Beautiful campus

Man sprays garden hose on large planter of annuals

Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Campus services team member Andy Dougan waters a large planter in the Anderson Sculpture Garden south of Morrill Hall earlier this week. Campus teams devote lots of hours this time of year to watering and weeding annual plants.

State fair exhibit highlights how donors help students

From a fashion show to space mining, Iowa State's main exhibit at the Iowa State Fair this year will highlight how donor support has created special opportunities for students.

For the "Forever True, Thanks to You" exhibit, university marketing partnered with the Iowa State University Foundation to show off student clubs and experiences made possible by giving.

"The whole exhibit is to demonstrate how donor support has helped the university, your community and the world be exceptionally better," said Carole Custer, university marketing director.

The exhibit will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the Varied Industries Building at the fair, which runs Aug. 10-20. The emphasis on the impact of donations comes during the foundation's eight-year "Forever True, For Iowa State" campaign to raise $1.1 billion in private funding by mid-2020. The total raised is nearing $750 million.

Displays will include:

  • A quarter-scale tractor designed and built by the Cyclone Power Pullers club for an annual competition testing performance, maneuvering and durability
  • Several award-winning garments created for Iowa State's student-run Fashion Show
  • A solar-power food dehydrator, the product of a student-founded startup, designed to help farmers in the developing world save more of their harvest and stave off hunger
  • A student-designed baseball mitt to be used by participants in Courage League Sports, an Urbandale-based nonprofit that sponsors adaptive sporting events for children and adults with physical, cognitive or emotional disabilities
  • Two robots designed and built by Cyclone Space Mining, a club that enters their robots in the national NASA Robotic Mining Competition

Fairgoers also can don a virtual reality headset to watch an immersive, 360-degree video of student experiences and campus landmarks supported by donors. For instance, viewers can see College of Veterinary Medicine students using Frosty, the mechanical Holstein that simulates a difficult birth of a 70-pound calf. They also can explore Lake LaVerne, the Stanton Memorial Carillon or Reiman Gardens, all built with private gifts.

"People are at the Iowa State Fair, but we're trying to bring them to Iowa State University while they're there," said Ryan Peterson, senior director of creative services for the foundation.

Football posters and light wands

During the course of the fair, Iowa's largest event, Custer said about 500,000 people will pass by the 1,800 square feet of all things Iowa State, including the ISU Book Store retail space.

"Our goal is to have our exhibit be a destination. We can't compete with the butter cow, but we do have many, many people say this is the exhibit they start with," she said.

About 30,000 free Cyclone football posters will be handed out and temporary ISU tattoos will be applied, Custer said. A unique giveaway this year is light wands, like those provided at the men's basketball game against Kansas in January. Plus, there are daily drawings for ISU Book Store gift certificates and tickets for football and volleyball games and Iowa State Center productions.

Student-athletes and coaches will pop in occasionally to sign autographs, and senior administrators will stop by the exhibit at times, Custer said.

About 200 volunteers will work at the exhibit, including faculty, staff, administrators, foundation employees and others, Custer said.

"We are the land-grant university. We are the people's university. So we are there to communicate with the people of Iowa," Custer said.

New shirts

With limited space, the bookstore has to be particular about what it sells at the fair. T-shirts will include a recently introduced product line co-branded with Case IH that touts Iowa State agriculture, said Amy DeLashmutt, the store's marketing/customer service manager.

The mini-store also sells some purely practical items. Iowa weather can change quickly. "Sometimes you have to buy a sweatshirt. Sometimes you have to buy a poncho," DeLashmutt said.

Extension and outreach

The state fair is the biggest show of the year for Iowa youth who participate in 4-H, which is headquartered at Iowa State and available in all 99 counties through ISU Extension and Outreach. Roughly 4,500 contest entries from 4-Hers will be on display at the 4-H Exhibits Building and various livestock venues. During the fair, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences will award scholarships to some 4-H exhibitors who are in high school.

ISU Extension and Outreach, which is involved in the fair in numerous ways, also provides the nutritional data for the Des Moines Register's Iowa State Food Finder app.

On Aug. 11, designated 4-H Day at the fair, Cy will be at the Iowa 4-H Foundation tent on the Grand Concourse from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. At 2 p.m. that day, Cy will take on Herky and TC in a mascot grape-stomping challenge.

On Aug. 17, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship will honor newly designated Iowa Heritage Farms. Six of those family farms included land originally sold to fund the founding of Iowa State as a land-grant university. Extension and Outreach will identify those families during the ceremony, which will be held at about 4 p.m. in the Livestock Pavilion.

Student scenes

For the second straight year, College of Design students will be sketching fair scenes amid the crowd. The "Artists Next Door" project is meant to be interactive, with student artists talking to fairgoers as they work with charcoal, graphite and pastels -- perhaps even dispensing some drawing tips.

"A lot of people have never seen an artist work," said Taylor Carlson, the graduate student in integrated visual arts who is coordinating the project.

From Aug. 14-17, groups of student artists will sketch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. either on the grand concourse by food vendors or near the Agriculture Building, Carlson said. The students, selected by faculty as high achievers, will also be shadowed by 4-Hers who are interested in art.

The students are Jessica "Essi" Mathews, a junior in industrial design; Chloe Enos, a graduate student in graphic design; Grace Herzberg, a sophomore in biological pre-medical illustration; and Rachel Geneser, a senior in biological pre-medical illustration. Those who don't catch them in action can see their artwork displayed at the 4-H Building.

The doctor is in

The College of Veterinary Medicine will be well-represented at the fair, as usual.

Dr. Kelly Still Brooks, a clinical assistant professor of veterinary diagnostic and production animal medicine, will serve as the state fair veterinarian, overseeing the health of all animals at the fair. Dr. Troy Brick, an assistant professor of veterinary diagnostic and production animal medicine, will assist her, along with four Vet Med students.

About 20 Vet Med faculty and students will help with the fair's 11 youth vet camps. About 15 Vet Med students will volunteer in the Animal Learning Center.

Regents approve FY18 budget, three improvement projects

Iowa State's general fund operating budget for the fiscal year that began July 1 includes net incremental revenue of $14.2 million. This includes $26 million in additional tuition and $1.5 million more in indirect cost recoveries on sponsored research, offset by $13.3 million less in state operating appropriations than a year ago. The loss in state support amounts to about a 5.5 percent reduction from a year ago.

At $722.9 million, Iowa State's general fund budget is just 2 percent larger than a year ago. The two largest revenue sources in it are tuition and fees (63 percent) and state support (31 percent).

Regent university budgets were approved by the state Board of Regents at its Aug. 2 telephonic meeting, based out of the board's Urbandale office.

The university will invest the new revenue in its four broad priorities, the overarching goals in the university's 2017-22 strategic plan:

  • Maintain access and enhance the student experience, including student success
  • Expand research to address the state and the world's grand challenges
  • Support economic development and outreach to improve the quality of life for Iowans
  • Ensure a welcoming, safe and inclusive campus

In budget-related remarks to the board, interim President Ben Allen called 2017 "one of the most challenging and disappointing legislative sessions for Iowa State in recent history."

Text of interim President Allen's remarks to the regents

Allen said an evolving pattern of declining state support has shifted the burden to students and their families as well as ISU faculty and staff. He said the decision to award only targeted salary increases this year was a difficult one.

"It creates a burden for our employees, who should at the very least be able to rely on annual salary increases to keep up with inflation," he said. "It's also concerning because inevitably the lack of raises will drive some of our faculty and staff to leave, putting our quality at risk."

Allen noted that state funding no longer adequately supplements the lower tuition rates charged to resident students and thanked the board for its willingness to take a comprehensive look at the regent universities' tuition structures. (The board's tuition task force will hear five-year tuition presentations on the three campuses on Aug. 7, 9 and 14.)

FY18 funding priorities

Student financial aid

$6.8 million

Strategic priorities related to enrollment growth*

$2.8 million

Investments in five academic programs** (year 1 of differential tuition)

$1.1 million

Investments in international student programming (year 2 of differential tuition)

$0.9 million

Salary increases for merit employees, per state contract

$1.1 million

Targeted salary increases for faculty, P&S, contract employees

$0.97 million

Operating two new buildings***

$1.5 million

Mandatory increases related to contracts, inflation, compliance

$0.75 million


$15.92 million

Nutrient Research Center removed from general fund support

-$1.72 million


$14.2 million

*Examples include faculty hires; grad student retention; research support, investments in student health, wellness and safety
**Animal science, biology, computer science, industrial design and natural resource ecology and management
***Bessey addition, Advanced Teaching and Research Building

Big picture

The university's overall FY18 budget is just over $1.5 billion. In addition to the operating budget, it features $783 million in restricted funds, which include sponsored research, endowment income, building projects, sales and services, and auxiliary units such as athletics, residence, printing, parking, recreation services, bookstore, Reiman Gardens, Iowa State Center and the Memorial Union.

Capital appropriations

Iowa State will receive the following appropriations this year for specific building projects:

  • Biosciences facilities (Bessey addition, Advanced Teaching and Research Building): $19.5 million in the third of four years
  • Student Innovation Center: $6 million in the second of six years

President search update

Chief operating officer for the board Mark Braun confirmed that advertisements for the Iowa State president position went out on July 6. He called the time since then "an active recruitment period," though he also noted that traditionally the most applications come in during the last few days of the recruiting period. Aug. 24 is the application deadline for "best consideration," with the search committee scheduled to meet on Sept. 12.

Executive director search update

Interim executive director of the board Keith Saunders reported that advertisements for a new executive director and chief executive officer have been placed. The search committee will begin reviewing applications on Aug. 15, with the goal of presenting a list of finalists to the board at its September meeting. Former director Robert Donley retired on July 15.

Project approval

The board also gave final approval to these Iowa State projects:

  • Schematic design and budget ($2.75 million) for a radiation therapy addition to the Veterinary Medicine small animal hospital for treating pets with cancer. The premanufactured structure includes a shielded treatment room containing radiation equipment, control room, storage and mechanical space. Construction is scheduled to begin in October, with occupancy within five months. The funding sources are university funds, a capital appropriation and private gifts.
  • Schematic design and budget ($2.2 million) for a remodel and addition to the southwest corner of Sukup Hall to add an in-floor vehicle chassis dynamometer in the existing vehicle power systems lab. Construction is scheduled from January to June 2018. About 80 percent of the funding is private gifts, with the rest university funds.
  • Project description and budget ($2.1 million) to upgrade the recreation fields east of the Maple Willow Larch residence complex. The project includes regrading the fields to improve drainage, installing an automatic irrigation system and adding lighting so the fields can be used after sunset by sports clubs and intramural programs. It will be funded by recreation services.


LEDs lead the way in ongoing overhaul of campus lighting

For years, Bob Currie has been overseeing a multimillion-dollar project that, if done right, no one will notice. It's why he's always peeking up at ceilings when he enters campus hallways. 

As director of facilities services, Currie manages maintenance of Iowa State buildings, including the ongoing effort to update inefficient fluorescent light fixtures. The initiative to replace about 48,400 of the older-style T12 lights began five years ago. Even with improved and cheaper technology, the project will take six to eight more years to finish, Currie said.

When complete, the conversion could save roughly $600,000 per year in energy costs, he said.

More than 8,800 lamps have been replaced with facilities planning and management's annual $200,000 budget for upgrades, progress that seemed slow to Currie, at first. But the pace is picking up.

"Now I think we're making headway. LED technology has gotten so much better," he said.

Thinner T8 fluorescents were the go-to new lamp when the project began in 2012, the year the federal government outlawed production of new T12 bulbs. But as LEDs dropped from about $300 per fixture to $150, they've become the standard, Currie said.

"We waited until the industry caught up," he said of LEDs. "Now we can do more."

Picking fixes

Precisely how much is being done, however, is difficult to say. Though the 2012 count of 48,400 T12 lamps included all areas of campus buildings, FPM crews only overhaul the lights in public areas. Currie isn't sure how many T12s have been replaced by departments and colleges in classroom, office and building renovations. He suspects the number remaining is far less than 40,000. He estimates it'll take $5 million to $6 million to replace them all.

FPM prioritizes which buildings to tackle based on the number of T12s still in service, fixture age, accessibility, impact on building occupants and future use of the space, Currie said. One of the first to be updated was Agronomy Hall, which had more than 6,000 outdated lights. Next up this fiscal year is the 1,500 in the older parts of the Veterinary Medicine complex and Gilman Hall's 700, he said.

Some lighting in buildings is upgraded out of unplanned necessity. Existing fluorescent fixtures on the fritz aren't fixed, they're replaced with LEDs. Outdoor lights also are switched to LED as they fail, and most lighting along central campus sidewalks has been converted.

A better bulb

Made up of tiny diodes connected to an electronic circuit, LED lights offer twice as much energy efficiency gain as the newer T8 fluorescents did, a 60 percent improvement compared to 30 percent. Because they turn off and on instantly, an LED lamp with a motion detector also can keep light levels low or off when no one is around.

"We're going to have to do more occupancy sensors," Currie said.

One way the new lights will save money isn't calculated as part of the increased efficiency. Some models promise to last up to 70,000 hours before dimming, or 15 to 20 years, Currie said. That means custodians will spend less time replacing lightbulbs. T12s last 18 months or so, he said.

An unknown aspect of LED bulbs is the effect on people. There's been little long-term study of how people react to them, Currie said. But, so far, he hasn't been getting many complaints, which are common with the distracting flicker or buzz of waning fluorescents. 

"All we know is we're not having to go out and do as many repairs," Currie said.  

Lincoln Way safety study heads into solutions phase

students collect on the Lincoln Way median as traffic passes

The choices pedestrians make in crossing Lincoln Way -- including ignoring the "don't walk" signal and perching on the center median -- is a key issue coming out of phase 1 of a city-university safety study. File photo.

Phase 1 of a Lincoln Way safety study for the segment between Sheldon Avenue and University Boulevard found little amiss with the engineering or physical conditions along the route -- but room for improvement in pedestrian behavior at the various intersections.

At its July 25 meeting, the Ames City Council accepted a report on phase 1 and gave the go-ahead for phase 2. The city and Iowa State are splitting the cost of the study -- about $32,000 total for phase 1 and up to $50,000 for phase 2. SRF Consulting, Omaha, Nebraska, is doing the work. The phase 1 assignment was to study the intersections and identify significant problems that warranted solutions. Much of the data collection happened in March 2016.

Lincoln Way is the city's street, but safety concerns about it are an outcome of the university's enrollment growth and subsequent development in Campustown.

As councilwoman Gloria Betcher noted, "the corridor's unpredictability is its scariest feature."

Pedestrians unintentionally may end up in the street, she noted, when they start crossing against the signal and the center median is already full of people when they reach it.

Council members appeared to agree that changing the speed limit (30 mph) might be part of the solution. At that speed -- or the higher speeds some drivers prefer -- they don't have time to correct for the random pedestrian behavior around them.

While Lincoln Way is a primary east-west route through Ames, council members discussed slowing down vehicle traffic for six to eight blocks, perhaps to match posted speed limits (25 mph) around Ames' schools.

Up next

Phase 2 will focus on four ways the consultants and city staff believe could improve safety along the "Iowa State stretch" of Lincoln Way:

  • Alter the timing of the traffic signals on Lincoln Way to reduce wait times for pedestrians crossing and slow down vehicle traffic
  • Develop an education campaign that encourages pedestrians to activate -- and comply with -- the crossing signals
  • Address the Stanton Avenue-Lincoln Way intersection, currently without a pedestrian crossing or signal (40 years ago it did), but a popular pedestrian crossing site with a vehicle crash rate trending upward
  • Address the Welch Avenue-Lincoln Way intersection, where there's a higher-than-normal severe crash rate

City traffic engineer Damion Pregitzer, who presented phase 1 results to the council, said the first two likely could be fast-tracked and rolled out sooner than the other two.

He also told council members that the survey portion of the study generated considerable talk about building pedestrian bridges over Lincoln Way. For several reasons -- flatness of the corridor, cost of purchasing adjacent properties and the likely refusal of pedestrians to use them -- make that an unlikely option, he said.

"The report has been very helpful in showing us that our biggest challenges to safety on Lincoln Way aren't due to infrastructure configuration, and it provides clarity about where we should focus," said Cathy Brown, assistant director for planning in facilities planning and management, who serves as a liaison to the city on this project. "We’re looking forward to seeing the phase 2 recommendations and the opportunities to address pedestrian activity. In the meantime, we’re working on an early fall campaign to better inform the community about safety in the Lincoln Way corridor."

Pedestrian behavior

A key piece of the consultants' data collection was observing pedestrian choices and behavior along the corridor. The consultants define "compliance" as pedestrians who, when approaching on a "don't walk" signal or red light, either:

  • Press the walk activation button and wait for the "walk" signal
  • Don't press button but wait for the "walk" signal

Pedestrians not in compliance:

  • Press the button but proceed on "don't walk"
  • Don't press the button and don't wait for a "walk" signal to proceed

During the peak pedestrian time of the day (identified as 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.), compliance across all Lincoln Way crossings in the study zone was 35 percent. For intersecting street crossings, it was 22 percent. For Lincoln Way crossings, just 28 percent of pedestrians arriving on a "don't walk" signal/red light even pressed the walk activation button. For cross streets, which primarily are two-lane streets, the percentage pressing the walk activation button was 15 percent.

Compliance was higher at what is considered a peak vehicle hour (4:30-5:30 p.m.): 46 percent for Lincoln Way crossings and 68 percent for intersecting street crossings. At this time of day, 33 percent of pedestrians crossing Lincoln Way used the walk activation button; 25 percent of pedestrians did who were crossing an intersecting street.

Compliance also was higher at crossings -- like Sheldon -- that don't have a center median for pedestrians to perch on while they wait for vehicle traffic to pass.

Other pieces

In addition to pedestrian crossing behaviors at signals, the study looked at:

  • Pedestrian crossing behavior at two mid-block locations: between Stanton and Lynn avenues and east of Beach Avenue at the Iowa State Center
  • Bicyclists' behavior and compliance with crossing signals
  • Existing traffic operations and timing
  • Sight distances for drivers on Lincoln Way or cross streets as they approach Lincoln Way, including crash data
  • Effectiveness of overhead lighting
  • Responses to a two-question community survey (what are your concerns about the corridor, what solutions do you suggest?)

The safety study is independent of a Lincoln Way corridor plan the council adopted in April as an advisory document for future development along the road through town.


Related story

ISU, city team on Lincoln Way safety study, March 24, 2016


Canvas LMS is ready for instructor preview

Implementation of Iowa State's new learning management system (LMS) is underway, with instructor access now available. In June, Canvas was chosen to replace the current Blackboard LMS. Blackboard still is available for use during the fall semester; Canvas will be fully implemented for spring courses.

"This summer, the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) and information technology teams have been working on the numerous components necessary to integrate Canvas with the local ISU systems, as well as implementing a comprehensive course migration protocol to move existing ISU course materials from Blackboard into the new Canvas platform," said Ann Marie VanDerZanden, associate provost for academic programs. "Our goal is to create a successful first experience with Canvas."

All instructors are encouraged to log in to the introductory version of the Canvas LMS and access their migrated Blackboard materials. The full-featured version of Canvas will be available by mid-semester, allowing instructors to build their courses prior to the 2018 spring semester.

A host of resources -- including Canvas-led webinars, one-on-one support and 24/7 assistance -- are available on the ISU Canvas website, "MyCanvas: Teacher at ISU." CELT staff are planning additional online faculty development opportunities.

Early adopters

About 150 instructors (teaching 205 courses) agreed to serve as first adopters and received opt-in forms that outline the requirements for using Canvas for student instruction this fall. If early adopters choose to move eligible fall classes to Canvas, the courses can't be moved back to Blackboard.

"These pioneering instructors will provide feedback and suggestions to improve the experience for the 1,300-plus courses that will use Canvas in the spring semester," said Sara Marcketti, CELT interim director.


Related story