In the waning days of Iowa's pre-caucus season, political science assistant professor David Andersen is interviewed for NBC TV's Nightly News program in Iowa State's broadcast studio. University videographer Dave Olson (right) takes care of the logistics for Andersen's interview.
News Service operates a fully equipped, digital broadcast studio on the first floor of the Communications Building that provides live delivery to the networks. This allows university experts to provide commentary and perspective, and helps promote the excellence of ISU faculty and staff to a wider audience. (And no, you don't have to be a political scientist to use it!)
President Steven Leath spoke at the Feb. 9 Faculty Senate meeting, updating senators on several topics. The following are highlights from Leath's remarks.
President Leath will present ISU's budget priorities to the Iowa Legislature's education appropriations subcommittee on Thursday, Feb. 11 (10 a.m.).
We made what the Legislature and the governor called an aggressive request this year -- 4.5 percent, over $8 million in recurring new money. I really don't think it's that aggressive and it's a fraction of what we really need, but it's probably as far as we could go this year.
To get a 16-to-1 [faculty/student] ratio, we'd have to hire 300 new faculty this year alone and gain no new students to get where we need to be. That's probably not a realistic number, but it helps put our request that they think is aggressive in context, that it's not unreasonable.
We're clearly the choice of higher education in the state. The concern is -- I've said this for four years to you folks and for four years to the governor and the Legislature -- access and affordability without quality is not a good value. As we look at growing again in the fall, I do have some nervousness. I think we're at a tipping point. Without significant new resources and with continued growth, something has to change.
I think we have support from the board leadership that if we don't get what we're asking for from the Legislature, we'll have permission to raise tuition. How we raise it, how much we raise it, how differential it is, will be largely our decision.
There has been a major emphasis on diversity and inclusion. Not necessarily just as a stand-alone, afterthought item, but it's going to be embedded through the entire strategic plan.
I don't know that there's been a more impactful time in Iowa State's recent history, when you start thinking about searches and filling job vacancies, than right now.
I'm probably going to make some changes in how we're structured at the top level of the university.
[Buchanan II] will not completely alleviate our housing shortage, but it will go a long way with well over 700 beds. We're working with [residence director] Pete Englin on some innovative new ways to deal with housing, construction and leasing, and we look forward to what we're going to do next.
Pedestrian safety has gotten to be a real issue. We have to recognize there's more inherent danger on those high-traffic pedestrian areas. We've partnered with the city and we've hired a traffic consultant who's worked in Ames a number of times to start immediately and look at what we're going to do short term and long term to make Lincoln Way safer.
A lot of neat things are happening there. To make this a first-class research park and to continue to grow, we need amenities, which I've authorized. Work already started on a new restaurant. We've signed a new deal for a racquet and fitness club in the park. We're close to a deal on a health center. The big one we've almost figured out, but not quite, is a new child care center. So, you'll see much more of a community feel at the research park than before and hopefully we'll continue to recruit people.
I never thought the park was particularly noticeable to someone who's not from Ames, so we are going to look at all-new signage and features to really showcase the park and delineate the park. That's funded by a gift, so we're really excited about that.
We had a record year in FY 2015. The numbers look good this year, we're at $74 million right now. I think we'll reach our goal and raise well over $100 million again this year.
We're gearing up for our largest campaign ever, so we'll make a concentrated effort to raise very substantive money. We'll start that in September in a formal way.
Research numbers are up again and awards are nearly 30 percent over last year. The Grants Hub that [vice president for research Sarah Nusser] put in place has really made a huge impact. After just one year, they processed 79 proposals for over $94 million.
We have a great faculty, and they're getting a lot of the recognition they deserve.
Diversity and inclusion
Somebody asked me what my diversity plan is. It's a good question, a fair question, but it causes me some heartburn. In my experience, plans are really written to mitigate liability, reduce risk or appease people. I expect more than that here at Iowa State, from myself and hopefully from the entire university.
What I'm looking for is more of a diversity vision -- how we change and continue to change the culture here -- to not only be more diverse, but really to be more inclusive, more welcoming and to be a better university as a result of the way we've incorporated diverse views, ideas, perspectives and backgrounds into our culture.
I do have a goal to get a better understanding of what we mean by diversity and inclusion -- what we expect by it and where our vision is going to take us. I'm not sure we're all seeing it the same way. We probably don't have to, but we need to have a better understanding.
I want this to be a continual improvement, a continual cultural change on this campus so it just becomes part of us. I really want it to be a legacy.
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LAS departments merge
In other senate business, two departments in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences received unanimous approval from the senate to merge. Faculty in the anthropology and world languages and cultures departments initiated the merger with discussions in 2014. The combined departments will retain the WLC name and Chad Gasta will remain as chair.
Future plans call for moving all personnel and equipment to Pearson Hall. Anthropology labs in East and Curtiss halls will be maintained until space becomes available. Pending approval by ISU administration and the state Board of Regents, the merge will be official on July 1.
Same program, different name
Senators also approved a requested program name change in the College of Design. Stemming from an accreditation review, the request changes the bachelor of design program to a bachelor of arts in interdisciplinary design.
According to the request, the National Association of Schools of Art and Design required the name change in order for Design to maintain accreditation for all its art and design programs.
The program's curriculum will not change and it will remain independent of a department home (it is administered by the dean's office, through the design studies program). Senators fast-tracked the name change by introducing and approving it in the same meeting, sending it next to the ISU administration and then the regents for final approval.
Over the past decade, 82 percent of Iowa State mechanical engineering majors who earned an A in Math 166 (calculus II) and 80 percent who earned a B went on to graduate in ME. The odds were longer for those less adept in calculus. Students who managed a C had a 64 percent chance of netting an ME degree. Among those who got a D and ended up retaking the course, 43 percent eventually graduated in ME.
Pilot participants 2015-16
- College of Design
- Geological and atmospheric sciences
- Food science and human nutrition
- Mechanical engineering
- Undeclared engineering
- Liberal Arts and Sciences college advising, includes open option, pre-health, biological and premedical illustration majors
Since last fall, advisers in the mechanical engineering department and seven other academic areas have been using these kinds of statistical insights to keep better tabs on their advisees' progress and, especially, to identify students who may be struggling.
Predictive analytics refers to using big data to anticipate the odds of certain things happening in the future. At Iowa State, a small group of advisers are using analytics to assess students' chances of successfully completing their degree programs.
So far, results look promising, said Karen Zunkel, director for undergraduate programs and academic quality.
"We're still learning. It's a pilot program," she said. "But advisers are seeing positive uses for the data analytics."
Advisers across campus will get a chance to try predictive analytics in fall 2016, when the initiative is extended to all undergraduate programs.
How advising analytics works
Predictive analytics starts with number crunching, Zunkel said. Iowa State uses the Education Advisory Board (EAB), a Washington, D.C.-based firm, to sift through 10 years of ISU data, mining for markers that seem the most predictive of success. Typical markers might include a student's grades in specific classes, his or her cumulative GPA and credits earned so far.
Mostly, those markers turn out to be grades achieved in previous ISU courses. For example, the numbers show that over the past decade:
- 57 percent of ISU dietetics students who earned B's in FSHN 167 (introduction to human nutrition) earned dietetics degrees
- 62 percent of kinesiology majors who booked C's in Biol 255 (fundamentals of human anatomy) attained kinesiology degrees
- 64 percent of open option students who got B's in English 250 (written, oral, visual and electronic composition) graduated with an Iowa State degree
After EAB runs the numbers, department members review the data and identify the success markers for their students, Zunkel said. Essentially, department faculty and advisers are determining what's "on track" and what's "off track" for students.
In the case of mechanical engineering data, department members decided that advisers would receive a notification on a student's advising platform if he or she didn't earn at least a C in Math 166.
The EAB online advising platform includes:
- Basic student info (GPA, grades, coursework)
- A dashboard that shows at a glance who's thriving and who's struggling
- A way to create customized lists of advisees who may need special attention based on different factors (for example, all students who didn't achieve a certain grade in a prerequisite course)
- Electronic notekeeping
Early warning for advisers
Kelsey Smyth, former adviser in the College of Engineering and current university academic advising coordinator in the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, said predictive analytics is "a nice addition to advisers' gut instincts.
"It helps them get to know their advisees -- especially those who don't drop by the office much -- a little better and a little earlier," she added.
"If we know a little bit sooner that students might be in trouble academically, we can hopefully get them into the office, do a little digging and push them to take advantage of resources and improve study skills. We can also make sure they understand how important certain foundation classes are to their future coursework."
"For really experienced advisers, a lot of this is commonsense," Zunkel said. "However, for new advisers who don't have 20 years of experience, it brings them up to speed faster.
"Advising analytics also is a useful tool for students who are thinking about changing majors," Zunkel added. "Advisers can say, 'Based on your courses and background, this is a major in which you would likely find success.'"
ISU leaders in predictive analytics and UIA activities
Universities launch four-year analytics study
Iowa State's analytics project dovetails nicely with the work of the University Innovation Alliance (UIA), 11 universities that joined forces in fall 2014 to try to increase graduation rates for first-generation, low-income students. To achieve their goal, Iowa State and the other public research schools pledged to collaborate extensively and share ideas.
The first major collaboration among the universities is a federally funded study of analytics-based advising. Last September, the UIA received an $8.9 million U.S. Department of Education grant to do a study of the impact of analytics-based advising on student success. The study is led by Georgia State University, Atlanta, where data-driven advising has resulted in a dramatic increase in graduation rates. All UIA universities will participate in the four-year study.
Success specialists to be hired
The bulk of Iowa State's portion of the federal funds ($710,000) will be used to hire three "student success specialists," who will begin work this spring and serve three-year terms, Zunkel said. The specialists will work with first-generation or low-income students. They'll help academic advisers, "who are always stretched for time," identify at-risk students and give them some extra attention.
While predictive analytics is on the front burner at present, the UIA universities regularly collaborate and share notes on other ideas to improve undergraduate success, said Kathleen Gillon, who serves as Iowa State's inaugural Innovation Fellow. Topics include such things as improving the first-year experience, raising student performance in traditionally difficult courses and developing high school-to-college bridge programs. To keep the discussion flowing, every university in the alliance has a UIA fellow.
The universities also frequently send small teams of colleagues to visit each other's campuses. Thus far, teams have visited Georgia State University, Atlanta; Arizona State University, Tempe; University of Texas, Austin and Ohio State University, Columbus.
"We're constantly sharing practices, policies, successes and failures," Gillon said. "Our common goal is to collaborate so that ultimately more students across the country, especially low-income and first-generation students, not only enter college but ultimately graduate.
"The alliance schools are doing good work, but we’re constantly asking, 'How can we do better?' We’ve already seen how data analytics has positively impacted undergraduate retention and graduation at some of the alliance schools. We’re lucky to be working with a consortium of really amazing institutions that are willing to share."
For more information about the alliance, contact Gillon, email@example.com, 294-1965. For information about predictive analytics, contact Zunkel, firstname.lastname@example.org, 294-7063 or Smyth, email@example.com, 294-2611.
Hospitality management students (from left) Kevin Kieler, Rylee Ames and Brandon Farhat consult their strategy notes during the People to People Career Fair in the Scheman Building Wednesday afternoon (Feb. 10).
More than 100 organizations registered to participate in the People to People Career Fair, one of five being held on campus this month for the benefit of Iowa State students. This fair focused on entry-level positions, part-time jobs and internships in education, social services, hospitality, government and health and wellness. Photo by Christopher Gannon.
Filling a perceived gap, the Professional and Scientific Council's executive committee compiled a set of best practices for P&S staff who have for-credit teaching responsibilities. The document was described as "a comprehensive resource" for P&S staff, supervisors and administrators in a motion introduced at the council's Feb. 4 meeting.
The document provides guidelines both for P&S staff who teach as part of their job duties, and for staff who teach outside their position description. It includes references to relevant policies in the Faculty Handbook and procedures for writing/updating P&S position descriptions.
Following council discussion, the document title likely will be tweaked to clarify that it is intended for P&S staff who teach for-credit academic courses, not for extension and outreach staff who teach training courses and other programs. Council members will vote next month on a motion to send the document to the university human resources and provost offices as a recommendation for further action.
Tuition reimbursement program
Council members unanimously approved proposed changes to the employee tuition reimbursement program, which include increased coverage from three to four credit hours per semester.
The recommended changes were developed in response to issues identified during the council's priority planning sessions at the start of the academic year. The tuition reimbursement program is available for merit and P&S staff with at least one year of service. The approved motion will be forwarded to the campus-wide university benefits committee for consideration.
Progress in UHR
Julie Nuter, associate vice president for university human resources (UHR), gave an overview of changes to the human resources operating model. Among them is a focus on campus human capital capabilities, what Nuter called the "people part" of operations.
As part of that, Nuter said UHR is working with Diane Muncrief, a personnel officer in the U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory. She said Muncrief will help UHR:
- Bridge centralized and decentralized HR stakeholders through relationship building and communication
- Advance HR capabilities by developing and improving policies, resources, tools and training
- Measure progress and success of plans and priorities
- Jamie Wilson, an administrative specialist in veterinary diagnostic and production animal medicine, was approved to fill a vacant council seat
- Nominations are open for council officer positions, with elections scheduled for the March 3 meeting
- Nominations are open through Feb. 29 for 16 council seats (nine in academic affairs, three in business and finance, two in the president's office and two in student affairs), with online elections scheduled for next month
Back to story
- Steve Freeman, University Professor in agricultural and biosystems engineering and UIA liaison
- Diane Beckman, director of university information systems
- Laura Doering, university registrar
- Pete Englin, director of residence
- Patrice Feulner, assistant athletics director for academic services
- Kathleen Gillon, University Innovation Fellow
- Martino Harmon, associate vice president for students affairs,
- David Holger, associate provost for academic programs and dean of the Graduate College
- Susan Rhoades, director of the academic success center
- Keith Robinder, interim dean of students
- Amy Slagell, associate dean, LIberal Arts and Sciences
- Kelsey Smyth, university academic advising coordinator
- Karen Zunkel, director for undergraduate programs and academic quality, provost's office
Don't overload your sweet tooth on Valentine's Day. On Monday, Feb. 15, you can purchase a signature cherry pie for $2.
The apparel, events and hospitality management program will be selling more than 1,600 cherry pies as part of a fundraiser to benefit student scholarships and organizations. The pies will be sold in 23 MacKay Hall from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., or while supplies last. T-shirts sporting a "reestablished 2015" message also will be available for $15.
The pie sale is just one of the former Veishea student-run activities being resurrected as part of recommendations made by a joint committee of faculty and students. Other possibilities include:
- Incorporating arts events, displays and exhibits as part of Student Government's Cyclone Market in April
- Organizing a parade, college showcase and/or community service event during the fall semester