Real-world solutions

Students present poster displays to faculty

Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Interior design spring studio students presented their final projects Tuesday in the College of Design atrium. Their assignment was to create a small-scale luxury residence for a new urban development in Serenbe, Georgia. This actual community, located on the edge of Atlanta, is focused on wellbeing. About 70 percent of the land is forested and houses are clustered in small walkable spaces, according to department chair Lee Cagley (pictured in the right foreground).


Late tuition change surfaces for second straight year

Meeting April 20 in Council Bluffs, the state Board of Regents approved Iowa State's list of 52 faculty promotions and/or tenure for the 2017-18 academic year. A year ago, Iowa State had 58 requests. The new titles and promotions take effect in July for A-base (12-month) faculty and in August for B-base faculty.

2017-18 ISU faculty promotion and tenure





Promotion to associate professor with tenure




Promotion to professor (already tenured)




Promotion without tenure (affiliate)




Tenure without promotion








Tuition adjustment likely this summer

While there was no board discussion of the topic, departing board president Bruce Rastetter announced that he has asked board staff to work with the three university presidents on an additional tuition increase for 2017-18. Mid-year state funding cuts to the universities became permanent adjustments to their bases. At Iowa State, those cuts totaled $8.99 million. Last week, the 2017 Legislature cut an additional $2.53 million from ISU's operating appropriation for the fiscal year that begins July 1. That adds up to 6.2 percent less state support than Iowa State received last July 1.

In December, the board approved increases of 2 percent for Iowa State's resident undergraduates and 3 percent for all others, as well as new three-year differential tuition packages for juniors, seniors and graduate students in five academic programs.

Rastetter said the discussion so far has focused on an additional increase of "just north of 3 percent."

"There's going to be harm to the quality of education if we don't fill in those cuts," Rastetter said. "It's really a different dynamic the regents are facing than we've seen the last six to eight years, where there's dramatically decreased state revenues and the state chooses to not fund the public universities -- in fact, to significantly cut the base."

Rastetter and regent Katie Mulholland's terms end on April 30, and incoming regents Nancy Boettger and Nancy Dunkel's terms begin May 1. Tuition adjustments require a 30-day notice and review at two board meetings. Rastetter said the likely scenario is a telephonic meeting at the end of May for the first review of a tuition increase and final review at the board's meeting scheduled for June 6-8.

Rastetter also said planning is underway for a summer gathering of regent and legislative leaders to talk about state funding and tuition at the regent universities. He said the state needs a "holistic approach" to how it funds education and a conversation about whether it actually can afford all of its education systems. These include the PreK-12, community college and public university systems. He said it also includes the $50 million Iowa Tuition Grant program, which gives aid to Iowa students attending Iowa's private colleges.

"If there's a change [in how public higher education will be supported], legislators need to tell us that earlier and be involved in the discussion, rather than the regents having to react like we did today," Rastetter said.

Salary appeals

Faculty Senate president Jonathan Sturm and Professional and Scientific Council president Clayton Johnson were among regent employees invited to present comments to the board before it sets salary policies for the next fiscal year.

In his comments (PDF), Sturm said higher student numbers putting more expectations on faculty already stretched thin, compounded by declining state support, has created "a tipping point." Faculty will need to consider cutting course offerings and the curriculum, he said.

Sturm also noted that "passing the state's support of education on to individuals undermines the very ideal of public education. But if the state will not assume its share of the responsibility to fund public education under the Morrill Act, it then becomes the regents' responsibility to raise tuition to ensure that ISU can continue to provide a world-class education and research agenda."

Sturm asked the regents "to work together with university administration, faculty and staff to convince the Legislature soon that equating smaller government with smaller education is a poor bargain for the people of Iowa and our nation."

In his comments, Johnson presented ISU's Student Counseling Service to the board as an example of P&S employees over the last five years meeting "increased needs head-on and creating new and innovative ways to serve our community." But a campus environment of "increased workload, maintaining quality service, lack of space and salary stagnation with little or no recognition" takes a toll on morale, he said.

He noted that P&S employees will have a central role in implementing numerous big changes, including a classification and compensation system review, new learning management system, rollout of an enterprise resource planning system and several leadership searches.

"Please help us to retain our valuable employees and maintain the excellent service we provide on a daily basis," Johnson said.

Rastetter said the board supports rewarding good employees, rather than giving across-the-board salary increases.

Presidential candidate

In the closing minutes of the meeting, regent Larry McKibben, who has two years left on his six-year term, announced his candidacy for board president. During a May 1 telephonic meeting (10 a.m.), the nine board members will elect their new leaders. McKibben chairs the board's audit, compliance and investment committee and is serving as interim chair of its University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics committee. He also led the board's TIER (Transparent Inclusive Efficiency Review) effort.

Other business

In other Iowa State-related business, the board approved:

  • Flat parking permit rates for all ISU permits, effective July 1, and $5 (partial year) to $12 (full year) increases to Memorial Union ramp permits. The illegal exit fine for the ramp also will rise $20, to $120.
  • Budgets and project descriptions for the reconstruction of Welch Road/Union Drive between Lincoln Way and Bissell Road, including storm sewer piping ($3.2 million); and a west campus chilled water distribution project ($8.5 million), which also will have the net effect of reconstructing Bissell Road
  • Two new research units: the Crop Bioengineering Center, under the umbrella of the Plant Sciences Institute; and the Nanovaccine Institute, formalizing an interdisciplinary, multi-institutional research venture established in 2013 as part of ISU's Presidential Interdisciplinary Research Initiative. Both units will be funded entirely by outside grants and contracts (no tuition or state funds).
  • Residence and dining rates for 2017-18. Residence hall and apartment rates will go up about 3 percent (in whole dollar amounts), with the exception of Schilletter and University Village apartments, where the increase is 2 percent. Meal plan increases are less than 1 percent; meal blocks and guest rates in the dining centers will go up about 3 percent. 
  • Three appointments: Laura Doering as associate vice president for enrollment management and student success, effective March 20; John Lawrence as interim vice president for extension and outreach, effective March 31; and Pat Halbur as interim dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine, effective June 1
  • A new online/distance education degree program: Master of Human Computer Interaction, a coursework-only program designed for professionals working in the industry who want to focus on practice, not research. It will complement Iowa State's M.S., Ph.D. and professional certificate programs in HCI, all of which launched in 2003.
  • Two name changes: women's studies program becomes the women's and gender studies program (College of Liberal Arts and Sciences); Center for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Education becomes the Center for STEM Education (College of Human Sciences)
  • The sale of $24.175 million of refunding bonds to advance refund $25 million in academic building bonds. The original bonds were sold in 2008 to pay part of the cost of constructing Hach Hall. Lower interest rates will save the university an estimated $2.66 million.

Two ISU centers await Branstad decisions

Completing her first legislative session as state relations officer for Iowa State, Kristin Failor called the 2017 session a difficult one for higher education. In a winter and spring of spiraling state revenue forecasts, flat state support for the fiscal year that begins July 1 turned out to be a positive occurrence; not all Iowa State programs and units were so lucky.

The Legislature adjourned on Saturday, April 22. Failor said Gov. Terry Branstad has 30 days -- or until May 22 -- to sign, veto or line-item veto bills that passed in the last three days of the legislative session. With Branstad's ambassador post confirmation hearing with the U.S. Senate scheduled for May 2, she said she doesn't anticipate any bill signings in the next week or two.

Following is a synopsis of key funding decisions made by legislators in the closing days of the session:

Operating support

  • General university appropriation: Iowa State's FY18 amount is about $172.87 million, or about $11.52 million less than the beginning FY17 appropriation. Most of the reduction is $8.99 million from this winter's mid-year cuts that were made permanent for FY18.
  • Many of Iowa State's direct appropriations (for specific programs or units) will remain at FY17 starting levels. These include education appropriations for the Agriculture Experiment Station, Cooperative Extension, livestock disease research, Veterinary Diagnostic Lab operations; as well as the broad economic development appropriation and Iowa State's portion of the Regent Innovation Fund (funded by the Iowa Skilled Worker and Job Creation Fund).
  • As the legislation is written, a $101,000 direct appropriation to the Small Business Development Centers will be eliminated for FY18. Failor said this reduction will be offset with dollars from the $2.42 million economic development appropriation and ISU's Regent Innovation Fund (which total $1.05 million).
  • The direct appropriations for both the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture ($0.4 million) and the Nutrient Research Center ($1.32 million) also are scheduled to be eliminated. That same legislation would transfer to the Nutrient Research Center an estimated $1.5 million the Leopold Center receives from the Agriculture Management Account (supported by nitrogen fertilizer sale fees and pesticide registrations), essentially leaving intact the Nutrient Research Center.

Leopold Center director Mark Rasmussen said the center's third revenue stream, about $250,000 earned annually on an endowment through the ISU Foundation, isn't really enough "to keep the doors open." Potentially more damaging than the two funding source losses, Rasmussen said, is language in the bill that ends the 30-year-old center's existence.

He said the governor has several options for dealing with the language in the bill regarding the existence of and state support of the center. Until Branstad takes action, Leopold proponents are encouraged to contact the governor's office, Rasmussen said.

Building project support (previously approved)

  • Student Innovation Center ($40 million in state funding over five years, FY17-21): The schedule was tweaked. State support in FY18 will be reduced from $9 million to $6 million; the $3 million will be funded in a sixth year, FY22.
  • Biosciences projects ($50 million in state funding over three years, FY16-18): The schedule also was tweaked. State support for FY18 will be reduced from $23.5 million to $20.5 million; the remaining $3 million will be funded in a fourth year, FY19.

Building project support (new request)

  • Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory ($100 million in state funding requested over five years, FY18-22). Legislators awarded no dollars to Iowa State's top building request this year. Failor said planning for this project will be delayed but is "still on the table" for FY19 funding requests.

Funding for art in state buildings

In the final appropriations bill of the 2017 session, an annual catch-all bill, legislators struck language from Chapter 23 of the State Code that requires that one-half of 1 percent of the total cost of state construction projects be reserved for fine arts in the building. The Art in State Buildings program was launched in 1979. Failor said projects that are underway, with art budgets already set aside, would be completed.

Open forums planned for facilities associate VP finalists

Two finalists will interview on campus next week for Iowa State's associate vice president for facilities planning and management post, left vacant by the retirement of David Miller in January. Candidate names will be announced one day prior to their visits, which will include an open forum. 

The successful candidate will oversee facilities planning and management (FPM) operations, with an emphasis on collaboration, accountability and responsibility. FPM operations include buildings and grounds; planning, design and construction; utilities; space management and sustainability. Four auxiliary units -- building security, postal and parcel, flight service and Veenker Memorial Golf Course -- also report to the associate vice president. FPM is part of the university services division, led by senior vice president Kate Gregory.

Candidate résumés will be posted online when names are announced. Evaluation forms will be available at the open forums or by contacting search committee chair Paul Richmond via email. Completed forms can be turned in at the forums, returned to 1122 Environmental Health and Safety or emailed to Richmond (3 p.m. May 5 deadline).

Open forums

  • May 2, 2:15-3:15 p.m., MU Cardinal Room
  • May 4, 2:15-3:15 p.m., MU Cardinal Room

Presidential search timeline will match 2011 search

State Board of Regents executive director Bob Donley announced a 21-member committee for the Iowa State presidential search and told board members he anticipates signing a contract with a search firm by May 3. Donley, who was tasked last month with organizing the logistics of the search, provided an update at the board's April 20 meeting.

The search committee will be led by two co-chairs, College of Design dean Luis Rico-Gutierrez and alumnus Dan Houston, who serves as president, CEO and chairman of the board for the Principal Financial Group, Des Moines.


Donley said the search process will closely mirror the timeline used when President Steven Leath was hired in 2011. He said he expects to have board interviews with the finalists by the first week in October. Between now and then will be listening sessions on campus with representatives of the search firm and committee (May), application deadline (mid-August), interviews with semifinalists in a neutral location (mid-September) and on-campus visits for finalists in late September.

Search committee


  • Dan Houston, chairman, president and CEO, Principal Financial Group, member of public
  • Luis Rico-Gutierrez, dean of the College of Design


  • Faculty (6): Monic Behnken, sociology; Ann-Marie Fiore, apparel, events and hospitality management; Steven Freeman, agricultural and biosystems engineering; Brent Shanks, chemical and biological engineering; Brad Shrader, management; Jessica Ward, veterinary clinical sciences
  • Presidents of representative groups (4): Tim Day, Faculty Senate; Jessica Bell, Professional and Scientific Council; Cody West, Student Government; Vivek Lawana, Graduate and Professional Student Senate
  • Regents (4): Sherry Bates, Nancy Boettger, Patty Cownie and Milt Dakovich
  • ISU Alumni Association representatives (2*): Thea Oberlander, retired Des Moines CPA; Steven Zumbach, Des Moines attorney and CPA
  • ISU Foundation representatives (2*): Ric Jurgens, retired chairman, CEO and president of Hy-Vee; Gary Streit, Cedar Rapids attorney
  • Second member of public: Tom Hill, retired senior VP for student affairs
  • Ex-officio members: Bob Donley and Mark Braun, board office staff

         *representatives are ISU alumni

Leath will leave Iowa State on May 8 to become president at Auburn University, Alabama. Former faculty member, department chair and provost Ben Allen will serve as interim president, effective May 9. Allen arrived on campus April 17 to begin the transition.

Organic veggies, anyone?

Fresh veggies

Vegetables available from the Student Organic Farm include:

  • Tomatoes
  • Carrots
  • Beets
  • Squash
  • Eggplant
  • Greens
  • Beans
  • Broccoli
  • Peppers
  • Onions
  • Potatoes
  • Herbs

If a bounty of organic vegetables on your summer table sounds delicious, consider purchasing shares in the Student Organic Farm (SOF), an ISU club made up of shareholders that include undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and community members.

Here's how it works. Anyone can purchase one of three share levels in the 2-acre farm, located at the ISU Horticultural Research Station north of Ames. In return, the members help work the farm and harvest the crops. This is called community supported agriculture, or CSA.

"The CSA format offers the opportunity for students to gain both growing experience and a simulated business experience," said Michelle Aderhold, SOF president. "It also allows us to form a strong sense of community building, in that all members work toward a common goal and share in the fruits of their efforts."

Shareholders cover the costs of seeds, tools, share boxes (for providing produce each week), maintenance of the farm and other expenses.

Share levels are:

  • General member: Not required to pay a membership fee or work on the farm each week, but members are welcome to participate in designated workdays, workshops or other events. In return for their labor, general members may receive surplus harvest, if available.
  • Working share: Required to pay a $50 membership fee and work on the farm a certain number of hours each week, from the end of May through October. In return for their labor, members receive a bag of produce each week during the harvest season, generally from May through September (this membership level is full for 2017).
  • Paid share: Required to pay a $350 membership fee to receive a bag of produce each week during the harvest season, generally from May through September; no labor required (shares are still available).

Applications and additional information about the shareholder levels are available online. Shareholders must reapply each year. 


Vegetables grown at the Student Organic Farm. Contributed photo.


Statement to the Board of Regents on FY18 salary policies


Background: The Iowa Board of Regents invited the ISU Professional and Scientific Council to make a brief statement on behalf of Professional and Scientific employees, as a non-represented staff group, during the April 20 board meeting at the Iowa School for the Deaf in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Following is council president Clayton Johnson's presentation.

On behalf of the Professional and Scientific Employees of Iowa State University, I would like to thank you for the invitation to speak today. The Professional and Scientific employees at ISU are a vibrant, energetic, and enthusiastic group of people.  We are fiercely loyal to our university, but we also have some areas of concerns that I would like to share today.

With over 3,000 employees located across the state of Iowa, Professional and Scientific employees represent the largest employee group at Iowa State University. The work of Professional and Scientific employees is varied and affect every function of our university. Every division of ISU employs Professional and Scientific employees.  Because of our wide-ranging duties, the needs of Professional and Scientific employees are very diverse.  However, some common themes cut across the entire university.

Regardless of our positions, all Professional and Scientific employees continue to advance the mission of Iowa State University: to "Create, share, and apply knowledge to make Iowa and the world a better place." We work directly with students, we work directly with research, and we work directly with Iowans. Over the past several years, we have seen our work increase in all of these aspects.

Professional and Scientific employees have accepted this challenge, and worked diligently to help our university maintain its status as a top-tier research and education center. As a great example of this, I would like to highlight ISU Student Counseling Services. Since 2011, ISU has seen a 22.6 percent increase in its overall student body. During that same amount of time, Student Counseling Services has seen an increase of 46.2 percent in intake appointments, and an increase of 41 percent in crisis appointments. The employees of Student Counseling Services have faced this need head-on working in creative and innovative ways to serve increased student numbers, including services like group counseling, support groups focusing on specific campus communities, and integrating biofeedback technology within their work.

Even with creative approaches to meet the student mental health needs on campus, Student Counseling Services is facing a common need at ISU, which is the need for more space, and updated spaces, to adequately serve students, conduct research, and serve Iowans. With decreased state appropriations and the mid-year budget revisions of the past few months, many "deferred maintenance" projects have been delayed even further so ISU can continue to meet the immediate needs of its constituency.

Student Counseling Services is just one example of many of the offices at our university that are meeting their increased needs head-on and creating new and innovative ways to serve our community. However, maintaining morale has been difficult in this environment of increased workload, maintaining quality service, lack of space, and salary stagnation with little or no recognition.

Salaries for Professional and Scientific employees have remained stagnant over the past several years. Over the past five years, Professional and Scientific employee salaries have increased an average of 1.4 percent per year. In a similar timespan, cost of living expenses have continued to outpace these increases significantly. One example of this is housing costs in Ames.  Since 2013, the average sale price of homes in Ames have risen over 10 percent. A factor that exacerbates this problem is that ISU does not currently have any centralized tools by which supervisors can effectively evaluate employee performance. This means that previous increases have been largely “across the board” increases rather than performance based in nature -- which does not financially incentivize employees to continue to improve.

Iowa State University is on the precipice of numerous major changes. We have several new administrators who will be hired within the next year, including a new president. We also have several new systems and processes that will fundamentally change the way we complete our work -- including (but not limited to) a complete review of the classification and compensation system, a new learning management system, and the rollout of a campus-wide enterprise resource planning system. Professional and Scientific employees will play a central role in implementing all of these changes.

While change is exciting, it is going to take a lot of work. The upcoming changes will require a significant effort of the entire ISU community, including its 3,000 Professional and Scientific employees. We welcome the new chapter upon which ISU is embarking, and we are looking forward to the challenge. However, we need your help, and frankly, we need additional resources.

To everyone listening today, the Regents, campus administrators and all constituents: Please remember the value and resource provided by Iowa State University, the other public universities of the state of Iowa, and the employees serving these institutions. Please help us to retain our valuable employees and maintain the excellent service we provide on a daily basis. Please help us to continue the work to support Iowa State University and the state of Iowa. 

Thank you.

MU renovation proposal won't be abandoned

Iowa State students last month voted down a fee hike to renovate and add on to the Memorial Union, but interim director Corey Williamson said the conversation about "what's next" began almost immediately. It has included current students and administrators, as well as the facility's advisory board of directors, which met recently for the first time since the March 7-8 vote.

The Memorial Union is 89 years old and, because of some key improvement needs, doing nothing simply isn't an option, Williamson said.

"We have some short-term needs that we just can't ignore in order to keep this building functioning," he said.

The focus this spring has shifted to two specific goals:

  • Renovate the former hotel floors (four through six) to office space. The floors currently are a temporary solution to the demand for on-campus student housing -- but outdated infrastructure can't sustain a residence operation long-term, he said. Students are scheduled to occupy the space during the 2017-18 academic year. The hotel was a critical revenue source for the Memorial Union.
  • Resolve some of the building's critical deferred maintenance needs. A 2015 facility assessment identified about $28 million worth of projects. For example, one piece of the heating/cooling system is original to the building. A few projects, such as the slate roof replaced last fall, are complete. But about $26 million in deferred maintenance remains.

A modest student fee increase is a likely way to pay for those immediate needs, Williamson said. Student senators discussed such a proposal at their April 19 meeting, but ultimately didn't vote on it and will return to the topic in the fall. Senators said they didn't have enough time or information to reach a decision.

Nationally, student fees are the usual way to pay for student unions on university campuses, Williamson said, so that needs to remain a key funding piece.

The original proposal

By a 62 percent to 38 percent margin, students who voted in March on the issue -- some 8,000 -- turned down the proposal to raise student fees a total of $72 over two years to cover $55 million of a $65 million project. The MU currently receives $27.55/student per semester. The multiple-phase, three- to four-year project would:

  • Convert floors four through six from residence/hotel rooms to office space
  • Renovate parts of the other floors to create more spaces for dining seating, student organizations and meetings; and replace the recreation area
  • Build a three-story northeast addition to enlarge the spaces for service offices such as the multicultural center, veterans center and student organizations

In the process, it also would have addressed about 40 percent of the deferred maintenance issues.

Why it didn't succeed

Williamson said the March proposal was modest in scale and cost, and "one step" toward addressing the impact of enrollment growth on students' experience. He said MU staff and student proponents of the project battled several challenges leading up to the vote, including:

  • A short time period -- about three weeks -- to share and promote the final proposal
  • Student concern about tuition and fee increases in the face of state funding cuts
  • A misperception among students that some other campus building projects would address the space needs of student organizations
  • The proposal is based on three-year-old input from student leaders and organizations

Beginning this fall, Williamson said MU staff will work with students again to learn about space needs for the long term and any other concerns behind the referendum defeat, and determine "the best path to addressing their needs."

The needs assessment will include faculty and staff input. Acknowledging that the Union's student focus may not appeal to some employees, Williamson said he'd like to identify ways to draw faculty and staff to the facility and make it truly a community building.


'Washed Ashore' highlights pollution problem


Mary Johnson, community outreach director with, cleans Rufus the triggerfish in preparation for the opening day of "Washed Ashore" at Reiman Gardens. Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Oregon artist Angela Haseltine Pozzi was disturbed by the large amounts of plastic that littered the Pacific coast as she walked along its beaches. She felt compelled to act and the result is "Washed Ashore," an exhibition featuring larger-than-life, garbage-to-art sculptures of marine life created from plastic debris.

Ten sculptures from the 17-piece "Washed Ashore" collection will be on display at Reiman Gardens April 29 through Oct. 31. Some of the pieces chosen for this exhibition -- the first at a public garden -- include Blue Marlin, Large Jellyfish, American Sea Star and Trigger Fish. Two sculptures will reside inside the gardens' facility, while the rest will dot the outdoor landscape. Many of the pieces exceed 10 feet in height and length.

"We are always trying to do new and innovative things at Reiman Gardens, which is why we reached out to 'Washed Ashore' about hosting their exhibit," said Maria Teply, communications coordinator at Reiman Gardens.

Reiman Gardens is planning several educational programs in conjunction with the exhibit to help individuals understand the plastic pollution problem in the United States. A few of those workshops, all at Reiman Gardens, are listed below. Additional events are online.

  • Treasure from Trash drop-in, April 29 (10 a.m.-noon). All are invited to make mini sculptures from trash. Bring clean, dry plastic trash for use in the artwork. Extra materials, tools and assistance will be provided. An adult must accompany all youth. Cost is price of admission (free for members, ISU students).
  • Ground to Ground: Reducing Waste, May 15 (6-8 p.m.). Learn how to cut down on kitchen and household waste with certified master herbalist Gayle Curtis. Also, sample a zero-waste salad, discover how to regrow food from scraps, and learn about preserving and composting. Registration with prepayment is required by May 11. Cost is $20 ($16 for members, $13.60 for ISU students)
  • Water from the Ground Up, May 20 (10 a.m.-noon). Join Morrill Professor of geological and atmospheric sciences Cinzia Cervato to learn where the water we drink comes from, how the ground "stores" water and how it's retrieved, and how daily activities -- like mowing the lawn or riding in a car -- affect water. Recommended for children ages 8 to 16. Preregistration and prepayment is required by May 18. Cost is $12.50 ($10 for members, $8 for ISU students).

Admission to Reiman Gardens is $8 ($4 for kids ages 4 to 17; free for kids 3 and under).