Getting the job done

Two female students study in a campus cafe

Photo by Christopher Gannon.

A comfortable, quiet space was just the ticket Tuesday for senior psychology major Sarah Reiss (left) and sophomore finance major Sami Maher. The two took advantage of the calm atmosphere in the Courtyard Café at Lagomarcino Hall to prepare for final exams. Exams conclude by noon Friday; commencement events begin Friday afternoon and continue into Saturday.

Leath apologizes, regents say it's time to move forward

The state Board of Regents accepted an apology from President Steven Leath Monday for "actions or decisions that may have called my integrity into question" regarding his use of university airplanes and, following a closed-door session with Leath, pledged their support of his leadership.

The Dec. 12 special board meeting dealt with a single issue: an audit of ISU flight service and university-owned airplanes (PDF), requested by the board in October. It was completed by the board's chief audit executive Todd Stewart, assisted by six internal audit staff from Iowa State and the University of Iowa.

The audit team concluded that Leath did not violate any university or board policy, but Stewart said Leath's use of university aircraft as pilot or passenger, in at least a few instances, "entered shades of gray" -- that is, may have been for personal benefit. Most, he said, were entirely business-related.

To date, Leath has reimbursed the university more than $41,000 related to his use of university planes. This includes damage to the single-engine plane ($17,500) in a summer of 2015 hard landing not reported to the office of risk management or the university's insurance carrier, local training/certification flights over the last two years ($14,575), and several flights for which the purpose was mixed personal and university business or mostly personal.

"As the preliminary audit showed, and the comprehensive audit has now confirmed, I did not violate any policy or break any laws. But that's not enough," Leath told the board in a prepared statement following Stewart's report. "I want to conduct myself beyond reproach, and I’m sorry that I did not use better judgment."

He said this experience will make him a better, more conscientious president.

Time to move forward

Leath proposed, and the board concurred, that Iowa State will sell its single-engine plane. Leath was its almost exclusive user (72 of 77 trips over two years), and he confirmed Monday his intent to no longer fly university planes. About 70 percent of those flights were for training/certification purposes to meet insurance requirements.

Leath also told board members that he has initiated a review of ISU flight service to determine whether it's a service the university should continue to offer or if other options would be better.

Board president Bruce Rastetter said it's time to move forward "to ensure the success of the institution."

"President Leath's acknowledgement that he takes full responsibility for the issues identified in the audit, and that he should have been more transparent about the use of the planes reassures this board -- and I hope all Iowans -- that the president deserves our continued trust and support," Rastetter said. "Furthermore, the board believes that the audit has put to rest any concerns about President Leath's use of the aircraft."

Rastetter called attention to Iowa State's "unprecedented heights" in scholarships, program growth, student success and alumni participation under Leath's leadership.

Policy changes ahead

The audit reviewed 10 specific aspects of purchasing, using and keeping records for the university's two planes, single engine and twin engine models. One of the more compelling findings noted that Iowa State does not have a policy governing university-owned aircraft use. Stewart's report recommended that Iowa State develop one that addresses scheduling, pilot requirements, authorized users and minimum requirements -- not just for university planes but also chartered flights and donor-provided aircraft. It should include statements about both transporting the family members or guests of authorized faculty and staff as well as limiting plane use to official university business by those authorized individuals.

The report also recommended that ISU policy be developed for:

  • Chartered aircraft use
  • Comprehensive flight logs for all university aircraft -- to include pilot(s), date(s) and times, trip legs, airports involved, miles flown, passengers, business purpose, expenses -- and requirements for retaining these flight records
  • Consistent user rates for university planes and shorter billing cycles to ensure that correct funds are recouped from internal customers
  • Periodic review of the university president's travel by the board president or executive director
  • Travel expenses that are reimbursable when the university president pursues medical care

Stewart also said that ISU administrators' requested audit of the university weapons policy, including storage and transport, would be honored after the flight service audit concludes. He said he plans to present that audit at the board's February meeting.

Senate president speaks out on regents issues

Faculty Senate president Jonathan Sturm shared his thoughts on two issues -- the state Board of Regents' decision on differential tuition and an audit of ISU flight service and use of university planes -- during his remarks at the Dec. 13 senate meeting.

Sturm said the senate's executive board unanimously signed a statement in support of the ISU student government's request to delay the regents' vote on targeted differential tuition and reconsider the comprehensive plan. The statement was submitted prior to the regents' Dec. 5 meeting, but received no response or discussion. Sturm said he followed up with an open invitation for regents to meet with the executive board, but again received no response.

"I'm disappointed and I'm reaching out again in this venue and I will reach out again after this meeting," Sturm said.

In response to the Dec. 12 report to the regents that reviewed President Steven Leath's use of university planes, Sturm said Leath and chief of staff Miles Lackey were "very forthcoming and transparent" with him during the audit.

"I feel this is an issue that the president has admitted that there were some errors made in the past, that he's absolutely stated he's not going to make those again and he wants to move forward. In my opinion, as a faculty member, this is not something we need to dwell on," Sturm said. "I'm going to consider this a piece of history and move on."

New certificate

Senators will vote next month on a proposed undergraduate certificate in merchandising (PDF) that requires a minimum of 22 credits (13 core) taken on campus or online. Administered by the apparel, events and hospitality management (AESHM) department, the program is designed for current students and professionals pursuing merchandising jobs in the textiles and apparel industry -- such as management, allocation and buying positions.

Oversight changes

The governance council introduced proposed bylaw changes (PDF) that address the reorganization of the university's former business and finance office.

As part of its charge, the senate's resource policies and allocations (RPA) council will continue to advise university administrators on budget and finance policies, and review related issues with the chief financial officer (Lackey). As proposed, the RPA council's business and finance committee will be replaced by a committee on university services and serve as the faculty advisory group for the senior vice president for university services (Kate Gregory).

Other business

  • Senators approved Faculty Handbook language (chapter, PDF) that reflects previous updates to the promotion and tenure appeal process. 

Mitchellville to Uganda: FundISU's far-flung first year

Kamuli youth at well

Kamuli youngsters draw water from a deep well used for hand washing, cooking and irrigation in their school gardens. The well is part of a long-term ISU project to alleviate hunger in rural Uganda. The project received some support this year through the FundISU crowdfunding platform. Photo by Gail Nonnecke.

The marching band performed in a D-Day ceremony in Normandy. Team PrISUm took its solar car on a tour of Iowa schools and communities. The student chapter of the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute hauled its balsa wood structure to San Francisco for a seismic shakedown contest. Students, faculty and staff continued community work in Peru and Uganda.

See the FundISU FAQ for information on setting up a campaign project.

Over the past year, these projects and many others got a boost from ISU Foundation's crowdfunding platform and more than 1,000 donors. In the year since foundation officials launched FundISU, 16 university teams have raised more than $190,000.

Gifts, large and small

Projects come in all sizes and shapes, from student clubs garnering $1,000 to $2,000 for conference travel to $52,000 for a training center in Uganda.

The training center pulled in the largest donation through FundISU, followed by the marching band's D-Day performance in France ($43,000) and a scholarship fund ($25,000) in memory of Emmalee Jacobs, a freshman who was killed in a hit-and-run accident on Lincoln Way last December. The memorial scholarship drew nearly 200 donors, the largest number yet for a single project.

FundISU also supported:

  • Graduate student researchers' efforts to develop cell culture systems on a chip, a project that could lead to more effective drug testing
  • The annual student-run Fashion Show
  • Bug cookbook author David George Gordon's visit to the Insect Zoo's open house last summer
  • Expansion of a production garden, developed by the landscape architecture program at the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women in Mitchellville

"FundISU has given many faculty and student groups a tool to safely and securely raise funds for Iowa State projects and programs that make a difference here on campus and around the globe," said Mary Evanson, the foundation's senior director of annual and special gifts. "Many unique programs have used FundISU to enhance the student experience and I'm excited about the impact this tool will make in its second year and beyond."

How the platform works

University teams (faculty, staff and students) apply to the ISU Foundation. Once a project is approved, the teams set up their own pages, cultivate supporters and publicize their campaigns. The foundation provides the web space and tracks and manages the gifts.  


Related story

New DIY fundraising option for university community, Oct. 8, 2015

Get ready for the winter break partial shutdown

Earlier this fall, university administrators approved an 11-day partial shutdown over winter break, beginning Dec. 23 and continuing through Jan. 2. This period includes:

  • Three university holidays (Dec. 23, Dec. 26 and Jan. 2)
  • Four regular workdays (Dec. 27-30)
  • Two weekends (Dec. 24-25 and Dec. 31-Jan. 1)

Stay or go, it's up to you

The shutdown is optional; the university is not requiring offices to close. Employees who choose not to work on regular workdays must use vacation time or take unpaid leave. Merit employees are covered by terms in the collective bargaining agreement with the state. University human resources recently updated employee leave policies and procedures during the partial shutdown. Following is a list of resources for more information:

Units involved in critical services, maintenance and research will remain open. If you need to get into your building, bring your key or access card. University officials expect many ISU facilities will be closed and locked during the 11-day period, similar to holidays and weekends.

Be accessible

If your department is closing over break, discuss how to handle incoming phone calls. One option is to direct all departmental calls to one voicemail box to be checked periodically by designated employees during the break.

Employees also should change their personal voicemail and email messages. Consider stating the dates you'll be absent, and if you'll be checking your messages. If necessary, include an off-campus number where you can be reached. Also consider posting holiday hours on your department's website.

Button up your building

The partial shutdown isn't mandatory but university officials encourage employees to take some time off while the students are away, which also conserves energy. Last year, Iowa State saved approximately $25,000 during the 11-day partial shutdown period.

Building supervisors should contact Wendy Kisch in facilities planning and management (FPM) by noon on Dec. 21 to indicate that a building will be closed or to request a temperature setback.

Keep the following in mind when you leave for winter break to help keep your office energy-efficient and safe.

  • Shut down all computers, printers and other accessories. Leave your office computer on if you need remote access from home, but power off the monitor, printer, speakers, etc. A computer's sleep mode uses less energy than full power, but information technology services guidelines recommend shutting down computers completely to protect data. A machine may be left on during break if it's providing access to a critical application. If possible, plug computers and printers into a power strip and then shut off the power strip before you leave.
  • Turn off and unplug copiers
  • Shut off and unplug small appliances, like coffeepots and microwaves
  • Unplug chargers for electronic devices
  • Check faucets in restrooms and break rooms to make sure they are completely turned off and not dripping. If you notice a dripping faucet, contact the FPM Service Center, 294-5100.
  • If you can manually adjust the thermostat in your office, turn it down to 65 degrees
  • Close fume hood sashes completely or open them only minimally
  • Shut down unnecessary climate-controlled plant growth chambers
  • Shut down cooling water systems to eliminate potential flooding issues
  • Remember to turn off your office lights and as much public lighting (hallways, restrooms, conference rooms) as possible 
  • Check windows to make sure they're tightly closed

Lace up your boots

FPM crews will work reduced hours during the partial shutdown. Snow removal will be limited from Dec. 23 through Jan. 2, which means parking lots and secondary buildings may not be plowed by 8 a.m. FPM staff also will not plow lots or sweep sidewalks for less than 2 inches of snow outside of weekday business hours (Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.).

Note these semester break schedule changes, closures

Several popular campus locations have shortened hours -- or may be closed completely -- during semester break. The following list details holiday schedules for some of the university's wintertime hot spots.

Get ready for break

Shutdown reminders

Ames/ISU Ice Arena



  • Jan. 1 (public skate, noon-3 p.m.)

Athletics ticket offices

Jacobson Building


  • Dec. 23-Jan. 2

Hilton Coliseum ticket office (southwest corner)

Open one hour prior to events (open time listed):

  • Dec. 18 (1 p.m.)
  • Dec. 20  (5 p.m.)
  • Dec. 21 (6 p.m.)
  • Dec. 30 (4 p.m.)
  • Jan. 1 (11 a.m.)
  • Jan. 6 (5:30 p.m.)
  • Jan. 7 (7:15 p.m.)
  • Jan. 8 (noon)

Brunnier Art Museum (290 Scheman Building)


  • Dec. 23-26
  • Jan. 1-2

Open, regular hours

  • Dec. 17-18
  • Dec. 20-22
  • Dec. 27-31
  • Jan. 3-6

Christian Petersen Art Museum (1017 Morrill Hall), Farm House Museum (Farm House Lane)


  • Dec. 17-Jan. 9

ISU Dining (cafés, dining centers and C-stores)

All locations closed

  • Dec. 18-Jan. 2
  • Some locations begin to open Jan. 3. Check the online dining schedule for details.

ISU postal and parcel


  • Dec. 23, 26
  • Jan. 2


  • Weekdays (except university holidays, above), 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Service will continue to accessible buildings.

Lied Center/Beyer Hall/State Gym

Memorial Union

The MU will be open during winter break, including the parking ramp. However, the following locations within the building will be closed, Dec. 17-Jan. 9:

  • CyBowl and Billiards
  • Maintenance Shop
  • Post Office
  • Workspace
  • A list of closings is online

Reiman Gardens


University Book Store (Memorial Union)


  • Dec. 23-26
  • Dec. 31-Jan. 2

Open (semester break hours)

  • Dec. 27-30, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • Jan. 3-6, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • Jan. 7-8, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

University Library

Parks Library


  • Dec. 17-18
  • Dec. 23-26
  • Dec. 31-Jan. 2


  • Dec. 19-22, 7:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • Dec. 27-30, 7:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • Jan. 3-6, 7:30 a.m.-5 p.m.

Reading rooms (Design, Math) and Veterinary Medical library

More than 2,000 are graduating this month

Four graudates in caps and gowns watch confetti fall

December 2015 graduates celebrate their moment in Hilton Coliseum. Photo by Christopher Gannon.

An estimated 2,136 students are completing their Iowa State degrees this month, and many of them will participate in the university's single commencement ceremony on Saturday, Dec. 17. Bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree recipients all will be honored during a 1:30 p.m. ceremony in Hilton Coliseum; no tickets are required.

For those unable to attend in person, a live-stream of the ceremony will be available on the registrar's website.

The December class includes an anticipated 1,759 bachelor's, 257 master's and 120 doctoral students. This is the first time that the number of mid-year graduates is expected to exceed 2,000.

Iowa State students who completed their degrees during the summer term have the option of participating in either the May or December ceremony, and 80 of those students will join the December graduates on Saturday.

Sen. Ernst will speak

Alumna and first-term U.S. Senator Joni Ernst of Red Oak will address the graduates. Elected in November 2014, Ernst is Iowa's first female member of Congress; she's also the first female combat veteran elected to the U.S. Senate. She serves on four Senate committees:

  • Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry
  • Armed Services
  • Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
  • Small Business and Entrepreneurship

Prior to being elected to the U.S. Senate, Ernst served in the Iowa Senate (2011-14), representing District 12, a six-county region in the southwest corner of the state. She served as Montgomery County auditor from 2005 to 2011, also an elected position.

Her bachelor's degree from Iowa State is in psychology. Ernst also earned a master's in public administration from Columbus State University, Georgia.

As an undergraduate, she was part of Iowa State's ROTC program and, after graduating in 1992, she joined the U.S. Army Reserves. In 2003, Ernst served as commander of a transportation company of 150 Iowa National Guardsmen in Kuwait and Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2015, completing 23 years of military service, she retired as a lieutenant colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard.

College receptions

Final exams conclude by noon on Friday, and colleges will honor their graduating students during college or departmental events Friday afternoon and evening and Saturday morning. Traditional aspects of commencement -- such as wearing caps and gowns or conferring diplomas -- will occur at the all-university ceremony, as first announced last spring. Details about the college receptions and convocations are online.