Comforting canines


Hundreds of students are taking library study breaks this week to decompress with cuddly canines prior to next week's finals. The comfort dogs event, sponsored by University Library, features certified therapy dogs in a variety of breeds and sizes from Therapy Dog International and Canine Good Citizen (American Kennel Club). The event is free for students, and continues today and Friday from 1 to 5 p.m. in 192 Parks Library. Photo by Christopher Gannon (photo gallery).

Leath: FY16 budget will be shaped by four priorities

Iowa State's operating budget for the year that begins next July will be shaped by the four broad priorities President Steven Leath first presented two years ago during his installation: Ensure a successful experience for students, enhance the university's research profile, support state and regional economic development, and ensure a welcoming, safe and inclusive campus environment. Leath noted then that the priorities would be multiyear, requiring repeated investments of money and effort.

In a memo last month, Leath reiterated the four priorities to the three senior vice presidents who are developing their division budgets in the next few months.

"My focus since coming to Iowa State primarily has been on raising the profile of the university. Over the past couple of years we have made great strides and established a lot of momentum in moving Iowa State to the next level," Leath wrote.

Preliminary budgets are due in the president's office on Feb. 5, 2015, with updated proposals due April 10. The 2015 Iowa Legislature goes to work on Jan. 12.

Presidential initiatives

In his memo, Leath also referenced the May reports of the Student Experience Enhancement Council (PDF) and the Committee on Enhancing Institutional Excellence (PDF), groups working since November 2012 to develop strategies that reinforce the broader priorities. Leath told his senior VPs that their FY16 budget proposals should include investments in items from those groups' action plans. These include proposals for more academic advisers, further development of the library's digital repository, additional faculty positions in high-demand programs, staff positions to support larger, more complex research projects, efficient use of classroom spaces, IT upgrades and more student support services, among others.

Additional revenue in FY16

Most of the new dollars in the FY16 operating budget will come from two sources: state appropriations and tuition increases. Tuition rates for the 2015-16 academic year, approved last week by the state Board of Regents, will generate estimated additional revenue of $3.5 million at Iowa State.

For the fiscal year that begins July 1, Iowa State has requested the following increases in state funding:

  • A 1.75 percent inflationary increase (about $4 million total) to operating appropriations. This includes the general university appropriation and education and economic development appropriations for specific ISU units or research programs, including the Ag Experiment Station, Cooperative Extension and the Nutrient Research Center.
  • $5.8 million for strategic initiatives, including bioeconomy research and leadership ($5 million), Ag Experiment Station ($0.5 million) and the SBDC ($0.3 million).

The state Board of Regents has requested an additional $6.3 million for Iowa State (and $6.6 million for the University of Northern Iowa) next year as part of a three-year phased implementation of its new performance-based funding model. University leaders plan to use the additional funding to better serve a growing student body, with a focus on two goals:

  • Ensure that students graduate. Strategies include hiring more faculty and student support staff, using learning analytics to monitor student progress, investing more in learning communities, creating more opportunities for student research and creative experiences, and expanding the IT infrastructure to serve the growing number of online learners.
  • Minimize student debt at graduation. Strategies include improving efficiencies to keep administrative costs low, building students' financial literacy, identifying alternative and lower-cost paths to a college degree, and providing more work and internship opportunities for students.

Iowa State's largest single capital request to the state is $8 million to begin work on a proposed $80 million student innovation center that would facilitate large-scale student interaction, experiential learning and co-curricular activities across all colleges. The funding proposal for the center includes $32 million more in state funds over the subsequent three years (FY17-19), leveraged with $40 million in university funds and private gifts such as the anonymous gift announced Dec. 3.

Senate approves post-tenure review changes

Members of the Faculty Senate debated and approved proposed changes to the post-tenure review policy at their Dec. 9 meeting. The changes further clarify policy revisions approved in 2011.

Changes to the policy (section 5.3.4) eliminate the salary increase tied to post-tenure review and clarify administrator responsibilities in the review process. Senators also amended and approved a change that eliminates the "exceeding expectations" performance review outcome, leaving two possible outcomes: meeting expectations or below expectations.

Other Faculty Handbook changes approved by the senate include:

  • Clarification of the contracts for lecturers and clinicians, including minimum appointment periods and renewal notices (section
  • Language revisions for the nonrenewal and termination policy for lecturer and clinician appointments (section
  • Changes that allow a Distinguished Professor designation for potential high-impact faculty hires who hold the same designation at their current institutions (section

New academic programs

Senators fast-tracked the approval of a proposed master of business analytics -- an interdisciplinary program administered by the supply chain and information systems department. A similar program is being developed by the University of Iowa.

Iowa State's 30-credit program is aimed at industry professionals and consists of online coursework and a few campus visits. Tim Bigelow, chair of the senate's academic affairs council, said Iowa's program would feature "face-to-face delivery."

"There is discussion going on between the two universities," Bigelow said. "The collaboration between (Iowa and Iowa State) will not impact the proposed curriculum of the new master of business analytics. Some of the details with how the Business college will be able to work with University of Iowa to make a higher quality program for both institutions are still under way, but our curriculum is stand-alone and will not be pulled together."

An undergraduate certificate in computing applications also was approved. The program is a collaboration of departments (computer science, electrical and computer engineering, and supply chain and information systems) in three colleges. It is intended to give undergraduates technical skills in computer systems.

Other business

Three items were introduced and will be eligible for a vote at the Jan. 20 senate meeting:

Lyon named next Reiman Gardens director

Ed Lyon

Edward Lyon. Submitted photo.

Edward Lyon has been named director of Reiman Gardens. He succeeds Teresa McLaughlin, who stepped down to manage and market the Nature Connects exhibits that are traveling throughout the country. He will begin his new post on Jan. 20, 2015.

Lyon's responsibilities will include:

  • Providing leadership in operation and continued development of the Gardens’ 17-acre site
  • Representing the premier university botanical garden both internally and externally
  • Playing a significant role in the planning and implementation of the Green Space project underway in connection with the stadium expansion

"I am pleased that Ed has accepted this position at Iowa State," said senior vice president for business and finance Warren Madden. "His background and experience will be an asset to the university as we continue to develop educational programs, attract visitors to central Iowa, support university-related research and outreach, and attract volunteers and financial support of the gardens' continued growth and development."

Lyon, who has more than 20 years experience in the industry, currently serves as director of Allen Centennial Gardens, Madison, Wisconsin. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, and a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.


Christopher Gannon

Self portrait by Christopher Gannon.

Christopher Gannon joined the university relations staff as university photographer on Dec. 8. Gannon comes to Iowa State from The Des Moines Register, where he served as a staff photographer for the past nine years. Prior to that, he worked on the photography staffs of the Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Argus Leader (1998-2005) and the Ames Tribune (1994-98).

Gannon is a 1994 alumnus of Iowa State's journalism/mass communications program. His office, 2D/3D studio and portrait studio are in 1045 Communications; he can be reached by phone at 294-4053 or email at

Beware of AccessPlus trollers

Amid the flurry of scams arriving in your email in the new few weeks, you'll probably see some familiar senders: has important news about your salary increase and is fretting over your "exceeded" mailbox.

These scammers and their imitators are mostly after one thing: Access to your AccessPlus.

With entrée to your personal ISU information, information security officer Andy Weisskopf said, the scammers can do two very nasty things:

  • Redirect your direct deposit salary checks to another bank
  • Nab your W2 and Social Security number, file a fake tax return and collect the refund before you've even started your paperwork

Such crimes are increasingly directed at universities around the country, and in the past couple of years, they've hit close to home. A year ago, thieves gained access to several University of Iowa employees' personal information and changed their direct deposit information, Weisskopf said. Last February, a number of University of Northern Iowa employees discovered that fake tax returns had been filed under their names.

Universities appear to be more vulnerable to these attacks because of their open technological culture, Weisskopf said. To support research and education, universities provide a lot of information about their technology environments as well as global access to information. For example, unlike private companies, scammers can easily find email addresses for university employees.

Protect your AccessPlus credentials

"What that means is we have to be more careful," Weisskopf said. "There's more responsibility on individual employees to protect their credentials."

"This is a time of year to be especially mindful of your AccessPlus account," he added. "Many phishing attempts will occur in the next few weeks. When the W2s come out in January, scammers want to be ready to grab them and fast-file fake tax returns."

Weisskopf offers these tips for protecting your AccessPlus information:

  • If you don't have a good, hard-to-guess password for AccessPlus, get one
  • Don't share your AccessPlus password with others
  • Don't use the same password for your Net-ID and AccessPlus accounts
  • Don't click on email links that purport to go to AccessPlus. Legitimate Iowa State emails should not contain direct links to AccessPlus.

Information technology services staff are looking into others ways to strengthen AccessPlus security, Weisskopf said.  One system under review sends automated phone calls to individuals when their AccessPlus accounts are accessed.

Making progress on a new employee wellness program

Think employee wellness initiatives are only about diet and exercise? Think again. Employee wellness should go beyond broccoli and jogging, according to Stephanie Downs, Iowa State's wellness coordinator.

University human resources hired Downs seven months ago and charged her with the task of broadening and strengthening Iowa State's employee wellness program. She gave an update on her progress at a Dec. 9 Professional and Scientific Council seminar.

In the process of gathering data from university surveys, employee groups and outside resources over the past several months, Downs said Iowa State's employee wellness efforts should focus on an individual's entire well-being, not just physical health.

"I hope this concept of well-being will bring a paradigm shift to the university," Downs said. "It's about a cultural change. It's about how we value and support employees. The manifestation of physical issues is often related to issues you can't touch, such as stress and mental wellness."

A culture of well-being

Downs discussed five aspects of well-being on which Iowa State's future employee wellness program will be built.

Physical: Exercise, nutrition, proper sleep habits, good hygiene and preventive health care. Downs noted that the top three health claims at Iowa State are related to bones, muscles and ligaments; cancers and tumors; and routine care.

Social/emotional: Human dynamics, relationships with coworkers, feeling cared about. Downs said stress impacts this aspect of well-being. She cited medical studies that conclude more than 70 percent of diseases are related to stress, and that stress can inhibit a person's ability to think clearly.

Financial: Effectively managing your economic life, financial security and satisfaction with your standard of living. Downs said this aspect of well-being is not about making more money, but rather managing the money you make.

Community: Feeling safe and secure, giving back, having pride in where you work and live. Citing the 2011 university life survey, Downs said that almost 93 percent of employees think ISU has an attractive campus.

Career/Purpose: Having a purpose in life, enjoying workdays as much as weekends. According to the 2013 benefits survey, 79 percent of employees think Iowa State is a great place to work, and 74 percent were satisfied with their career.

Through her research over the past several months, Downs said she learned that employees enjoy working at Iowa State and that there are several wellness programs and services available. But, she said, there's room for improvement. Following are some of the common improvement themes she's heard during conversations with employees groups:

  • Enhance communication about wellness and well-being
  • Create ways to give all employees access to programs and services
  • Promote a variety of wellness choices and motivate employees to participate
  • Build the concept of well-being into ISU's culture
  • Expand current programs and services to include all aspects of well-being

Next steps

By the end of December, Downs will wrap up her data collection on the university's current wellness programs and talk with Wellmark about Iowa State's health claims. In January 2015, she will compile an action plan for the university's wellness program, including branding, infrastructure, resources and priorities. She will develop a communications plan by March. By late spring, Downs will establish volunteer employee wellness teams to help communicate initiatives in departments and units.

"We have opportunities to improve," Downs said. "We want to go from good to great."

NCAA volleyball comes to Ames

Stanford volleyball

Top-seeded Stanford University is one of four teams playing in the Ames Regional of the NCAA Division I Volleyball Championships, Dec. 12-13, at Hilton Coliseum. It is the first time Iowa State has hosted a regional volleyball event. The Cyclones were eliminated from the tournament with a second-round loss at the University of Illinois in Champaign last week.

No. 1 Stanford, led by two-time Pac-12 Conference setter of the year Mandi Bugg (above), faces Oregon State at 5 p.m. Friday, followed by a match between No. 8 Florida and No. 9 Illinois at 7 p.m. Winners will play in the regional final at 8 p.m. Saturday. All-session tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for youth. Single-session tickets are $10 for adults and $7 for youth. Photo courtesy of Stanford athletics.

Just in time for winter: The Nutcracker Ballet returns to Stephens

The Nutcracker Ballet

File photo courtesy of the Iowa State Center.

One of this country's most identifiable dance performances, The Nutcracker Ballet, returns to the Stephens Auditorium stage this weekend, Dec. 13-14, for three holiday shows. Performances begin at 1:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. There also is a 7:30 p.m. performance on Saturday.

Set to Peter Tchaikovsky's famous score, the 34th annual Iowa State Center production features choreography by Robert Thomas and Miyoko Kato Thomas, owners of the Dancenter in Ames. It stars more than 200 school-age and adult dancers from central Iowa communities, and features professional dancers in the roles of the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier. Ames native and New York City-based Joy Voelker and freelance dancer Matthew Prescott will fill those roles, respectively, this year. Voelker is no stranger to the central Iowa production. This year marks her fifth in the Sugar Plum Fairy role; she also danced the role of Clara in the 1995 edition of the ballet.

The Nutcracker Ballet tells the story of a young German girl, Clara, who falls asleep and dreams of a Nutcracker prince and his fierce battle against a Mouse King. In gratitude for her assistance, the prince takes Clara to a magical place where they are welcomed by dancing snowflakes and flowers, and where many other dancers perform for them. The ballet concludes when Clara wakens. In her arms is her favorite Christmas gift, a Nutcracker.

Tickets are $25 for adults and $20 for seniors, ISU students and youth 18 years and younger. Tickets may be purchased online via Ticketmaster (additional fees apply) or at the Stephens ticket office (10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday and 90 minutes prior to each show).