And the winner is ...

Pumpkin painting entries

In its 14th year, the Fredericksen Court Community Council's pumpkin painting contest drew approximately 45 entries. ISU Dining's Hawthorn Market and Café donated the pumpkins, which were judged in three categories -- Halloween, Iowa State and creativity. Winners received Target gift cards. Entries are on display this week in Hawthorn and in a photo gallery on the Iowa State Facebook page. Photo by Erin Rosacker.

ISU Plan open change period begins Nov. 3

Faculty, professional and scientific staff, and supervisory and confidential merit employees may review and update their ISU Plan benefits during the annual open change period, Nov. 3-21. D-base (predoctoral and postdoctoral) associates, who recently were added to the ISU Plan, also may alter their medical and dental benefits during this open change time.

Important dates

  • Nov. 3: Open change period begins at 8 a.m.; participation statements available on AccessPlus
  • Nov. 11: Live webcast, 10:15 a.m.
  • Nov. 21: Open change period ends at 5 p.m.
  • Dec. 5: Benefit confirmation statements available on AccessPlus
  • Jan. 4, 2015: Final benefit statements available on AccessPlus

Status quo

The 2015 ISU Plan medical (PPO and HMO), dental and Avesis (eyewear/contacts/Lasik) benefits remain the same as last year. There is no cost increase for the 2015 benefits. For a reminder of the current plan's coverage and costs, visit the university human resources benefits website.

How to change your benefits

ISU Plan participants may update their medical, dental, flexible spending and Avesis coverage online through AccessPlus. Some employees may be unable to use AccessPlus, and 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 2015. Contact the UHR service center, 294-4800, with questions about changing benefits online.

More information

UHR is hosting an interactive live webcast for ISU Plan participants on Nov. 11, beginning at 10:15 a.m. To participate, log on, enter your name under the "Enter as a Guest" heading, then click "Enter Room." A recording of the broadcast also will be available on the UHR website

Nonsupervisory merit open change period begins Oct. 31

Nonsupervisory merit employees may review and change their benefits during the annual open change period, Oct. 31-Dec. 1.

Dates to remember

  • Oct. 31: Open change period begins at 8 a.m.; participation statements available on AccessPlus
  • Nov. 11: Live webcast, 9 a.m.
  • Dec. 1: Open change period ends at 5 p.m.
  • Dec. 5: Benefit confirmation statements available on AccessPlus
  • Dec. 19: Final benefit statements available on AccessPlus

What's new for 2015?

Health and dental benefits for nonsupervisory merit employees will remain the same for 2015. The cost for family dental coverage will continue to be $39.14 per month. Employees may not make changes to their dental plans for 2015, unless there is a qualifying event (i.e., marriage, birth of a child, etc.) Employee costs for the Iowa Select and Program 3 Plus family health plans will bump up slightly for 2015. Iowa Select family coverage will increase to $288.32 monthly (a $17.68 increase); the Program 3 Plus family coverage will rise to $294.32 per month (a $17.90 increase).

How to make changes to your benefits

Nonsupervisory merit employees may alter their medical, flexible spending and Avesis (eyewear/contacts/Lasik) coverage online through AccessPlus (dental coverage also may be dropped). Enrolling in or increasing employer-sponsored basic or voluntary life insurance will require paper forms. If you prefer to make all your benefits changes on paper forms, contact university human resources (UHR) at 294-4800. If you aren't making changes to your benefits, you do not need to complete any forms.

More information

UHR is hosting a live, interactive webcast for nonsupervisory merit employees Nov. 11 at 9 a.m. To participate, log on, enter your name under the "Enter as a Guest" heading, then click "Enter Room." A recording of the broadcast also will be available on the UHR website

Large course plans move into second year

An Iowa law mandating continuous improvement plans for large courses is in its second year of implementation. The legislation applies to all three state Board of Regents universities.

Last fall, undergraduate courses with annual enrollment (fall, spring and summer, combined) of more than 300 students were required to measure student learning outcomes and develop continuous improvement plans. This fall, courses with 200-plus students are included. That threshold will be lowered to 100 students in 2015-16.

By the numbers (2014-15)

Courses: 166
Student (unique) enrollment: 26,576
Student (total) enrollment: 151,570

At ISU, 300 courses (166 last year and 134 more in 2014-15) have been impacted by the legislation. The student numbers are measured by course total enrollment, not by the number of students per section. For example, a course that has 10 sections with 30 students in each section meets that 300 student total.

Following the 2013-14 fall and spring semesters, faculty were surveyed about the impact of the continuous improvement plans. Results were shared with colleges and departments, and a summary (PDF) was submitted to the regents in July.

The Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching offers faculty best practices and strategies to use in the continuous improvement plans, both online and in faculty workshops.

Karen Zunkel, director for undergraduate programs and academic quality in the provost's office, said more specific data will be available following this second year of implementation.

"The continuous improvement plans are an ongoing process and, over time, we expect to share specific examples of the types of changes faculty members are making -- and the results they are seeing -- in their courses," Zunkel said.

Some of the changes faculty planned in response to the legislation applied to:

  • Course delivery
  • Assessment strategies
  • Student activities
  • Time spent on specific course content
  • Class instructions or assignments

In the survey, faculty reported greater consistency across courses with multiple sections because of the law. Instructors collaborated to clarify course objectives and identify mutual outcome assessment strategies.

"The continuous improvement plans formalize the ongoing efforts of faculty to improve student learning in their courses," Zunkel said. "As faculty learn from their experiences, it is anticipated the types of assessments used and the outcomes being addressed will evolve. The plans will allow faculty to document specific examples of the impact of their efforts on student outcomes and improvement of their courses."

Regents consider third tuition freeze

As the state Board of Regents last week reviewed a proposal for modest tuition increases next year, regent Larry McKibben announced his intent to propose a third straight tuition freeze when the board votes on the topic on Dec. 3. The 2015-16 tuition proposals received a first look at the board's Oct. 23 meeting in Iowa City.

Citing high student debt at graduation as a key motivator, McKibben said, "we can do better. It [freeze] can be done. We have six weeks to talk about this."

Regent Ruth Harkin, long a proponent of low to no tuition increases, said she supports freezing tuition for in-state students, but asked board staff to prepare data that compares resident and nonresident tuition rates if the former remain unchanged. She said it's not in the state's interest to let the gap between the two get too large.

Student regent Hannah Walsh told her colleagues that "nonresident students are important to us," citing the tuition revenue, diversity and excellence they contribute to the universities. Iowa and Iowa State's student body presidents both are nonresidents, she noted.

Quality has a cost

President Steven Leath said he's sensitive to access and affordability for Iowa families, but he also reminded board members of Iowa State's escalating enrollments in the last five years and the obligation to provide all students with an excellent education.

"Access and affordability without quality is no bargain. I would ask and encourage the board to provide the resources to assure quality at Iowa State and our sister institutions," Leath said.

Iowa State's request is a 1.75 percent increase for resident students (undergraduate and graduate), 1.2 percent for out-of-state students and 3.2 percent for all veterinary medicine students.

Government of the Student Body president Hillary Kletscher told board members that ISU students have told her they could work with a small increase, though "another tuition freeze would be great." If there is an increase, she said students would like to see state support for the universities increase by the same proportion.

Proposed ISU tuition increases, 2015-16 (two semesters)




  Increase Tuition Increase Tuition











Vet Med






Transparent, Inclusive Efficiency Review update

On the heels of open forums this month on the three university campuses to review eight business cases proposed by the Deloitte consultants, the board asked each president to summarize reactions to and comments so far. The board is scheduled to make implementation decisions about the eight business cases at a special Nov. 14 meeting (2-3:30 p.m., telephonic).

Leath said initiatives such as the TIER study create a cultural shift that requires buy-in, not only to complete changes tied to TIER but efficiencies identified by campus teams as well. As evidence of that buy-in, he mentioned two TIER-related suggestions previously begun at Iowa State:

  • 1,000 desktop computer stations have been replaced with thin client devices, with the goal of "rapidly moving that to 2,500"
  • 800 servers across campus were consolidated into a central shared facility, with 40 additional server spaces identified for possible consolidation

Not all of the eight business cases contain such "straightforward, refined" proposals, he noted. Specifically, the two related to human resources and finance functions require "substantially more analysis and design before we're accurately able to predict how good they'll be and how we should implement them," Leath said.

He proposed that the universities gather more information locally and work with the board's TIER project manager Mark Braun to decide "what is the appropriate design and mechanism to make implementation achievable and worthwhile."

Wisconsin's flexible study option

Aaron Brower, interim chancellor of the University of Wisconsin Colleges and UW Extension, video conferenced in to summarize Wisconsin's 10-month-old flexible option, which uses competencies to assess what students know and can demonstrate. The mostly online program is designed for an estimated one million adult workers in the state who have some college credits but no degree. In its first year, 250 students are enrolled in 10 programs – in health care, business and IT -- at five UW campuses.

The faculty role, he said, is to develop competencies, assessments and study content and to oversee assessments. The program relies on current faculty and the university system's strong academic reputation, Brower said. Wisconsin created a new master's degree-level position, academic success coach, which blends the duties of academic adviser, tutor and life coach. These coaches point students to learning resources and help them prepare for assessments.

Building projects

The board gave a green light to four Iowa State construction projects:

  • Final approval for a $4 million plan to construct faculty research laboratories in Hach Hall basement space intentionally left unfinished when the building opened in 2010. Private gifts will cover the cost of the project.
  • Final approval for a $6.2 million residence department plan to remodel the unused Friley Hall dining room into a food court/dining center with indoor seating for 300 and outdoor terrace seating. The cost will be covered by department funds ($1.7 million) and dormitory revenue bonds ($4.5 million).
  • Adding $3 million to the project budget (to $27.1 million) for the renovation of Marston Hall, due to a competitive construction market and bids that exceeded project estimates. The additional cost will be covered by private gifts and College of Engineering funds.
  • Begin planning for summer 2015 improvements to the exterior walls of Larch residence hall to improve insulating value and reduce condensation, similar to the work done at Willow Hall last summer. The estimated project cost of $3.3 million will be covered by department funds.

Academic business

The board also heard oral annual reports on economic development/tech transfer efforts and strategic plan progress at the regent schools.

The board gave final approval to these academic program changes at Iowa State:

  • Name change for the integrated studio arts department in the College of Design, to art and visual culture, to better align with the program's curriculum as well as terminology used at peer universities, effective immediately
  • Name change for the interdisciplinary M.S. and Ph.D. programs, to genetics and genomics (currently is genetics), to better reflect the curriculum and faculty research, effective spring 2015
  • Termination of M.A. and Ph.D. programs in history of technology and science (history department), due to reduced department funding, faculty retirements and inability to maintain the graduate programs, effective after two remaining students graduate (expected this fall)
  • Name change for a Ph.D. program in the history department, to rural, agricultural, technological and environmental history (currently is agricultural history and rural studies), effective spring 2015. This will integrate elements of the discontinued Ph.D. program, above.

Art, science converge at international conference

Iowa State will host 225 participants from across the United States, Europe and the Middle East for the 2014 national conference of the Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities (a2ru). The conference will allow faculty and others doing innovative work at the edges -- where disciplines meet and overlap -- to share tools, research, creative work and networks. "Edge Effects" will be Nov. 5 - 8 in the Memorial Union, ISU Library and College of Design.

Design dean Luis Rico-Gutierrez helped found a2ru, a partnership of 30 institutions that are committed to supporting arts-integrative interdisciplinary research, curricula, programs and creative practice among the arts, sciences and other disciplines.

Broad topics during the conference include:

  • Valuing creativity
  • Crossdisciplinary divides in research institutions
  • Platforms for exchange between the arts and sciences
  • Teaching at the intersection of music and design
  • Integrating computer science and the performing arts
  • Using creativity to cultivate compassion
  • Immersive and interactive technology in the preservation and engagement of built cultural heritage, which involves the cultural history in buildings and structures
  • Funding and forming new interdisciplinary collaborations
  • Communicating STEM through theater
  • Interdisciplinary arts, experiential learning and community engagement

ISU activities

Several Iowa State faculty members will give presentations at the conference. President Steven Leath and senior vice president and provost Jonathan Wickert will make remarks.

Other conference activities include a:

  • Performance of a dramatic collaboration by two Iowa State faculty members
  • Juried exhibition of work by Design students
  • Tour of the College of Engineering's Wind Simulation Testing Laboratory
  • Performance of electroacoustic and visual music from Iowa State's Lipa Festival of Contemporary Music

See the full schedule.

Search for chief diversity officer begins

The national hunt for a chief diversity officer began recently with President Steven Leath's appointment of a search committee, led by dean of students Pamela Anthony.

The committee's first task will be to hire a search firm and develop a position description for the chief diversity officer, Anthony said.

"As the search continues, we'll keep the university community informed and seek its assistance in building a strong list of nominees and eventually meeting and evaluating finalists," she said.

In 2013, Leath commissioned The Jackson Consulting Firm, Madison, Wisconsin, to conduct a comprehensive study of Iowa State's diversity programs and initiatives. Among the firm's recommendations was creating a chief diversity officer position.

Search committee

  • Pamela Anthony, dean of students (chair)
  • Keith Bystrom, university counsel
  • Kristen Constant, College of Engineering
  • James Dorsett, international students and scholars
  • David Harris, athletics
  • Himar Hernandez, extension and outreach
  • Robin Kelley, equal opportunity
  • Emma Molls, library
  • Julie Nuter, university human resources
  • Calli Sanders, athletics
  • Jonathan Webb, world languages and cultures/student disability resources

Tragically funny 'Crimes' opens Oct. 31

Crimes of the Heart promo photo

ISU students (left to right) Meghan Berkland, Samantha Koontz and Annie Feenstra are the MaGrath sisters in ISU Theatre's Crimes of the Heart. Photo by Nancy Thompson.

The complications and tragedies in the lives of three sisters are the focus of the latest ISU Theatre production, Crimes of the Heart. The play opens its two-weekend run Friday, Oct. 31.

Dark comedy is woven into the stories behind the personal faults and predicaments of the sisters -- Babe (junior Meghan Berkland), Lenny (junior Samantha Koontz) and Meg (senior Annie Feenstra) -- who gather at their Mississippi childhood home. Scandals unfold and consequences of the past catch up to the extremely flawed, yet endearing, characters.

Juniors Noel VanDenBosch (Chick) and Noah Allyn (Doc Porter), and senior Taylor Diles (Barnette) also star in the production, directed by assistant professor of music and theater Brad Dell.

Tickets, available at the Iowa State box office and through Ticketmaster, are $18 ($16 for seniors, $11 for students). Show times at Fisher Theater are 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Sundays.