Leath reflects on ISU presidency

Steven Leath is in his final week as president of Iowa State University, the job he's had since January 2012. May 8 is his last day; in June he'll become Auburn University's 19th president. Inside recently sat down with Leath and asked him to reflect on his five-plus years in Ames.

President Steven Leath

President Steven Leath in his Beardshear office. Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Why Auburn and why now?

If someone had asked me a year ago if I'd be leaving Iowa State now, I would have thought that was very far-fetched. Truly, my wife and I have come to love it here, we think of ourselves as Iowans. Auburn made the right run at the right time. It's a great university, another beautiful campus, and it would be fun to return to the Southeast -- we spent 27 years there. And the things Auburn wants me to do are similar to the things Iowa State wanted me to do: raise the university's profile, build research, grow the research park, help the university be a bigger force in economic development, push their fundraising agenda. These are things I'm good at, so the chance to do that again is exciting.

What three or four aspects of Iowa State do you believe are stronger today than the first year of your presidency?

First would be student success. Our retention rates, our graduation rates, our job placement rates; these types of things excite me because, ultimately, we're about education. At the same time, there was a commitment to grow research, and we have a number of new national academy members, which shows recognition of our research efforts. And our research funding numbers are at all-time highs. Third, one of the things expected of me was to help foster economic development in central Iowa, and when I look at the successes at the research park, the Cultivation Corridor and job growth numbers, I'm really pleased about that. [Economic development] also was one way we could increase our value to the state and help garner more help and more funding through the Legislature. For five years in a row, that worked quite well.

How have things improved for faculty and staff?

One of the best parts of this job are the people, and the faculty and staff we work with every day have been truly wonderful. If you look at their productivity and their overall workload, they've been just remarkable in the time I've been here. We tried hard to put more money into salaries. They told us they needed more help to deal with the growth, and we hired over 450 tenure-track faculty and increased staff numbers. We worked as a team in a shared governance model to say, what are the priorities we really need to put in place -- and then worked to do that. We had remarkably low faculty resignations this year -- something like 24 faculty leaving us -- so I feel good that people want to be here and are relatively happy here.

P&S staff are the heart and soul, the ones who roll up their sleeves and get things done. They told us they wanted more opportunities for professional development. So we put some programs in place, such as the professional development day at Scheman, which was so well attended we almost needed more space. It pleases me to see opportunities like that working the way P&S staff asked for when I got here.

Among the accomplishments achieved by this university under your watch, of what are you personally most proud?

Student success. Students are moving through the ranks, they're graduating, they're getting jobs. One point about our enrollment growth: There was a misperception among some that we had some goal to grow the university and be the largest university in the state. That happened, but it was never a goal. What I'm proud of is that we've made the university so desirable, such a fun experience for students -- and then they get jobs when they leave -- that they want to come in bigger numbers than ever before. But it's not the numbers, it's the demand we created for an Iowa State education that makes me excited.

Who gets credit for creating that demand?

For the most part, it's not Beardshear -- with one exception. The staff and the faculty have done yeoman's efforts. They shouldered a huge burden to deliver the kind of experience we expected -- and parents expected for their kids -- before we could actually grow into it.

I give a lot of credit to (former senior vice president for student affairs) Tom Hill. He saw the merit and value of creating an Iowa State brand for the students. He created a culture here where kids could come and work hard, be successful, get jobs, but also have fun. The idea that half of what an Iowa State student learns is outside the classroom is true, it's what makes it a neat experience.

We have the ability to take tremendously gifted students and turn them out where they can change the world. But I'm almost more proud of the fact that we can take students who maybe didn't have that level of academic success in high school and make them just as successful and influential once they leave here. Not many schools do that as well as Iowa State can.

One of my concerns when we hired so many faculty so fast was that we might lose our caring culture. But in fact we didn't. The new faculty embraced it.

What were a few of your favorite tasks associated with being Iowa State's president?

I like meeting and spending time with alumni, donors, our friends and supporters, not just in Iowa but really all over the world. To learn why they care so deeply about Iowa State and just learn their stories. They come from all walks of life -- astronaut, engineer, chef, clothing designer. The opportunity to interact with them is something I'll always treasure, and I think I've made lifelong friends.

The other thing I'd point to is some of the fun things that involve our students: going to the student section at a football game, eating with them in a dining hall or greek community; those are fun things for me.

What was your best day as president?

There've been a lot of good days. Walking into the Economic Development Core Facility when it was done was more rewarding and moving than I anticipated. We took the park from somewhat of an industrial look to a much grander look. When I envisioned a core facility to move all our economic development programs together, many told me 'You can't build a facility like that, you can't fund a building like that in Iowa.' (It was completed with one-time funds from the 2013 Legislature with permission to spend it over three years.) When I saw all the different units that were extending Iowa State's mission to the state, working cooperatively in one place, that was personally very rewarding.

What was your darkest day as president?

We've had some student deaths and those are horrible days. With the exception of those, the most difficult day was the day we met to suspend Veishea in the year it was still active. To watch students in tears, to have the reality sink in that a 90-plus-years tradition was ending, was particularly painful and disappointing. The discussion that day about ending it and all those implications was a great example of shared governance, but nobody really wanted to own that decision, even though I think I knew where everybody in the room was. It was difficult to make that decision, even though there's no doubt in my mind it was the right decision.

Are there projects, goals you regret not completing?

No matter when you end a job, there's more you could do. You have to come to some reconciliation with yourself on that. But yes, there are a few: I expected the research park to be further along when I left. I thought we'd have a 90 percent first-year student retention rate and a 75 percent six-year graduation rate when I left. And I thought we'd have a billion-dollar endowment. And all those steps are now very reachable; the trend line is there. I fully expect the next president will be able to get there. That will be personally rewarding for me, wherever I am, to see Iowa State get there. I love this place and I'm always going to be a Cyclone. I'll still want to see the university move forward.

As you prepare to leave, what would you like to say to the faculty and staff at Iowa State?

Thank you. You have worked incredibly hard. You've always been willing to give me counsel and advice. You value shared governance, which I do. I've said since day one that universities are like churches: It's not about the building, it's about the congregation. We have a beautiful campus, which makes this place fun, but it's not what makes this university great. It's the faculty and staff. If I could take a bunch of you with me, I would.

Senate sets stage for NTE changes

Faculty senators set aside time at their May 2 meeting to discuss potential new classifications -- and overall terminology -- for nontenure-eligible (NTE) faculty. The discussion stemmed from changes recommended in a February senate task force report (PDF).

The task force recommendations include adding two additional NTE tracks -- teaching professor and professor of practice -- each with three ranks (assistant, associate and full professor). A principal lecturer designation also was proposed, but task force chair Rob Wallace said a "significant amount" of input discouraged the use of two instructional NTE tracks (teaching professor and lecturer).

"Many people were suggesting we merge these (instructional faculty) into a single track with multiple access points," Wallace said. "There was concern that we have people in these tracks -- some with terminal degrees and some not."

A projected timeline for work on NTE policies indicates continued work through the summer, with senate action on proposals next fall and implementation beginning next spring.

P&T report

Senior vice president and provost Jonathan Wickert presented his annual report on faculty promotion and tenure, sharing details about the 56 P&T cases considered this spring.

"I read every case," Wickert said. "It's a lot of fun, I learn a lot and I walk away being very proud of the accomplishments of our faculty on campus."

Of the 56 cases, four were denied -- three promotions to associate professor with tenure, and one promotion to professor. Wickert said another five cases did not make it to the institutional review. Three were withdrawn at the department or college level, and two faculty resigned.

In a breakdown by gender and ethnicity, 32 of the 52 approved P&T cases are males. In that gender subset, 17 are white, 13 are Asian or Asian-American, one is Latino and one is black. Among the 20 approved female P&T cases, 14 are white, four are black and two are Latina.

When examining the FY11 faculty hires that were tenure-eligible (44), 45 percent (20) earned tenure as of FY17, and 25 percent (11) were granted tenure clock extensions. Twelve members of that cohort left ISU without tenure and one switched to the NTE faculty ranks.

Wickert said 26 promotions for NTE faculty also were considered, of which 25 were approved. The majority of the promotions (17) advanced from lecturer to senior lecturer.

Wickert also shared the outcomes for 67 post-tenure reviews conducted by the colleges. He said five evaluations were rated below expectations and "action plans" were put in place for each faculty member. His presentation included a five-year history of post-tenure reviews, with similar results last year and spikes in the number of evaluations conducted in FY13 (98) and FY15 (87).

"Success in promotion and tenure starts when you're hiring," Wickert said. "It's the good work of our search committees in recruiting top faculty candidates; it's the work of the faculty mentors over the years to develop and advance those folks; it's the work of the P&T committees; it's the work of the department chairs and the deans in getting us to a successful point. I'd like to think that all of that -- tracing back to the hiring process -- forms an institutional culture, where our goal is to hire people who are at the top of their field and help them be successful so they can have 35-year careers at Iowa State."

Final business

The senate closed out its 2016-17 business by clearing its docket with unanimous decisions to:

University kicks off review of P&S classification/compensation structure

Iowa State has launched a review of the classification and compensation structure for Professional and Scientific (P&S) staff. Compensation and classification director Emma Mallarino Houghton said the review is intended to create a consistent and modern classification and compensation structure that aligns with the university mission; is fair, equitable and compliant; and enables the recruitment, retention and reward of P&S employees. She said the review should achieve these outcomes:

  • Create and establish a university-wide compensation philosophy for P&S staff
  • Develop defined job categories and job families for P&S jobs
  • Develop a defined P&S pay structure that balances market, equity and performance
  • Develop defined pay administration policies and practices to maintain a modern and competitive pay program
  • Better define pathways for P&S career development

Mallarino Houghton noted that effective organizations review their compensation structures periodically to make sure they are fair, consistent and appropriate for their missions. Given the needs of Iowa State's modern workforce, she said university leaders felt the time was right to take on this important task.

"I have had the opportunity to meet with UHR and P&S Council leadership about this review and am fully supportive," said Ben Allen, who will become Iowa State's interim president on May 9. "It's important that Iowa State's P&S classification and compensation structure is a best practice-oriented structure, as this will help our managers make effective decisions related to positions and pay in their units. It also will support the recruitment and retention of quality employees."

First steps

The university's consulting partner on the project is Aon Consulting. The review process will begin with a series of interviews with university leaders, led by Aon representatives. The interviews will help document the current state of the P&S structure and shape the needs for a new one.

In the coming months, university human resources (UHR) will ask all P&S employees and their managers to complete a job documentation process; essentially summarizing what they do. This collection process is designed to give UHR a better understanding of the variety of work being performed across the university. With an all-encompassing view of P&S positions, the core review team and Aon will organize and group jobs for better consistency, making the classification and compensation structure fair for staff and efficient for managers.

Details about the job documentation process, as well as other components that will engage P&S employees, will be shared soon. Mallarino Houghton noted that the core review team, extended project team and advisory team all contain P&S employees.

The project will continue through the next year, with final recommendations made to university leaders in the summer of 2018. Mallarino Houghton said the target for implementing changes to policies, practices and the classification and compensation structure is fall 2018.


For now, P&S reclassifications will be reviewed and processed as normal, Mallarino Houghton said. There may be a time, later in the project, when reclassifications would be put on hold. When such a decision is made, more information will be provided, she said.

Specific questions about the review project may be emailed to uhrcc@iastate.edu.

Survey says: Yum

ISU Dining chef Nolan Green

ISU Dining chef Nolan Green prepares a sandwich developed for the Lance and Ellie's venue, opening next fall in the MU food court. Photos by Christopher Gannon.

"Off the chain."
"Loved it."
"I don't normally go for tofu, but I would definitely get it again."

That's some of the feedback ISU Dining received during an April 27 sampling of menu items that could be featured at its newest venue, opening this fall in the Memorial Union. The concept, named Lance and Ellie's (a nod to ISU's famous pair of swans), will be in the food court space currently occupied by the Subway national sandwich chain.

Subway's lease expires at the end of May. ISU Dining staff jumped at the chance to bring in their own sandwich (and more) concept, utilizing their cadre of creative chefs and from-scratch items.

"We wanted to offer fresh food -- exciting options produced by our talented staff," said Mohamed Ali, ISU Dining director.

Sandwich closeup

The Lance and Ellie's menu will include sandwiches made with bread baked on site, premium meats and fresh ingredients.

What to expect

ISU Dining chef Nolan Green said the Lance and Ellie's venue will offer made-to-order sandwiches (toasted if desired), wraps and salads, along with sides, desserts and drinks. About eight themed sandwiches -- for example, the turkey or soy harvest (fried tofu) items that were sampled last week -- will be standard menu items, but also customizable. A different hot sandwich special also will be featured daily.

"We created a concept where you can choose your own adventure," Green said. "We wanted to give that feel of a delicatessen -- where you could choose your meats and your own way of putting your sandwich together -- and tried to marry that with other current concepts, like Jimmy John's and Potbelly."

Ali and Green both said the quality of the products used, with attention to health-minded options, will make Lance and Ellie's unique. For example, selections will include house-made dill pickles, Boar's Head meats (which use fewer additives and leaner cuts), and tofu likely sourced from an Iowa City company that uses Iowa-grown soybeans.

"I want to emphasize the quality -- when it comes to ingredients, using Iowa products, and using premium meats," Ali said. "And, as a dining group, we want to show our culinary skills."


Ali said, barring any construction delays, the goal is to have the new space remodeled and ready to serve customers when the fall semester begins. Lance and Ellie's will employ 20 to 30 students and two fulltime dining staff (a cook and a sous-chef). He said construction won't close any of the current food court venues, which will be accessible all summer.

Spoiler alert

Ali said future plans include reconfiguring the current beverage area in the center of the MU food court. Look for the addition of a comprehensive salad bar that includes grilled meats and vegetables, as well as a new beverage station.

He said ISU Dining also plans to expand its GET Mobile app -- which allows users to preorder items for pickup at the Hawthorn (Frederiksen Court) venue -- to include service at Lance and Ellie's.

'Imaginative' proposals receive diversity course development grants

The office of the senior vice president and provost, Faculty Senate and Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) identified the first seven grant recipients in the university's Diversity Course Development Initiative.

The initiative, part of a broader effort to strengthen the U.S. diversity curriculum requirement, supports faculty who wish to create new courses or make significant modifications to courses that currently meet the requirement.

Senior vice president and provost Jonathan Wickert said that reimagining the diversity curriculum has long been a goal of both students and faculty.

"Iowa State students have been telling us they want a deeper understanding of contemporary issues related to diversity and inclusion," Wickert said. "The faculty responded to this challenge with excellent and imaginative proposals that offer new perspectives in areas such as racial and gender justice, leadership strategies, fashion and the media."

Wickert also noted that the initiative addresses goal four of Iowa State's strategic plan, as the university community works together to cultivate an experience "where faculty, staff, students and visitors are safe and feel welcomed, supported, included and valued."

Faculty proposals selected for funding are:

  • Larissa Begley, African and African American studies
    New course: The Revolution Will not be Televised – Resistance from Slavery to Hip-Hop and Black Lives Matter
  • Michael Goebel, women's and gender studies
    Modified course: Gender Justice
  • Amber Manning-Ouellette, leadership studies
    Modified course: Leadership Styles and Strategies in a Diverse Society
  • Loreto Prieto, psychology
    New course: Psychology of Sexual Orientation
  • Marcia Purdy, School of Education
    Modified course: Intergroup Dialogues
  • Kelly Reddy-Best, apparel, events and hospitality management
    New course: Queer Fashion
  • Brenda Witherspoon, Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication
    New course: Identity, Diversity and the Media

Grant recipients share $50,000 in funding. They also will receive initial and followup consultation for instructional design planning, and faculty development opportunities through ongoing CELT programs, including the Inclusive Classroom initiative. The goal is to offer each course for the first time in either fall 2017 or spring 2018.

Selection process

Proposals submitted this winter through an RFP process were reviewed by a committee of students, faculty and staff who ranked each proposal according to a rubric designed to assess the desired learning outcomes.

The committee chairs were Sara Marcketti, associate director of CELT and professor of apparel, events and hospitality management; and Mark Looney, senior lecturer in world languages and cultures, and chair of the Faculty Senate's equity, diversity and inclusion committee. Other members were Liz Mendez-Shannon, office of diversity and inclusion; Gordie Miller, Faculty Senate curriculum committee; Brad Skaar, Faculty Senate academic affairs council; and students Emily Tosoni, political science; Natalie Weathers, communication studies; and Laura Wiederholt, biology.


Related story

Initiative intended to enhance diversity curriculum, Nov. 3, 2016

LMS selection enters final stages

Iowa State’s Learning Management System (LMS) review committee expects to make a final recommendation in the coming weeks. After hosting demonstrations by two vendors in April, committee members have completed reviewing the input they received from campus stakeholders.

The vendors, Instructure (Canvas) and Desire2Learn (Brightspace) delivered a series of presentations to instructional designers, faculty, staff and students last month. The presentations covered typical LMS uses for the various groups and allowed the companies to highlight the capabilities of their products. As part of the process, the LMS review committee also held a webinar with the current LMS, Blackboard Learn, to get an update and overview of that product.

Prior to their campus visits, the two new vendors were required to migrate 10 Iowa State courses to their products and allow the LMS review team access to those accounts.

Ann Marie VanDerZanden, director of the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT), said both products received high ratings for major functionalities, such as gradebook, calendar, group tools, communication features, integration with third-party tools/apps and embedded video feedback options.

Once the decision on a vendor is made, CELT and information technology will provide a series of next steps for faculty -- particularly early adopters who want to migrate their courses to the new system for fall 2017.

More information on the LMS review, process and timeline is online.


Related stories

You're invited: Demos for next learning management system, April 13, 2017
Vendors selected for learning management system demonstrations, April 6, 2017
An update on the learning management system review, Jan. 19, 2017
Review of learning management system has begun, Nov. 10, 2016



WorkCyte: Out with the old, in with the new

Have a question, recommendation, comment or concern? Submit it through the WorkCyte feedback form.

The transition from older "legacy" systems to integrated, cutting-edge technology for everyday processes has been dubbed WorkCyte, and it will, in some way, affect everyone on campus. There are several university-wide (enterprise) technology initiatives in the works, and a WorkCyte website will help campus users stay informed as they are implemented.

"The WorkCyte website is a portal where every member of the campus community can learn about what’s on the horizon, and begin to get acquainted with the improvements that are coming to Iowa State," said Francis Quinn, interim change manager in information technology.

Accessible only by ISU Net-ID login, the WorkCyte website provides updates on initiatives such as the Workday mobile-first enterprise system that will integrate ISU's finance, human capital management and student information processes.

The website launched last month with a Workday project history and timeline, frequently asked questions and a portal for questions and feedback. It also will provide a list of about 80 unit-specific project liaisons who will help with the Workday implementation, including communication and training activities. As implementation continues, more features will be added to the WorkCyte website, such as training schedules and video tutorials.

More than Workday

But the WorkCyte website won't be limited only to news about Workday. It also will provide updates on the Okta identity and security platform, and improvements to IT-based tasks (business processes) and access (service delivery) -- initiatives that will update and streamline current applications and processes.

Learning the lingo

As processes change, terminology and visual identifiers also will change. The WorkCyte website includes a glossary of terms and set of icons that will be used across the enterprise initiatives.

Pammel/Stange improvement work will last all summer

A summer project to replace the traffic signals and pavement at the north campus Stange/Pammel intersection is scheduled to start next week and continue to mid-August. The intersection will stay in use all summer, but traffic will be reduced to a single lane in each direction throughout the project, so congestion is likely.

Pedestrians and cyclists approaching campus from the north this summer are asked to use the sidewalk along the west side of Stange Road; the east sidewalk (adjacent to the horse barns) will be closed during the project. Signage will help drivers and pedestrians navigate through the area.

Key pieces of the project will:

  • Remove the pedestrian island in the northeast corner of the intersection to improve pedestrian safety and rebuild the right turn lane from Pammel Drive to northbound Stange Road
  • Replace the sidewalks at all four corners and install accessible sidewalk ramps
  • Replace the concrete paving on all four sides of the intersection
  • Replace the traffic signals (poles and heads) with modern models that include features such as countdown timers for pedestrians, radar-based vehicle and bicycle detection, left turn flashing arrows, leading pedestrian intervals and ADA-compliant crosswalk controls

Construction manager Russ Dodson, facilities planning and management, said crews are scheduled to set up traffic controls in the zone on Tuesday, May 9, with work to begin later in the week. Concrete Connections, Johnston, is the contractor.

It's graduation weekend

Female graduate shows off her diploma

A proud 2016 undergraduate shows off her diploma cover at last spring's ceremony. Photo by Christopher Gannon.

An estimated 5,093 Iowa State students will complete degree programs this semester and celebrate the accomplishment at one of three commencement ceremonies this week. The graduating class represents an increase of nearly 500 students over last spring's record-breaking class.

Graduate College ceremony

The Graduate College will honor an estimated 497 master's and 133 doctoral students during a ceremony on Thursday, May 4 (7:30 p.m., Hilton Coliseum). Catherine Kling, Charles F. Curtiss Distinguished Professor of Economics, President’s Chair of Environmental Economics and director of the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development, will address the graduates. Kling was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2015.

The ceremony will be livestreamed on YouTube.

Veterinary Medicine ceremony

The College of Veterinary Medicine will confer Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degrees on a projected 141 candidates on Saturday, May 6 (noon, Stephens Auditorium). The guest speaker is alumnus (1983) Dr. Morgan McArthur, who works as an agriculture and community resource development educator for the University of Wisconsin extension system in Baraboo. He also is a professional speaker, turning an aversion to public speaking in the 1980s into a 1994 world championship among 10,000 Toastmasters International competitors.

Undergraduate ceremony

An anticipated 4,322 undergraduates will receive their diplomas on Saturday, May 6 (1:30 p.m., Jack Trice Stadium). Iowa State alumnus (aerospace engineering, 1986) and Orange City native Dennis Muilenberg, who serves as chairman, president and CEO of The Boeing Company, will address the graduates. The world's largest aerospace company, Boeing employs approximately 150,000 people across the United States and in more than 65 countries. He is receiving an honorary Doctor of Science degree for "outstanding contributions to the advancement of science and technology, particularly in the field of aerospace engineering." Throughout his career, Muilenberg has maintained a connection to Iowa State and the undergraduate students.

Stadium gates 1 (northeast), 3 (south) and 5 (northwest) will open at 11:30 a.m. and general admission seating will be in the southern half of the stadium's lower bowl. Graduates will be seated on the field. Concessions counters in the southeast and southwest corners of the stadium will be open.

The ceremony will be livestreamed on YouTube.

Inclement weather plan

Tickets are not required for the outdoor ceremony. In case of inclement weather, however, the ceremony will move to Hilton Coliseum and tickets will be required for admission. Students who responded via AccessPlus that they intend to participate in the ceremony received four inclement weather tickets for their guests. Additional seating will be available in Stephens Auditorium, where guests will view the event via livestream. Tickets aren't needed at Stephens Auditorium.

More graduation events

Graduating members of Iowa State's lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual and ally community will be recognized during the Lavender Graduation ceremony on Thursday, May 4 (3-5 p.m., east gymnasium, State Gym).

From Thursday evening through Saturday morning, the colleges will honor their graduating students at convocations and receptions.