Homecoming weekend is here

Students cheering in yellow 'yell like hell' T-shirts

Students participate in the first round of the "Yell Like Hell" spirit competition Saturday afternoon on central campus. Finals are Friday night during the pep rally. Photo by Rachel Mummey.

We're six days into the celebration, but some of ISU Homecoming's strongest traditions are yet to come. Here are a few highlights from the next few days:

Friday, Oct. 26

  • 1:15 p.m., ISU Alumni Association's 87th annual honors and awards ceremony, includes college-specific awards, Benton Auditorium, Scheman, and livestreamed on the alumni association's website, reception follows.
  • 4-6 p.m., Happy hour, Alumni Center.
  • 4-8 p.m. CYlent auction, which supports student scholarships, Alumni Center (also during Oct. 27 tailgate), online bidding continues through 12 a.m. Oct. 28.
  • 6-9 p.m., Pep rally, features ISU coaches and student athletes and final performances of the student "Yell Like Hell" spirit competition, Alumni Center. Homecoming button holders can enjoy two complimentary slices of pizza and a bottle of soda or water during the pep rally.
  • 8-10 p.m., Excytement in the Streets, self-tour of lawn displays and parade floats from Sunday afternoon's parade, Greek neighborhood west of the Alumni Center.
  • 11 p.m.-1 a.m., Pancake feed ($3), central campus.
  • Midnight, Mass campaniling under a fireworks show, central campus.

Saturday, Oct. 27

  • 8-10:30 a.m., Cyclone Central tailgate, giveaways, games, step show by the marching band, shopping with ISU Book Store, cash bar and food trucks with items for purchase, Alumni Center.
  • 11 a.m., Kickoff, Football, ISU vs. Texas Tech, tickets ($35-$70) may be purchased online via Ticketmaster, Jack Trice Stadium.
Homecoming banner on central campus

Students pass a Homecoming banner on a central campus sidewalk this week. Photo by Christopher Gannon.


Town hall takes closer look at HR, finance service delivery proposals

Improved service delivery

Top administrators in finance and human resources shared their visions for improved service delivery during an Oct. 25 town hall. Pam Cain, interim senior vice president for finance and university services, and Kristi Darr, interim vice president for university human resources, addressed a packed house in the Howe Hall auditorium and hundreds of livestream viewers.

Quick to point out that the proposed service delivery models haven't been approved, Cain and Darr emphasized that change is necessary. How the university does finance and HR work will change when the Workday software system goes live July 1, 2019.

"Every single person that touches finance and touches HR will be impacted," Cain said.

"The president is committed to doing it differently. We have to figure out how," Darr said. "Defining the model is the first step. We have to decide what stays local and what goes into the model. People will have to decide if they want to go into the model or stay local. There are a lot of layers."

Roles and responsibilities

The proposed models call for more specialization and centralized management. Most human resources and financial services work, some of which is now done by employees who have a variety of other responsibilities, would shift to new staff positions devoted to more defined tasks and supervised by managers who report to top-level finance or HR leaders.

Cain and Darr provided a closer look at the responsibilities the positions in their structures might have.  

Cain summarized the three levels of finance responsibilities in the proposed model.

  • Specialist teams: Support units with expertise in Workday processes, regulatory compliance, federal uniform guidance and accounting
  • Unit finance: Oversee local strategic budget planning, analysis, reporting and training
  • Central finance division: Oversee institutional-level policies, procedures, training and manage complex accounting issues

"The strategic things for the units will all stay in the units," Cain said. "On the specialist teams are the things we're trying to pull out that add value to the [expert] teams. Our hope is with these teams -- highly functioning individuals -- we can continually improve our service, our punctuality and our timeliness on everything we do."

She said the finance teams would vary in size and composition, based on the needs of the units they serve. For example, some units have no grant funding, while other units may need multiple specialists with grants expertise.

Darr outlined four levels of roles and responsibilities in the proposed HR model.

  • HR coordinator: Support units with HR expertise and customer service
  • HR partner: Work with units to meet their needs with consistent HR services
  • Senior HR partner: Provide guidance and support for division leaders and HR teams
  • University and provost level: Oversee institutional strategy, policies, practices, training and compliance

"The HR coordinator role is that person who is helping that local unit -- day in and day out -- to make decisions," Darr said.

What's next

The Institutional Effectiveness Leadership Team that developed the proposed models is expected to submit its final recommendation to President Wendy Wintersteen in November. Pending her decision, the new year could kick off with a flurry of activity.

"The bulk of the work likely will come after the holidays," Darr said.

Cain and Darr said the top HR and finance positions would be filled first, allowing those leaders to help assemble their teams. Cain said they are working with the equal opportunity office to map out an appropriate hiring process for moving current personnel into new positions.


Summary of some topics discussed in the Q&A portion of the meeting

Job duties for financial specialists

Cain envisions two job families within a "red" team, referring to the color representing specialist teams on presentation slides:

  • Specialists highly trained in accounting, with entry-, junior- and senior-level positions. She also noted the university is converting during the Workday transition from cash-based to accrual-based accounting.
  • Specialists with compliance, policy and procedural expertise, also with entry-, junior- and senior-level positions.

As an example, she said five such teams could answer to a financial services manager, who balances work among the teams.

Cain said the goal is to have merit staff and professional and scientific staff on the finance red teams.

Job duties for HR specialists

Darr said an HR coordinator will handle "lifecycle" transactions such as job changes, hires, resignations and retirements. She said that includes problem solving and helping employees understand the tools available to them to solve issues. The number of HR coordinators needed to support a unit is not decided yet.

"I don't believe these are routine tasks. We employ humans and they give us surprises," she said.

In response to a question about soft/grant funding for jobs, Darr said the expectation is that functional specialist positions will be continuous (though it's not yet decided). The funding model for the specialist teams isn’t set yet, either.

Employees who don't want to be specialists

Department-level leaders will work with employees who had HR and/or finance responsibilities to redefine their positions, which may involve taking on new duties or those once handled by co-workers who sought specialist positions. Darr said it will be important to avoid demoting employees unless they choose that.

Where/how to find the new jobs

Cain said the process is being defined now, with assistance from the equal opportunity staff. Due to the high volume, it won't involve the "normal application process." Employees need a pathway to express interest in a new job or opt to stay locally. Cain said the goal is a streamlined process that isn't cumbersome to employees.

Darr said there will be lots of communication about when the jobs are known, application deadlines, etc. "You shouldn't be surprised when those jobs are available," she said.

What if no one wants to fill the functional specialist jobs?

Darr's advice is to learn more about the new jobs as they get defined and ask questions about what will happen to current positions. Jobs at the local level will change, too. Each person needs to evaluate what interests them, she said.

Darr said she believes employees will apply to fill the roles in the models. She has heard enthusiasm for "doing things right."

If no one moves, Darr said she'd have to conclude, "we didn't listen, we didn't design it right."

The option at that time is to "retool." Doing nothing is not an option because the president is committed to the change, Darr said.

Timeline for when units and specialist jobs are defined

Darr emphasized this timeline is "in pencil":

If the president's decision comes in November, work commences on defining jobs (some preliminary work has begun). In late November/early December, Darr said she hopes to talk very specifically about jobs. "We'll meet with all of you and answer your questions," she said.

Decisions about units is a separate process.

The highest-level positions in each model would be posted first so supervisory roles are filled. January and February is when most people would be assigned positions. Darr's goal is to have people slotted into jobs and know where they're going by the end of March. This would align with Workday training.

Cain said they've talked about a job fair or a "speed dating" type of format where people can learn quickly about a variety of jobs. The goal, she said, is to get people comfortable with what the new jobs are so they can make the best decisions for themselves.

Darr noted that "unpacking" what tasks and responsibilities stay local also will take time. Realistically, that will ebb and flow over the next year.

Transition period (January to July)

Darr called this the "messy" period when employees shift to new positions and train for them while still performing their current jobs. She said this period is one of her concerns, and she said "we have to figure out" how to support employees dealing with a lot of change.

Impact of the service delivery models on compensation

Compensation is individual, Darr noted, but she spoke more generally about transitioning not only to new service delivery models, but a new P&S classification and compensation system, scheduled to roll out in September 2019.

"We know inequities in compensation exist now on campus. There's a wide variety of compensation practices," she said. "July 1 is a milestone, not a destination. Everything won't be settled by then."

She said no P&S employee knows where he or she will sit in the salary ranges in the new system, and the service delivery models won't solve that question.

Relationship of new jobs to new P&S classification system

Darr said the new classification system isn't completed yet. Job families are still being created and defined. From a practical perspective, it may be too big a leap to put the new jobs in the new system initially.

Defining a unit

Cain said units won't be determined until the models are approved by the president. "Once the models are approved, we fit the model to the needs," she said.

Darr pledged it will be a very collaborative process, including input from senior leaders and the president.

Cain said those discussions will need to assess the complexity and the volume of things that a unit does -- for example, do employees do lots of international travel or is there a lot of grant funding. She gave this example:

"A very large unit could have 25 people on a red [specialist] team, but they might not be sitting in the same location. They will work as a team, but I don't see a huge pool of people in one location. We're trying to get those teams embedded in the units so they have a clear understanding of the needs so they can be proactive in the problem solving that needs to happen, and they can be there as experts, a resource for the unit."


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Daniel Robison named dean of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Daniel Robison from West Virginia University, Morgantown, has been named the next endowed dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and director of the Iowa Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment Station.

Daniel Robison

Daniel Robison

Robison, dean of WVU's Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design and director of the West Virginia University Agriculture and Forestry Experiment Station, will begin his tenure by March 31, 2019.

"Dr. Robison has the vision, leadership experience and land-grant spirit to further strengthen the college's international reputation for excellence in teaching, research and extension," said President Wendy Wintersteen. "In partnership with our students, faculty, staff and the agricultural community, he will advance the college's mission of creating a better, more sustainable future for Iowa and the world."

Robison is a forester and forest entomologist. He joined the West Virginia faculty in 2012 after 15 years at North Carolina State University, Raleigh, including three years as associate dean for research in the College of Natural Resources.

"Everyone -- whether you live down the street or halfway around the world -- benefits from the work led by the faculty, staff and students of Iowa State's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences," Robison said. "It's a great honor to be selected to lead the college, and I look forward to working with the talented team here to address the local and global challenges of agricultural production, food safety, security and nutrition, natural resources management and underlying life sciences."

Robison earned a bachelor's degree in forestry and master's degree in silviculture and forest influences from the State University of New York, Syracuse; and a Ph.D. in entomology from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. 

Wintersteen, the previous dean of Agriculture and Life Sciences, became university president on Nov. 20, 2017. In making the dean announcement, senior vice president and provost Jonathan Wickert thanked interim dean Joe Colletti for his leadership of the college since then and members of the search committee and campus community for their thoughtful consideration of candidates.

Instructors can help students save big money

The ISU Book Store has several textbook affordability initiatives, including used, rented and loose-leaf (unbound) textbooks. Instructors also can help lower course costs with the bookstore's immediate access program. The digital content option has saved students nearly $3 million since 2014.

Immediate access is just that. Students have instant access to the online course materials via the Canvas learning management system on the first day of class. If the digital content is available, instructors may choose to provide some or all of their required materials -- for example, ebooks and lab notebooks -- through immediate access.

"Based on their prices, students may or may not buy textbooks and that could affect their success in the class," said Heather Dean, bookstore assistant director. "With immediate access, the students don't have to physically come to the store to buy anything or mess with an access code. They just log into Canvas, and it's there. The faculty don't have to worry about students not being prepared."

Growth in participation, savings

Four courses used immediate access materials when the program debuted in fall 2014. On average, the 2,271 students saved more than 50 percent (roughly $41,500) off the printed materials cost. Participation exploded this fall, with 34 course items delivered via immediate access. Immediate access materials saved nearly 17,000 students more than $1.2 million.

The savings this fall on individual course materials ranged from 4 percent to nearly 80 percent, including 16 items less than half the cost of the printed version. The biggest money savers:

  • 79 percent ($45 immediate access, $212 ebook), "Shigley's Mechanical Engineering Design," Mechanical Engineering 325
  • 76 percent ($62 immediate access, $259 loose-leaf), "Marketing," Marketing 340
  • 76 percent ($45 immediate access, $186 ebook), "Connect Core Concepts in Health," Human Sciences 110

Students are billed for the materials when they enroll in the course. The charges are refunded if they opt out or drop the course. Dean said loose-leaf companion versions of the required online content are available for an additional (reduced) cost to accommodate users who prefer printed learning materials.

"When it comes to course materials, it's very much a personal choice -- everyone has a different learning style and a different budget," Dean said. "This is an opportunity to get everyone on the same playing field so they can be successful in their course, no matter what their budget or learning style is."

'A win for students'

Immediate access also provides measurable data for instructors. They can see what materials are the most -- or least -- engaging for their students.

"There are analytics and tools faculty can use to keep tabs on their students and ensure success," Dean said.

Three major publishers and a few classroom technology sources offer immediate access materials, with more in the works to join the program. Dean encourages faculty to submit additional publisher and materials requests.

"This really is the wave of the future. This is where education is going. Immediate access brings down the price of course materials and makes sure students are prepared on day one of class -- they're succeeding, they're getting better grades, they're learning and you're retaining them in class," Dean said. "Everyone involved -- the faculty, bookstore and publishers -- is working to put money back into the pockets of students. This is a win for the students."

More information for faculty and students is available online. Questions can be sent to immediateaccess@iastate.edu, or by contacting Dean (294-0237, hdean@iastate.edu).

Accessibility improvements are stacking up

For student Lauren Berglund, attending classes in Parks Library posed struggles many people may never have considered.  

Berglund, a senior in child, adult and family services, is blind, has multiple chronic illnesses and uses a service dog. Until the library's new single-user restrooms opened this fall, the nearest restroom she could use was at The Hub.

Disability Awareness Week

Held annually to educate the Iowa State community about access barriers individuals with disabilities face, Disability Awareness Week will feature a series of events Oct. 29-Nov. 2. Two events specifically targeting faculty and staff are the weeklong interactive art exhibit in the Parks Library lobby and a Nov. 1 panel on student accommodations (12:30-1:30 p.m., MU Cardinal Room).

"This is the first time I've actually been able to safely and easily use the restroom in the library," said Berglund, co-president of the Alliance for Disability Awareness student organization. "It's been so nice."

The library bathroom project is one of many ways Iowa State has become more accessible in the past two years, both by upgrading facilities and technology and devoting more personnel to access issues.

Nora Ryan, inclusion services coordinator in the office of equal opportunity, assembled an inventory of recent accessibility improvements, which includes her own hire in spring 2017 for a new position that, in part, coordinates compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

“This list demonstrates the university’s commitment to improving access for everyone,” Ryan said. “None of this would be possible without administrative and staff leadership and the dedication of numerous ISU community members. Because of everyone’s hard work, this list will continue to grow.”

The accessibility initiatives and improvements Ryan compiled include the following:


  • The university committee on disabilities has reconvened for monthly meetings and special projects after a seven-year hiatus.
  • University Library created a full-time position held by assistant dean for inclusion and equity Susan Vega Garcia, who is tasked in part with supervising the library’s ADA coordination.
  • Facilities planning and management (FPM) created an accessibility coordinator role held by Kerry Dixon, who also is a project manager and coordinator of sustainable design and construction.
  • In an initiative to improve the accessibility of its digital media, ISU Extension and Outreach hired two new document accessibility specialists to remediate access issues in its nearly 2,500 online publications.
  • The student accessibility services (SAS) office, which handles disability accommodations for students, created the sensory services coordinator position held by Megan Johnson. She coordinates accommodations for individuals across campus who are deaf or hard of hearing, as well as students who are blind or have low vision.
  • Psychology professor Carolyn Cutrona was appointed to a new half-time role as an associate dean in the Graduate College, where she will handle accommodations for graduate assistants. Ryan said that is sometimes delicate because different offices administer accommodations for students and employees, but graduate assistants are both.
  • Informational technology services is hiring a digital accessibility coordinator to manage efforts for barrier-free computing, resources and systems.


  • A two-year renovation project set to conclude next year is adding accessible restrooms in the library, including a single-user, gender-inclusive restroom on every floor.
  • FPM is developing a facilities access improvement plan which will identify and prioritize accessibility issues on campus. The maintenance improvement committee has allocated funding to help address items identified in the facilities access improvement plan.
  • A renovation this summer at Stephens Auditorium tripled the space available for theater guests who use wheelchairs.
  • Technology upgrades in 10 general university classrooms this summer, funded by the computation advisory committee, included the addition of assistive listening connectivity.
  • The parking division conducted a large survey of accessible parking under its management and is working to add medical stalls, beyond what is required by the ADA, in select locations.


  • Printing and copy services purchased a flatbed inkjet printer and a complementary cutter/router machine to improve signage across campus.
  • SAS launched a database called Accommodate for coordinating and facilitating student accommodations.
  • The equal opportunity office created an online tool for reporting access barriers on campus.

What to know about 2019 benefits before open change begins Nov. 1

The once-a-year opportunity for all Iowa State employees to modify their benefit choices begins next week.

During the annual open change period, this year from Nov. 1 (9 a.m.) to Nov. 16 (5 p.m.), Iowa State faculty and staff can adjust, withdraw from or enroll in insurance plans, flexible spending accounts and dependent care assistance programs.

Open change timeline

  • Nov. 1: Participation statements available at 9 a.m. in AccessPlus
  • Nov. 2-16: Drop-in sessions
  • Nov. 6: Online seminars
  • Nov. 16: Open change period closes at 5 p.m.
  • Nov. 30: Benefit confirmation statement available at 9 a.m. in AccessPlus
  • Dec. 7: Corrections to open change errors due at 3810 Beardshear Hall by 5 p.m.
  • Dec. 14: Final benefit statements available at 9 a.m. in AccessPlus

Changes made will take effect Jan. 1. Open change is the only time when employees can make benefit changes, other than adjustments due to qualified changes in family status. If no changes are made, employees' benefits and spending account contributions will stay the same. But open change is a good time to review benefits and beneficiaries, even for employees who don't anticipate any alterations.

During the open change period, employees can review their benefit selections and make changes online in AccessPlus.

What's new

While plans and premiums for health, prescription drug and dental coverage are holding steady for 2019 for the sixth consecutive year, there are a few benefits changes employees should know about:

  • Employees who waive health and/or dental coverage will no longer receive credits to apply toward other premiums or deposit in a dependent care or health reimbursement account.
  • Wellmark is renaming the ISU Plan health insurance options. The preferred provider organization (PPO) plan now called Alliance Select will be BluePPO. The health maintenance organization (HMO) plan now called Blue Advantage will be BlueHMO. All employees will get new insurance cards that reflect the plan names.
  • The maximum monthly payment under the long-term disability policy will be $10,000, equalizing the cap for all employees. Payments are based on a percentage of an employee's salary.
  • The minimum annual contribution to a flexible spending account or dependent care assistance program will be $240. The current minimum monthly contribution is $20, so this change only impacts employees who are not paid 12 months per year. 

More information

University human resources (UHR) will hold online seminars Nov. 6 for employees with benefits questions. The livestreams will be recorded and posted to the benefits website.

UHR benefits staff also will be available at the following locations and times to answer questions and help employees make changes. Employees should bring their AccessPlus login information and names, birthdates, social security numbers and, for HMO participants, primary care provider information for all family members covered by their health plan.

2420A Friley Hall

  • Nov. 2 (9-10:50 a.m.)
  • Nov. 5 (11 a.m.-1 p.m.)
  • Nov. 9 (3-4:30 p.m.)
  • Nov. 14 (2:30-4 p.m.)

1117 Gerdin Building

  • Nov. 5 and 12 (4:10-6 p.m.)

64 Heady Hall

  • Nov. 7 (3-4 p.m.)
  • Nov. 9 (8:30-10:30 a.m.)
  • Nov. 14 and 16 (11 a.m.-1 p.m.)

Employees with questions are encouraged to contact UHR by phone at 294-4800 or by email at benefits@iastate.edu.

Defending champs will host Big 12 meet Friday

Conference logo being painted on the cross country course.

Josh Tvrdik, a turf manager in the athletics department, paints a Big 12 Conference logo near the finish line of the cross country course in preparation for the Big 12 championships. Photo by Christopher Gannon.

The Big 12 Conference men's and women's cross country championships return to Ames this week for the first time since 2008. A field of more than 160 runners from the 10 league schools (nine men's teams) will compete for team and individual titles at the ISU cross country course on Friday, Oct. 26.

The Iowa State women's team, ranked No. 17 nationally, is looking for its third consecutive Big 12 championship, while the No. 6-ranked men have won the last two conference titles. The 6,000-meter women's race is at 10 a.m., followed by the men's 8,000-meter at 11 a.m. The course will be open to teams for practice on Thursday (noon-6 p.m.).

The course is located west of Wilson Hall (Towers), with the start line near the intersection of Hayward Avenue and Mortensen Road. The fenced final stretch and finish line is northwest -- and within sight of -- the start line. Admission is free. Live results will be posted online.