Work on the plaza surrounding the Fountain of the Four Seasons on the Memorial Union's north side is aimed at early August completion.
The renovation is part of President Steven Leath's campus beautification initiative and is the second phase of an area project that started with construction of the Iowa State University wall on the north side of Union Drive. The location became an instant favorite for photo backdrops.
Rhonda Martin, landscape architect in facilities planning and management, said the project's fountain plaza and wall area are complementary, including the cardinal and gold landscaping.
"I count myself lucky to have two such vibrant colors to work with when designing the planting beds," Martin said. "It made my job so much easier because I get to incorporate red roses and peonies, mixed with gold coreopsis and blanket flowers -- to name a few of the selections -- in the landscape. Now I’m hoping people will stand back and say, 'Wow, what a difference!'"
The plaza's stone benches were set and capped. Installation of the pavers and the remaining sidewalks should be complete by the end of this week. Landscaping will wrap up next week as materials arrive. Irrigation also is scheduled to be installed next week, followed by placement of sod grass.
The protective covering for the fountain was removed Tuesday, revealing Christian Petersen's iconic sculpture. University Museums had art conservator Francis Miller work on the maidens while the fountain was out of service. A fresh coating will be applied to the pool when the fountain is winterized.
The strategic plan that sets the university's course over the next six years became official July 18 with approval from the state Board of Regents.
The latest plan differs from its predecessors in a couple of important ways, said Steve Freeman, chair of the strategic planning steering committee and University Professor of agriculture and biosystems engineering.
The plan's key goals
- Ensure student access to an exceptional education
- Enhance ISU's research profile by conducting high-impact research
- Improve the quality of life for Iowans
- Provide a safe, welcoming environment for the ISU community and visitors
"It's much more measurable and it's more of a living document," Freeman said. "We don't want the plan to be stagnant. If something comes up and there's a need to make a change, there will be a process to do that."
"This is an outstanding plan," President Steven Leath said, "with thoughtful goals and metrics for how we can advance all areas of Iowa State with a commitment to excellence. I appreciate the dedicated efforts of everyone who participated in the development of the strategic plan. I would like to especially thank University Professor Steve Freeman for his leadership as chair of the strategic planning steering committee."
One important task remains for the steering committee -- assigning responsibility for implementing the plan.
"One or more individuals, units or committees will be accountable for every goal, subgoal and action," Freeman said. "Their task will be to ensure that things happen. In some cases, this responsibility will start by defining the details behind specific metrics in the plan and collecting baseline data where it does not currently exist. In other cases, the responsibility will start with a plan and timeline for creating something new."
Freeman said a draft of the implementation plan will be submitted to Leath by the end of the month.
The strategic plan will carry Iowa State through June 30, 2022. Freeman anticipates annual reports to the regents beginning in October 2017. Annual reviews of the plan likely will occur in late spring or early summer. If necessary, parts of the plan may be tweaked at those times.
A role for everyone
While every unit on campus has a role to play in one or more of the four overarching goals, the details contained in the subgoals, metrics and actions are more specific and thus may directly apply to fewer units, Freeman said. That's by design.
"The strategic plan is not an action plan that reflects all the important work that happens on this campus on a day-to-day basis. The plan helps us prioritize and, in places where we need to change, it helps guide that change."
The University Benefits Committee recently approved a recommendation from the Professional and Scientific Council for improvements to Iowa State's tuition reimbursement program. The changes will take effect in August.
The university's tuition reimbursement program, for eligible professional and scientific (P&S) and merit employees, reimburses them for coursework taken either at Iowa State or other eligible institutions. During 2014-15, the program paid more than $386,000 in reimbursed tuition for 172 employees.
Beginning with fall semester:
- Tuition reimbursement increases to a four-credit maximum per semester (from the previous three credits). This can be spread across multiple courses.
- Reimbursement covers the full cost of ISU credits, regardless of the program in which an employee is enrolled. Employees who attend an eligible institution other than ISU will continue to be reimbursed either the flat resident tuition rate for both undergraduate and graduate level courses or the rate at the institutions they are attending, whichever is less.
- The application period now opens 10 weeks prior to the start of classes at Iowa State each semester and closes the Friday evening before the term starts. In the past, the application windows varied in length.
Additionally, the tuition reimbursement website will be redesigned. Its relaunch will include a simplified application process.
Eligibility requirements are unchanged
The council recommendation proposed no changes to eligibility requirements. To be eligible for the tuition reimbursement program:
- Employees must have successfully completed one year of service at Iowa State, be in a non-temporary appointment of at least 20 hours per week and maintain continuous employment during the course.
- Employees participating in the program must be accepted and maintain the same academic standards as any other applicant or student, and must comply with all student rules and regulations.
- P&S or merit employees admitted to the program must complete coursework with no less than a C grade for undergraduate credits, and no less than a B grade (or documented equivalent under a different grading system) for graduate credits. Tuition is reimbursed when grades have been submitted and verified.
Expenses covered by tuition reimbursement
Iowa State's program covers up to 100 percent of ISU’s resident undergraduate or graduate rate per credit, up to four credits, regardless of the program in which the employee is enrolled. Participants in the program are responsible for other expenses such as textbooks, lab fees, service fees, technology fees, special fees for admission in some graduate areas or any other incidental expenses.
Applying for tuition reimbursement
On Monday, Aug. 1, the program application for fall 2016 reimbursement will be available in AccessPlus with enhancements and a new look. (Program application will be unavailable July 28-31.)
To apply to participate in the program, log in to AccessPlus, click on the "Employee" tab, then locate the "Tuition reimburse" link on the left side of the site. If this link is not visible to you, verify that you have completed the prerequisite of one year of continuous employment.
Note that this application process relates to tuition reimbursement and does not register you for courses -- at Iowa State or any other institution.
P&S and merit employees also can apply to defer payment until the end of the semester with the Employer Reimbursement Deferment Plan, at a cost of $35 per semester.
Negotiations continue as the university seeks a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) and student information system (SIS). The system will replace Iowa State's financial, human resources and student information systems, which have been running on a mainframe-based set of business applications, dating back to the '70s.
The new ERP and SIS cloud-based software will eventually run the university’s financial, human resources and student information systems, said Miles Lackey, chief financial officer.
"This is a very critical process and we are committed to ensuring ISU obtains the best value and long-term ERP and SIS software," Lackey said.
Lackey also noted that the university is in the process of evaluating a new identity access and management system. The negotiations for the system will begin once a contract for the ERP SIS has been finalized.
Identity systems manage user logins and permissions across vast networks like Iowa State's, ensuring users have access only to the sites and resources they need, said Andrew Albinger, interim director of campus information security. The systems combine strong security with ease of access for users.
"One of our goals is to allow more university services to be accessed via a single sign-on with a new, unique user ID," Albinger noted.
Many events -- from local to global -- will bring thousands of visitors to campus this summer. The following is a look at the groups (expecting 100 or more participants) that Iowa State will welcome over the next couple months.