Give an hour, give a pint

Seated male student is donating blood

Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Software engineering senior Joe Sogard checks his phone during his donation at the fall blood drive going on through Thursday in the Memorial Union. The ISU student organization, ISU Blood Drive, organizes a drive during both fall and spring semesters, making it the second largest student-organized blood drive in the country. The group's goal this week is 2,350 donations and  four blood center teams from the upper Midwest are here to assist in that goal.

All blood types are welcome and needed, said co-president Alaina Porth. She noted hurricanes coming ashore in the southern United States earlier this fall canceled more than 100 blood drives in affected parts of the country. The American Red Cross has the capacity to move blood around the country to wherever the need is most critical. By downloading a free app, donors may request an email telling them where their blood was sent.

Campus donors don't need an appointment; simply head to the Cardinal Room in the MU for registration. Blood donations are collected in the Great Hall. Hours on Thursday are 10 a.m.-5 p.m.



How is your Iowa State experience?

Campus climate survey

This month, faculty, staff and students are encouraged to complete a campus climate survey that evaluates perceptions of living, working and learning at Iowa State.

The survey is an action item for a working group focused on goal four of the university's 2017-22 strategic plan, to "continue to enhance and cultivate the ISU Experience." It is the first comprehensive campus climate survey since 2003. Senior vice president for university services Kate Gregory and vice president for diversity and inclusion Reg Stewart co-chair the group.

Liz Mendez-Shannon, project director in the diversity and inclusion office, said the survey results will provide a baseline of attitudes and help develop policies and initiatives to improve the "ISU Experience." That includes education/working experiences, well-being and sense of value in the Iowa State community.

"The climate survey offers each member in the campus community -- students, faculty and staff -- an opportunity to share their Cyclone experience, anonymously," Mendez-Shannon said. "By sharing their experience and sense of belonging, their voices will effect change and make ISU better."

About the survey

Pennsylvania-based Rankin and Associates Consulting is conducting the survey, which opened Oct. 3 and runs through Oct. 31. A campus committee worked with the consultants to tailor the set of survey questions for Iowa State.

"In order to measure experiences across many layers, questions were crafted to be inclusive of identities and communities. More than 40 representatives from the campus community helped navigate how questions were asked to reflect an authentic experience," Mendez-Shannon said.

Confidentiality is a priority, with identifiers (such as IP addresses) stripped from replies. As participants progress through the survey, responses will guide them through many questions specific to faculty, staff and students (undergraduate and graduate).

The survey takes 20 to 30 minutes to complete and must be completed in one sitting. Although the survey is being conducted online, hard-copy versions are available by request through Stewart's office (2680 Beardshear, 294-8840). Participants who complete the survey can enter to win one of 10 gift cards valued at $50 each.

Data-driven change

Mendez-Shannon said the responses will reflect a range of experiences and perspectives. Data will be examined to identify issues and areas that need to be addressed.

"That is where the work begins and strategies will be developed to target specific areas for improvement discovered by the climate survey," Mendez-Shannon said. "Focus groups -- for example, task forces and action-oriented meetings -- would be organized to identify next steps to alleviate or improve conditions pertinent to the campus climate."

Results will be shared at campus presentations, likely at the end of the spring semester. A final report also will be posted online.

Schedule set for presidential finalist forums

Open forums for the final four candidates to be Iowa State's next president are scheduled for 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday next week in the Memorial Union.

The forums Monday and Wednesday, Oct. 9 and Oct. 11, will be held in the MU Sun Room. The forums Tuesday and Thursday, Oct. 10 and Oct. 12, will be in the MU Great Hall. 

Candidates will kick off the one-hour forums with a presentation, then will answer questions from attendees.  

The forums will livestream on the ISU presidential search website and will be archived for later viewing after all the forums have been held. 

Search committee members invited four finalists to campus to interview for the university's top leadership position, which was vacated this spring when former President Steven Leath left to be president of Auburn University.

Identities of the candidates, and their curriculum vitae, will be posted to the search website the morning before each arrives on campus.

The search website also will have an online form allowing members of the public to provide feedback about the finalists. 

The forums had been set for Oct. 5-6 and Oct. 9-10, but the dates were changed due to scheduling conflicts.

The state Board of Regents plans to hold a special meeting Oct. 23 in Ames, where it will hear from the search committee, interview finalists and select Iowa State's 16th president.

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Healthy employees help keep health care premiums steady

Iowa State employees enrolled in the ISU Plan for medical, prescription and dental insurance have enjoyed level premiums with no reduction in benefits for the past five years. That's no small feat these days as health care costs continue to shoot up. What sets Iowa State apart?

It's a mixed bag of reasons, according to Mark Power, chair of the university benefits committee (UBC) and University Professor of finance, but it starts with being self-funded.

Advantages of self-funding

Prior to 1996, Iowa State's benefits were managed through a guaranteed-cost contract. The university paid an outside insurance company to cover any health care claims that exceeded premiums. There were additional costs for administrative expenses and network access.

"It's actually a rent on capital," Power said.

A self-funded program, like Iowa State's current plan, operates by accurately calculating health care premiums without having to make a profit.

"Because we're not renting capital, we don't have to make a profit on that capital," Power said.

Self-funding means Iowa State is responsible for any health care claims that exceed premiums from employees. In a sense, Iowa State acts like its own insurance company by setting premiums and managing its reserves to meet claim obligations.

"Being a self-funded plan has saved us a lot of money over time," Power said, which has allowed Iowa State to hold down costs for the university and employees.

Wise management

A primary reason ISU Plan premiums remain level, Power said, is astute program management.

"We've been ahead of the curve with regard to implementing strategic changes to our plan," he said.

Iowa State's benefits program is managed jointly by the division of finance and university human resources (UHR). Finance handles all monetary aspects of benefits, compliance, analysis and vendor contracts. UHR works with health care vendors and communicates with employees.  

The UBC has representatives from across the university who meet monthly to continually develop cost-saving strategies for the benefits program. A subcommittee also meets monthly to research details that support the larger committee's efforts.  

Power said two strategies help the benefits management team control health care costs: maintaining the same medical and dental plan designs and partnering with Wellmark/Blue Cross Blue Shield as Iowa State's third-party administrator. Because Wellmark is Iowa's largest health insurance company, it offers a broad network of hospitals and physicians from which ISU employees may choose. The more in-network providers employees use, the less it costs the university.

On the pharmaceutical side, Iowa State was one of the early members of the Willis Towers Watson pharmaceutical management program, now a consortium of more than 300 organizations. The consortium creates transparency among those groups, which helps control costs.

"The transparency results in us being able to capture all of the pharmaceutical rebates that are generated by the [prescriptions] that we use," Power said. "Instead of a third-party payer keeping them, they flow back to us. It's in excess of a million dollars annually."

In addition, Power said the consortium allows Iowa State to purchase prescription drugs at deeply discounted prices and implements pricing protocols through the university's pharmaceutical benefits manager, Express Scripts.

"If Express Scripts sees what it considers to be overutilization of a pharmaceutical, they make us aware of these issues and we can determine why it's happening," Power said.

Healthy, happy employees

Iowa State employees play a big role in keeping health care premiums steady. According to a 2013 employee benefits survey, most ISU employees are healthy, happy, like their university jobs and appreciate the benefits they receive. Healthy habits, such as not smoking (less than 3 percent of ISU Plan members smoke) and regular physical exams and dental check-ups contribute to lower health care costs.

"Healthy, happy employees are going to consume less health care and not use as many pharmaceuticals," Power said. "If they do have a problem, they do a good job of following their physicians' directions. We have an educated population that tries to do a good job of controlling chronic disease."

Other factors

McFarland Clinic and Mary Greeley Medical Center, where the majority of Iowa State employees receive their health care, play a role in controlling costs as well.

Power also attributes stable premiums to lean, hardworking finance and human resource teams and support from university administration.

"If you don't have that support at the top, it's obviously going to be difficult," he said.

The future?

The most recent trend calculated by Wellmark showed typical plan increases of 5 to 7 percent annually nationwide, which has yet to impact Iowa State, Power said.

"The future is very hard to predict. We'll keep looking at things we can do to increase plan efficiencies without reducing the quality of benefits," he said. "But from the standpoint of health care, it's really driven by trend. Unless we continue to innovate, we'll be at the mercy of what the trend is." 

Marston renovation earns 15th LEED milestone for Iowa State

Students in the main hallway of Marston Hall

Modern, energy-efficient spaces earned the Marston Hall renovation a LEED Gold certification. Photo by Christopher Gannon.

A two-year, $27 million interior gutting and rebuilding of Marston Hall has earned a Gold award in the LEED green building rating system. It is the university's fifth LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) recognition for a building renovation and 15th overall.

The LEED program awards credits in five achievement categories, with additional credits possible for extra high marks in any category or green priorities specific to a region.

Marston, the administrative home of the College of Engineering, closed for construction in July 2014 and reopened in August 2016. During that time, interior load-bearing walls were removed and replaced, floor by floor, with steel columns that created larger classroom and collaboration spaces. In the interim, a series of basement-to-roof shoring towers held the exterior shell in place. Two west side stairwells were rebuilt, two modern elevators installed and numerous closets and abandoned spaces eliminated in efficient floor layouts. Every floor now has restrooms -- and central air handling systems.

Energy efficient, sound resistent

Project manager Kerry Dixon, facilities planning and management, who also oversees the LEED certification process, noted that more than 25 percent of the LEED credits for Marston Hall reward energy efficiency. As designed, natural gas and electricity use is 38 percent lower than state code requirements. That savings doesn't even acknowledge the fact that Marston's fourth floor was cooled by window air conditioning units through 2014.

Another achievement is the high acoustical quality in the three classrooms and auditorium. Dixon said 2-inch-thick wall panels between windows and deliberate right angles in the mechanical ductwork reduce noise in the rooms, while classroom doors equipped with bottom gaskets block out hallway commotion.

"These provide better spaces for teaching and learning," Dixon said. "Acoustically, it should be good enough that an instructor doesn't need to wear a microphone."

A whopping 89 percent of construction waste generated during the project was recycled, not landfilled, Dixon said. This includes waste materials when 29 percent of the original building was demolished, 97 percent of which was reused or recycled. By comparison, 16 percent of Morrill Hall's interior was removed during its 2005-06 renovation.

"The structural changes in Marston allowed us to create 21st-century spaces in a 20th-century shell," Dixon said. "What we were able to do on this project still amazes me."

Marston Hall also earned credits for many of the LEED strategies university projects have employed going back a decade or more. They include:

  • Low-flow sink faucets, toilets and urinals reduce potable water use by 40 percent of state code (an annual savings of nearly 246,300 gallons)
  • White roof reflects sunlight and reduces the heat-island effect
  • Paints, flooring, composite wood, adhesives and sealants emit no or low levels of toxins
  • 18 percent of building materials, by value, were manufactured or extracted from the earth within 500 miles of the building
  • 26 percent of building materials, by value, contain recycled materials
  • Landscaping selected for the site doesn't require a permanent irrigation system
  • Within one-fourth mile, building users have access to eight CyRide routes with 530 stops daily
  • Custodial plan, products and equipment comply with LEED's green cleaning policy

Tally: LEED-certified projects (15)

Platinum: College of Design King Pavilion (2010), State Gym (2012)

Gold: Biorenewables Research Laboratory (2011), Hach Hall (2011), Small Animal Hospital at the Lloyd Veterinary Medicine Center (2013), Troxel Hall (2014), Hansen Agriculture Student Learning Center (2015), Curtiss Student Services Mall (2015), Curtiss Harl Commons (2015), Sukup and Elings halls (2017), Geoffroy Hall (2017), Marston Hall (2017)

Silver: Morrill Hall (2008), Bergstrom Football Complex (2014), Lagomarcino School of Education (2016)

In certification process: Frederiksen Court apartments (6), Bessey Hall addition

Under construction: Advanced Teaching and Research Building, Student Innovation Center

Save the dates for ISU Plan open enrollment, merit meetings

Look for more information about benefits changes and the ISU Plan open enrollment in the Oct. 26 edition of Inside Iowa State.

This year's ISU Plan open enrollment period -- Nov. 1 (9 a.m.) through Nov. 17 (5 p.m.) -- marks the first time Iowa State's merit employees will participate in the plan, previously offered only to the university's faculty, professional and scientific (P&S) employees, and supervisory/confidential merit staff.  The change came about last February when the state Legislature and former Gov. Terry Branstad approved changes to the Iowa Code that governs collective bargaining. Merit employees were notified of the changes in June.

University human resources (UHR) is holding meetings in departments across campus through October to provide both merit and current ISU Plan members information about group insurance benefits, including the medical, dental and pharmaceutical plans. Contact your department's human resources liaison to find out if a meeting has been scheduled for your unit.

Webcasts are Nov. 3

UHR will hold a series of webcasts on Nov. 3 to share general information about ISU Plan benefits. Intended audiences and times are:

  • Pre/Postdoctoral associates (9-10 a.m.)
  • Merit (10:30 a.m.-noon)
  • Faculty, P&S and supervisory/confidential merit (1:30-3 p.m.)

Log in to to join a webcast. UHR will record the webcasts and archive the closed-captioned recordings on the benefits website following the meetings.

Merit meetings

UHR will hold come-and-go help sessions throughout the enrollment period to assist merit staff with completing their ISU Plan forms. Employees should bring the following to a session:

  • AccessPlus login information
  • Name, date of birth and social security number for all dependents being insured
  • Name of primary care physician and obstetrician-gynecologist (optional) for those enrolling in the Blue Advantage (HMO) plan

Meeting locations, dates and times are:

2420A Friley Residence Hall*

  • Nov. 2 (9-10:50 a.m.)
  • Nov. 3 (11 a.m.-1 p.m.)
  • Nov. 10 (3-4:30 p.m.)
  • Nov. 13 (2:30-4 p.m.)

* Enter Friley through the first set of double doors on the northwest side of the building, across from Union Drive Community Center. Inside, turn right and go past the hall desk. Room 2420A is located on the right.

1117 Gerdin Business Building

  • Nov. 6 (4:30-6 p.m.)
  • Nov. 13 (4:30-6 p.m.)

64 Heady Hall

  • Nov. 7 (3-4 p.m.)
  • Nov. 10 (8:30-10:30 a.m.)
  • Nov. 14 (11 a.m.-1 p.m.)
  • Nov. 16 (11 a.m.-1 p.m.)

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Fall lecture series delivers variety


Paleoanthropologist John Kappelman will discuss what he and his research team discovered about Lucy, an ancient human ancestor found in 1974 in Ethiopia, on Nov. 2 (7 p.m., MU Sun Room). Contributed photo.

Iowa State's fall lecture series is underway with lots of informative and enlightening programs still to come. Following is a snippet of the robust fall programming, which wraps up prior to Thanksgiving. A complete schedule is online. All lectures are free and open to the public.  

"It's What I Do," Lynsey Addario

Oct. 12 (8 p.m., Memorial Union, Great Hall)

Addario is an award-winning photojournalist who has covered conflicts and humanitarian crises in Iraq, Darfur, South Sudan, Congo and Libya, where she was held captive in 2011 by the Libyan Army along with three other journalists. In addition to winning a Pulitzer Prize for documenting life under the Taliban in Afghanistan, Addario was named one of the most influential photographers of the past 25 years. Her memoir, "It's What I Do," is being made into a film directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Jennifer Lawrence.

"Betting on Africa to Feed the World," Akinwumi Adesina

Oct. 16 (8 p.m., MU Great Hall)

Adesina, president of the African Development Bank, is the 2017 World Food Prize Laureate. Dubbed Africa's Norman Borlaug, Adesina has helped transform African agriculture for the past 20 years by organizing the 2006 Africa Fertilizer Summit, leading the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa and serving as Nigeria's minister of agriculture. His policy reforms for African farmers have increased their access to financing and credit, helped end corruption in the fertilizer and seed industries, and promoted agriculture in public and private sectors.

This event is the 2017 Norman Borlaug Lecture. A reception and student poster display about world food issues will precede the lecture (7 p.m., MU South Ballroom).

"Can You Be Born a Couch Potato? The Genetics of Physical Activity," J. Timothy Lightfoot

Oct. 19 (7 p.m., MU Sun Room)

Lightfoot is director of Huffines Institute for Sports Medicine and Human Performance at Texas A&M University, College Station, where he researches the genetics of daily physical activity and exercise endurance. Numerous media outlets have covered his research, including the Los Angeles Times,, National Public Radio and NBC's "The Today Show."

"The Economy and You: Separating the Facts from the Fiction," Peter Dunn

Nov. 1 (8 p.m., MU Sun Room)

Dunn, also known as Pete the Planner, is a personal finance expert who writes a financial advice column for USA Today and hosts "The Million Dollar Plan" podcast. He founded Advanced Planning Solutions, a financial education firm, and has authored 10 books, including "60 Days to Change: A Daily How-To Guide with Actionable Tips for Improving Your Financial Life." Dunn regularly appears on CNN Headline News, Fox News, Fox Business and numerous syndicated radio programs.

"How Lucy Died and Why It Matters," John Kappelman

Nov. 2 (7 p.m., MU Sun Room)

Kappelman, a paleoanthropologist and professor at the University of Texas, Austin, will talk about Lucy, an ancient human ancestor found in 1974 in Ethiopia. He'll discuss what her bones reveal about evolutionary history, and explain how he and his team of researchers used CT (computed tomography) technology to identify a series of fractures in Lucy's skeleton, indicating a traumatic fall from a tree. Their findings were published in the journal Nature, challenging scientists' understanding of human evolution.

"Agriculture and Climate Change," Tom Vilsack

Nov. 16 (7 p.m., MU Great Hall)

Vilsack, president and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council, served as secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the Obama administration. He was governor of Iowa from 1999 to 2007. Vilsack has been recognized as a leader in American agriculture by numerous organizations, including the Congressional Hunger Center, National Corn Growers Association, American Farm Bureau and National Farmers Union.