Best effort

female student studying outdoors on a bench

Junior Allison Engwall prepared for final exams on a central campus bench last week. Exams continue through Friday afternoon. Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Safe border crossings with your devices

Asked what devices faculty and staff should take along on international travels, Andy Weisskopf readily responds "a newspaper and a book."

The ISU information security officer is only half-joking. Crossing international borders with phones, laptops and e-readers is becoming increasingly risky. Electronic devices can be searched, copied or compromised almost anywhere -- at customs, inside locked hotel rooms or wherever there's Wi-Fi.

Such security breaches may have serious consequences for the university and individuals. Research may be stolen or federal export control laws broken. On a personal level, travelers may lose passwords, credit cards and other personal info to identity thieves.

If you plan to travel abroad this summer, for business or pleasure, Weisskopf and Matt House, export control administrator in the office for responsible research, offer these tips for keeping private information safe.

Useful info

International Travel and Information Technology, Office for Responsible Research

Size up your risk

How likely are you to become the target of sophisticated electronic spying? The measure of risk increases if you're a recognized, published expert in STEM fields such as defense, industry or technology. More risk accrues if you're traveling to a country known for state-sponsored espionage. To protect your information, you'll certainly need to take extra precautions before, during and after travel.

If you don't fit into the above categories, there might not be quite as much interest in the contents of your laptop. The risks exist, however, just on a smaller scale. House puts it this way: "The dangers you'll see going into places like Dublin, Berlin and Ottawa are probably the same dangers you'll find in New York City or Los Angeles. Someone may try to pilfer your data. It just isn't state-sponsored."

Pack as if customs officers will be reading your email

If you're within 100 miles of a U.S/international border, federal customs officials have the right to confiscate and search your electronic devices. This includes phones, laptops, flash drives and e-readers. It's good reason to pare down the information in all devices.

If possible, leave the smart devices at home

Smart phones, tablets and e-readers -- basically any devices with Wi-Fi capability -- pose more risks than other devices. Consider traveling instead with less-capable devices. Old phones or laptops, disposable phones or departmental loaners are good choices.

These devices should be as lean as possible. That means removing everything that isn't essential -- software programs, contacts, phone numbers, documents. Culling confidential and personal information is very hard to do on a folder-by-folder basis. You'll most certainly miss hidden or cached data and passwords. It's best to back up the device (if you want to keep the old info), reformat the hard drive and add back the software and files you'll need for the trip.

House said smart devices pose a special danger to those whose research is subject to federal export controls -- laws designed to keep certain technologies and information from foreign nations. Researchers are well aware that they can't travel with export controlled materials, he said. Yet, the smart phones they carry across borders may contain all the data, logins and passwords spies need to gain access to the controlled data.

Sponsored data must stay home

All data and software that was specifically designed or modified for military or space use cannot be taken out of the United States. Additionally, do not travel with data protected by a nondisclosure agreement. Don't take Iowa State or sponsor-loaned equipment out of the country unless it is critical to your research. And while you’re out of country, never access secure servers or databases that contain sensitive or export-controlled information.

Use flash drives -- but only your own

Flash drives, which are easy to keep with you at all times, are a good alternative to storing data on the laptop. One caution: Don't insert your flash drive into computers other than your own. And don't plug any devices into your computer that you didn't bring with you. Unfortunately, complementary flash drives at conferences should be thrown away.

Encryption is good, but not necessarily secure

While some types of encryption are prohibited under export control laws, commercially available encryption technologies (like Window's BitLocker and Mac's FileVault) are allowed in most countries and are a good way to add extra protection to the contents of laptops and flash drives. However, in some countries you can be compelled to decrypt files and, in a few countries, carrying encrypted devices and files is illegal without a license from their governments.

When possible, stay off the grid

If you don't need access to the Internet, turn off wireless connections in your devices. It's much harder to break into non-networked devices.

Don't trust public Wi-Fi or computers

"The thing you have to be concerned about is there are people who put up Wi-Fi with the intention of intercepting everything you're doing," Weisskopf said.

Assume that any business you conduct over the Internet could be monitored. Don't use public Wi-Fi or shared computers in hotels and public areas to sign into university or personal sites.

If you must sign onto Iowa State sites, use the VPN

To connect to Iowa State sites with your Net-ID, be sure to use the university's virtual privacy network (VPN). Download and install the AnyConnect VPN software prior to traveling.

Get a temporary email account

If possible, remove your regular email accounts from your devices. Set up a temporary account and use that during your trip.

Keep devices with you, always

It's not safe to leave your laptop and other devices in your hotel room. They can be stolen or physically tampered with. Data can be copied. Perhaps worse, they can be infected with spyware that doesn't activate until you're back home. Basically, all your devices -- flash drives, laptops, phones -- should be with you all the time. 

Investigate your destination

Know the safety and security concerns for your destination countries. The U.S. State Department website contains up-to-date information.

When you get home, quarantine devices and change passwords

Don't connect your devices to a network until they have been thoroughly inspected by IT staff for malware and viruses. Some malware doesn't activate until it connects to your home network.

Change your passwords for all sites and systems that you accessed while traveling.

Team effort could provide 400 hallway benches for students

prototype of steel and wood bench

The prototype of a steel and recycled wood bench that should be showing up in quantity -- as many as 400 -- in campus classroom buildings this fall. Photo by Christopher Gannon.

An idea to provide corridor seating for students waiting for class or tests -- or simply killing time between classes -- took flight this spring. A facilities planning and management (FPM) team designed a 6-foot bench of steel and recycled wood, Iowa Prison Industries created a prototype and associate vice president for facilities David Miller launched a partnership project to pay for the first 400 benches. His proposal targets 28 academic buildings with three or more general university classrooms.

"That's where the credit hours are being delivered, that's where the students are; so that's why we're focusing on those buildings to start with," he explained.

Each bench costs $500.

Miller committed facilities planning and management for 100 benches. The offices of the president, provost and senior vice president for business and finance are in for another 135 benches. Last week, Miller sent a note to all eight deans and the chief information officer, asking them to consider committing end-of-year funds for the remaining 165 benches.

closeup of wood surface of bench

This bench surface is recycled cypress from patio fencing at ISU student apartments. Photo by Christopher Gannon.

"It should be fun and it should have a positive impact on our students and make a difference in our buildings," he wrote. Deans may recommend locations for the benches they sponsor – including buildings, for example, that might be light on classrooms but contain heavily used teaching labs.

"Everybody can participate in this," Miller said. "This is about all of us doing something positive for our students."

Miller asked deans to respond by May 13 to his inquiry. The goal is to have as many benches as possible in place when fall semester begins Aug. 24. Depending on Iowa Prison Industries' production capabilities, some benches may arrive later in the semester.

Part of ISU's Campus Beautification initiative, Miller said the benches also will help declutter hallways. When they install benches, crews will remove the well-intentioned but mismatched furniture currently in some corridors.

That's Cyclone wood

The wood surface of the benches is recycled and will come from one of two university sources: oak in the Treecycle program or cypress that until recently was patio fencing in the Schilletter University Village student neighborhood.

"We think this is a win-win scenario," Miller said. "It's a nice clean design. The benches are durable, they contain recycled wood. It doesn't take a lot of money to participate, so a lot of units can do this and feel good about it."

To commit funds to the bench partnership project, contact Gina Holtzbauer, 294-8079, by May 13.

Street address system for campus buildings is nearly ready

Several years in the planning stage, Iowa State is preparing to implement a street address system for all campus buildings. The goal is to have the new numbering system in place and the freestanding concrete/brown building signs changed by the end of the calendar year. Street addresses could be announced next month.

A primary reason for street addresses is to shorten response times for emergency personnel. Street addresses also are expected to help visitors with way finding and simplify the task for package delivery and taxi-type services. Mail to campus buildings will continue to be routed through postal and parcel services.

Campus planner Cathy Brown said other large universities recently have completed their own building address systems, so Iowa State is able to learn from those efforts.

In addition to buildings, Brown said the new system will assign street addresses to campus parking lots and open spaces such as the cross country course and the various intramural recreation fields. It will align with the city of Ames' numbering grid, for example 100-numbered buildings in the first block north of Lincoln Way or 1200-sequenced buildings immediately south of 13th Street.

But there's no street ...

Brown said a committee is paying special attention to a group of about 15 buildings that aren't adjacent to a named campus road and for which the street address is not apparent – Catt and Marston halls, for example. Decisions will be made soon on addresses for that set of buildings.

GPS, Google maps

Another part of developing the street address system is assigning global positioning system (GPS) coordinates to all buildings, parking lots and outdoor spaces. That task is underway. So, even if a street address seems a bit quirky – for example, if Marston Hall ends up with a Bissell Road address – anyone with a GPS device could easily locate the building.

Iowa State planners also have opened communications with Google about downloading ISU building addresses and coordinates into the company's map database. The timeline for completing that is not firm.

New signs, new function

Brown said that when they're completed, Iowa State's building signs will contain only a building name and its street address. Units housed in a building no longer will be listed on the sign.

Other project details, including an FAQ, will be shared with the university community as they are finalized.



Lorraine Acker became director of the Margaret Sloss Women's Center on May 1. Her responsibilities include providing administrative leadership, establishing goals and interpreting policy for the center. She also will serve on various university committees, supporting and advocating for all students while specifically representing the interests of women.

Previously, Acker served as assistant dean for minority student support services and women's programs at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte.

Acker earned a bachelor's degree in African and Afro-American studies and political sciences from the State University of New York College at Brockport, and a master's degree in college student personnel from Western Illinois University, Macomb. Acker currently is a doctoral student in Iowa State's School of Education. She expects to complete her dissertation work in 2016.

Acker's office is in the Sloss House. Contact her by phone at 294-4154 or by email at Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Search for VP for diversity and inclusion begins

The search is underway for Iowa State's first vice president for diversity and inclusion.

"The new vice president will serve as the university's chief diversity officer, report to President Steven Leath and advise senior leadership about strategic diversity planning efforts that advance Iowa State’s mission and vision," said dean of students Pamela Anthony, who leads the search.

Assisting in the search is The Spelman & Johnson Group. SJG is a leader in higher education leadership searches and is familiar with Iowa State, Anthony said.

Nominating candidates

Anthony encourages the university community to submit nominees for the new post. Send nominations to: SJG senior associate Mark A. Hall,, 413-529-2895.

Anthony anticipates the vice president will be named during the fall 2015 semester and on campus by spring 2016.

History of the position

The chief diversity officer post stems from a 2013 study of ISU diversity programs and initiatives. Leath commissioned the study from The Jackson Consulting Firm, Madison, Wisconsin, and accepted a key recommendation to create a chief diversity officer at Iowa State.

Based on a recommendation from the search committee, President Leath established the position as vice president for diversity and inclusion, Anthony said. This title change aligns with best practices within chief diversity officer positions in higher education; creates an executive-level position responsible for increasing the university’s diversity efforts while also promoting an inclusive environment; and more clearly delineates the position’s place within the university’s leadership structure.

Hub patio renovation begins Monday

The Hub design schematic

A rendering of the patio design, viewed from the northwest. Contributed photo.

Commencement may mark the end of semester, but it also signals the start of a busy construction season. Among the many campus summer projects is an overhaul of the Hub's outdoor patio area.

"We had planned for the plaza to be built last summer, but the construction season got off to a slow start and we were worried the project wouldn’t be finished in time for the start of the fall semester," said Chris Strawhacker, landscape architect in facilities planning and management. "So, we revised the construction schedule to start after finals week this year."

The $272,000 patio renovation begins next week and is scheduled for completion by the start of the fall semester. The Hub will be open during construction, with access via its east and south doors. At least one west door will be open -- on an alternating basis -- as work progresses.

The project will remove the existing retaining wall and extend the outdoor patio area to the sidewalk that runs south from Parks Library. Designated space for the free speech area is part of the design.

Among the renovation features:

  • Seat walls
  • Accessible ramp
  • Seated tables with umbrellas
  • Shade canopy
  • Brick entrance columns

"When the plaza is finished, the additional tables, the shade and better circulation into the Hub will be a great improvement for the area," Strawhacker said.

Senate closes out year with P&T report, research update

In the Faculty Senate's final meeting of the academic year, senior vice president and provost Jonathan Wickert gave senators his annual report on promotion and tenure awards. He reviewed 75 cases this year.

"I thought the process worked very well this year, and it really reflects hard work by everybody," Wickert said. "It starts with the search committees who recruit outstanding faculty to campus and set them up for success."

Next meeting

Tuesday, Sept. 15
MU Great Hall
3:30-5 p.m.

Seventy of this year's 75 promotion and tenure cases were approved, plus one tenure-clock extension. Wickert said 163 faculty (89 women, 74 men) have used a tenure clock extension since 2003, of which about 71 percent are tenured or are pending tenure decisions. Common extension requests include family needs (birth, adoption, elder care, etc.) and lab delays (such as equipment and personnel).

Among the 70 successful candidates, there were:

  • 45 men
  • 25 women
  • 52 white/Caucasians
  • 1 black/African-American
  • 13 Asian-Americans
  • 2 Latinos/Latinas/Hispanics
  • 0 American Indians/Alaskan natives/Native Hawaiians/ Pacific islanders

Wickert also showed the status of the FY09 cohort of 71 tenure-eligible faculty hires. Seventeen (24 percent) resigned prior to tenure, while 37 (52 percent) earned tenure as of this spring. Another 16 have pending P&T reviews and one moved from a faculty appointment to a non-tenure eligible faculty or professional and scientific position.

"What it really means is that 76 percent of the 2009 cohort are still here at Iowa State some six years later," Wickert said.

Research update

Vice president for research Sarah Nusser provided an update on her office. She said the last year has been spent "laying the groundwork" for the future.

"We are trying to place a stronger emphasis on the faculty as the engine of research, broadly defined," Nusser said.

She said three ways her office is changing to address ISU's research mission are:

  • Providing support for proposal development
  • Using new methods to develop interdisciplinary groups
  • Integrating arts and humanities into the research portfolio

"We're just at the beginning of our odyssey to reshape how our office supports and advances research on campus," Nusser said.

Other business

Senators unanimously approved Faculty Handbook changes that update procedures for student outcomes assessments (section 10.7.2). Tim Bigelow, chair of the academic affairs council, said the policy hasn't been updated since 1991.

A requested name change for the culinary science program -- to culinary food science -- was introduced and will be voted on when the senate reconvenes in the fall. Bigelow said the one-word tweak was necessary to help students who have been overlooked during job application screenings that search for "food science."

Also on next fall's docket are requested catalog changes that make it easier for students to change majors when they are on academic probation.

"We want students to be successful at Iowa State University, and that may mean changing majors they may be struggling in," Bigelow said. "The goal here was to remove or reduce barriers for students who might be on academic probation."

More than 4,300 students will graduate this weekend

An estimated 4,365 Iowa State students will become alumni this weekend when they receive their diplomas at one of three commencement ceremonies. This is an increase of about 340 graduating students over last spring.



Graduate College

The Graduate College commencement is on Friday, May 8 (8 p.m., Hilton Coliseum) and will honor an estimated 467 master's and 105 doctoral students. Animal science professor Susan Lamont will address the graduates. Lamont has been a member of the animal science department for more than 30 years and is the C.F. Curtiss Distinguished Professor in Agriculture and Life Sciences. She leads an active research program with an emphasis on determining the molecular genetic control of important biological traits. She has won several awards for her research and service from Iowa State and scientific organizations.



College of Veterinary Medicine

The College of Veterinary Medicine will confer Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degrees on a projected 149 candidates on Saturday, May 9 (noon, Stephens Auditorium). The guest speaker is Vet Med alumnus James DeLano, who co-founded the SCAVMA Scamper, a popular race-with-your-dog fundraiser still going strong in Ames. DeLano is co-founder of the Bishop Ranch Veterinary Center, San Ramon, California, which cares for more than 17,000 animals each year.



Undergraduate ceremony

An estimated 3,644 undergraduates will receive their diplomas on Saturday, May 9 (1:30 p.m., Hilton). State Board of Regents president Bruce Rastetter will address the students. A lifelong Iowan, Rastetter is CEO of the Summit Group, which includes operations in agribusiness, production agriculture, renewable energy and international development. He has served on the Board of Regents since 2011 and has been president for almost two years.

Tickets are not needed for the commencement ceremonies. For those unable to attend in person, the graduate and undergraduate ceremonies will be video streamed live on the registrar's graduation website. Video replay of the two events will be available next week for approximately a month.

Before and after the undergrad commencement ceremony, graduates and guests are welcome to post messages of congratulations on social media, using #cyclONEgrad. All are welcome to follow the conversation on the Tagboard site. Posts will be shared on the Hilton videoboard, but not during the ceremony.

The academic colleges also will honor their graduates during their own receptions and convocations Friday and Saturday. The ISU Alumni Association will host a free open house for all graduating students and their families immediately following the undergraduate ceremony on Saturday afternoon (approximately 4:30 p.m., Alumni Center).