And so it begins

Employee in enclosed lawn tractor vacuums colorful leaves

Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Groundskeeper Joel Bender, campus services, vacuums a carpet of autumn leaves from the north lawn of MacKay Hall earlier this week. Campus services manager Les Lawson said that with more than 30,000 trees and shrubs on campus, it's an ongoing task to preserve healthy turf and keep sidewalks clear for pedestrian safety when the leaves start to fall.

The collected leaves are taken to the university's compost facility south of town where they're mixed with manure and other organic waste products. The finished compost is used in various ISU research and landscaping projects.

Key FLSA dates, timelines established

Some employees who are impacted by the new overtime regulations in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) will begin receiving notices this week.

As a reminder, the new regulation requires that an employee be paid a salary of at least $47,476 ($913 per week) on an annual full-time basis to qualify for exempt status. Those under that salary level are nonexempt and their pay must meet the minimum wage and overtime provisions of the FLSA. This means that they may be eligible for overtime pay if they work more than 40 hours per week.

University officials continue to make progress on the many FLSA decisions and details that must be worked out before Dec. 1, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) deadline for compliance.

Here are some updates on FLSA activities. 



Oct. 20 – Nov. 1

Impacted employees and their supervisors receive communication regarding any changes to their exemption status

Oct. 20

One-on-one notice meetings begin between supervisors and employees

Nov. 1

Full-time post doc salaries raised to minimum salary threshold of $47,476

Nov. 1

Deadline for notices to be delivered to impacted employees and their supervisors  

Nov. 1

University human resources (UHR) online training available for supervisors, employees and timekeepers

Nov. 7

Supervisor working sessions begin

Nov. 7

Timekeeping training sessions begin

Nov. 27

Beginning of workweek for employees required to track hours worked

Dec. 1

U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) deadline for compliance

Notices to employees

This week, supervisors will begin receiving emails from UHR with notice letters for impacted employees. The email will contain instructions regarding the communication process. Supervisors are encouraged to contact UHR or their unit's HR liaison if they have questions before meeting with employees. (AFSCME staff are governed by the collective bargaining agreement and are not impacted by the latest FLSA changes.)

Training sessions

These training sessions will be available, beginning in November:

  • Required online training for supervisors and employees impacted by changes to the FLSA regulations, available Nov. 1. Participants will receive an overview of the FLSA with a particular focus on upcoming changes and what that means for supervisors and employees at ISU.
  • Working sessions for supervisors, available Nov. 7. In these small group sessions, supervisors will learn about time management and how to communicate with employees about time.
  • Required training for individuals who are responsible for entering employee hours into ADIN or Tracy Time, beginning Nov. 7. The training will cover the rules and standards for keeping and entering time. 

What counts as hours worked?

The university will follow the DOL's guidance to determine what constitutes hours worked. ISU officials are developing specific guidelines that should be available shortly. In general, all hours worked will count toward calculating the overtime threshold of 40 hours per workweek. Leave time is not factored into overtime calculation. UHR has released guidelines for compensable time for nonexempt employee travel. View the decision tree and guidelines online.

Compensatory time

Iowa State will use compensatory time to help manage overtime costs. Guidelines are being developed for supervisors and employees. Supervisors can choose whether compensatory time or overtime will be used for hours worked over 40 hours in a workweek. Only time worked will be counted in the calculation toward 40 hours. Compensatory time will max out at 80 hours per nonexempt employee in a fiscal year. In areas with higher overtime potential, UHR is working to develop an exception to the maximum hours to support the unit’s specific needs. 

The next few weeks

“We recognize that employees and supervisors will begin to have discussions about the upcoming changes before all of the guidance is complete," said interim vice president for UHR Kristi Darr. "It’s OK to start talking about the work and what options are needed for planning. Our committees feel strongly that the sooner we can notify employees and supervisors of their official statuses the better.

"We appreciate our employees' and supervisors' advice and patience as we've worked to incorporate the new FLSA rules at Iowa State. We're putting final touches on the guidance documents and will distribute them before Dec. 1."


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Senate hears research, IT updates

A new online graduate degree and a program name change were introduced at the Oct. 18 Faculty Senate meeting. Both items will be further discussed and voted on next month.

The proposed name change is for the women's studies program, to women's and gender studies. The program, established in 1977, offers bachelor of arts and bachelor of science degrees. The proposal states that the addition of "gender" to the name would better represent the course material, instruction, research and outreach efforts, which are not limited to women. The name change also would align more closely with national trends.

A new online degree in the human computer interaction graduate program would complement three existing degrees (Ph.D., master of science and professional certificate). The proposed master of human computer interaction (M.HCI) primarily would serve industry professionals and practitioners.

Research recap

Vice president for research Sarah Nusser presented an overview of ISU's research enterprise, including a look at future initiatives as part of the "grand challenges" in the university's new strategic plan and priorities issued by the White House's science and technology office.

"Several funding agencies show up at the door with programs that intersect with [the national priorities], so we can get a lot of different disciplines involved in association with these kind of grand challenges," Nusser said.

"We are currently working with the colleges to convene a group of faculty to help us develop a forward-looking vision around grand challenge themes that broadly express the research activities at Iowa State."

IT update

Chief information officer Jim Kurtenbach updated the senate on his vision for and the progress in information technology. He emphasized four areas:

  • "Human factors," such as staff hires specializing in accessibility and security
  • Technologies, such as policies, practices and network, storage and system improvements
  • Customer service, such as relocating the Solution Center, implementing rapid response teams and focusing on continuous improvement
  • Partnerships with campus groups, including college IT personnel, unit and department developers, IT committees, and training and development programs

"We're truly trying to make technology seamless -- incorporate the best practices, incorporate state-of-the-art to make your lives easier so you can focus on teaching and research," Kurtenbach said.

Going up

concrete frame of new biosciences building

Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Three of its five floors are visible now on the Advanced Teaching and Research Building for the biosciences at the northwest corner of Stange and Pammel roads. A sixth level will house the mechanical penthouse and greenhouse research space. Scheduled for completion in January 2018, construction is about 20 percent complete.

A combination of state appropriations and university funds ($19.7 million each), bond sale ($8 million) and private gifts ($10.3 million) will pay for the new facility. Future tenants are the plant pathology and microbiology department and a portion of two others: entomology, and genetics, development and cell biology.

An official way to track student co-curricular activities

Several years in the development phase, last month Iowa State launched its co-curricular transcript (CCT) website, designed to capture student achievements and activities that don't make it onto a traditional academic transcript.

Students who create a co-curricular transcript may customize multiple versions for specific audiences; output options are a PDF file or web link. They'll use them to apply for anything from scholarships to internships to jobs, said student activities director George Micalone. A key proponent of the CCT, Micalone is spending considerable time this fall introducing the concept and its functionality to campus audiences.

The Student Activities Center website contains FAQs for students and verifiers.

He said he anticipates the CCT system will take a year or two "to come to full fruition." Students, he noted, will buy in and put time into it "as they gear up for the next opportunity."

The registrar and provost offices and residence department also helped shape the CCT during its development.

"We make a big deal about experiential learning, co-curricular learning, student organization experiences as part of the overall experience at Iowa State," said associate provost for academic programs David Holger. "This is a chance to track all of those for our students."

Holger also pointed to an outcomes metric in Iowa State's new strategic plan: the number of undergraduate students who participate in at least two enriching educational activities. For example, he said he suspects there are more undergraduates involved in research than the university has been able to track centrally. The CCT system provides a way to do that, he said.

Iowa State's CCT, developed by a web development team in IT Services, features 10 submission categories:

  • Campus employment
  • Campus involvement
  • Community service
  • Honors and awards
  • Leadership experience
  • Publications
  • Recreational activities
  • Research
  • Seminars and workshops
  • Study abroad and internships

Departments, offices play a key role

Iowa State units that offer or oversee student involvement in any of these categories will be asked to verify students' participation. They can do this by responding to a student's request for verification, but the more efficient option, Micalone said, is for units to create an account within the CCT system, appoint at least one faculty or staff verifier and proactively group-load its activities -- such as student researchers, department-affiliated club officers or service learning participants -- into the system.

Verified entries confirm to transcript readers that an activity is closely connected to the university.

"For example, for the members of a screening committee, verification gives them the assurance that the entry is important and legitimate," Micalone said.

The CCT has sections for both verified and student-entered entries; those entered by students require action by the relevant department if they are to move into the "verified" section. Micalone said student entries are encouraged, too.

Micalone said the CCT system was built with an eye on convenience for verifiers. Once a department is set up in the system, any number of people in that unit can serve as verifiers. Verifiers choose how frequently they'll respond to pending requests. Options include daily or weekly summaries emailed to them, or simply logging into the system regularly to respond to accumulated requests.

Departments that would like a short CCT introduction from Micalone can email or call him at 294-8370 to request one.

Should my department be involved?

Micalone said all kinds of departments could contribute to students' CCTs. Examples would be units that:

  • Host a student organization
  • Employ students
  • Place students on research teams
  • Award scholarships
  • Send students to conferences
  • Involve students in their publications
  • Engage in service learning
  • Sponsor study-abroad programs
  • Select college ambassadors
  • Offer student leadership opportunities

A feature of Iowa State's CCT still under development is the option for units to tabulate data for their own use, for example in an annual summary or accreditation self-report.

"We believe that students involved early on at Iowa State are more likely to be successful here and graduate," Holger noted. "This system should be able to provide the data that shows us how accurate that is.

"At the same time, is there such a thing as students who are 'too involved?' We should see evidence for that, too," he said.

CyRide seeks your ideas through fun survey, pop-up meets

If you've got something to say about CyRide, now's the time. Over the next month, CyRide representatives will employ various tools -- an ingenious survey, pop-up meetings and public gatherings -- to coax input out of the Iowa State/Ames community.

It's all part of a year-long study to determine the most efficient and effective way to run the popular bus system that serves nearly 7 million rides a year. Here's how you can help determine the CyRide of the future.

Take a fun survey

The "Design Your Own Transit System" survey has to be one of the more enjoyable online surveys and it won't take more than a few minutes to complete. The survey is available through Friday, Nov. 18.

Meander into a pop-up meeting

Four "pop-up" meetings will be held around the community Oct. 21-22. At these quick-stop meetings, CyRide representatives will distribute a short questionnaire and comment cards and ask individuals to tell them what works well and what needs changing.

  • Friday, Oct. 21 (11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.) -- Outdoor area near the Hub on central campus
  • Friday, Oct. 21 (1:15-2:30 p.m.) -- Plaza between Beardshear and Carver Halls
  • Friday, Oct. 21 (6-7:30 p.m.) -- Ames High School football game, outdoors between the high school and the stadium
  • Saturday, Oct. 22 (10 a.m.-1 p.m.) - Lincoln Center Hy-Vee, inside the main entrance

Attend a public meeting

CyRide officials and a representative from the Nelson\Nygaard national transportation consulting firm will hold two meetings to gain input on the study and future CyRide services:

  • Tuesday, Nov. 8 (noon-1 p.m.) -- Cardinal Room, Memorial Union
  • Wednesday, Nov. 9 (6 -7:30 p.m.) -- Danfoss Room, Ames Public Library

More information about the study is available on the CyRide website.

Well-formed forms

Forms are behind almost every interactive thing we do on the web. When we search, log in to secure sites, pull down menus, take surveys or buy online, we're dealing with forms.

Those using screen readers suffer the most from poorly designed forms, but bad forms complicate websites for many others as well. Make your forms accessible for screen reader users and you'll improve their clarity for everyone. Here are the basics. 

Make lucid layouts

Forms should be well-organized. Users should move through the fields in a logical manner, instinctively understanding what input they're expected to provide. If possible, labels should precede input fields (blanks), because that's what most web users are used to. Mandatory fields should be described as such, with "required" appearing in the label.  

The partial form below meets the lucidity test. It's simple (although not very attractive), and both people and screen readers should easily understand the layout.

Easy-to-follow form


Accessible forms can look good, too

An accessible form can be spruced up. This form is the same as the one above, with a tiny bit of styling added. (For more information on styling, check out this article on styling CSS forms.)


Use the 'label' tag

Filling in a form blank using a screen reader can be tricky business. If the screen reader doesn't know for certain what label applies to what input field, it makes a guess. Sometimes, the software guesses wrong. The form below, with labels and input fields stacked into various cells of a table, might easily be misread by a screen reader. As a result, the reader may mislead its user into, for example, typing a name in the blank reserved for hometown.

Fortunately, there's a simple solution. Label tags -- small bits of code wrapped around labels -- enable screen readers to correctly match labels and input fields. Essentially, the label tag and its field each contain the same "match" word.


Label tags in HTML

How to insert label tags

If you're using a content management system to create web pages, use a form-building module or plugin that's accessible. Form-building tools that add label tags to fields include: Drupal's Webform and Wordpress' Gravity Forms. Your information technology specialist should be able to help you get these tools on your website. The Qualtrics survey instrument, available free to the ISU community, also allows for label tags.

Use fieldset and legend tags to group items

Fieldset and legend tags help organize a form by grouping like items. Such orderliness is particularly helpful for those listening to screen readers voice through the form fields. A fieldset might enclose a personal information section (name, address, age, etc.) or a group of checkboxes like the box below.

Choose your favorite campus icon 

The legend, in this case, "Choose your favorite campus icon," both identifies the group and helps form users know what they're supposed to do. Screen readers recite the legend before reading each checkbox item.

How to insert fieldsets, legends

Fieldsets and legends can be set using content management systems' form builders or inserted directly into the code.

Don't use placeholders

Placeholders (text hints inside the input box) often do more harm than good. In the first example below, the form designer has opted to skip field labels and rely on the placeholders ("enter name" and "enter email") to tell us what goes in the blanks. However, some screen readers don't read placeholder text. If there's no label, there's no way for screen reader users to know what the form requires.

Placeholders without labels


Placeholders with labels


Even when they're accompanied by labels, as in the second example, placeholders create accessibility and usability issues:

  • Some users mistakenly believe input fields with placeholders have already been filled and ignore them
  • Some placeholders must be deleted before users can fill the fields
  • Some placeholders disappear as soon as users begin typing in an input field. This creates issues for those who get distracted while form filling or simply have short-term memory issues
  • The traditional light gray placeholder text is hard for many to read  

Good ways to check forms

Try tabbing

Screen reader users often tab their way through forms, listening to the reader call out the labels for each form field. Try tabbing your way through your form. Does the cursor move in a logical manner?

Run the accessibility test

Accessibility testing tools can help identify problems on your forms. For example, they'll notice if you're not using a label tag. A good checker is's WAVE tool. 

Accessibility assist

Have questions? Contact web accessibility coordinator Zayira Jordan,, 294-0982.

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Label tags in HTML

Label tags will ensure that screen readers match the right label to the right input box in all your forms.

Here's the bare-bones HTML for the form segment above. It looks OK, but is susceptible to misinterpretation by screen reader/=.

<form method="post"> Your hometown
<input type="text" name="hometown"> </form>

Here's the same code with the label tag info added in.

<form method="post"
<label for ="town">Your hometown</label>
<input type="text" name="hometown" id="town">

Because the "label for" (town) matches the input "id" (town), the screen reader gets it right, announcing "Your hometown" when the user clicks on the blank.

Fieldsets and legends in HTML

Fieldsets are a good way to group form items that naturally go together. Likely candidates for grouping are personal info (name, address, phone, etc.), credit card information or checklists, like the example below.

Choose your favorite campus icon 

Here's the HTML for the fieldset above.

<form method="post">
<legend>Choose your favorite campus icon</legend>
<input id="campanile" name="icon" type="checkbox" />
<label for="campanile">Campanile</label>
<input id="laverne" name="icon" type="checkbox" />
<label for="laverne">Lake LaVerne</label>
<input id="seasons" name="icon" type="checkbox"/>
<label for="seasons">Four Seasons fountain</label>

Jack-o'-lantern display debuts at Spirits in the Gardens


ISU freshmen Anne Wallace, left, and Evan Boss stencil designs on pumpkins at Reiman Gardens earlier this week. Adult volunteers still are needed Thursday and Friday (9 a.m. to 9 p.m.) to help carve pumpkins for the gardens' Spirits in the Gardens event this weekend. Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Reiman Gardens will be aglow this weekend with a display of about 500 spooktacular carved pumpkins as part of its annual Spirits in the Gardens event, Oct. 22-23 (4-9 p.m.).

Volunteers needed

Hundreds of adult volunteers stopped by the gardens' maintenance shed earlier this week to turn pumpkins, donated by Black's Heritage Farm, Ames, into one-of-a-kind jack-o'-lanterns. Carving continues Thursday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Only adults 18 years and older may volunteer. Tools and art designs are provided. Free cider and hot chocolate will be served.

Family opportunity

Kids and families may partake in pumpkin carving during the family pumpkin carving workshop on Saturday, Oct. 22 (10 a.m.-noon). Children must be accompanied by an adult. The workshop is limited to 20 families. Preregistration and prepayment is required by Friday, Oct. 21. Cost is $12 per family for the general public ($5 per family for members), and includes admission to Reiman Gardens. Families may take their jack-o'-lanterns home on Monday, Oct. 24.

Past favorites

Spirits in the Gardens weekend activities include trick-or-treating, crafts and storytelling. Children are encouraged to dress in costumes and bring a bag to collect treats. Visitors may view the lighted jack-o'-lanterns along the gardens' outdoor paths from 6:30 to 9 p.m.

Spirits in the Gardens is free for kids under 18 and members. Cost is $8 for adults. 

Homecoming 2016: Leave a LegaCY

Students building Homecoming parade entry

Students from the Cyclone Space Mining team and Iowa State Space Society started work on their parade entry over the weekend. Contributed photo.

The resurrection of the Homecoming parade will highlight a week's worth of activities leading up to Iowa State's Homecoming football game on Oct. 29. The parade, slated to begin at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 23, will travel through downtown Ames (Fifth and Main streets).

The following events are open to the public and free, unless otherwise indicated.

Saturday, Oct. 22

  • 10 a.m., Blue Sky Days 4K run, central campus, $25
  • Noon-2 p.m., Food on campus (Hickory Park Saucy Southerners), free with $5 homecoming button, central campus
  • 12:30-4:30 p.m., Yell Like Hell first cuts, central campus
  • 7 p.m., Deadline for spirit video contest entries, open to all Cyclone fans, awards for top three winners

Sunday, Oct. 23

  • 2 p.m., Parade, Fifth and Main streets, Ames

Monday, Oct. 24

  • All day, Office and door decoration judging, finalists advance to Twitter vote, participating campus offices must sign up by Oct. 21
  • 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m., Food on campus (Fazoli's pasta and breadsticks), free with $5 homecoming button, central campus

Tuesday, Oct. 25

  • 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m., Food on campus (Jimmy John's sandwiches), free with $5 homecoming button, central campus
  • 7 p.m., CyFactor finals, student performances, Alumni Center

Wednesday, Oct. 26

  • 7:30-10 a.m., Food on campus (Panera bagels), free with $5 homecoming button, central campus
  • 6:30-9:30 p.m., Yell Like Hell, second cuts, central campus

Thursday, Oct. 27

  • 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m., Food on campus (Jeff's Pizza), free with $5 homecoming button, central campus
  • 7 p.m., Movie night, "Halloweentown," Memorial Union Sun Room

Friday, Oct. 28

  • 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m., Food on campus (Iowa Pork Producers pork burgers), free with $5 homecoming button, central campus
  • 1-4 p.m., Exhibit, Homecoming collection and ISU history display that includes a spotlight on the class of 1966, Special Collections and University Archives, 405 Parks Library
  • 1-5 p.m., Homecoming Hub, refreshments, giveaways, displays and free shuttles to/from campus, Alumni Center
  • 1:15 p.m., Alumni association honors and awards ceremony, Scheman
  • 5-9 p.m., Celebration and pep rally (7 p.m., includes Yell Like Hell finals, Cardinal Court recognition and coach and student-athlete appearances), family activities, refreshments available for purchase, Alumni Center
  • 8-10 p.m., ExCYtement in the Streets, self-guided walking tour of lawn displays, Greek community neighborhood
  • 10 p.m.-1 a.m., Pancake feed, central campus, $3
  • Midnight, Mass campaniling and fireworks, central campus

Saturday, Oct. 29