Cookies, anyone?


Senior Cassidy Rourick tempts the taste buds with these fresh, frosted Valentine's Day sugar cookies, available through Friday for $1.65 each at all cafés and the West Side Market. Treat yourself (or maybe your coworkers), courtesy of ISU Dining. Photo by Bob Elbert. 

Senate hears latest on faculty misconduct case

As part of the provost office's report at Tuesday's Faculty Senate meeting, associate provost Dawn Bratsch-Prince recapped the Palaniappa Molian misconduct case. Molian, a professor in mechanical engineering, pled guilty Jan. 24 to two felony counts for making false statements to the National Science Foundation.

"We want to make sure we share with you what happened, how we responded and what we can all do collectively to minimize the potential for something like this occurring in the future," she said.

She said the false statements were related to reimbursement for travel that was unrelated to an NSF grant and payment for equipment that was available at no cost. Iowa State reimbursed the NSF, and Molian has reimbursed ISU -- a total of about $15,000, according to Bratsch-Prince. Molian, who retired in December, was not granted emeritus status by Iowa State.

"We don't anticipate any significant changes in our policies," Bratsch-Prince said. "When someone chooses to act dishonestly, unethically, there's virtually no way we can prevent that. But, we can review our processes, and that's what we intend to do."

She told senators that documentation is important and "full documentation is the best way to protect us -- individually and as an institution -- from these types of issues."

Other business

  • Bratsch-Prince said an ad hoc committee will review the non-tenure eligible research faculty position approved by the senate in 2008
  • Senators will vote next month on a proposed minor, Teaching English as a Second Language, requested by the English department's linguistics program

Regents tap Deloitte firm to conduct 'transformational' review

The state Board of Regents on Tuesday selected Deloitte Consulting to conduct an efficiency review of the three regent universities that will look at each school individually and the three as a system. The review will include academic and administrative units and consider variables such as staffing levels and operational costs.

The process, minus the implementation phase, could be completed by early next winter, according to regent Larry McKibben, who chairs the board's Efficiency and Transformation Review Committee. The group reviewed 10 proposals and interviewed four consulting companies before recommending the Deloitte firm. Chief of staff Miles Lackey is Iowa State's representative on the review committee.

The board's contract with Deloitte will cost $2.45 million. It outlines an information gathering/diagnostic/benchmarking phase and a design/solution phase. McKibben said faculty would be involved early, in the first four to eight weeks of the process.

"It starts with listening. We will learn through visiting with our university folks," he said.

Board president Bruce Rastetter, an ex-officio member of the committee, said the four firms interviewed talked about "a six to 10 times return on what we invest in this study."

But Rastetter said the study isn't just about saving dollars. Speaking during the board's Feb. 6 meeting, he said he expects "transformational change" in how the universities operate, including new processes, structures, even systems.

Noting that two of the regent universities (Iowa State, Iowa) are among just 62 AAU universities, he said, "We need to ensure the viability of those two schools and ensure that UNI is on solid financial footing. It's important to recognize, celebrate and embrace the strengths of the three universities. We must get enough information about the schools, including how they compare with their peers, in order to make sound recommendations."

Implementing recommendations

Deloitte – or another consultant – could be hired to oversee and monitor an implementation phase. That decision will be made after Deloitte's recommendations for change are known. It will depend, Rastetter said, on how much needs to be implemented and how much can be handled at the university or the board office levels.

McKibben estimated that implementation would take a couple of years.

Deloitte's review comes on the heels of more than a decade of board-directed merging and sharing among the schools in areas such as purchasing, information technology, vehicle fleet operation, employee benefits and public radio operations. The last comprehensive review occurred in 1989, when Peat Marwick completed an organizational audit of the three universities.

Planning will proceed on biosciences building, residence hall

Planning will proceed on several major building projects – including a residence hall and a biosciences facility – following an initial green light from the state Board of Regents Feb. 6. The board approved Iowa State's building projects request list on a 9-0 vote, although regent Ruth Harkin expressed concern about giving the residence department "the opportunity to increase its long-term bond debt."

Harkin said the board lacks a policy guiding on-campus student housing. "We don't know what the needs are at UNI or the University of Iowa, but we're considering increasing housing at Iowa State, which already has more housing," she said.

Board president Bruce Rastetter said he anticipates that the recently under-way efficiency study of the three universities will include student housing.

By spring 2016, residence director Pete Englin said he hopes to open a residence hall east of Buchanan Hall on Lincoln Way that would house approximately 700 students. By comparison, Buchanan Hall houses about 410 students. An early price tag is about $50 million, to be financed through dormitory revenue bonds.

Englin said that since July, the university added apartments for 720 students in Frederiksen Court and leased and operated off-campus apartments for another 500 students. To meet demand, it still opened fall semester with 430 students housed in residence hall dens.

The board approved a request to renew the off-campus leases for 2014-15 and lease more new apartment buildings in southwest Ames to house 564 students.

Englin told board members that the pattern of record-breaking freshman classes impacts his ability to serve students who want to return to a residence hall (not apartment) – as many as 2,000 students each year. He also said the residence department houses fewer than 300 graduate students, but the demand is there to do more for that population.

"What we offer is different from what students can get off campus, and that message resonates with students and parents," Englin said. Retention and graduation rates are higher for students who live in campus housing, he said.

Senior vice president for business and finance Warren Madden reported that the residence department, which is retiring about $10 million in bond debt each year, has the revenue stream to support another residence hall.

Regent Robert Downer asked that, as planning for the hall moves forward, financial projections and debt payment include the whole residence system, not just this building.

Biosciences facilities

The board also gave permission to begin formal planning for two biosciences facilities: A teaching and research facility at the northwest corner of Stange Road and Pammel Drive (current site of Industrial Education II) and an addition to the east side of Bessey Hall that provides introductory and advanced teaching spaces. The project will renovate spaces in a handful of other buildings and eliminate about $5.8 million in deferred maintenance needs.

"You've toured our facilities. You know this is important to Iowa State," Madden told board members.

He said the biosciences at Iowa State involve about 450 faculty members from more than 25 departments and more than 6,000 students, two-thirds of whom remain in Iowa to work after graduation.

The project's estimated cost of $80 million includes $25 million in private gifts and a proposed $55 million in state appropriations (including $2 million in planning funds in FY15).

Football stadium, Scheman building

Plans to replace the south end of Jack Trice Stadium and improve the area south to Reiman Gardens also may proceed. By the home opener in fall 2015, the athletics department intends to "bowl in" the south end of the stadium with permanent seating – at least some of it with an indoor option – and replace the video/sound board. Madden said the stadium capacity goal is about 60,000 seats. Currently, the stadium has a capacity of just under 57,000 seats, but about 12,000 of those are counted as hillside seating.

Alumnus Roy Reiman and his wife Bobbi provided a lead gift of $25 million for the estimated $60 million project. Madden said approximately half is for the stadium, the other half will improve the entrance to Reiman Gardens and add parking to address game-day demand.

Pending Ames voters approving a $19 million bond referendum on March 4, Iowa State can plan for a renovation/upgrade ($6.5 million) and addition ($32.5 million) to the Scheman Building at the Iowa State Center. The university would split construction costs with the city of Ames. The key feature of the addition would be about 30,000 square feet of high-ceilinged "flat floor space."

The university and city would jointly operate the expanded building (similar to its joint operation of the ice arena), and the Ames Convention and Visitors Bureau has pledged to provide operating subsidies estimated at up to $250,000 annually.

Madden said it's in Iowa State's interest to provide modern meeting facilities for groups that want to be affiliated with the university, particularly youth groups who are attracted to Ames' non-urban environment. He told board members Iowa State has no plans to do this project without the city's involvement.

Friley dining center

Finally, planning will begin to convert the former dining room and kitchen at Friley Hall into a food court, adding an east entrance. ISU Dining director Nancy Keller said the estimated $5 million project would help ease the demand for food service on central campus, particularly at midday. She estimated student diners there might be 75 percent residence hall tenants and 25 percent off-campus students. Currently, about 4,000 off-campus students have campus food plans, she said.

Budgets approved for Marston, Lagomarcino projects

The board gave its final green light to renovation plans and a budget ($24.1 million) for Marston Hall, the home of the College of Engineering. The plan reserves the two lower floors for high-traffic uses, such as classrooms and a student services mall, and moves the college's administrative units, including the dean's office, to the upper two floors. The project will eliminate all of the $2.5 million in deferred maintenance needs in Marston. The proposed financing of the project is $15.9 million in university funds and $8.2 million in private gifts.

Madden said Marston will be vacated this summer through summer 2015.

Interior demolition work began in early January in Lagomarcino Hall's north wing to consolidate administrative offices, advising offices, classrooms and support spaces for the School of Education around a new entrance and lobby. The board approved another revised budget ($5.4 million, an increase of about $340,000) to reflect construction and furnishing costs for additional spaces.

Chinese students welcome Year of the Horse

Chinese spring festival

Chinese graduate students in the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication took time off from academics Feb. 7 to celebrate their most important holiday -- the Chinese Spring Festival. The Hamilton Hall celebration welcomed the Year of the Horse, which began Jan. 31, and included song, dance, poetry, games and hands-on cooking.

Michael Bugeja, director of the Greenlee School, initiated the first celebration in 2011.

“We celebrate Chinese New Year for a variety of reasons: To remind our international students that they have a temporary home here in Hamilton Hall, but also to expose all of our students to one of the world’s richest traditions, the various customs, arts, foods and festivities of this most important holiday,” he said.

There are 50 graduate students currently enrolled in the Greenlee School, and more than half come from China. Photo by Bob Elbert.


CIO Davis discusses the 'web of things,' IT initiatives

"We didn't get the flying cars. We didn't get the anti-gravity suits or anything like that. But I think we got something that's actually pretty cool."

That's how chief information officer Jim Davis launched a Wednesday afternoon briefing on the future of information technology. The talk, held in the Memorial Union, was part of the Professional and Scientific Council's open forum series.

Following are some of Davis' observations about where IT is going, in general and here on campus.

The web of things

The "pretty cool" reference above was Davis' nod to a concept that has become known in recent years as the "Internet of things" or "the web of things." The core idea, Davis said, is that we have all kinds of different devices connected to the Internet -- implantable defibrillator devices, cars, washing machines, coffee pots.

"Interesting things are going on with the web of things," Davis said. "These devices are always on. They're always connected to one another in this information grid."

The good result is all these connections provide many services. The bad is the security issue, Davis said, citing a news story about a hacked refrigerator sending spam.

Universities find strength in numbers

Collaboration among higher education communities is transforming IT services, Davis said.

"Universities used to do pretty much everything ourselves," he said. "We either bought a system or we built it ourselves. It was a tremendous expense, a tremendous venture to try to do those things one at a time.

"In just the last few years, the higher education community figured out that if we banded together on these projects, we had a tremendous amount of leverage. Not only could we multiply each other's efforts to achieve some pretty amazing results, but we could actually impact what vendors were doing. We could get features that were needed for higher education applications."

Tangible results of such higher ed collaborations at Iowa State are:

  • CyBox, a storage system that meets FERPA security requirements
  • BOREAS, a high-capacity, go-anywhere fiberoptic network put together by Iowa State and the universities of Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin
  • Kuali business systems, developed by a consortium of 70-plus universities

"Rewriting business systems from scratch is not something that we'd want to do," Davis said. "But working together with other universities makes all the sense in the world."

IT's "to-do" list for FY15

Following are some key areas of focus for campus IT:

  • Improve the capacity and reliability of infrastructure. There are 80,000-100,000 devices on the ISU network daily.
  • Expand the wireless network. The plan is to go from 1,200 access points to 3,500 access points and, over time, move wireless from the "N" technology to soon-to-be-available "AC" technology. It's a $4.1 million investment and the group that administers student technology fee funds has agreed to provide $2 million -- if the rest of the funding is provided through the university budget process. "We're hopeful about that and we've started on some of the engineering for the new system," Davis said.
  • Continue to refine and build Kuali systems. The Kuali student project, which involves such things as curriculum management, registration and and academic planning, will be a longterm project and is in the planning stage now.
  • Work on efficiencies. One example is continued expansion of the central virtual server farm so that individual departments can rent (rather than buy) servers. Another is work on business processes to eliminate paper.
  • Improve classroom technology. Recommendations are due soon from a comprehensive learning needs assessment study done last fall.
  • Provide more research computing storage. "Our goal is to be very relevant to research faculty," Davis said. "The cost to achieve the scale needed today requires that we work together to leverage resources."
  • Explore Office 365. A number of universities are moving to Microsoft Exchange in the cloud. A pilot program is under way at Iowa State.
  • Improve information security. "We've got a new data classification policy rolling out. And we'll be taking steps to help the campus feel a bit more secure about sensitive university information," Davis said.

Council discusses work-life topics

Members of the Professional and Scientific Council set aside time to discuss work-life issues and tuition reimbursement during the group's Feb. 6 meeting.

Stacy Renfro and Kipp Van Dyke, who serve as council representatives on the university's work-life advisory committee, distributed a work-life questionnaire and facilitated a discussion following small group conversations. Renfro said feedback from the discussion would be shared with the advisory committee.

"We went through this [questionnaire] as a committee and put our heads together to make a best estimation of what we have," Van Dyke said. "That will be our starting point for where we're going with some of the potential action items for the committee."

Renfro said tuition reimbursement is among the committee's priorities. Currently, Iowa State funds up to three college credits per semester at ISU or accredited U.S. colleges and universities.

"This [committee] identified moving from three-credit reimbursement to four-credit reimbursement for those employees on campus," Renfro said. "We identified that as a priority, we've been working on that."

Council members declined to make a recommendation. Discussion raised further questions about funding allocations and portability. Renfro said more information and research will be collected for continued discussion at the next meeting.

Other business

Tera Lawson, program coordinator in the School of Education, was voted the council's next president-elect in a runoff election.

A romantic evening of bluegrass music


Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn. Submitted photo.

Forget chocolates and flowers. How about treating your Valentine's Day sweetheart to an evening of bluegrass music instead?

Banjo players Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn will take the stage at Stephens Auditorium on Feb. 14 for a 7:30 p.m. performance. They will be joined by The Del McCoury Band, whose leader and namesake is a 2011 inductee into the International Bluegrass Association Hall of Fame.

Fleck has been nominated for 30 Grammy awards, winning 14. Washburn is a Nashville-based claw hammer banjo player, who pairs folk elements with unique sounds. The Del McCoury Band received the 2006 Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album.

Chocolaterie Stam and Snus Hill Winery will serve free chocolate and wine samples to ticket holders from 6:45 p.m. until show time in Stephen's ground floor lobby. 

Tickets, $32 and $39 ($23 for youth; $20 for students), are available at the Iowa State ticket office and through Ticketmaster