Creative problem solvers return to campus

Two men unload a large crate from a box truck

Jared Hohanshelt (left) and Jason Bjerke, logistics and support services, deliver an Odyssey of the Mind prop crate Monday afternoon to the Memorial Union for use later this week. Photo by Christopher Gannon.

It's an anniversary of sorts. This week marks the 10th time Iowa State is the host site for Odyssey of the Mind's world finals. The first year was 1990.

The competition's "challenges" are new each year, but much about the event is consistent: An estimated 850 student teams will compete across four age divisions, elementary to college, on any of OM's five challenges, which focus on creative problem-solving. This year, they arrived in Ames from about 40 states and 12 other countries, including Poland, Germany, Switzerland, Mexico, South Korea and Hong Kong. Including students, coaches, parents, event volunteers -- nearly 500 strong -- and other OM officials, the number is expected to exceed 16,000.

Competitions will be held Thursday through Saturday in the Memorial Union ballrooms, all Iowa State Center buildings, Forker gymnasiums, and auditoriums in Gerdin, Troxel, LeBaron and Music halls. Pearson Hall classrooms will be used for a spontaneous problem that all teams will compete to solve. With the exception of the spontaneous problem, the competitions are open to the public.

Odyssey of the Mind will host a large group event nightly in Hilton Coliseum. Wednesday night it was the opening ceremony, Thursday night is a banner and float parade, Friday is a ceremony for OMers missing graduation ceremonies at home, and an awards ceremony will be held Saturday evening.

OM guests will stay in residence halls on the east, west and south sides of central campus and in Frederiksen Court apartments. Most visitors depart Sunday morning.

Where's my box?

For weeks, oversize packages addressed to 925 Airport Road -- Iowa State's central receiving warehouse -- have been arriving in Ames, said Jared Hohanshelt, interim director of ISU logistics and support services (formerly central stores). They contain equipment and props for team performances.

A package tracking system his staff implemented two years ago is especially useful during the OM world finals, Hohanshelt said. LSS staff received and delivered to specific campus rooms more than 800 crates and boxes in the span of five days. Schools shipped as many as eight boxes of props for their teams.

The tracking system includes a customer portal, in this case allowing coaches to confirm instantly that boxes arrived on campus and are in the correct prop room adjacent to a competition.

Because this is world finals -- the end of the competitive road for the year, little of what arrives on campus as competition props has to be shipped home.

"It seems like part of the world finals ritual is dismantling or destroying your props; 98 percent of this will end up in a dumpster," Hohanshelt predicted.

New Cyclones set to get started as summer orientation kicks off


Cyclone aide Jaleel Chandler, top, spoke with incoming freshmen and their parents while guiding a tour of central campus during an orientation session June 1, 2016. This summer's busy season of orientation for fall freshmen will run May 29-June 27. Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Summer's annual acclimation of new students to Iowa State will return next week when orientation kicks off May 29, the first of 19 two-day sessions for fall's incoming freshmen.

Through June 27, orientation will bring waves of visitors to campus, about 5,800 incoming first-year undergraduates and 9,500 guests, often parents or other family members. Each group will range from 270 to 320 students, plus guests. Separate orientations are held for transfer students (May 21 and June 29), international students (Aug. 8-17), College of Veterinary Medicine students (Aug. 15-17) and Graduate College students.

Though not mandatory, nearly 95 percent of new students are signed up for an orientation session, said Sarah Merrill, interim director of new student programs. They'll establish critical college basics, such as setting their Net-ID, acquiring an ISU Card and meeting with an adviser to register for fall classes. Tours of residence halls, the library, recreation facilities and campus overall are available, as are meetings with financial aid advisers, staff from the dean of students office, and leaders from sororities, fraternities and other programs and clubs.

But orientation also plays an important role in helping students solidify their choice to attend Iowa State, Merrill said. Some students sign up for orientation at multiple institutions, still unsure about where they'll be in the fall. About one-third of incoming students didn't take an official campus visit, she said. Orientation passes the baton from admitted to enrolled.

"Students can visualize themselves on campus -- living, learning, discovering. Their opportunities are endless," Merrill said.

Pitch in with a smile

As usual, it won't be difficult to spot orientation attendees. The students likely will be carrying red drawstring bags they receive. Family members are given beige totes. More than 240 Iowa State employees formally assisted with orientation last year, but everyone on campus can help improve the experience, Merrill said. She urged faculty and staff to look out in particular for orientation participants navigating campus alone, as those without accompanying family are more likely to be first-generation college students.

"Greeting our guests with a smile and a positive attitude exemplifies the spirit of Iowa State University. Helping a lost student find an academic building on a map or pointing out a CyRide bus location -- these are all small efforts that go a long way toward helping students succeed and start off on the path to success," she said.

CyRide will be especially important during orientation this year, due to construction in Richardson Court and on Bissell Road and Union Drive, Merrill said. The renovations that closed down the Memorial Union food court for the summer also will have an impact, as the MU is a common spot for orientation lunches. Though sessions are free, attendees are responsible for their own housing and meals.

"The good news is that this gives us an opportunity to showcase other facilities and our fantastic CyRide bus service, and provide outstanding Cyclone positive attitudes to create the type of supportive atmosphere Iowa State is all about," Merrill said.  

Flexible plans

Students and family will start their orientation process at parking lot 63 adjacent to Maple-Willow-Larch residence halls, where they will get a parking pass and proceed to registration at the Hixson-Lied Student Success Center. Students and families have many options for customizing the experience, including sessions on resources the university offers and life skills -- some specifically for parents, some for students.

The only required components are college-led meetings in the afternoon of the first day and an appointment with an academic adviser on the second day. The college meetings begin in large lecture halls in the Gerdin and Design buildings as well as Curtiss, Troxel, LeBaron and Hoover halls. During the college meetings, children entering grades 5-9 can take part in the Cy's Sibs program to keep busy. If students opt to stay on campus overnight, they'll be in Willow Hall. Family also can choose to stay in Willow.

One new element to orientation this year is the inclusion of Iowa State's principles of community as a common thread throughout the programming, Merrill said.

"We are excited to welcome our newest Cyclones and invite them to actively engage in the Iowa State community," she said. 


Mark Simpson headshot

Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Mark Simpson became university registrar on May 21 after serving at the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, since 2013, most recently as director of enterprise student systems.

He will lead the office of the registrar, which includes strategic planning, commencement, enrollment management data, course scheduling and learning community support. Simpson also will serve as an NCAA certifying officer, oversee the Veterans Center and manage student information systems and records.

Simpson's office is in 214C Enrollment Services Center. He can be reached by phone, 294-5594, and email,


Related story

Work resumes south of football stadium

Sketch of stadium south plaza

Revised plans for the green space south of Jack Trice Stadium include a large sculpture (lower right), ring sidewalk and lots of turf and trees. Removed from original plans are a shallow pool and fountain, elevated walkway and a high volume of maintenance-heavy plantings. The white rectangles are tent roofs. Submitted image.

Work resumed last month on the green space south of Jack Trice Stadium, the final element of a multiphase plan to increase the stadium's capacity and add a club section. The plaza, which replaces a former parking lot immediately south of the Sukup Endzone Club, links the stadium to Reiman Gardens.

A pool and fountain, elevated circular walkway, paved walkways and an ambitious layout of shrubs, grasses and perennial flowers were removed from the plaza's design over the winter. The changes saved nearly $1.5 million in construction costs, but more importantly, they'll greatly reduce annual maintenance costs, said project manager Jon Harvey.

"The water features and perennials would require considerable expense to keep them up," he noted.

A large sculpture remains in the plaza design, and stone walls constructed for the elevated walkway will serve another use. The spaces behind the wall sections have been filled and graded as hillsides.

Harvey said the revised design is simpler and "more park-like," and creates options for a greater mix of activities. It will retain its ring shape, but inside a poured sidewalk will be mostly lawn, trees and a few perennials.

The athletics department will be able to erect football gameday tents in the area. It also could work for small concerts or receptions, Harvey said.

A building on the west edge of the plaza houses utility connections and irrigation controls for the site.

Last summer, this project added signage and upgraded the entrance to Reiman Gardens. A portion of a $25 million gift from Roy and Bobbi Reiman in 2014 is paying for the plaza and entrance improvements.

Harvey said work should wrap up this summer by mid-August.


Summer carillon concert series starts next week

Campanile with clouds in the sky

Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Maintenance and construction within the campanile kept things quiet last summer, but the bells will ring when the music department's summer carillon concert series returns next week. The free monthly performances begin at 7 p.m., always on a Tuesday.

Organized by Iowa State carillonneur and Cownie Professor of Music Tin-Shi Tam, the concert series features visiting university carillonneurs. Clemson University's Linda Dzuris kicks off the series on Tuesday, May 29. This year's schedule includes a performance that coincides with RAGBRAI's July 24 stop in Ames.

“Iowa State has a lot to offer when RAGBRAI comes to Ames," Tam said. "The carillon concert is one way to welcome visitors to our beautiful campus and to share our beloved tradition."

Spectators can find a program of music selections online for each performance. Blankets and chairs are welcome on central campus. Tours of the campanile -- a trip that takes visitors up 79 stair steps -- will be conducted after the performances.

Concert schedule

  • May 29: Linda Dzuris, Clemson University, South Carolina
  • June 26: Mark Konewko, Marquette University, Milwaukee
  • July 24: Ray McLellan, Michigan State University, Lansing
  • Aug. 28: Ellen Dickinson, Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut