Library mall

woman prepares soil in oversize planter

Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Groundskeeper Mary Schrunk, campus services, transfers various plants into new oversize planters installed this week south of Parks Library. The planters contain an assortment of arborvitae, hibiscus, dahlia, lantana, petunias and calibrachoa. The plans for this pedestrian mall for students and campus visitors include tables with seating and several honey locust trees to provide shade. This is another project funded through former President Steven Leath's campus beautification initiative.

Mirroring national trend, international admissions may dip this fall

Like many universities, Iowa State's incoming class of international students this fall might be smaller than in recent years.

Compared to mid-June 2016, the number of first-year undergraduates who have accepted an offer to attend Iowa State is down about one-third, said  Katharine Suski, admissions director. 

The trend for graduate students is less clear. International applications were down about 15 percent as of June 1, said Craig Ogilvie, assistant dean of the Graduate College. But more offers have been extended this year than in 2016, as faculty were urged to broaden their admissions in hopes of avoiding a corresponding drop in enrollment, Ogilvie said.

How many international graduate students actually enroll won't be clear until this fall because graduate student admissions are more decentralized, Ogilvie said. Regardless, the Graduate College is working on plans to boost applications in the future.

"We can't sustain 15 percent drops for too many years," Ogilvie said.

Election fallout

The decline appears to be directly linked to the outcome of the presidential election, Suski said.

"The election was definitely a turning point," she said.

During his campaign, then-candidate Donald Trump advocated for tighter immigration policies, especially from countries that are predominantly Muslim. Since he took office, Trump's administration has attempted to curb immigration from a handful of largely Muslim nations.

Muslim-majority countries account for some of the drop-off, Suski said. But admissions officials have heard concerns beyond visa and other specific immigration issues, she said. Many prospective international students are worried about the political climate in general.

"They use the term 'red state,'" Suski said.

National trend

A number of admissions and international education groups, including the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, earlier this year surveyed nearly 300 admissions officials who recruit international students. Thirty-eight percent said international applications were down, and 77 percent said they were concerned about how many accepted students would actually enroll.

"We're certainly not alone here at ISU," said Krista McCallum Beatty, director of the international students and scholars office.

In general, Suski said schools in the Midwest have been affected the most, while some institutions on the coasts are seeing increased interest from international students. 

The decrease at Iowa State is driven in large part by fewer applications from China, which accounted for more than 40 percent of Iowa State's overall international enrollment in fall 2016. Chinese undergraduates who have accepted an admissions offer for fall are down about 50 percent from 2016, Suski said.

Chinese applicants for graduate programs were off by 15 percent, while applications from India were down by more than 20 percent, Ogilvie said. Students from India and China constitute the overwhelming majority of Iowa State's international graduate students.

Iowa State's 4,131 international students -- nearly half of them graduate students -- represented about 11 percent of the student body in fall 2016. Students from outside the United States were 7 percent of undergraduates in fall 2016, but 38 percent of the graduate student body.

New strategies

Maintaining the diversity of graduate students is critical, Ogilvie said. Bringing talented emerging experts from across the world to study and research with top scholars in Iowa helps the university stay true to its land-grant service mission, albeit on a global scale. Many international graduate students return home to spread their knowledge and expertise, he said.

Leveraging those alumni is a key piece of strengthening international recruitment, Ogilvie said, along with a greater focus on engaging interested students and some possible changes to the communications strategy in countries where applications decreased.

The expected dip in enrollment might not be noticeable at first. Based on accepted offers, the incoming undergraduate class could be just 175 students smaller than last year, Suski said.

But a prolonged decline would have repercussions. International students pay the highest tuition rates, so there's a financial impact. But it also would lessen the diversity of voices and viewpoints on campus, Suski said. 

"It leaves out a richness of discussion and debate in some of our classes," she said.  

License plates with heart

Plates for you?

Collegiate plates in Iowa cost $50 to order (half goes to the school) and $5 to renew (in addition to normal registration and renewal fees). More information is online.

Iowa State employees are among the best at creating personalized Cyclone plates. They enjoy their jobs, they support their students, they're proud of their teams, they love their university -- and they figure out how to express that in two to seven characters. The Inside staff made another attempt to capture some of that good vibe this week (previous efforts are noted at the bottom of the page).

Following are some of the Cyclone plates we found around campus, and their owners' explanations of their significance.



I provide historic and current data about the incoming class and work with the enrollment research team on projections, student success initiatives and other projects. Hence, the plate reads "data girl." Once, a toll booth attendant asked me if I was a motivational speaker because he read it as "Dat A Girl!"
-- Kate Ralston, assistant director for research, admissions office



I have this plate because I serve as dean of Cy's Business College. It also is in honor of the CyBiz Lab, our experiential learning initiative.
-- David Spalding, Raisbeck Endowed Dean and professor of finance, College of Business



It refers to the wrestling move. When my kids were younger and schedules allowed, we had season tickets for ISU wrestling, and even followed the team to nationals on several occasions. My wife and kids purchased the plates for my birthday. To add to the story, my father-in-law is a big supporter of the Hawkeye wrestling program and we renew our Cy-Hawk rivalry each year at the dual meet. When we roll into Iowa City, all those Hawk fans know we mean business :)
-- Jeff Klein, accountant, sponsored programs accounting



When we moved to Ames for my position at the University Library, I suggested we get Iowa State license plates for our cars. I was (and remain) very excited about coming to ISU and the library and my husband, Wes, knew it. (As I learned later), he was surprised that no one else had selected CYBRARY -- so he did! I didn't know about all this until the plates arrived.
-- Beth McNeil, dean, Library Services



I think almost everyone figures it out; it means "state of mind." I’ve worked at ISU for almost 37 years and Iowa State is not just a place for academics, athletics or whatever anyone else thinks defines us. Iowa State is a way of thinking or a mindset … in other words, a "state of mind."
-- Jane Stowe, secretary, College of Engineering student services



We cogenerate at the power plant, meaning we produce steam that is used to heat and cool buildings as well as to produce power. This helps increase our plant efficiencies. After I got the license plate, somebody asked me if it was CY STEAM or CY'S TEAM -- and I guess it could be that as well. I am proud to be a staff member as well as a graduate student here at Iowa State.
-- Lindsey Wanderscheid, assistant director of utilities production, facilities planning and management



My plate is based on my role at the university as a pharmacologist.
-- Steve Carlson, associate professor of pharmacology in the biomedical sciences department, College of Veterinary Medicine



Previous license plate stories

License plates with a story, July 19, 2012
License plates that stump us, June 29, 2006


Chipping away at student debt

The financial aid directors of the regent universities presented their annual report (2015-16 academic year) to the state Board of Regents' academic and student affairs committee on June 7. In response to declining federal and state financial aid, institutional aid for undergraduates rose 12 percent in 2015-16. University totals were:

  • Iowa State: $81.4 million
  • Iowa: $75.4 million
  • Northern Iowa: $13.2 million

The percentage of students who graduate with debt is trending down, as is the average amount owed for those who have debt at graduation. More information is available in the agenda document.

ISU undergraduates: Debt at graduation





Seniors graduating with debt

62.3 %

65.6 %


     Resident seniors



72.1 %

Average debt for seniors graduating with debt




     Resident seniors




     National average




Average need-based debt* for seniors graduating with debt




     Resident seniors




*Need-based refers to type of loan program, not student's need

Roepke joins Inside staff

Dave Roepke

Dave Roepke

Dave Roepke (ROPE-key) has joined the university relations staff as a writer for the weekly faculty-staff publication, Inside Iowa State. Roepke fills a new position created following Diana Pounds' retirement this spring.

An Iowan by birth and graduate of Iowa State (B.S., journalism and mass communication), Roepke returns to Ames from the Fargo-Moorhead area, where he spent 13 years on the staff of the daily newspaper, The Forum, as reporter, news editor and, since 2013, news director.

The office of university relations is in Suite 201 of the Kingland Building at Lincoln Way and Welch Avenue. Roepke can be reached by phone at 294-4845, by email at

Free family fun at Reiman Gardens

Bee on a flower.

Photo by Christopher Gannon.

On Saturday, June 24, visitors can enjoy two events for the price of none at Reiman Gardens. As part of the gardens' Pollinator Fest in celebration of National Pollinator Week, admission is free (9 a.m.-6 p.m.). The Iowa Regional Lily Society's annual show also will be open to the public on Saturday, with hundreds of lily varieties on display until 4 p.m.

Family-friendly activities during Pollinator Fest include crafts, educational presentations, displays and live plant/pollinator exhibits. ISU-affiliated participants include the entomology department, entomology graduate student organization, pollinator working group, Iowa Monarch Conservation Consortium and evolutionary biology and ecology grad students.