Spring enrollment is a record

Students on an open staircase in Gerdin hall

Students head to class in the Gerdin Business Building earlier this week. Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Iowa State hit a new high in spring enrollment with 34,108 students -- 449 more than last spring's record. The spring student count was taken on Jan. 23.

The university registered increases from last spring in undergraduate students (466), professional students (3) and post docs (6). Graduate enrollment was down by 26 students. The number of off-campus students (those enrolled only in distance education course sections) increased by 50, from 1,464 in 2016 to 1,514 this spring.  

December commencement traditionally trims enrollment numbers from the previous fall. Last September, ISU enrollment was 36,660, an all-time high.

Spring enrollment by college





Agriculture and Life Sciences
















Human Sciences




Liberal Arts and Sciences




Veterinary Medicine




Interdisciplinary, graduate undeclared








Post docs









Where's the land-grant land? Not Ames.

Contrary to common belief, not a single acre of Story County land was given to Iowa State University as part of the land-grant act (Morrill) of 1862. Instead, the public lands that helped grow a small ag college in Ames into a major university are scattered throughout northwest Iowa. Kossuth, Palo Alto, Emmet, Clay -- 27 counties in all -- are home to 200,000-plus land-grant-designated acres. 

This northwest Iowa connection to ISU's beginnings is little known or noted. Few of the current land-grant property owners in those counties realize their grounds are part of ISU history. And many Iowa Staters mistakenly think their campus is situated atop land-grant property.

In next week's Inside

Extension and Outreach staff help Iowa landowners find their Morrill roots.

Here's the real story behind Iowa's land-grant land.

In the last quarter of 1862, as Civil War battles flared in places like Perryville, Kentucky, and Fredericksburg, Virginia, a Black Hawk County recruiter for the Union Army, Lt. Peter Melendy tackled a peaceful mission.

Governor in a hurry

Melendy's assignment, which came from Iowa Gov. Samuel Kirkwood, was to evaluate all the unclaimed federal land in Iowa, and claim the finest 204,000-plus acres on behalf of the state.

The governor was in a hurry because he realized Iowa had a head start on the federal land giveaway that would soon follow the recently passed Morrill Act. The act gave generous allotments of public land to states that promised to use their land profits to build colleges to educate America's working classes.

Peter Melendy

Peter Melendy. Courtesy of Cedar Falls Historical Society.

Abe Lincoln's signature was barely dry

A mere two months after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Act (July 2, 1862), the Iowa Legislature, during a special session, became the first state to accept its terms. This speedy legislative action assured Iowa a place in land-grant history as well as first crack at the richest federal lands available. The new law allowed states to select public land within or contiguous to their state boundaries.

Melendy -- agriculturist, writer, future mayor of Cedar Falls and trustee of the struggling state agricultural college in Ames -- threw himself into the task. After scrutinizing maps, he and an assistant, headed for northwest Iowa, where rich, unclaimed land was plentiful.

Big boost for small school

Three months and a thousand miles later, Melendy's report was on the governor's desk, and a nice funding source was in place for the small ag college that was one year away from being designated Iowa's land-grant and six years from welcoming its first official class.

Within a few years, the lands Melendy identified began producing income for the Iowa Agricultural College and Model Farm. Land rental and sales funded building construction and faculty and staff hires, and the school blossomed.

Melendy, an earnest advocate of scientific farming, continued to support Iowa State. Over the subsequent decade, he made many trips to Ohio and Kentucky to buy livestock for the college farm. He served as secretary for the farm, visited colleges in many states to bring back information on how they were organized and helped find candidates for Iowa State's presidency and faculty.   


More about Extension's Land-Grant Legacy project.

Faculty input sought on 'grand challenge' research themes

'Grand challenge' research themes

  • Enabling healthy lives
  • Building sustainable human and natural ecosystems
  • Designing next-generation materials and manufacturing technologies
  • Creating data-driven science and information systems for societal challenges
  • Developing global citizens and our workforce

In collaboration with Iowa State’s colleges, the office of the vice president for research is developing broad themes to guide the university’s research portfolio. The research themes support goal two of the university’s 2017-22 strategic plan: Enhance Iowa State's research profile by conducting high-impact research that addresses grand challenges of the 21st century.

"These interdisciplinary research themes not only will guide our work on the strategic plan, but also will offer a way we can describe the breadth and value of Iowa State’s research portfolio to lawmakers, the public, campus partners and other stakeholders," said vice president for research Sarah Nusser.

Faculty input

Nusser has appointed a 15-member faculty advisory committee, with representation from each college, to spearhead the process of further developing a vision for each of the five research themes this semester. The committee will rely on several information-gathering tools:

  • A brief online survey in which faculty will provide information about their own research, future directions and challenges in their research areas, and potential connections to the five grand challenge themes. The survey will remain open through Feb. 8.
  • College-specific conversations, led by respective committee members, about future opportunities for cross-college interdisciplinary research within each of the five themes.
  • A university-wide discussion on the vision, to be scheduled later this semester.

"These efforts are part of our strategy to collaboratively develop a cross-institutional vision for Iowa State's research, and we very much look forward to faculty feedback about the grand challenge themes to help frame the vision. I urge faculty members to take a little time to offer their insights and ideas," Nusser said.

She said her office plans to release a forward-looking vision for each grand challenge theme to the campus community later this year.

Advisory committee members, by college

  • Agriculture and Life Sciences: Emily Heaton, agronomy; Dan Nettleton, statistics
  • Business: Scott Grawe, supply chain and information systems; Kevin Scheibe, supply chain and information systems
  • Design: Ross Adams, architecture; Ben Shirtcliff, landscape architecture
  • Engineering: Peter Collins, materials science and engineering; Sarah Ryan, industrial and manufacturing systems engineering; Michelle Soupir, agricultural and biosystems engineering
  • Human Sciences: Jennifer Margrett, human development and family studies; Eulanda Sanders, apparel, events and hospitality management
  • Liberal Arts and Sciences: Adam Barb, biochemistry, biophysics and molecular biology; Leigh Phillips, psychology
  • Veterinary Medicine: Iddo Friedberg, veterinary microbiology and preventive medicine; Pat Halbur, veterinary diagnostic and production animal medicine

Wellness programs work together for greater good

The ISU WellBeing program, led by Stephanie Downs, is housed in university human resources. The newly created student wellness department, directed by Mark Rowe-Barth, resides in the division of student affairs. But organizational charts are about the only things separating the two programs.

Ever since Rowe-Barth became Iowa State's first director of student wellness last August, he and Downs have been working together with one goal in mind: focusing on the holistic wellbeing of faculty, staff and students. The two aren't required to work together, but they choose to.

"It's not productive when the employee and student wellness programs work separately, in different silos," Rowe-Barth said. "We can't change our wellness culture if both programs are completely separate."

Plus, the two want the university's message to be similar.

"Our philosophical vision and goals are aligned because we want the employee and student wellness messages to be consistent," Downs said.

Similar concerns, different approaches

Downs and Rowe-Barth agree that the health concerns of employees and students aren't that different. For example, campus input, consultant reports and clinical visits show that many students, faculty and staff suffer from stress, anxiety and sleep issues.

"Faculty, staff, students -- we're all connected. We often have similar wellness issues and concerns, but they play out differently based upon our current life situation. That's why we may have different strategies for addressing these issues for specific outcomes, based upon the differing populations," Rowe-Barth said.

Downs and Rowe-Barth recently completed training on a body image project to help the campus community prevent eating disorders and develop positive body images.

"Body image affects everyone, not just students," Downs said. "But how we approach it with each group may be different."

This spring, Rowe-Barth plans to hire 27 student peer wellness educators who will be trained to help students with a variety of wellness concerns, including substance abuse, stress and body image, beginning next fall. And while that strategy may work well with students, Downs said student peer groups assisting other employees with protected health information could present privacy or legal issues.

"Flexibility is key when implementing wellbeing programs," Downs said. "We always have to think, 'how do we go about this so it isn't more harmful than helpful?'"

For employees, quick online access to wellness information is key. Downs is in the process of securing a new portal on the ISU WellBeing website that will allow employees to track their personal wellness goals, engage in interactive programs and retrieve information important to each individual. The portal will be rolled out later this summer.

Healthy employees, healthy students

Downs and Rowe-Barth agree that their close working relationship and Iowa State's focus on promoting a culture of holistic wellbeing for all employees and students is a win-win.

"When faculty and staff are well, they pass that on to the students," Downs said. "Whatever we can do to support students will eventually help them in the workplace and in their lives beyond Iowa State."

1095-C tax forms are on their way

The federal government again is mandating that all large companies, including Iowa State, provide benefits-eligible employees with tax form 1095-C. The forms first were required for 2015 tax returns as part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) uses the information from the 1095-C form to determine if Iowa State complied with the ACA employer mandate by offering benefits-eligible employees qualifying health insurance in 2016. Qualifying health insurance is coverage that meets both the minimum essential coverage and value requirements. It's also used to report coverage information for employees who are subject to the individual mandate to have health insurance coverage. Employees are not required to file this form with their tax returns.

The 1095-C form contains three sections. The university populates all information in the form for each individual.

  • Employee and employer information: Reports information about you and Iowa State
  • Employee offer and coverage: Reports information about the coverage offered to you by ISU, the affordability of the coverage and the reason why you were or were not offered coverage by Iowa State
  • Covered individuals: Reports information about the individuals covered under your plan, if applicable

It's in the mail

Iowa State employees should receive a paper copy of the 1095-C form at their homes by Jan. 31. Contact the university's Division of Finance at 294-6556 or taxoffice@iastate.edu with any questions about the form.  

Red bond

Red painting and red sculpture in exhibit hall

Photo by Christopher Gannon.

The exhibition RED is in the Christian Petersen Art Museum, Morrill Hall, through the first week of August. It is curated from University Museums' permanent collection to explore the aesthetic and cultural range of the color. Many of the pieces selected for the exhibition were gifts to University Museums from local, regional and national collectors. Pictured are two of the works, "Big Red" (left), by former Des Moines painter Jan Shotwell, and Footed Red by fiber sculptor Priscilla Kepner Sage, Ames.

The exhibition combines works of art with statements from ISU faculty about the importance of the color red in various academic disciplines.

An exhibition open house will be held Monday, Feb. 6 (11 a.m.-4 p.m.). No surprise; visitors are invited to wear their favorite red clothing to the event.