What's happening at that corner?

crews unload steel lightpoles from a semi truck

Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Crews unloaded light structures and poles earlier this week at the field east of Willow residence hall. Lighting the field in the evening is part of a recreation services project to upgrade the grounds for intramural sports use. Plans also include an irrigation system to improve the durability of the turf and grading and reseeding the field. A bioswale containing native grasses will be added around part of the perimeter to improve drainage, and the steam line that runs diagonally under the field will be shut down during spring break. A new artificial turf cricket pitch will be moved to the northeast corner of the field.

Work will continue into May and then the site will be idle through summer to allow the new turf to grow. Dependent on the weather this summer, recreation services staff hope to begin using the fields in September.

The $2.7 million project will be funded by recreation services.


Wheels are turning to prevent a midyear funding cut

A $6.9 million midyear slash to the university's state operating appropriations would be devastating to Iowa State, president Wendy Wintersteen wrote in a memo to campus leaders last week. The Iowa Senate's Jan. 25 proposal, which as of Wednesday had yet to be voted on by the full Senate, would have harmful impacts, she wrote.

The proposal sparked a grassroots summons, coordinated by the Alliance for Iowa State, to alumni, partners, students and employees to contact legislators to encourage their opposition to a cut of that size. So far, more than 430 recipients responded to the call. It also compelled state Board of Regents leaders to ask the universities to prepare "impact" statements. Under the Senate proposal, the University of Iowa would face a midyear reduction of nearly $8.7 million, Northern Iowa $3.7 million.

Gov. Kim Reynolds' budget recommendation, if implemented, would result in a midyear cut to Iowa State of about $2.5 million. The Iowa House has not yet proposed FY18 deappropriations.

Any midyear cut further reduces state general fund support for Iowa State, which already was $13.4 million lighter on July 1, 2017, than it had been just one year earlier. In the last decade, state funding to the university has dropped $56 million.

Short timeline limits possibilities

A month into spring semester and with just five months to go in the current fiscal year, it's too late to make reductions in some areas -- spring course offerings or student financial aid disbursements, for example.

But with 60 percent of the university's operating budget committed to employee salaries and benefits and another 17 percent committed to student financial aid, interim chief financial officer Pam Cain said it would be challenging to absorb a cut of that magnitude, so late in the year, without impacts to those areas.

Wintersteen, Cain and other senior leaders prepared a list of possible impacts a $6.9 million cut might bring to Iowa State -- some of which might be necessary, Cain said. As the legislative process unfolds, Cain said the university community would be involved as decisions are made regarding any changes to appropriations.

The list of possibilities included:

  • Employee furloughs
  • Cancelled searches for open faculty and staff positions
  • Flat employee salaries
  • Fewer student employees
  • Reductions in student services
  • Reductions in financial aid to resident undergraduates
  • Fewer course offerings this summer and fall
  • Fee increases in units such as the state Veterinary Diagnostic Lab and veterinary field services
  • Delays to deferred maintenance corrections and facility renovations

"State appropriations are an investment, not only in our students, but in the economic vitality and future of our state," concludes the impact statement.

Five questions for a junior entrepreneur-in-residence


Clayton Mooney, a junior entrepreneur-in-residence with the Agricultural Entrepreneurship Initiative, runs the program's student business incubator. The former professional poker player is also building two startups he co-founded with other Iowa State students. Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Clayton Mooney left Iowa State as an undergraduate student three times, just once with a degree. But the experiences gathered after repeated departures all help inform his current work at the university, where the former professional poker player and co-founder of two burgeoning ag-tech startups is a junior entrepreneur-in-residence who runs the Agricultural Entrepreneurship Initiative (AgEI) student business incubator. He's also a volunteer assistant coach with the Iowa State Boxing Club.  

In 2009, as a junior in business economics planning to go to law school, he dropped out to play online poker. A federal crackdown on poker websites drew Mooney back to Iowa State in 2011-12 for a four-semester push to complete an English degree. He took up boxing during a brief stint in Denver working at Dish Network's corporate office, but cards kept calling. He moved to Ireland to play poker for another year, becoming intrigued by the country's startup scene and continuing to spar. When his visa expired in 2014, he returned to Blakesburg, his hometown in southeast Iowa, and decided to stay in the state due to family health concerns.  

The basics

Name: Clayton Mooney
Position: Junior entrepreneur-in-residence, Agricultural Entrepreneurship Initiative
Time in position: 1.5 years
Education: Bachelor's degree in English, Iowa State
Contact information: cdmooney@iastate.edu

Back at Iowa State seeking a second bachelor's degree in global resource systems, he helped form two companies he's still working to build: KinoSol, a member of the first CYstarters cohort in summer 2016, and Nebullam, which was in the second ISU Startup Factory cohort last year. He also co-founded the Des Moines-based Young Entrepreneur Convention. In fall 2016, Mooney again dropped out to focus more on his businesses, taking the part-time entrepreneur-in-residence position to oversee an incubator he'd been involved with as a student just months before.

What is the student business incubator?
Right now, the AgEI incubator is the only student business incubator on campus.  We have students from multiple colleges in it. It's essentially working on the beginning steps of your business model -- understanding that before you put time and money into anything, you need to figure out who your customer is. So we spend an entire semester on customer discovery. From there, leading into following semesters, you figure out if your product or service needs to be prototyped. One of my personal goals with the incubator is for cohort members to have revenue by the time they graduate. Ideally, you want them to launch straight into their business full-time. If they put it on pause, the likelihood of them coming back to work on it decreases drastically.

What are some of the chief misconceptions for students who want to work on a startup?
I think the most common mistake I see is people come in with a business idea a little beyond the napkin stage. They may have talked about it with a couple friends. They may have had a friend join them as a co-founder. And they're so excited to get going because they just know this product is going to change the world. They want to build the product. But then the big question is, "Who is your customer?" The No. 1 reason I see startups fail is product-market fit. Either the pricing was way off, or the people who they thought would be the customer are not the customer or couldn't be the decision-maker. With the customer discovery portion, we force them to get out and talk with strangers they have no connection with and say, "OK, what are your problems today, and how are you addressing these problems?" They can't mention their product or service. They often come back and say, "Dang, maybe there isn't a market for it."

Is there a common thread between startups, poker and boxing?
I truly believe poker prepared me well for the startup space. There were two things I took away from poker: a high pain/high risk tolerance and critical thinking. With online poker, I got to where I was playing 40 tables at once, so about 3,000 hands an hour. That helped me prepare for the chaos of a startup. Getting back to Iowa and jumping head-first into startups, everything I noticed others worrying about I had somewhat experienced with poker. Where it all starts to circle around to boxing is that startups, just like poker, are very stressful. You know, you've only got 41 days of money left, and you've got to figure out something to do. Boxing is my outlet, going in there and essentially getting beaten up. It takes away your worries after a rough day in the office. But also, in today's day and age, there's so much noise. I'm always plugged in. Boxing teaches you to really just have one thing to focus on. In the ring and sparring, if I'm thinking about, "Did I send that email?", I'm going to be physically beaten. It forces me to live in the moment, which I think a lot of people are in search of.

You have lessons you can relay to students from working on your startups, but does it go the other way, too?
That's right. I'm in that weird phase where I'm young enough where students can relate to me, but I'm old enough I can relate to faculty. The big thing I try to convey to students is: Here's my story. I messed up a lot. Don't look to me for academic advice. I am in no way an expert. I'm learning as I go. What's beneficial is the timeframe. I'm really only a couple years ahead of them. Some of the questions I receive on a weekly basis, one of my ventures may have run into just six months ago. I can at least say, "This is my opinion," or "This is how we handled it." I've noticed it helps a lot.

In the academic realm, failure is often seen as the worst thing that can happen. But that's not necessarily the case in a startup. Is it difficult to square those notions?
If had to go around campus and deliver public forums, it would be on embracing failure the right way. Honestly, poker taught me this. Do not be results-oriented. I know that sounds really crazy because every good thing that happens you go, "Oh this is the result of hard work and studying and everything paid off." When you're playing a hand of poker, you have to know what statistically you're supposed to do. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. If you're results-oriented, that is going to beat you down into the ground until you quit. I've seen it with dozens of poker players. I've seen it with dozens of business founders. You run into those brick walls. You played everything perfectly, and it doesn't matter. Not being results-oriented leads to making the best decision at any point in time. Long-term, it will pay off.

'Queer fashion' exhibit runs through April 14


Kelly Reddy-Best, assistant professor in apparel, events and hospitality management, is co-curator of the exhibit "Queer Fashion and Style: Stories from the Heartland." Photos by Christopher Gannon.

New coursework

Reddy-Best is teaching a new course this semester, Queer Fashion, Styles and Bodies (Apparel, Merchandising and Design 458x/558x), where students are studying some of the items from the "Queer Fashion and Style" exhibition. They also are exploring how the fashion industry is responding to LGBTQIA+ fashions and style. The class was created with grant funds from the university's Diversity Course Development Initiative Program.

A desire to bring more attention to LGBTQIA+ fashion prompted Kelly Reddy-Best, assistant professor in apparel, events and hospitality management, to apply for an Inclusion Initiatives Grant -- a program funded by the office of diversity and inclusion to help foster community engagement at Iowa State. Reddy-Best's proposal last year for a fashion exhibition received $3,700.  

"Queer Fashion and Style: Stories from the Heartland" runs through April 14 in Morrill Hall's Mary Alice Gallery. The free exhibition features recorded interviews with 12 LGBTQIA+ women from the Midwest, ages 30 to 50. Most of the exhibition's 98 articles of clothing are either borrowed or donated from their closets. Other pieces came from local individuals and the museum's permanent collection.

Reddy-Best, who co-curated the exhibition with Eulanda Sanders, the Donna R. Danielson Professor in Textiles and Clothing and department chair of apparel, events and hospitality management, said the exhibition focuses on the women's personal stories and the "why" behind their clothing choices.

"The displays, or looks, in the exhibition come from the interviews," Reddy-Best said. "The idea is that some LGBTQ women are more masculine-centered, others nonbinary or genderqueer, and still others are more feminine, who might feel their clothes aren't queer enough."

Reddy-Best said that without the stories that go with the displays, the clothing might seem as though it could belong to anyone. "But when you hear the interviews, the clothes have a significant meaning within those contexts," she said.

The campus community is invited to attend the exhibition's opening reception on Feb. 8 (5-8 p.m., 1015 Morrill). Reddy-Best and graduate assistant Dana Goodin will speak about the exhibit from 5:45 to 6:15 p.m. in 2019 Morrill. 

Queer fashion and style exhibit in Morrill Hall museum

Mary Alice Gallery in Morrill Hall.


Black History Month events are underway

Iowa State is celebrating Black History Month with a variety of events from late January through February. For more than four decades, the United States has observed Black History Month to recognize the achievements of African-Americans and honor their contributions to the nation's history.

Throughout February, Parks Library will have a display featuring African-American authors that will be split between the Fireplace Reading Room and a mobile unit that circulates through the building.

The following events are free and open to the public, unless otherwise indicated.

  • Feb. 3, Performance, "Meet George Washington Carver," portrayed by ISU alumnus Paxton Williams, program will include gospel music performed by the Corinthian Baptist Church Praise and Worship Team, Des Moines (2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Reiman Ballroom, Alumni Center), $5
  • Feb. 3, Networking event, Operation Pipeline, panels, workshops and resource fair designed to expose multicultural students to the resources and information needed to successfully navigate the graduate and professional school admission processes (8:30 a.m.-noon, MU Great Hall)
  • Feb. 8, Soul food lunch, a themed menu for Black History Month at all campus dining centers
  • Feb. 9, Performance, "The Flying Hobos," the story of former student James Banning, who in 1932 was the first African American to complete a U.S. transcontinental flight (10 a.m., Howe Hall auditorium)
  • Feb. 13, Panel presentation, "African Diaspora and Black Experience," stories from those who recently migrated from other countries and those whose ancestors came here, often as slaves (7 p.m., 2256 Multicultural Center, Memorial Union)
  • Feb. 15-16, Performance, "The Vagina Monologues," award-winning play featuring women's stories of sexuality and strength (6 and 9 p.m. Feb. 15, 7 p.m. Feb. 16, MU Sun Room), $13, students $10
  • Feb. 17, Film screening, "Black Panther" (1 p.m., location TBD)
  • Feb. 22, Reception, "A Negro from The South" exhibit, by graduate student Cameron Gray, ISU integrated visual arts (6 p.m., Octagon Center for the Arts, 427 Douglas Ave.), exhibit runs Feb. 19-March 9 in the first-floor gallery
  • Feb. 22, Lecture, "Blaxicans and the Future of Identity in the United States," Walter Thompson-Hernandez, Los Angeles-based multimedia journalist and doctoral student in Chicana and Chicano studies, will discuss multiracial identity (7 p.m., MU Sun Room)
  • Feb. 28, Screening, ISU film clips of archived interviews by former WOI-TV host Dorcas Speer with black writers Ralph Ellison, author of "Invisible Man," and Chinua Achebe, author of "Things Fall Apart"  (4-5:30 p.m., 212 Ross)