break hours

Memorial Union

Closed: 5 p.m., Dec. 23 through 8 a.m., Dec. 26. Normal business hours on Jan. 1.

  • Hotel Memorial Union: Closed: 5 p.m., Dec. 23 through 8 a.m., Dec. 26
  • Maintenance Shop: Closed: Dec. 20-Jan. 10
  • Workspace: Closed: Dec. 20-Jan. 12

Reiman Gardens

Closed: Dec. 25 and Jan. 1

University Book Store

Closed: Dec. 24-25, Jan. 1

Winter break hours: 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Friday; 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Saturday; closed Sunday

University Library (all sites)

Winter break hours


Hilton will be hopping during break

Georges Niang reverse layup vs. Iowa

Campus activity may cool down during the three-week winter break, but there will be plenty of action heating up Hilton Coliseum. Prior to the semester's start on Jan. 13, there will be four women's basketball games, two men's basketball contests, two gymnastics competitions and one wrestling match:

  • Dec. 28, women's basketball vs. Holy Cross (Cyclone Challenge), 3:30 p.m., $5-$12
  • Dec. 29, women's basketball vs. Saint Louis or William and Mary (Cyclone Challenge), 1 p.m. or 3:30 p.m., $5-$12
  • Dec. 31, men's basketball vs. Northern Illinois, 6 p.m., $20
  • Jan. 5, gymnastics vs. Penn State, 2 p.m., $4-$5
  • Jan. 7, men's basketball vs. Baylor, 6 p.m., $30
  • Jan. 8, women's basketball vs. Texas Tech, 7 p.m., $5-$12
  • Jan. 10, gymnastics vs. Illinois State and Michigan, 6:30 p.m., $4-$5
  • Jan. 11, women's basketball vs. Oklahoma State, 6 p.m., $5-$12
  • Jan. 12, wrestling vs. Oklahoma, 1 p.m., $5-$10

Ticket specials are available for the Dec. 31 men's basketball game (two-for-one and pick your price) and Jan. 11 women's basketball game (five for $5). If you're entertaining the entire family during the holidays, group ticket prices also are available. Photo courtesy of athletics communications.