MacKay Hall renovation nears completion


Work continues in MacKay Hall on a $3.23 million renovation, which began in May 2013 and is slated for completion this July. The project includes the transformation of the Catherine J. MacKay Auditorium (above) into a state-of-the-art classroom with new stadium seating for 271 people, rotational chairs for better student interaction, a large projector screen in the stage area and four monitors mounted throughout the space.  The vestibule outside the auditorium is shedding its 1970s decor in favor of original 1926 details, including dark-stained wood panels and flooring, and a white ceiling.

A new welcome center (below) for College of Human Sciences students is nestled behind the auditorium and features wood-paneled doors originally used as a stage partition in the auditorium. The space houses two offices and a reception area for orientation sessions and other presentations. The room's capacity is about 40.

As part of the renovation project, old stadium classroom seating in 213 MacKay has been replaced with chairs on wheels for group discussions. Two large monitors and four smaller ones are placed throughout the room, and white boards are affixed to the walls. The room accommodates 36 students. Photos by Bob Elbert.


Leath receives diversity report, recommendations

Provide incentives for colleges and units to increase diversity. Create a chief diversity officer position. Work to improve the social climate for diverse groups.

These are some of the recommendations from The Jackson Consulting Firm, the consulting group that has been reviewing Iowa State's diversity programs and resources over the past year.  They're included in the firm's final report, submitted recently to President Steven Leath.

Jerlando Jackson, founder of The Jackson Consulting Firm and distinguished professor of higher education at University of Wisconsin, Madison, is an ISU alumnus and donated his services to conduct the review and develop the final report.

The study (see online PDF) includes results of interviews, focus groups and surveys and compares diversity attributes among land-grant and Big 12 universities.

Status of women report

A report on the status of women at ISU also is under review by the president.

Leath said he will thoroughly read and consider both the diversity report and another recently released report -- the "Status of Women at Iowa State University, 2014." Additionally, the president will appoint a working group, with representatives from each division, to study both reports, consider the recommendations and come up with a plan for implementation within the coming months.

Updates on the working group and implementation timeline will be posted on the Diversity Audit website as information becomes available.

"I appreciate the hard work of Jerlando Jackson and the University Committee on Women subcommittee," Leath said. "We'll make good use of these reports as we work to strengthen the diversity and welcoming character of this university."

Good practices

The report notes several "current practices of excellence" on campus. These include:

  • Aligning groups based on affinity. Recent institutional support for forming employee groups based on affinity characteristics has been transformational for participants, the report said.
  • Institutional emphasis on recruitment. The report notes that the institutional infrastructure in place for attracting diverse candidates -- students and employees -- appears robust and effective.
  • Conducive climate. Participants from target groups perceive that the campus climate is supportive of various forms of diversity and difference.
  • Strong town-gown. Community and city representatives expressed strong support for working with ISU to improve experiences for diverse groups.


Jackson offers these recommendations:

  1. Support groups in diversity-related endeavors. Provide resources and experts to help individual groups and organizations implement effective diversity agendas.
  2. Be transparent in moving diversity efforts forward. Hold regular listening sessions, invite suggestions and include student leaders in planning.
  3. Provide incentives for colleges and units to increase diversity among students and employees. Offer resources for targeted hires.  Promote a diversity-related award structure. Establish a visiting scholars and administrators program to expose diverse candidates to Iowa State.
  4. Conduct an institution-wide policy review to sharpen commitment to diversity. Assess current policies for relevance.
  5. Assess and meet the social needs of diverse groups on campus. Collect data on the groups' social needs. Collaborate with the community to cultivate businesses and organizations that can address these needs.
  6. Focus equally on retention and promotion of diverse groups. Consider partnerships with such institutions as historically black colleges or women's colleges. Consider using learning communities to foster adjustment. Increase support for employee mentoring, pay increases and spousal and partner benefits.
  7. Invest in a chief diversity officer or chief inclusion officer. Consider including the officer on the president's cabinet.
  8. Ensure that central administration reflects diversity expected in the campus population.  Include the voice of diverse groups in future hires of senior administrators.  Explore options, such as external boards and special advisers, that allow diverse groups to be heard by the president.

Status of women report IDs improvement but also inequity

A just-completed report on the status of Iowa State women concludes that they remain underrepresented in key populations (top-level professional and scientific, tenured faculty and undergraduate students) and face unmet needs in mentoring, professional development and policies that support work-life balance. The report also concludes that many faculty, staff and students in the university community lack basic knowledge about diversity and diversity initiatives, which creates an unwelcoming environment for many in underrepresented groups – including women, ethnic minorities and LGBT.

"Status of Women at Iowa State University" (PDF), completed by a subcommittee of the University Committee on Women, builds on a 2002 report of the same name. One of the report's authors, associate professor of sociology and UCW vice chair Anastasia Prokos, said the intent was to provide a report that is helpful to university leadership – including deans and department chairs.

Diversity audit

A report on ISU's diversity programs and resources also is under review by the president.

"Our goal was to be constructive, to point out progress the university has made since 2002, in addition to making recommendations for actions that would improve the environment for women at Iowa State," Prokos said. "Leaders should be able to see trends in their units."

Prokos noted that Iowa State's entry into the National Science Foundation's ADVANCE program in 2006 resulted in, among other things, more data collected about ISU women. So, while the 2002 baseline report focused largely on women faculty, the 2014 report has separate sections on women merit and P&S employees, post docs, faculty and administrators, as well as sections for women undergraduate, graduate and professional (veterinary medicine) students. Each section contains statistics, discussion of issues and recommendations for that group.

In addition to annual data collected by the institutional research and registrar's offices, the report includes information from the 2011 University Life Survey, the 2012 (American Association of Universities Data Exchange) Faculty Satisfaction Survey and a 2012 survey of women graduate students conducted by the Graduate College.

An implementation plan

President Steven Leath said he will thoroughly read and consider both this report and a diversity audit (PDF) recently completed by The Jackson Consulting Firm. Additionally, the president will appoint a working group, with representatives from each division, to study both reports, consider the recommendations and come up with a plan for implementation within the coming months.

"I appreciate the hard work of Jerlando Jackson and the University Committee on Women subcommittee," Leath said. We'll make good use of these reports as we work to strengthen the diversity and welcoming character of this university."

Improvements over 12 years

The report noted these improvements achieved since 2002:

  • The proportion of women faculty at all levels of the tenure track has increased from 
25.9 percent to 31.2 percent
  • Women now hold six of nine university dean positions. While 26 percent of department chair 
positions are held by women, they remain underrepresented in this key position which 
impacts departmental culture.
  • The proportion of women graduate students increased from 40.4 percent in 2002 to 43.6 percent 
in 2013


The report includes targeted suggestions within these four broad recommendations:

  • Improve the representation of women at Iowa State
  • Increase opportunities for mentoring, training and professional development
  • Improve work-life balance
  • Improve faculty, staff and student knowledge about diversity and diversity initiatives


Teams to provide updates on presidential research initiative

It's been nearly a year since seven research teams received presidential awards to pursue projects of ground-breaking potential. In a one hour-presentation, hosted by President Steven Leath on May 9, the teams will provide brief updates on their progress. The presentation begins at 1:30 p.m. in the Memorial Union Oak Room.

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


See the Presidential Initiative for Interdisciplinary Research site for more info on the seven projects.

Through the initiative, four teams collectively will receive up to $4.5 million over three years to pursue competitive grants to fund large-scale, multidisciplinary research efforts.  Three teams each received up to $100,000 to pursue funds in emerging areas.

Following are the teams presenting at the forums.

Large-scale projects

  • Crop Bioengineering Consortium: An urgent challenge is providing sufficient food, feed, fiber, biofuels and biorenewable chemicals for the world's growing population. Technologies that complement traditional management and breeding, but dramatically accelerate the production and testing of improved crops, are in critical demand. The Crop Bioengineering Consortium, comprising researchers from several universities, will use a transformative genome engineering technology to build a platform that allows for rapid integration of promising traits into crop plants. The technology generates bioengineered crops that don't contain transgenes, minimizing regulatory hurdles for bioengineered germplasm.
  • Global Food Security Consortium:  This project also tackles the challenge of feeding the world and protecting natural resources -- through advancing  sustainable crop and livestock science and transferring technology to the private sector and communities. The Global Food Security Consortium, a worldwide initiative centered at ISU, brings interdisciplinary, innovative approaches through focused research efforts in five platforms: germplasm and seed systems; climate-resilient healthy crops; climate-resilient healthy animals; post-harvest and utilization; and policies, regulations and trade.
  • Systems design of nanovaccines: Nanovaccines are based on tiny particles that can send pathogen-like signals to immune cells, helping to prevent disease and boosting the immune system. The research team's  "systems" approach integrates nanotechnology, materials science, immunology, clinical science and social science into nanovaccine design, manufacture and commercialization. Investigators from five universities, two national labs, three research institutes and five companies have been assembled to collaborate on vaccine development.
  • Vaccine research against antigenically diverse viruses: Antigenic variation is a defense mechanism that viruses commonly use to evade host immune responses. Viruses such as HIV-1, influenza and porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome are good examples, and they epitomize the next level of scientific challenge in the fight against infectious diseases. Investigators at ISU and other institutions are working to develop new strategies for producing efficacious, cost-effective vaccines against these viruses. The proposal calls for the establishment of two centers -- one for AIDS research and another for influenza research and surveillance -- within several years.

Proof-of-concept projects

  • Computationally Engineered Plant Institute: ISU engineers and plant scientists are joining forces to design better crops that tolerate climate change, produce bigger yields and feed more people. The researchers are developing new science at the interface of plant sciences and engineering. With excellent programs in plant sciences and engineering, Iowa State is positioned to lead the world in interdisciplinary research on crop design.
  • The Language of Writing in STEM Disciplines: This project lays the groundwork for creating 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 and to develop computational methods for assessing discipline-specific writing.
  • Identifying potential RNA therapeutic targets in infectious disease: This research seeks to identify new potential RNA therapeutic targets for treating infectious disease. The team of interdisciplinary researchers is pursuing a strategy for integrating new high-throughput experimental technologies with computational methods to identify and characterize novel targets for RNA-based therapies. If successful, they could be employed widely to treat viral bacterial and fungal infections in both plants and animals, including humans.

Garments with a purpose


Students in Elena Karpova's "Creative Thinking and Problem Solving" spring class took on a big problem last month: garbage. In 20 teams, Karpova's 49 students identified an environmental problem caused by consumers (think junk mail, picnic ware or plastic shopping bags) and designed a garment to showcase the problem. Their April 25 "Trashion Show," a unique observance of Earth Month, featured one-of-a-kind skirts, dresses and accessories.

A three-judge panel reviewed all 20 designs and awarded distinctions to three of them (pictured clockwise from top left):

  • Best Impact: A dress made from 1,000 Starburst wrappers (highlights littering, especially of candy wrappers), designed by Tory Pfannkuch and Chelsea Chapko
  • Best in Show: A dress with a bodice of aluminum foil and skirt of 800 plastic forks (highlights waste associated with convenience eating), designed by Sowoon Park and Jiyoon Hwang
  • Best Couture: A dress made of newspaper and magazine pages (to encourage readers to look for a paperless option), designed by Mallory Roseen

Also pictured (lower left) is an ensemble created from plastic bubble wrap and the (red) bottoms of plastic cups by student designers Ashton Pederson, Jessica Jensen and Marissa Gibson.

The Trashion Show was hosted by the Aveda salon, North Grand Mall, whose outreach specialist is a College of Human Sciences alumna. Photos by Bob Elbert.

Veishea open forums are under way

About half of the estimated 60 people who attended an April 25 open forum shared feedback with Veishea task force members. All of the speakers supported the continuation of the annual celebration.

The public forum was the first in a series to be held over the next few weeks. Four more are in the works, including:

  • Tuesday, May 6, 5-7 p.m., Memorial Union (room TBA)
  • Wednesday, May 7, 2-4 p.m., Memorial Union Great Hall
  • Sunday, May 11, 6-8 p.m., Ames City Hall council chambers, 515 Clark Ave.
  • Tuesday, May 13, 6:30-8:30 p.m., ISU Alumni Center ballroom 

Veishea task force members Melissa Pierce, Campustown Property Management general manager (May 6); Micheal Owen, ISU University Professor of agronomy (May 7); Chris Nelson, Ames city councilman (May 11); and alumnus Dwayne Vande Krol (May 13) will serve as moderators.

A video archive of the April 25 open forum is available on the task force website. Live webcasts will be available for the May 7 and May 11 open forums. Viewers can submit comments in real time or send feedback directly to the task force.

Weekly open meetings

The Veishea task force is scheduled to meet on Thursdays through June 19. The meetings are open to the public; check the task force website for updates on time and location. A video archive of the April 24 inaugural meeting also is available online.

The task force's final report and recommendations are due to President Steven Leath in late June.

Regents approve faculty promotion, tenure awards

Promotion and tenure awards for 76 Iowa State faculty cleared the last hurdle April 24 when the state Board of Regents approved the list without discussion. The list includes 44 cases of promotion to associate professor with tenure, two tenure-only awards, and 30 promotions to full professor. For most (9-month, B-base) faculty, the changes take effect Aug. 16; for A-base (12-month) faculty, the effective date is July 1.

Salary discussions

As a run-up to salary policy discussion planned for the board's June 5 meeting, leaders of employee groups not represented by a union were invited to address the board. The group included Faculty Senate president Veronica Dark and Professional and Scientific Council president Steve Mayberry. Dark noted that, over time, faculty salary increases haven't kept up with inflation. In fact, ISU faculty salaries are the second lowest in its peer group of 11 schools. Faculty morale is low, she said, and not helped by a new misperception that student debt at graduation is at least partially attributable to high faculty salaries. She urged board members to speak out to "clear this misconception" and to "move forward with meaningful salary increases."

Mayberry pressed board members to work harder to get the regent universities included in a state salary appropriation. He said morale among P&S staff mostly is very good, but that salary compression, market equity for specific P&S jobs, low starting salary ranges and the capacity to retain exceptional employees are concerns.

Parking permits

The board approved parking permit increases for the year that begins July 1. Iowa State's increases, ranging from $3 to $12, are included in the chart below.

Parking permit



24-hour Reserve






General staff*












Memorial Union









   Fall, Spring









*Includes residence department, Ames Lab staff permits

The board also approved increases to several parking fines. The illegal parking fine will increase $10, to $40; the fine for parking in a reserved space without the appropriate permit will increase $5, to $30; and the fine for illegally exiting the MU ramp will increase $15, to $65.

Construction requests

Iowa State will begin planning to turn 10,500 square feet of Hach Hall unfinished basement into laboratory space for new chemistry faculty. When Hach opened in 2010, this space was reserved for future development to attract top-rated faculty to the department. The estimated $4 million cost already has been raised in private gifts.

The athletics department received permission to contract with Daktronics to design, fabricate and install a video scoreboard in the south end of Jack Trice Stadium. The existing message boards and scoreboards in the stadium and Hilton Coliseum were purchased from Daktronics, and the new and existing systems will be integrated. The estimated $2.3 million proposal is part of a larger plan to "bowl in" the south end of the stadium and improve the open space between the stadium and Reiman Gardens.

University funding for public radio

The board approved Iowa Public Radio's request to return to FY13 funding levels from the three universities -- $944,800 total – for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Since 2011, IPR has been in a plan to reduce its university funding to $0 by FY17, in turn increasing support from large donors. It is receiving $826,700 this year and was scheduled to receive $708,600 in FY15, $236,200 less than the revised amount.

Citing a period of interim leadership for the organization, IPR board chair Mary Kramer told board members the additional funds would help new executive director Myrna Johnson develop a sustainable funding model and launch a large donor effort. Iowa State's share this year is $238,018; its FY13 contribution was $272,021.

Superintendent selection

Following interviews on April 23 with three finalists, the board selected Steven Gettel, superintendent of the Montana School for the Deaf and Blind since 2001, to serve as superintendent of the Iowa School for the Deaf, Council Bluffs, and the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School, Vinton. He is scheduled to begin his duties on Aug. 1, and succeeds Patrick Clancy, who in December announced his intent to retire this summer.

Board elections

The board also reelected Bruce Rastetter and Katie Mulholland, board president and president pro tem respectively, to two-year terms, effective May 1.

In other business, the board approved Iowa State's request to:

  • Raise residence system rates for the 2014-15 year (1.0-1.5 percent for campus halls and apartments). Campustown and southwest Ames apartments operated by the residence department will have new rates next year that are 10-14 percent above this year's. The department used Frederiksen Court rates this year because the off-campus option materialized after FY14 rates were set.
  • Raise ISU Dining rates for the 2014-15 year. Semester meal plans will go up an average of 1.35 percent and meal blocks will rise 1.5 percent. The public "door rate" at any of the dining centers will go up 25 cents, to $8.75 for breakfast and $10.75 for lunch and dinner.
  • Phase out the Master of Public Administration program in the political science department due to lack of funds needed to retain the full-time faculty required for accreditation. Program phase-out to accommodate enrolled students is expected to take two more years.
  • Establish a Master of Engineering program in energy systems engineering, an interdepartmental, online, non-thesis program designed for practicing professionals

UBS will launch new e-textbooks pilot this fall

Attention faculty members: Are you interested in learning new technologies? Do you enjoy engaging with students on collaborative e-book features? Then the University Book Store (UBS) would like to talk with you about participating in phase one of a digital e-book pilot project, beginning fall semester.

UBS and Direct Digital, a division of Missouri Book Services, are sponsoring the pilot. Unlike some past pilots, this project lets students choose whether they want to purchase the e-book or printed text (e-books typically cost about half of a regular textbook).

The pilot project's goals are to:

  • Provide a measured and scalable way for schools to move to digital course materials
  • Aid schools in incorporating more meaningful technology into course curriculum while helping keep the cost of textbooks low
  • Gather critical information on how students' buying habits are affected by digital availability of course materials
  • Evaluate how students learn using digital content through engagement and collaboration with other students and faculty
  • Determine what benefits the students receive from digital content versus traditional print texts

Check out this video to get a better idea of what the Direct Digital e-book platform looks like.


The e-books include a note-taking option that allows students to share notes electronically; they may keep those notes whether or not the e-book expires. The e-books also contain built-in study aids, such as bookmarks, a dictionary and text-to-speech and search functions. The e-books may be viewed online through Internet browsers and apps on computers, tablets and smartphones. They also can be downloaded for offline viewing.

The e-books are compliant with section 508 of the American with Disabilities Act, meaning they are accessible via assistive reader software.

Faculty members who would like to participate in this pilot project should contact UBS textbook buyer/supervisor John Wierson at 4-3501. There is mandatory training provided by Direct Digital. Phase two of the pilot will continue next spring.

ISU Theatre ends on a personal note

Nan McKinley

My Grandparents in the War, an original play by ISU Theatre lecturer Matt Foss, is based on the experiences of Foss' maternal grandparents, Don and Nan (pictured) McKinley. Contriubted photo.

ISU Theatre wraps up its spring lineup with a four-day run of My Grandparents in the War this week. The production opens Thursday at Fisher Theater.

My Grandparents in the War is an original production, written and directed by Matt Foss, a lecturer in the music and theater department. Foss based the story on the experiences of his maternal grandparents, Don (junior Dan Poppen) and Nan (senior Elizabeth Thompson) McKinney.

"It is as close of a retelling as I know how to make of my grandparents' lives, our experiences as their lives came to a close, and my grandmother’s struggle with dementia and Alzheimer's," Foss said.

Scenes range in time period and location, including the McKinneys' west Texas home and Don's war-time Army experience in the South Pacific. Foss said the nontraditional structure of the play allows the stories to "fade and blend" and reflect the impact of Alzheimer's disease on the memories.

Tickets for My Grandparents in the War are $17 ($15 for seniors, $9 for students) and available through Ticketmaster or at the Iowa State Center ticket office. Show times are 7:30 p.m. May 1-3, and 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 4.