Soggy start

lone student under a green umbrella against orange leaves

Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Fall colors emerge and drizzle falls on a student taking cover under an umbrella along Osborn Drive this week. October arrived in a rain cloud; here's to blue skies ahead.

Faculty input sought on campuswide initiatives

Meeting coverage

More than half of the Oct. 9 Faculty Senate meeting was devoted to listening and learning about campuswide initiatives and how they will affect faculty.

Faculty features in Workday

Kristen Constant, interim vice president and chief information officer, outlined some faculty-specific features of the Workday software system that goes live July 1, 2019. Workday is a cloud-based platform configured to manage all of Iowa State's payroll, human resources and financial processes.

"This is not an effort designed to reduce staff and push work to faculty," Constant said. "We're expecting to see improved efficiency, accuracy, tracking and transparency."

She said faculty activities such as grants management (specifically, post-award), recruit-to-hire search committee processes and expense reporting/management will be streamlined in Workday. It also will provide better records of faculty service (committees and roles), appointments, compensation and benefits.

"All of this will be searchable within your records," Constant said. "That information now resides in a number of different places, and sometimes that place is in a file folder in someone's office."

She said faculty position responsibility statements, performance reviews, effort reports and awards will be moved online. Many functions in AccessPlus -- for example, benefits/payroll information, address changes and W2/W4 forms -- also will shift to Workday.

Constant said feedback can be submitted through the WorkCyte website or by contacting faculty change liaisons Jo Ann Powell Coffman and David Cantor.

Proposals for improved service delivery in finance, human resources

Implementating Workday will change the way financial and human resources work will be done and the staff who will be doing it. A team developed proposed models for improved service delivery in both areas and are asking for feedback on the structure.

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences dean Beate Schmittmann and vice president for research Sarah Nusser co-chaired the team and presented senators a brief overview of the models that create teams of "functional specialist" staff with expertise in finance or human relations.

"There's an opportunity to reorganize staff so we can better support these processes," Nusser said. "We have proposed new models that recognize that services are more effectively delivered by employees who are experts in these areas."

Schmittmann said the proposed models maintain or improve service, minimize disruption and provide more layers of support to balance workloads.

"Chances are you'll continue to be served by the same people you know, and chances are they'll be close to you physically," Schmittmann said. "Given that their job responsibilities will change a little bit, you may not be going to the same person, but you will have somebody to serve your needs."

Schmittmann responded to faculty concerns gathered from initial feedback on the proposed models:

  • "The staff support that is provided today will, overall, continue to be provided. Broadly speaking, where you get support on finance and grants management today, you will continue to get support going forward."
  • "Units will still have administrative go-to people -- someone who can answer a quick question, someone who can help you find out where you need to go with a particular issue -- but it may be a little bit different from what you are experiencing now."
  • "You will have designated teams working for your unit -- your department, your college. There will be people who are working for you as a way of helping you get our work done."

Campus climate faculty work group

Senate president Peter Martin said a faculty work group is collecting action items for improving the campus climate. Feedback and ideas can be submitted online and at faculty open forums on Oct. 17 (4-5 p.m., 198 Parks Library) and Nov. 1 (11 a.m.-12:30 p.m., MU Pioneer Room).

To spark ideas and feedback, results were shared from a pair of surveys that gauged faculty opinions about the living, working and learning environment at Iowa State.

Dawn Bratsch-Prince, associate provost for faculty, said the 2016-17 COACHE (Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education) national survey of institutional experiences and job satisfaction among faculty showed overall satisfaction at the university (75 percent) and department (72 percent) levels.

"This year we were very pleased there were no areas of concern compared to our peers or the national cohort," Bratsch-Prince said. "This doesn't mean there's not work we can do to improve the experience of faculty."

Areas of strength indicated in the COACHE survey included appreciation/recognition, collaboration, department quality, benefits, mentoring, university and college leadership, interdisciplinary work, mentoring, service work and personal/family policies. Areas for improvement included compensation, workload balance, clear promotion and tenure (P&T) standards, college/department leadership (specifically in communication, equity, clarity and civility) and department collegiality.

Claire Andreasen, chair of the senate's faculty development and administrative relations council, said results from the fall 2017 campus climate survey showed faculty are concerned about salary, resources, P&T and child care. Areas for improvement (identified by about 25 percent of faculty) included:

  • Hostile behavior based on gender, position status, race/ethnicity, age or philosophical/political views
  • One-on-one interactions with department chairs/colleagues that contribute to faculty feeling intimidated, isolated, unappreciated or devalued
  • Unfair or inequitable hiring practices
  • Unfair, inequitable or unclear P&T, advancement and reappointment criteria

"We're looking for some themes that are common across both the climate survey and the COACHE survey, and those are the areas that we'll dig into and target," Bratsch-Prince said. "There are areas of overlap."

New name for CALS biochemistry program

Senators approved a name change for the agricultural biochemistry undergraduate major, to biochemistry.

"The rationale from the college is that the major has no agricultural required classes. The name change simply is a more accurate description of what the major is -- a basic science major," said Andrea Wheeler, chair of the academic affairs council.

Two colleges -- Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Agriculture and Life Sciences -- offer biochemistry programs in the department of biochemistry, biophysics and molecular biology. As part of the proposal, the deans agreed to share tuition revenue from both programs on a three-year trial basis.

"A memorandum of agreement was prepared by the deans of LAS and CALS supporting the change, but acknowledging that while the two degrees share the same core science requirements, they differ in general education courses required by each college and this could lead to a change in numbers enrolled in each college," Wheeler said.

Other business

The senate will take action next month on three proposals:

  • An interdisciplinary minor in feed technology offered by the agricultural and biosystems engineering and animal science departments. The 18-credit program includes the study of grain handling and storage, feed formulation, feed manufacturing, biosecurity, feed safety and "novel" ingredients processing.
  • Proposed name changes for both industrial technology undergraduate degrees (major and minor), to applied engineering and technology management. The degree programs are offered by the agricultural and biosystems engineering department in CALS.


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P&S Council seeks ways to help as HR, finance jobs poised to change

A proposal to make human resources and finance staff positions more specialized, changing some employees' duties and direct supervisors, dominated discussion at the Oct. 4 meeting of the Professional and Scientific Council. Council members met in small groups to brainstorm ideas to help P&S employees manage the transition.

The proposed improved service delivery models, which have been studied since shortly after President Wendy Wintersteen took office 11 months ago, were publicized for the first time last week when a series of presentations and public forums kicked off. Another presentation on the proposed changes is set for today from noon to 1:30 p.m. in the Memorial Union Pioneer Room, which also will be livestreamed.

Town hall meeting

  • Oct. 11, Noon-1:30 p.m., MU Pioneer Room (livestream)

Feedback and questions

Learn more

While the proposed new models have differences, they both call for more specialization and centralized management. The plan would shift most human resources and financial services work, some of which is now done by employees who have a variety of other responsibilities, to new staff positions devoted to more defined tasks. Specialists in procurement and expenses, fiscal management of grants and general financial services, along with HR specialists, would serve individual units but report to supervisors with finance and HR experience.

The proposed changes are prompted in part by the move July 1, 2019, to Workday, a campuswide, cloud-based software system that will manage university business processes. A new classification and compensation system for P&S staff also will begin July 1. The service delivery changes will go into effect at the same time.

Council president Stacy Renfro said she has heard concern about the uncertainty improved service delivery poses and the speed of implementation. The task force that devised the proposal, the Institutional Effectiveness Leadership Team (IELT), plans to incorporate feedback into a final recommendation it will submit to Wintersteen next month.

Renfro, who sits on the IELT's "super group," said another common question from constituents is how "units" being served by HR and finance specialists will be defined, an aspect of the proposal not yet ironed out.

Senior vice president for student affairs Martino Harmon and senior vice president and provost Jonathan Wickert, both IELT members, spoke at the meeting about the proposal. In separate remarks, each acknowledged that altering how HR and financial services are delivered will be stressful for staff, especially when added to the other changes coming. They encouraged learning about proposed changes, asking questions and sharing ideas.

Harmon said the proposal isn't set in stone, as it changed nearly every time the IELT met.

"What we were talking about three weeks ago was different from we are talking about now," he said.

Wickert said financial specialists are needed because the Workday system requires users to have broad knowledge and access, which would be a challenge for staff who handle financial matters only on occasion.

"Parachuting into the middle, that's really not how it works," he said.

The changes suggested for human resources will make sure all employees receive uniform service, Wickert said.

"Over time, not for any bad reason, it's evolved so we really have two systems: a very distributed human resource system and a very centralized human resource system. What happens then is there just isn't consistency," he said.

At an Oct. 3 open forum the council held, IELT co-chair Sarah Nusser, vice president for research, also noted that performance evaluations, training, opportunity for advancement and workload balancing would improve under the proposed system. At the same forum, IELT co-chair Beate Schmittmann, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences dean, said the initiative isn't aimed at reducing the workforce.  

At the meeting, council members met in divisional representation groups to propose action items for helping P&S staff as the service delivery initiative moves forward. Those ideas will be discussed at the council's Oct. 31 meeting.

'Don't assume they won't': What to know about disability accommodations


Darrin Jones, a program coordinator at the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, works at a treadmill desk near his office in Morrill Hall. The treadmill is a workplace accommodation which helps him meet his doctor's recommendation to move for 10 minutes every hour. Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Darrin Jones was concerned last winter as he thought about getting back to work. Following a health scare, his doctor directed him to stay active throughout the day to prevent blood clots.

As a program coordinator at the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT), a job that keeps him at a screen most of the day, he wasn't sure how he could possibly move for 10 minutes every hour, per the doctor's orders. Would he need to tear away from work for regular walks? Was that even possible? Would he have to burn vacation time to do it?

"I was worried," Jones said. "It's something I didn't know."

Having a physical or mental health condition that could impact your job isn't uncommon. Nearly one in five Americans have a disability, according to a 2010 census estimate. If people with a disability were recognized as a minority group, it would be the largest in the U.S.


Leslie Ginder

"It is much more common than people realize," said Leslie Ginder, employee leave and accommodation coordinator for university human resources (UHR).

Yet for many, there's a lingering stigma surrounding workplace accommodations employers must provide under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

"I think for some people, it can be very lonely and isolating," Ginder said.

In conjunction with National Disability Employment Awareness Month, annually recognized in October, and the university's Disability Awareness Week beginning later this month, here are a few things to know about workplace disability accommodations:

Is it for you?

Under the ADA, employers must make on-the-job modifications to help an employee overcome the challenges posed by a mental or physical health condition if the worker is otherwise able to perform the essential functions of the position and the accommodation is reasonable, meaning it doesn't put an undue hardship on the employer. UHR works with employee supervisors to review the essential functions of a position, and accommodations can range from relatively simple scheduling shifts to major purchases.

But what's a disability? In this context, it's an impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. It can come in many forms and often is not apparent, Ginder said. While some employees embrace a disability as an important part of their identity, it can be an off-putting label for others, she said.

"I try to meet the person where they are and how they want to identify," she said.

Some employees confuse an ADA disability with long-term disability status covered by insurance policies or Social Security, Ginder said. That's a different matter requiring a different assessment and more stringent requirements. Workplace disability accommodations can last for varying durations and may change as the condition or the worker's job duties change. 

How does it start?

An accommodation starts with a discussion with Ginder, who oversees the university's workplace accommodations. Ginder said the initial conversation with her may identify issues the employee hadn't considered.

"I'm happy to talk," Ginder said.

Ginder's position is relatively new, established in 2016. Before that, accommodation requests were handled by HR consultants within UHR, in addition to other work responsibilities. On average, she said, she meets with an employee or their department two or three times a day to discuss an accommodation.

"I think it really shows the university is committed to employees who may be in need or workplace accommodations," Ginder said of having a UHR position devoted to accommodations.

To move forward with a request after the need for an accommodation has been identified, an employee fills out a form, and the employee's medical provider documents the health condition in a different form provided to UHR. The employee request form, which the worker's supervisor will see, asks about the nature, impact and duration of the limitations but doesn't require the explicit disclosure of a medical diagnosis. That allows employees to keep their medical information confidential, even from their supervisor.

"It's an employee's decision on how, when and what to share about their medical diagnosis with other individuals they work with," Ginder said.

Ginder also works with supervisors on how to address questions from other workers while still respecting their employees' privacy by not disclosing the existence of accommodations. She said one example of how to handle those questions is by saying: "We make decisions about employees on an individual basis based on what our workplace needs are."

What will it be?

The ADA describes selecting a disability accommodation as an "interactive process," as each situation is different and may need some continuous experimentation and adjustment over time to solve.

"Accommodations don't necessarily come in one package, like you have this health condition and here are accommodations you can pick from. It's very individualized," she said. "Ultimately, we're trying to find an accommodation that's effective and reasonable."

Ginder coordinates with health care providers, unit-level human resources staff, supervisors and employees as they consider potential solutions.

"I'm kind of that filter that helps work through that conversation," she said.

For accommodation ideas, Ginder said she sometimes consults the Job Accommodation Network website, which has a database of possible accommodations. Often, an accommodation is put in place first on a trial basis, she said.

Sometimes an accommodation can mean a small change in work hours, such as a later start time, more defined breaks or a longer lunch period. It may involve changing a workspace or purchasing special equipment or software, though Ginder said most accommodations cost less than $500.

Jones said the cost was one of his worries when he began exploring ways to keep moving throughout the day despite his desk job at CELT. But after meeting with Ginder -- and, at his choice, his supervisor -- they identified options, including a treadmill desk CELT already had on hand. He said the process was straightforward and urged anyone with a medical condition affecting their job to contact UHR.

"The university does take care of its employees. Don't just assume that they won't. That's the thing I'd want people to know. Don't just carry on thinking I'm not going to be taken care of," he said.  

More Workday workshops scheduled to meet demand

WorkCyte workshops fill up fast, so more seats and opportunities are being added to help familiarize employees with the university-wide Workday software system they'll use for finance, human resources and payroll transactions.

"We've moved to rooms that hold 200 instead of 100, because of the number of people attending," said Kristen Constant, interim vice president and chief information officer. "We've more than doubled the number of workshops to make sure campus feels ready and has exposure to Workday before formal hands-on training begins in Spring 2019."

Eight workshops are scheduled through November, most of them focused on Workday's human capital management functions -- from general processes like employee onboarding to specific processes such as job changes or compensation.

More than 80 sessions are planned in the months leading up to hands-on training, which begins in April. The informational workshops -- conducted by Iowa State personnel leading WorkCyte efforts in specific areas -- cover 18 functional and technical topics and include live demonstrations.

"The demonstrations are specific to Iowa State's processes," Constant said. "We're using scenarios that are realistic for people using Workday, covering all aspects of the WorkCyte program."

Workshop descriptions and details are available on the WorkCyte website (choose the "Events" menu). Registration is required through Learn@ISU. The WorkCyte team also will do presentations for units and groups on request.


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Faculty Senate, provost’s office partner on faculty experience initiative

A Faculty Experience work group led jointly by the Faculty Senate and the office of the senior vice president and provost is working to identify and take action on issues of concern, identified by faculty, in response to results from the fall 2017 campus climate survey.

Two open forums have been scheduled to solicit input on potential climate initiatives:

  • Wednesday, Oct. 17, 4-5 p.m., 198 Parks Library
  • Thursday, Nov. 1, 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m., MU Pioneer Room

Faculty also may submit ideas to the provost's office anonymously online.

The work group is one of four charged by President Wendy Wintersteen last spring with developing initiatives that improve the experience of undergraduate students, graduate students and postdoctoral scholars, faculty, and merit and professional and scientific employees.

Members of the work group are:

  • Co-chair Jonathan Wickert, senior vice president and provost
  • Co-chair Peter Martin, president, Faculty Senate
  • Claire Andreasen, professor, Veterinary Medicine
  • Dawn Bratsch-Prince, associate provost for faculty
  • Brenda Lohman, associate dean, Human Sciences
  • Cameron Rayburn, lecturer, Engineering
  • Jane Rongerude, associate professor, Design
  • Jose Rosa, professor, Ivy College of Business
  • Meifen Wei, professor, Liberal Arts and Sciences

Additional information on the work group and other initiatives can be found on the provost's website.

Twenty percent of undergrads are in five majors

One in five Iowa State undergraduate students this fall is working toward a degree in one of the university's top five undergraduate majors. In descending order, those are: mechanical engineering, kinesiology and health, aerospace engineering, animal science and computer engineering. Combined, they account for 5,920 Iowa State undergraduates.

The top-five list looks much as it did a decade ago, although computer engineering has replaced civil engineering in the fifth spot. The office of the registrar compiles and posts enrollment data every semester.

Top 5 by gender

When gender is factored in, the undergraduate lists diverge significantly. The male list is dominated by engineering majors -- mechanical, aerospace, computer and software -- with computer science claiming the No. 5 slot. The highest numbers of female undergraduates show up in animal science and elementary education. Kinesiology and health is No. 3 for female undergraduates, with psychology and biology majors rounding out the top five.

Iowa State's undergraduate student body this fall is 57 percent male and 43 percent female.

Excluded from the top five lists are several significant groups of students -- pre-business in the Ivy College of Business, open option in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Design Core in the College of Design. These categories aren't majors but do account for large numbers of freshmen and sophomores in those colleges.

Fall 2018: Most populated majors, with student number


All undergraduates

Male undergraduates

Female undergraduates


Mechanical engineering (2,151)

Mechanical engineering (1,913)

Animal science (785)


Kinesiology and health (1,044)

Aerospace engineering (883)

Elementary education (687)


Aerospace engineering (987)

Computer engineering (726)

Kinesiology and health (574)


Animal science (968)

Software engineering* (686)

Psychology (510)


Computer engineering (800)

Computer science (580)

Biology** (499)

*Students in Engineering and LAS colleges
**Students in AGLS and LAS colleges


By college: Top five undergraduate majors



Agriculture and Life Sciences


  Animal science


  Agricultural business


  Animal ecology


  Agricultural studies


















  Management information systems


  Supply chain management








  Pre-majors/Design Core*




  Graphic design


  Industrial design


  Interior design


  Landscape architecture








  Mechanical engineering


  Aerospace engineering


  Computer engineering


  Civil engineering


  Chemical engineering






Human Sciences


  Kinesiology and health


  Elementary education


  Apparel, merchandising and design


  Event management


  Child and family services






Liberal Arts and Sciences


  Open option*




  Computer science




  Software engineering***


  Criminal justice studies




*Not a major, but captures a significant student number; not included in subtotal
**Biology major is coordinated by two departments jointly administered by two colleges
***Interdepartmental degree program with Engineering college