Mohamed Ali and his ISU Dining team have a busy summer ahead of them. They'll oversee about $5 million in remodeling projects and roll out the department's first food truck.
While the 2018 summer "to do" list is a bit longer than usual, Ali said summertime reinvestments are the new normal. ISU Dining needs to be in perpetual innovation mode to meet student demand. Iowa State students come from around the world, they travel more and they have broader food experiences than students even a decade ago, Ali noted. He also pointed to the influence of television food shows on students' expectations.
"We need to keep our concepts fresh for our students," Ali said. "They want options, they need flexibility, they want to eat healthy."
Following is a quick summary of this summer's activity.
Construction began this week at Clyde's on the ground floor of the Union Drive Community Center. Updated two summers ago, Clyde's is returning to a menu that features burgers, grilled sandwiches, fries and hand-dipped milkshakes. It will have vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options, as well as a hot breakfast menu. When it reopens -- targeted for the second week of August -- Clyde's also will have a Starbucks coffee counter. Hawthorn Market is the other Starbucks campus location.
A nod to the first powered vehicle on campus, Dinkey's is less a traditional food truck and more a mobile kitchen -- three sides of pullouts on a Ford F-550 truck. In fact, it figures in the food service component of the university's disaster plan. Dinkey's will serve walking tacos with homemade tortilla chips and a few side dish options. Ali said the range of appliances, sinks and workspace on the truck provide flexibility to alter the menu without changing the truck.
ISU Dining will take advantage of Dinkey's portability during student and university special events. Following several test events this week, Dinkey's is scheduled to start weekday lunch service (10:30 a.m.-1 p.m.) Wednesday, May 14, west of Kildee Hall.
Vet Med commons, café will open early this summer
Central campus's Hub will be closed from May 5 to early November to renovate and reconfigure about 75 percent of the interior. The first priority is to reduce congestion by putting more space between the coffee and food venues. The new floor plan moves the coffee venue to the north end.
ISU Dining's 10-year contract with Caribou Coffee expired last fall and wasn't renewed. Replacing it, Ali said, will be a Roasterie campus "anchor store" that includes specialty drinks, premium teas and nitro coffee -- chilled, nitrogen-infused coffee served on tap from a keg.
Ali said he didn't expect to be inspired by alumnus Danny O'Neill's now 25-year-old coffee story, but a trip to the Roasterie headquarters in Kansas City converted him.
It's a high-quality, direct trade product, he said, with beans air-roasted the day they're ordered. In addition, the Roasterie contract demands a lower commission and leaves more money on campus to be reinvested. There's also "freedom to do what we know our customers want, not what the franchiser wants," Ali said.
"Heaping Plato," the Hub's new food venue, will have a Mediterranean theme featuring homemade pitas, high-quality shaved gyro-style meats and fresh ingredients. There also will be vegan, vegetarian and halal options.
The southeast corner of the building, used primarily for vending, will be walled off for back-of-house functions. Booths will be replaced with more efficient counter and table seating, and ordering kiosks will be installed, Ali said.
A phased plan for the project, in which the coffee venue opened several months before the food venue, had to be scrapped. They will open at the same time in November.
Ali said he hope to find a summer location near the Hub for Dinkey's to help meet diners' demands.
Memorial Union food court
The food court will close May 5 for a summer renovation that replaces the center beverage and cooler islands with a large build-your-own salad bar that includes meats, cheeses and hot items. A salad's weight determines its price. In the morning, it will feature hot and cold breakfast items such as oatmeal with all the fixings, eggs and breakfast meats.
Most of the existing venues in the food court will keep their menus. The Italian and homestyle food venues will close to make room for beverages and bakery and grab-and-go items, but menu items from each will rotate in the center salad/breakfast bar.
The food court floor will be replaced and wall facades updated to match the color scheme at Lance and Ellie's sandwich shop, which opened nearby in January. The sandwich deli and Panda Express will remain open this summer, and Lance and Ellie's temporarily will add breakfast service during the renovation. The food court will reopen in August before fall semester starts.
The computation advisory committee (CAC), a 20-member advisory group made up of students, faculty and staff, makes recommendations for use of student computer technology fees. About $10 million in tech fees was collected for the 2017-18 academic year, with the majority of funds following students to their colleges and departments. About $1 million was centrally pooled for recurring costs, unique needs and big-picture projects, such as the general classroom upgrades.
High-tech improvements are on the way for 10 of Iowa State's larger classrooms, with work beginning this summer. The university's computation advisory committee (CAC) awarded nearly $830,000 for upgrades to help instructors seamlessly connect with standardized, state-of-the-art classroom technology.
Investing in the future
Alex Ramirez, CAC chair and interim assistant dean in the College of Veterinary Medicine, said the upgrades will solve compatibility issues many instructors face when connecting laptops to classroom equipment.
"The new equipment will allow any type of laptop to connect," Ramirez said. "Different laptops with different resolution capabilities sometimes don't match the projector. This system will automatically adjust for that and make sure it's fully compatible."
With per room estimates ranging from about $63,000 to $94,000, Ramirez said an investment in state-of-the-art upgrades now will pay off in the future with more durable equipment that can adapt to changing technology.
"In the process of standardization -- so that things are more uniform across the classrooms -- we need to invest in higher-end equipment that provides us with greater flexibility for everything," Ramirez said.
Representatives from CAC, facilities planning and management, and IT services worked to prioritize technology needs in Iowa State's general classrooms. They identified 10 large classrooms in eight different buildings.
"The biggest impact will be in the auditoriums," said David Popelka, associate chief information officer in IT services. "These spaces have the greatest need, both in student volume and technology upgrades."
Existing equipment will be removed. Upgrades will include laser projectors (no more burned-out bulbs), sound systems, universal controllers, Solstice wireless display sharing capabilities and universal connectors for laptops. The rooms also will be wired for audio/visual "classroom capture" equipment needed for online or recorded sessions.
Most of the work is expected to happen over the summer, planned around scheduled use, maintenance and repairs. The spaces receiving tech makeovers are:
- 205 and 305 Carver
- 127 Curtiss
- 2055 Hoover
- 125 Kildee
- 2019 Morrill
- 117 MacKay
- 003 and 005 Physics
- 022 Sukup
In 2017, 64 employees reached 25 consecutive years of service at Iowa State, newly earning their place in the time-honored Iowa State club celebrating longtime workers. For more than 100 years, the 25 Year Club has recognized faculty and staff who have worked at Iowa State a quarter century or more.
The tradition began informally in 1915 with a convocation whose honorees included several significant figures in university history, such as Gen. James Lincoln, Herman Knapp, Alfred Bennett, Edgar Stanton and Louis Pammel. A 25 Year Club banquet has been held annually ever since, though the club wasn't formally founded until 1934, by Col. Harold Pride, secretary of the alumni association and Memorial Union director.
"Staff members who have served the College as long as you have come to personify the College to her Alumni. Buildings and land do not make a college; it is the men and women of the staff who make any college," Pride wrote to the club's charter members.
During its long history, the club has inducted more than 3,300 members who have served at Iowa State for at least 25 years, according to data from university human resources (UHR). UHR and the club's officers coordinate an annual banquet recognizing new members and those who reached 35, 45 and 50 years of continuous service in the prior calendar year.
Mallory Schon, a UHR human resource specialist, said veteran employees are highly valuable in part because of their institutional knowledge. "It's so helpful to understand where we've been, to figure out where we want to go," Schon said.
The March banquet is free for those being recognized, all who are given a small gift to commemorate their years of service. This year's honorees included 64 employees for 25 years of service, 43 for 35 years, five for 45 years and one for 50 years.
About half of the 113 honorees attended the March 5 banquet, along with another 75 guests, including President Wendy Wintersteen -- the university's first president to take office as a member of the 25 Year Club. Only one other president -- Robert Parks, just before his retirement -- reached the 25-year milestone.
The president's presence was a welcome surprise, said Marcia Anderson, a secretary in the university marketing office honored this year for 35 years of service.
"It was very appreciated, maybe more than they realize," she said.
Anderson said she's remained at Iowa State for many reasons. She likes the benefits and the people. New challenges and new students keep work interesting. But she also appreciates the range of opportunities available for staff.
"You can be as involved or not as involved as you want to be. At different times of your career, there's different things that may interest you," she said. "And if you don't like something, you can move around."
A heartwarming sight
Donald Beitz started working at Iowa State in 1967. Fifty years later, the 78-year-old still is on faculty.
"I can almost say it's divine guidance," said Beitz, the sole 50-year honoree this spring.
The Distinguished Professor of animal science came to Ames immediately after earning his doctorate at Michigan State. He had an offer in hand from the University of Nebraska, but the morning he planned to call and accept the job, he had butterflies in his stomach and put it off. At lunch, he assured his wife he'd make the call by 3 p.m. Instead, Iowa State called at 1:30 p.m., wondering if he wanted to interview.
Beitz has enjoyed his colleagues and loves advising graduate students. Plus, the mix of duties in his position is a perfect fit, allowing him to conduct basic nutrition research with applications and teach biochemistry.
"I don't even consider it work," said Beitz, who hopes to stay on the job for a couple more years.
A former officer for the 25 Year Club, Beitz finds it heartwarming to look out over the crowd at the club's banquets and see so many experienced faculty and staff being recognized. He thinks it's important to appreciate people, but he also likes that the banquet is for both faculty and staff.
"I'm just delighted that everyone's in the same mix," he said. "It's a cool thing the way it's done."
Thousands of bike riders, support vehicles and revelers are expected to roll into town on Tuesday, July 24, when RAGBRAI returns to Ames. The (Des Moines) Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, now in its 46th year, will send riders on a weeklong, 428-mile route across the central portion of the state, making Ames its day three final destination. This marks the fourth time Ames will serve as an overnight stop, the last in 2008.
Although Ames is the host city, Iowa State will play a prominent role in the experience. Sporting cardinal and gold colors and a "Cycling Power: Taking the State by Storm" theme, an Ames RAGBRAI welcome area will be staged north of Jack Trice Stadium. Planners anticipate the biggest surge of arrivals between noon and 4 p.m.
Riders will travel from Jefferson to Ames that day, a 64-mile stretch. The route brings them into town from the south, up county road R38 (South Dakota Avenue), east on Mortensen Road, north on Beach Avenue, to the welcome area along South Fourth Street. Traffic closures and delays are expected along the route and its intersection with State Avenue.
On Wednesday, July 25, riders head east on the next leg of their journey via South 16th Street, north on Dayton Avenue, and east on Lincoln Way. Traffic closures and delays are expected along the route and its intersection with South Duff Avenue.
Official RAGBRAI camping areas will be located in the city's Brookside and Stuart Smith parks, and the grass recreation fields east of the football stadium. Support vehicles, including RVs, will be assigned to the Iowa State Center parking lots. Entertainment -- a concert, food vendors, beverage garden and more -- will be downtown on Main Street. The welcome area near the stadium is expected to close at 6 p.m.
A call for volunteers
Ames Convention and Visitors Bureau staff are coordinating with an advisory committee and several subcommittees. Alumni association president and CEO Jeff Johnson and Kelsey Bolte Carper, an Ames real estate agent, business owner and former Cyclone women's basketball player, are serving as the Ames RAGBRAI co-chairs.
At an April 25 announcement party, the co-chairs urged community members to get involved.
"We want it to be a community rally, a community event," Carper said.
Johnson said part of the welcome efforts include crowds along Beach Avenue and South Fourth Street, cheering riders as they arrive at the welcome area.
"We will create our first-ever human wind tunnel," he said. "We want to give a warm welcome to our riders as they come into our city. More importantly, we want to showcase how Ames and Iowa State share a true town and gown partnership."
Anyone interested in volunteering for the event can contact the ACVB by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or phone (232-4032). Opportunities such as route guides, campground supervisors and other support roles will be offered through the Volunteer Center of Story County website.
Busy student-athletes would have a one-stop shop to study, fuel up and meet with coaches and other athletics department staff at a new facility proposed northwest of Jack Trice Stadium. Added academic and nutritional space is a big piece of the $65-$80 million in renovations and construction initially approved by the state Board of Regents at its April 12 meeting.
About 20,000 square feet of a new performance center would be for academic support, more than doubling the size of the Rod and Connie French Athletic Academic Center on the second floor of the Hixson-Lied Student Success Center. The project's nutrition component likely will devote about 10,000 square feet of space to food and beverage service, said Chris Jorgensen, senior associate athletics director for operations.
Improving those services keeps Cyclone athletics programs competitive with peer schools while taking recent NCAA rule changes into consideration. Four years ago, the NCAA began allowing Division I athletics programs to provide unlimited meals and snacks.
"What we do for our student-athletes from a nutritional standpoint has become a differentiator," Jorgensen said.
Beginning in the 2017-18 school year, new NCAA rules also limit time demands on student-athletes. Having academic help plus supplemental food and beverage on-site with plenty of parking near the athletics department's main offices -- including compliance officials and coaches for most sports -- will make those resources more convenient, Jorgensen said.
"We feel it's an efficient delivery method that will free up time for student-athletes," he said. "There's a lot of synergy with that location."
The existing academic center opened on the east edge of campus in 2007, but much has changed since then. Staff offer additional programming that wasn't contemplated a decade ago, such as life skills training that includes interview prep, career placement and volunteer outreach, Jorgensen said. More space will mean fewer scheduling conflicts for tutors and study groups, reducing late-night sessions.
"It's probably getting used much more heavily than we even anticipated at the time, and I think it bears out in the results," Jorgensen said of the French academic center. The proposed center is "really taking what we have now and right-sizing it in a facility."
The academic center would be on the east side of the Bergstrom Football Complex, also set to be expanded under the project. The nutrition center could be inside the academic center or adjacent to it, Jorgensen said.
"We're in the early stages of design," he said.
Additionally, plans call for constructing a new Olympic sports center west of the Bergstrom Indoor Training Facility and renovating the stadium's concourse and hillside seating on the north end. The project won't add any seating capacity or remove the grass-covered hills, Jorgensen said. The Olsen Building would be torn down to make way for a grand plaza entrance to the stadium.
The project's timeline depends on fundraising. About $25 million in donations is needed to move forward. Once financing is arranged, final approval from the Board of Regents is required.
A year in the making, preceded by four-plus years of planning and reconfiguring, the College of Veterinary Medicine's new commons and café will open early this summer. About 4,800 square feet in all, it features a large commons, two small meeting rooms, vending area and a relocated, larger Gentle Doctor Café, operated by ISU Dining. The area is split equally between repurposed space and an addition built over a one-story roof on the north side of the college.
Facility manager Brian Adams called it a cornerstone for the college community.
"This space isn't institutional. It has a relaxing, calming feel to it," he said. "People can come here and shift gears for a little while."
Other dining venues are closing this summer for renovation
Large windows and white metal panels, similar to the look at the large and small animal hospitals, overlook the yard between the college and child care facility to the north. Located near the oft-traveled fish tank lobby, the commons shares its natural daylight with adjoining spaces thanks to multiple entrances.
"We always seemed to be short of space, but now we have a really functional, comfortable area that will serve quite a few uses," said Renee Knosby, the college's director of operations.
Those include dining, group study sessions, club or department meetings, seminars, student wellness events such as yoga or Zumba, and special events including alumni functions. She said hospital clients also will use it while their animals are receiving care.
The seating will be mixed -- everything from soft seating to window counters to stackable chairs at tables -- but Knosby estimated the commons will accommodate more than 100 people.
The Gentle Doctor Café will serve Roasterie coffee and espresso drinks, fountain and bottled beverages, made-to-order deli sandwiches with a grilled option, soup, a daily hot entrée and grab-and-go sandwiches, side dishes and desserts. With the larger space and new counter configuration, traffic congestion should stay in the past, Knosby said.
The temporary location of the Gentle Doctor Café will close May 18, and the new café is scheduled to open after Memorial Day. The estimated $3.45 million project will be covered primarily with college funds and private gifts ($100,000).
Professor of theatre Jane Cox, who will retire from Iowa State May 15, enjoys her final production as director of ISU Theatre this weekend. The last three performances of Thornton Wilder's "Our Town" -- it opened last weekend -- feature Cox doing double duty as both director and in the primary acting role of the stage manager/narrator (pictured).
During her career, Cox has been involved with more than 350 productions as an actress, costume designer, director or playwright.
Performances begin at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday, all in Fisher Theater. Tickets ($18) are available online via Ticketmaster or from the Stephens ticket office (noon-6 p.m. Monday-Friday, 90 minutes prior to start of weekend events).