Recess in the Memorial Union

Two men play chess in the Memorial Union food court area

Iowa State sophomore Jacob Emblen (left) contemplates a chess move while playing Ames resident David Skaar between classes in the Memorial Union recently. Skaar has been playing chess against students on campus regularly since 2014. "It keeps your mind sharp, and I like playing against the young bright minds at Iowa State," said Skaar, who first learned the game in the 1960s. "And it's like a recess between classes for them." Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Faculty asked to study, weigh in on enrollment management

Enrollment management task force members

  • Jonathan Sturm, task force chair and professor, music and theatre
  • Brianna Burke, assistant professor, English
  • Veronica Dark, professor, psychology
  • Arne Hallam, associate dean, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
  • Kendall Lamkey, professor and chair, agronomy
  • Frank Peters, interim chair, industrial and manufacturing systems engineering
  • Kevin Schalinske, professor, food science and human nutrition
  • Ann Smiley-Oyen, associate professor, kinesiology
  • Sriram Sundararajan, professor, mechanical engineering
  • Kimberly Zarecor, associate professor, architecture

In his Feb. 9 presentation to the Faculty Senate, President Steven Leath talked about a faculty task force charged with studying enrollment issues and developing ideas and solutions for managing increasing student numbers.

Leath said he wants a faculty perspective on what options might be considered if ISU doesn't get "significant new resources." Examples he gave include:

  • Raising admissions standards
  • Raising tuition across the board
  • Establishing larger differences in differential tuition across expensive programs
  • Recruiting fewer Iowa students and more nonresidents

"If there's ever a chance to see the value of shared governance, this ought to be it," he said. "This [would be] a substantial change in our philosophy, if one of these would pass. This has to be a thoughtful discussion, over quite a while."

Funding falling short of growth

Leath told senators that he has talked with the regents and legislative leaders about the need for changes if there are no new resources to apply toward continued growth.

"The interesting dynamic that most people didn't think about is that, if we were to raise admissions standards and our [price], it would create a noticeable difference in the public universities in the state of Iowa," Leath said.

"It would definitely create a difference between us and UNI when one school is much harder to get into and more expensive. But, I met with [UNI president] Bill Ruud and Bill is OK with that. He needs to grow his student body and he thinks that it would be to UNI's advantage. It doesn't mean we should do it, but I do want the faculty to weigh in on this."

Raising admissions standards

Leath said higher admissions standards would need approval from the regents, but not the Legislature.

"Whether we should do it, and how we should do it, and should it even be differential -- it's a really difficult problem to work through, and there's probably no solution that we're all going to be thrilled about," Leath said. "I'm not recommending any of them. I'm not any happier about this than anyone else."

Faculty task force

Senate president-elect Jonathan Sturm is chair of the task force, which will seek input from many campus councils and committees. He urged faculty to submit thoughts and ideas for consideration.

"This task force will work best if we have a wide variety and large amount of input from faculty," Sturm said. "Otherwise, you're going to have suggestions to the president from just this many people."

Senate president Rob Wallace said the task force will submit its report to Leath in May or early June as an "advisory document."

Related story

Employees urged to get IP assignments on the books

One of the aftereffects of a 2011 U.S. Supreme Court ruling on a Stanford University patent dispute is playing out at Iowa State this spring. Starting March 1, Iowa State officials are encouraging all faculty, professional and scientific staff, postdoctoral scholars and graduate assistants to assign intellectual property (IP) rights to the university.

The request doesn't represent any change in policy, university counsel Paul Tanaka said. Currently, employees must assign intellectual property to Iowa State if, for example, it's federally or privately funded, or substantially supported by Iowa State.

Open forums on IP

University counsel Paul Tanaka, research foundation in-house counsel Donna Johns and associate vice president for research Wolfgang Kliemann will answer questions on intellectual property assignments at two open forums:

  • Feb. 24, 10 a.m.-noon, Memorial Union, Campanile Room
  • March 3, 3:10-5 p.m., 1213 Hoover Hall

Stanford lesson

What's new, Tanaka said, is the attempt to get faculty, staff and students to make those IP transfer agreements now, to avoid conflicting agreements.

The lack of a timely IP assignment cost Stanford and its researchers dearly five years ago, Tanaka said. Stanford sued a drug company, claiming the company's HIV testing kits infringed on the university's patents. The Supreme Court (Stanford University v. Roche Molecular Systems Inc.) ruled the drug firm was co-owner of the patents because a Stanford research fellow, while conducting some research at the company, had signed a visitor confidentiality agreement that included assignment of patent rights.

"If the Stanford researcher had already assigned the intellectual property to the university, he wouldn't have had anything to assign to Roche when he signed the subsequent confidentiality agreement," Tanaka said.

Tanaka said something similar could happen at Iowa State, where ISU researchers frequently consult with corporations.

"We don't see every consulting agreement," Tanaka said. "Some could have intellectual property assignments in them. The only way to assure that we could claim intellectual property in such cases is to have first-in-time assignments. We hope to secure those assignments this spring."

What's covered, what isn't

The ISU intellectual property assignments only apply to certain areas, Tanaka said.

This generally includes intellectual property that:

  • Is owned by Iowa State, under university policies or through contract or sponsored research agreements
  • Is copyrighted material specifically developed for the university, for example, recruitment brochures, which are considered proprietary, software, or other copyrightable materials created under a sponsored funding agreement

The intellectual property assignments generally don't apply to faculty's scholarly works such as:

  • Journal articles
  • Musical compositions and artistic works
  • Novels or poetry
  • Textbooks

Assign IP through AccessPlus

Faculty and staff hired since summer 2015 already have assigned their intellectual property to Iowa State. The assignment was included in their electronic letters of intent.

The remaining faculty, P&S staff, postdocs and graduate assistants will be asked to assign their intellectual property to Iowa State the first time they sign into AccessPlus on or after March 1. A front-page message on the site will allow employees to complete the task by clicking the submit button.

It's encouraged

"I encourage people to sign," Tanaka said. "We're a university of science and technology, and we need to assure that intellectual property can be licensed to third parties without conflicts. Employees may defer action on assigning their intellectual property.

"However, when there are several members of a research team, everyone needs to assign their intellectual property. Otherwise, it may damage the integrity and marketability of the invention, resulting in potential loss of income to inventors and the university."

Those who assign their IP rights now also help lower administrative costs, Tanaka said. "Administrative costs and frustration balloon if you need to get an assignment in place every time someone joins a research team," he said.

Tanaka noted that employees whose jobs seem far removed from tech transfer activities may feel their intellectual property assignments aren't necessary. It's better to be safe and make the assignment, he said. As an example, some members of athletics training staff may have appointments in kinesiology. If they wind up on a research team, their intellectual property assignments are essential.

ISURF's role

The Iowa State University Research Foundation (ISURF) owns and manages patentable intellectual property and some copyrights assigned to ISU by its employees and students. ISURF works to move that intellectual property to the marketplace. Royalty income is shared with inventors and college/administrative units, in addition to funding ISURF and OIPTT operations.

Leath makes annual appeal to legislative subcommittee

President Steven Leath and his peers from the universities of Iowa and Northern Iowa presented their fiscal year 2017 budget priorities to the Legislature's education appropriations subcommittee Feb. 11 at the state Capitol.

Iowa State has asked for an additional $9.7 million in state operational support for the budget year that begins July 1. This includes an $8.2 million increase (4.5 percent) to the general university appropriation and 2.7 percent increases (totaling about $1.5 million) to university units or programs that receive their own state appropriation.

Leath said more dollars in the general university operating appropriation would pay for additional:

  • Student support services, such as academic advising, tutoring and supplemental instruction
  • Investments in student learning analytics
  • Investments in student financial literacy to reduce debt at graduation
  • Online technology infrastructure and learning opportunities
  • Faculty, to lower the current student-faculty ratio of 19-to-1, second highest in Iowa State's peer group

Following are a few excerpts from Leath's comments.

Decline in state support for resident students

Leath noted that Iowa State has experienced seven straight years (2009-15) of record-setting enrollment and a growth rate of 29 percent over that time. But since 2009, Iowa State's appropriation per resident student has declined 28 percent (from $12,705 to $9,120 per resident student). "This, combined with the fact that we froze resident undergraduate tuition for five straight semesters and will freeze tuition again in the fall, has resulted in a challenging budget situation. We are in need of additional state support."

Student-faculty ratio

"Our goal is to lower our ratio to 16-to-1, which would put us in line with UNI and Iowa. To do that, we would have to hire 300 additional faculty in one year while keeping enrollment constant. These faculty are needed in core programs that drive the state's economy, such as agricultural and biosystems engineering; civil, construction and environmental engineering; mechanical engineering; education and vet med -- as well as fundamental programs like chemistry, English and math."

Enrollment task force

"We understand this may prove to be another challenging budget year for the state. That is why we are considering alternatives, in case our appropriation request is not fully met. Our faculty senate is exploring all possible courses of action, such as a significant increase in differential tuition, more selective admissions standards or changes to our recruitment strategy to focus more on out-of-state students and less on resident students."

Land-grant commitment

"We don't want to do anything that will jeopardize our land-grant mission or our commitment to the state to educate Iowans. However, we do recognize that without a significant funding increase, we will need to make some difficult decisions. We want you to be fully aware of what we're facing."

In closing, Leath said, "We are proud to serve more Iowans than any other institution through education, research and outreach. Thank you for your consideration of the unique challenges we face in educating more than 21,000 Iowa students."

New online tool helps link art and academics


Nancy Gebhart from University Museums pulls a piece of artwork from storage. Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Space constraints make it impossible for University Museums to display its entire 40,000-piece collection. But a new online database called the Electronic Museum, or eMuseum for short, gives everyone an opportunity to peruse the whole collection or search for specific artworks by title, artist or manufacturer's name, medium, campus location or other criteria.

Launched last fall in conjunction with University Museums' 40th anniversary, eMuseum is an online educational tool that helps ISU students and faculty connect with art on campus. eMuseum is compatible with tablets and smartphones. In fact, as part of the project, University Museums purchased iPads for the Brunnier and Christian Petersen art museums to allow patrons to look up more information about a particular artwork or artist while browsing the exhibits.

"We hope that people use eMuseum as a reference tool, similar to how they search for books at a library," said Nancy Gebhart, educator of visual literacy and learning.

It's Gebhart's job to connect the museums' art collection to Iowa State's curriculum, creating opportunities for interdisciplinary learning. eMuseum helps her make those connections, and now faculty and students can as well.

"We think of University Museums' collection as a teaching opportunity," Gebhart said. "eMuseum makes it much easier for faculty to see what we have available."

Gebhart said she works with about 30 to 40 classes each semester, from English to engineering. With advance notice from a faculty member, she can pull pieces from storage and display them for a class.

"We are always trying to find ways to be academically supportive of the university," Gebhart said. "eMuseum helps us accomplish that goal."

Funded primarily through private gifts and a $19,000 Tech Starter grant from information technology services, the groundwork for eMuseum was laid in the fall of 2014. Student assistants were instrumental in the project, physically pulling pieces out of storage, photographing and measuring them, and writing detailed descriptions. There still is work to be done, and you might be able to help.

"There are some things we know nothing about," Gebhart said.

If you have information about a particular artwork on eMuseum, contact Allison Sheridan in University Museums. 

Winter break, partial shutdown yield overall energy savings

Fluctuating temperatures and fewer closed buildings during Iowa State's most recent winter break and partial university shutdown (mid December 2015 through early January 2016) proved to be a mixed bag for utilities consumption.

Compared to normal use, Iowa State's electrical usage during winter break (about 23 days) decreased 11 percent per day. During the partial university shutdown (approximately 14 days), electrical usage went down an additional 5 percent each day compared to normal use. The university's steam use decreased 9 percent per day over winter break. However, steam consumption inched up during the partial university shutdown, resulting in a 5 percent increase per day over normal use.

"The higher consumption is due to a number of reasons, including weather conditions and which buildings were occupied," said Jeff Witt, director of utilities services. 

Another reason for less savings is that fewer buildings are turning down thermostats during winter break, said Wendy Kisch, assistant director of facilities services. During the most recent break, for example, 15 buildings requested temperature setbacks. In 2014, that number was 19 and in 2013 it was 21. Kisch explained that some campus buildings don't have the ability to control temperatures room-by-room. In other words, it's heat and power for the whole building or nothing at all.

"If one occupant is working through the break and the rest of the building is empty and closed, the building system may have to operate to maintain a comfortable environment for the one occupant," she said.

The reduced energy consumption translated into cost savings as well. Utility savings for the entire winter break was $175,200 compared to normal consumption, with an additional savings of $24,750 during the partial shutdown. 

Electrical load


# of days

Average daily consumption (kWh*)

Daily energy savings (kWh)

Total energy savings (kWh)

Percent savings

School in session







Winter break







Additional savings during partial shutdown






 *kilowatt-hour, a billing unit for energy, equivalent to 1,000 watts of power sustained for one hour


Steam load


# of days

Average (lbs per HDD*)

Daily energy savings (lbs per HDD)

Total energy savings
(lbs per HDD)

Percent savings

School in session






Winter break






Additional savings during partial shutdown






*Heating Degree Day = a measurement that reflects the demand for energy needed to heat a building


Miller projects will advance undergraduate teaching

Five proposals for innovative approaches to undergraduate teaching will share about $51,000 in Miller Faculty Fellowship grants next year. The Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, which administers the program for the president's office, will supplement the Miller funds with nearly $8,000. Matching funds -- which aren't required -- total nearly $36,000.

The project names and awards for the 2016-17 academic year are:

  • Developing an instructor survey to measure the key principles of team-based learning instruction, $15,000
    Faculty team: Cassandra Dorius, Sarah Bickelhaupt, Meghan Gillette and Jeanna Nation, human development and family studies; Lisa Orgler, horticulture; Melissa Rands and Sandra Gahn, School of Education; Michael Dorneich, industrial and manufacturing systems engineering; Monica Lamm, chemical and biological engineering; Jane Rongerude, community and regional planning; Laura Bestler, CELT; Ann Smiley-Oyen, kinesiology; and Holly Bender, veterinary pathology
  • Integrating computational design and digital fabrication technology, $12,380
    Faculty team: Nick Senske and Shelby Doyle, architecture
  • Implementation of assessment of cooperative learning in a large engineering course, $14,601
    Faculty member: Benjamin Ahn, aerospace engineering
  • Genetics laboratory: Integrating training in molecular techniques and bioinformatics tools to promote deeper understanding of core biology concepts, $8,700
    Faculty team: Jelena Kraft and Marna Yandeau-Nelson, genetics, development and cell biology
  • Research, teaching and community engagement: Experiential learning through field ecology, $8,000 (65 percent of request)
    Faculty team: Timothy Stewart, Janette Thompson, Cassandra Nuñez, Michael Rentz and Peter Wolter, natural resource ecology and management; Joanne Olson and Kristina Tank, School of Education

The faculty must complete their projects by June 30, 2017, and submit final reports to CELT a month later. During fall semester, CELT hosts a luncheon at which the previous year's recipients share their results and the current year's recipients outline their projects.

CELT's advisory board reviewed and ranked 19 proposals requesting a total of nearly $210,000 and recommended five for funding. Senior vice president and provost Jonathan Wickert gave final approval.

All Iowa State faculty (tenured, tenure-track and non-tenure eligible) may apply for funds, either individually or in teams. The maximum award is $15,000.

Regents meet on campus next week

Parking permit rate increases, several 2014-15 annual reports (diversity, faculty resignations, residence system, distance education) and a proposal for an all-Iowa chapter of a national higher education recruitment consortium are on the agenda when the state Board of Regents meets Feb. 24-25 in Ames. Wednesday's committee meetings and mid-year evaluations of institution heads will take place at the alumni center; Thursday's activities will take place in the Memorial Union Great Hall. The agenda and agenda items are online. Audio of public portions of the meeting will be live-streamed on the board's website.

Parking permits

The prices for employee parking permits would go up about 3.5 percent next year under proposed increases. General staff and departmental permits would go up $6, reserved permits would go up $18 and 24-hour reserved permits would go up $31, as proposed. Commuter parking in the Iowa State Center lot and the CyRide orange shuttle service to central campus would remain free.

The board will vote on the proposed increases at its April meeting.

The Transportation Advisory Council recommended a 3.5 percent across-the-board increase, rounded to the nearest dollar. The additional revenue would be used to construct a new lot in the northeast part of campus and upgrade existing lots.

Permits for the Memorial Union ramp, which is not managed by the ISU parking division, would go up about 2.5 percent, as proposed. The increase is $12 on an annual permit and $5-6 on a seasonal permit.

Recruitment consortium

A planning group with representatives from all three regent universities has been investigating an all-Iowa chapter in the National Higher Education Recruitment Consortium (HERC), and will present its findings to the board's academic and student affairs committee. HERC is a nonprofit group of 700+ universities, colleges, research labs, government agencies, hospitals and related organizations. It maintains a large database of jobs in higher education and related fields. It also offers members tools to be more successful at recruiting diverse and talented faculty, staff and executives. Membership is expected to result in human resources cost savings on several fronts, including discounts with HR vendors, job postings on heavily used sites and free monthly webinars with continuing education credits. Seventeen regional groups covering 25 states currently belong to HERC.

On March 29, all colleges and universities in the state, along with select government, nonprofit and private sector employers, will be invited to an informational event at the Des Moines Area Community College, Ankeny campus. They'll discuss a HERC chapter's capacity to serve their needs; some may decide to form a regional Iowa chapter. At a follow-up meeting in May of interested institutions and employers, a membership fee structure will be set. Annual membership fees are projected to range between $500 and $7,000 per institution, calculated from an FTE tiered model.

ISU presenters

Iowa State faculty and staff will give several presentations to the board:

  • "Enhancing affordability through student financial aid and bookstore operations," director of student financial aid Roberta Johnson and University Book Store director Rita Phillips (Wednesday afternoon)
  • "Biobased chemicals through advanced biomanufacturing," Brent Shanks, Anson Marston Distinguished Professor in Engineering and Center for Biorenewable Chemicals director (Thursday afternoon)
  • "Science with synergy: U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory and Iowa State University," Ames Lab director Adam Schwartz and Wilkinson Professor of Interdisciplinary Engineering and materials science and engineering department chair Kristin Constant (Thursday afternoon)

Program changes

The board also is expected to give final approval to these academic program changes:

  • A new bachelor of arts program in criminal justice in the sociology department, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, to complete the transition from one of several tracks in the interdisciplinary studies major the LAS college currently offers. The focus will be on criminal justice, not criminology (the focus of programs at Northern Iowa and Iowa). Implementation would begin this fall.
  • A name change for the bachelor of science in culinary science (department of food science and human nutrition), to culinary food science, to better indicate students' academic preparation to would-be employers. 

Hitting the right notes

Iowa State Singers in the Salt Lake Taernacle.

The Iowa State Singers, a mixed choral group, performed at the American Choral Directors Association conference in the Salt Lake Tabernacle last February. Contributed photo.

Music lovers can fill their calendars with seven more performances by Iowa State ensembles in February. Concerts will be held in Music Hall's Tye Recital Hall, unless indicated:

  • Feb. 18, Jazz band combos, 7:30 p.m., free
  • Feb. 19, Symphony Orchestra, 7:30 p.m., $5 ($3 students)
  • Feb. 21, Statesmen (men's choir), 1:30 p.m., $5 ($3 students)
  • Feb. 21, Concert Band, Campus Band and Symphonic Band, Ames city auditorium, $5-$7
  • Feb. 26, Wind Ensemble, 8:30 p.m., $5 ($3 students)
  • Feb. 28, Iowa State Singers (mixed choir), 1:30 p.m., $5 ($3 students)
  • Feb. 28, Cantamus Women's Choir, 4 p.m., $5 ($3 students)