Anderson inspires, organizes workshop on spaceflight opportunities

Clayton Anderson teaching

Retired NASA astronaut and distinguished faculty fellow in aerospace engineering Clayton Anderson discusses space travel with his six workshop participants earlier this week. Photo by Dana Woolley.

The week's objectives include scuba certification, wilderness survival, skydiving, flight simulation and a virtual visit to the International Space Station.

Those objectives are all part of a prototype workshop designed to give six students a taste of the operational aspects of spaceflight training and Iowa State educators a first look at preparing students for new employment opportunities in commercial spaceflight. The workshop began Aug. 4 and runs through Aug. 10. It meets daily 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

"We turn out excellent graduates at Iowa State in aerospace engineering, but they don't know how to think like an astronaut," said Clayton Anderson, who retired from NASA in 2013 after two trips to the International Space Station, including a five-month tour of duty and six spacewalks. Anderson earned a master's degree in aerospace engineering from Iowa State in 1983.

Anderson, now an Iowa State distinguished faculty fellow in aerospace engineering, has worked with the aerospace engineering department to develop the prototype workshop in spaceflight operations.

Six undergraduate students were accepted (from 29 applicants) for the non-credit workshop, five from Iowa State and one from Tuskegee University in Alabama. Four of the students are men, two are women.

Anderson said the workshop will expose students to training programs similar to ones he completed as a NASA astronaut. Scuba diving, for example, will teach students how to work in a hazardous environment, while wilderness survival will teach mission planning, expeditionary behavior and teamwork.

Objective: Think operationally

Anderson also wants students to learn lessons in operational thinking. How, for example, could the space industry send tourists to space without requiring them to complete three years of spaceflight training? Or, how could engineers design controls and user interfaces so they're intuitive and easy to learn for a spacefaring neophyte?

Richard Wlezien, professor and holder of the Vance and Arlene Coffman Departmental Chair in Aerospace Engineering, said he's hoping this first workshop can grow into a minor at the university.

Spaceflight, after all, is changing. Private companies are building and launching rockets. They're going to need people trained in spaceflight operations.

"We're at the beginning of commercial spaceflight," Wlezien said. "The next spacecraft ferrying cargo and astronauts to the International Space Station will be built, owned and operated by companies. Eventually, it won't be the responsibility of the federal government to train astronauts to fly these vehicles. There will have to be another path.

"We want to start thinking about educating people to be astronauts."

It started with a water tank

Wlezien and Anderson said the idea for the spaceflight workshop came from a trip to the basement of Howe Hall. A water tank there, 20 feet wide and 20 feet deep, originally was designed for nondestructive testing of materials. With a bit of imagination, the two saw the tank as a possible underwater training facility for would-be astronauts. Before long, Anderson was working with Tor Finseth, a graduate student in aerospace engineering and an aspiring astronaut, to develop a prototype program.

They've planned seven full days of learning, including lessons in the emerging spaceflight industry, decision analysis, leadership, spacecraft subsystems, space physiology and space suits. Plus, there are the lessons in scuba diving, wilderness survival, skydiving, flight simulation and virtual spaceflight.

Anderson already has some ideas to grow the program if it is offered again next summer.

"It's exciting to see the possibilities," he said. "We want to walk before we run -- although I'm ready to run."

Veishea ends at Iowa State; new traditions will begin with 'thoughtful approach'

Iowa State University President Steven Leath today (Aug. 7) announced his decision to permanently discontinue Veishea, supporting the recommendations of the 2014 Veishea Task Force and ending a celebration that has been overshadowed by destruction and violence over the past three decades.

“I understand that it is very sad and disappointing to see this 92-year tradition come to an end, and there may be some who are upset with this decision, but I am not going to continue to put students at risk so that we can preserve what, to many, has become a week-long party,” Leath said at a news conference. “I will not be the president who has to call a student’s parents in the middle of the night to say your child has been critically injured in another Veishea-related disturbance.”


See President Steven Leath's answers to some of the questions posed in his April 7 news conference.

Leath suspended Veishea 2014 in the aftermath of an April 8 late-night disturbance in Campustown. He appointed a task force, led by Senior Vice President for Student Affairs Tom Hill, to examine the celebration's future. The task force submitted its final report and recommendations to the president on July 11.

Leath acknowledged numerous changes to Veishea and attempts to prevent related disturbances since 1992 – efforts that ultimately did not succeed. Citing student safety as his No. 1 priority, a somber Leath said his decision was a difficult one, but it is the right one for Iowa State.

“It’s time to stop the cycle. We can’t continue to do the same thing and expect a different result,” he said.

The Veishea name will be retired. Some traditions associated with the event will likely continue, Leath said, such as a musical theater performance. The university plans to support the 100th anniversary of ISU Theatre this year, he added.

Following the Veishea Task Force’s recommendations, Leath said he remains open to a future university showcase or events, but the content and timeframe are to be determined.

“I look forward to working with Government of the Student Body President Hillary Kletscher and other student leaders, the Faculty Senate and administrative leadership to determine the capacity in which selected previous events and any new events can take place,” Leath said.

“We’re going to take a very thoughtful approach to this as we decide how to move forward to ensure student safety.”

Leath said he also plans to work with members of the Faculty Senate, deans and the Office of the Senior Vice President for Student Affairs to evaluate the university’s Student Disciplinary Regulations, or code of conduct. And, he plans to collaborate with city and neighborhood leaders and local law enforcement to address the 2014 task force’s recommendations related to security, community relations and city ordinances.

Thousands of student leadership opportunities continue at Iowa State, Leath said. With more than 850 clubs and organizations, as well as residence halls, learning communities and student programs, “I am confident that the roughly 150 students who served on the Veishea planning committees will have no trouble identifying other options on campus to gain equal leadership experience,” he noted.

Even as Veishea ends, Leath reiterated his pride in Iowa State.

“I don’t want (this) to, in any way, diminish all of the other extraordinary things we’re doing every day, in every college, department and unit on campus,” he said.


Veishea Q&A

Steven Leath

President Steven Leath responds to a question during his Aug. 7 news conference at which he announced the end of Iowa State's Veishea celebration. Photo by Courtney Jacobsen.


Below are highlights of President Steven Leath's Q&A with central Iowa media members following his announcement that the Veishea event and name were being retired.

Do you have any concerns that events that might take place in the future could be seen as replacements for Veishea, be associated with Veishea, and the same problems could crop up?

Leath: Well, we always have concerns going forward when we change, but I'll clarify and say I don't have any intent of bulking a bunch of events at the same time, especially at the same time in the spring. I think the good things that come out of Veishea and any new ideas will be more evenly distributed.

As far as highlighting other events, do you see that happening even in this academic school year?

Leath: Yes, for example on student theater, we are going forward with the student theater production.

Veishea is done

President Steven Leath announced today (Aug. 7) his concurrence with the task force recommendation to end Veishea and retire the Veishea name.

As far as the task force recommendations, is there anything that stood out that you thought, 'that's not what we're going to do' or 'that's exactly what we want to do'?

Leath: I think probably where I deviate from the task force is they would have been more inclined to take the good of Veishea and package it together in units and have some mini celebrations. I think there's some inherent risk in bulking them together.

One thing that did surprise me on the task force, though, was the unanimous opinion that Veishea really had to end in its current form and the name had to go away.

All large campuses have challenges with student drinking. How does eliminating the name Veishea and not bulking events change that? What, in addition to that, will you need to do to make sure a beautiful spring weekend doesn't turn into a party anyway?

Leath: You're right. There are huge problems across the nation with drinking and inappropriate behavior. We're not the only university going through this. Right now, when freshmen get to this campus, they are under the impression that Veishea is the equivalent of spring break without having to leave campus. So, when you arrive here and think you're going to have that kind of week, it incentivizes that type of behavior. So pulling these things apart and not having a week like that will certainly help.

Are we naïve in thinking there could be no problems? No. That's really why people like the mayor and her team, (DPS director) Jerry Stewart, are going to sit down with me and we're going to go through this. There are a lot of suggestions that came out of the Veishea task force: greater presence in Campustown, video cameras in Campustown, many things we can look at.

I can't tell you as I stand here today that we'll never have another problem at nighttime that's alcohol-related, but we're going to do everything we can to minimize that.

Describe what this process has been like for you, getting that feedback, who's been writing to you. This impacts a lot of people.

Leath: I've heard from a lot of folks on this along the way. It tended to spike when I made the early decision to cancel Veishea, I got quite a bit of email traffic. I read it all, we tried to respond to all of them.

They varied. Generally speaking, alumni from the '50s and '60s tend to want Veishea to continue. I do worry sometimes that they saw and experienced a very different Veishea than we see now. Social media was not available at those times. Most of them are polite and offer their perspective. Many of them offer suggestions and their suggestions oftentimes were dealt with: whether we should have more police, whether we should break up parties sooner or later, whether we should have consequences for students who misbehave, whether we should not have nighttime concerts. Mackenzie Heddens in my office was staffing the Veishea task force and shared copies of every single email and every suggestion that came in, with the task force.

I also have what I call my Hy-Vee survey. When I go to the grocery store, any number of Ames residents will stop me and give me their take on Veishea. Interestingly, the Ames community is essentially 100 percent that this needed to end and that something needs to be done – of those that come up and are willing to speak to me face-to-face.

Was there anything about this year's event and what happened, that led to your decision, or was it the cumulative effect, that once again violence broke out?

Leath: It's both. We had always hoped and thought that much of the problem that we'd seen over the years was due to people from outside of Ames, outside of our student body, and that it had come on the big weekend of Veishea. It was particularly disturbing to all of us on campus that this year it happened on a Tuesday night. Of the first people arrested, they essentially were all our students. So this was us this time. That was very disappointing to many people associated with Veishea, including the students who were running it.

But you add that up and you look at President Martin Jischke, he had a problem, formed a task force, made a recommendation and implemented it. The next president had the same kinds of problems Martin did, formed a task force, implemented a bunch of changes. Then I came in, and I had a bunch of problems and formed a task force, but we're looking at a different result.

Do you have any thoughts on how this will affect student recruiting and donations from alumni?

Leath: Right now, we're not having a problem recruiting students. There will be over 34,000 of them here in a couple of weeks.

Our market research and our student affairs focus groups tell us that high school students now really don't learn about a university by going to the campus initially. They learn about it from the Internet and many other ways. When you think of rural Iowa 50 years ago, it was hugely impactful for a young student to be able to come to campus and see what's on this campus. By and large, high school students going to college have that information already from other sources, so I really don't think it's going to affect recruiting. I hope that the kids who only came here for a Veishea party go somewhere else, quite frankly. So, I'm not worried about that.

With regard to donations, Roger Neuhaus (here today), president of the Iowa State University Foundation, has been very proactive in informing the foundation of this process. We've received input from foundation governors and board members. I think that they love the university, they want the right thing for the university, they want the university's reputation to be good. They were saddened just like I was to see the coverage that was all over the national media this year. I'm confident our supporters will stand behind us on this.

Regents will move forward with third Deloitte contract

Meeting via telephone Wednesday, the state Board of Regents gave board executive director Robert Donley the green light to negotiate a third contract with Deloitte Consulting, the firm coordinating the board's Transparent, Inclusive Efficiency Review (TIER) of the state's three public universities. The new contract, subject to board approval, is for the first (of a proposed three) six-month "wave" in a business case aimed at finding savings and efficiencies in the three regent universities' purchasing operations.

Deloitte defines a business case as an analysis of "an opportunity, how much value it will create (costs and benefits) and what it will take to implement." Deloitte team director Rick Ferraro called a business case "another stage gate toward implementation."

The Deloitte team has projected a potential $16 million to $40 million savings in the universities' purchasing/sourcing units. In response to a regent's question, Deloitte team lead for sourcing and procurement Gary Sutton said the wide range reflects two uncertainties: the competitiveness of the market in any given geographic locale, and the amount of progress toward efficiency already achieved by the universities.

As outlined to the board, the three-wave business case would begin yet this month. Purchasing categories that could be included in the first wave include office supplies, temporary labor, lab supplies, and small package shipping, for example UPS or FedEx.

Noting that a big chunk of Phase 2 – that of reviewing academic programs at the three schools – is just getting underway, regent Larry McKibben said there's also some urgency to move toward implementation. Because the sourcing/procurement business case is ready to go, he said there's no reason not to begin it.

Receipts required

Board president Bruce Rastetter also announced that, going forward, Deloitte team members will provide expense receipts related to their work on the regents' project. Rastetter noted that not providing receipts is, in fact, standard procedure on consulting projects. News coverage and several newspaper editorials in eastern Iowa this week were critical of the lack of specificity in more than $220,000 worth of Deloitte expenses billed to the regents.

"We said we'd be open and transparent in this study," Rastetter said.

FY15 budget approved

The total Iowa State budget for the fiscal year that began July 1 is a proposed $1.3 billion. This includes a $655 million operating budget and a $670 million restricted budget, which includes sponsored research, private gifts, endowment income, sales and services, and auxiliary units such as athletics, residence, printing, parking, bookstore, Reiman Gardens and the Memorial Union.

In his presentation to the board, president Steven Leath outlined Iowa State's plans to use $32.4 million in new revenues. Supplemented with nearly $25 million in internally reallocated dollars, a total of $57.2 million will be invested in the university's top priorities and other commitments this year.

Predicting a student body in excess of 34,000 this fall, he said, "We will give our large student body a great experience as we go forward."

FY15: Spending commitments for new, reallocated funds

Priority Amount
Maintain academic excellence  
      Improve the student experience $8.3 million
      Keep college affordable $10.5 million
      Recruit/retain faculty in key areas $14.7 million
      Maintain a pay plan that rewards performance $7.6 million
Enhance research footprint $4.7 million
Promote economic development $3.7 million
Improve the campus environment $1.6 million
Subtotal $51.1 million
Other commitments  
      AFSCME contract $1 million
      University buildings, infrastructure $4.7 million
      Contracts, compliance, inflation $0.4 million
Total $57.2 million


Green light for gerontology graduate programs

The board approved the College of Human Sciences' request to offer interdepartmental master's and doctoral degrees in gerontology to meet the growing societal demand and student interest in careers focused on older adults. The master's program, with both thesis and project options, would be offered in addition to the college's current Master of Family and Consumer Sciences with a specialization in gerontology. Both programs can begin accepting students this fall.

In other Iowa State-related business, the board approved:

  • An increase to the boiler replacement budget of $4 million, to $42 million, due to higher-than-anticipated costs to purchase the three new boilers, redesign ISU's electrical distribution system and remodel the power plant. The alternative, reducing the project scope to stay within the current budget, would have a negative impact on the operational reliability of the power plant.
  • The sale of $16.3 million in academic building revenue refunding bonds to save $1.9 million in interest on the 2016-27 payments on 2005 bonds that financed improvements to the veterinary teaching hospital, veterinary diagnostics lab and Coover Hall. The savings is due to lower interest rates; the rate on the winning bid was 2.276 percent.
  • A new title for Michael Crum, from senior policy adviser on economic development to the president, to vice president for economic development and business engagement, effective July 1

New attraction developed for Veenker

Pollinator project area at Veenker golf course

John Newton, Veenker golf course manager and superintendent, shows off the area prepped and seeded this spring for the pollinator project. Photo by Bob Elbert.

About 1,800 square feet of space near Veenker Memorial Golf Course's No. 15 fairway has been set aside for the development of a local attraction. The project, part of the Syngenta company's Operation Pollinator initiative, should draw bees and other pollinators by the thousands to the designated area along Squaw Creek.

"There will be no mowing, no herbicide and no maintenance in the area," said John Newton, course manager and superintendent. "There are multiple flower varieties that will bloom throughout the growing season."

Newton said the area was prepared and seeded this spring. Syngenta provided the mix of perennial plants that will attract pollinators -- bees, butterflies and more. The future, he said, might even include the addition of beehives.

"They will be far enough away from the golfers to avoid any problems," Newton said.

Veenker joins a growing number of golf courses that are participating in the international Operation Pollinator project. The initiative is intended to bolster the population of pollinators with a sustainable, native habitat.