Cyclone-perfect poinsettias

Male shopper looks at various colors of poinsettia plants

Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Electrical engineering senior Rob Holm (right) selects a poinsettia Wednesday morning in Curtiss Hall, aided by Horticulture Club member, junior Gracie Vatthauer. The club's annual sale moves to Beardshear Hall Thursday and the Memorial Union Friday before finishing out the week indoors at Reiman Gardens. Sale details are online.

Where specialists would step in on finance work


The refined proposed finance model for improved service delivery.

A Nov. 27 town hall presentation from the university's top financial officer gave a clearer picture of what tasks the specialists in new finance service teams will take on as part of the improved service delivery initiative.

The proposed reorganization would create teams of financial services, grants finance and procurement/expenses specialists who would be supervised by finance managers instead of leaders within their units -- the yet-to-be-defined groups of offices, centers, departments and colleges they will serve. Specialists would conduct financial transactions in Workday, a new platform for business processes set to go live July 1, 2019. Local departments would keep some finance staff to retain control over their own budget decisions and strategies.

The finance service teams incorporate the mission-specific customer focus of decentralized service and the economies of scale and consistency that centralization brings, said Pam Cain, interim senior vice president for finance and university services.

"We're trying to combine the best of both worlds," she said.

One way to think of how financial transactions would be divided between unit-level staff and the finance teams is to envision bookends, Cain said. Between local choices at the start and local approvals at the end is execution, which finance teams would handle.

"The units decide what they need to obtain, who needs to travel and what are appropriate activities for the grants. The finance specialists are in the middle, and they're trained to do the detail work and accomplish those required activities. Then the units give the final approval. The units would be the bookends. The finance teams are working their magic in the middle," she said.

Who does what

Resources available

Courses through Learn@ISU

  • Rethinking Resilience: Coping in Our Every Day (Dec. 5, 9-11:30 a.m., MU Cardinal Room)
  • Mindfulness Matters (Dec. 11, 1-2 p.m., MU Gold Room)
  • Inspiring Your Day Through Purpose (Dec. 18, 1-2:30 p.m., MU Cardinal Room)
  • Staying Charged through Change (available beginning in early December)

Courses through

  • Coping with Change
  • Why We Dislike Change
  • The Change Curve
  • Know Your Thought Processes
  • How to Plan for Change
  • How to Develop Mental Toughness
  • Managing Organizational Change for Managers

Need someone to listen?

Don't forget

Cain outlined how that would play out in more detail for each of the three specialist areas. Job descriptions for the roles released Nov. 26 remain drafts, as leaders continue to integrate feedback and additional complexities. The size and composition of the service teams would depend on the needs of their unit.

Financial decisions such as budget planning and analysis, including assessing financial health, will stay local. Finance service specialists will set up and modify payroll, monitor compliance with policies and procedures, and provide financial support not related to grants -- including entries and adjustments in the newly adopted accrual accounting system.

Procurement/expense specialists would support purchase cards, make travel arrangements, process expenses, and determine the best method for obtaining goods and services. Individuals could still book their own travel, and even file their own expenses, but specialists would be especially helpful with complicated travel, such as international trips, Cain said. For purchasing, employees who know what they need could use the CyBuy website. But specialists would have an in-depth grasp of the university's policies and its hundreds of vendor contracts. They could, for example, provide options for a table a department needs to buy, Cain said. But local staff would identify the table specifications needed and make the final selection, she said.

Existing staff would continue to handle grant applications and program activities, and the service delivery changes would not impact the office of sponsored programs administration. But grant finance specialists would process the fiscal aspects of grants, including accounting entries, procurement, travel, compliance and reporting. They would know the requirements for the major funding agencies in their unit, Cain said. Though the budget model funding mechanism for the service teams hasn't been finalized, it's important to continue allowing financial staff to count as matching funds for grants or to be paid from grants, she said.

"We've got to figure out a way to still do that," Cain said.

Because of its integration with student information -- which isn't part of the 2019 rollout of Workday, though it will be in coming years -- the accounts receivable office won't change due to improved service delivery, Cain said.

Valuing skills in hiring

The improved service delivery proposal -- prompted by the move to Workday and a need for uniform, efficient service with better supervision, training, workload balance and promotion prospects -- would restructure human resources work in a similar way as it would in finance, creating teams of HR specialists. Many staff with HR or finance duties currently do both or have other responsibilities. Cain's town hall followed a Nov. 13 forum where Kristi Darr, interim vice president for university human resources, detailed duties HR specialists would handle.

The shift from generalists to specialists is meant to be cost-neutral, with existing staff in as many of the new roles as possible. That will require a special hiring process, which was outlined in a plan released Nov. 19 by the equal opportunity office and UHR. Cain said job skills often will be more important than specific resume items. A survey is planned to determine which staff are interested in the new roles, and a job fair may give would-be applicants a chance to ask specific questions in one-on-one settings, she said.

"We're trying to be as flexible as possible," Cain said. "We're committed to internally filling these positions for all who want to go."

Advertisements for the finance managers who will oversee the finance service teams -- Cain anticipates hiring at least three -- are expected to be posted this week. The next major step is defining the units and the number of new specialist jobs to fill, which a tentative timeline calls for before the end of the year. Under the draft timeline, finance positions would be finalized in February.

"This is going to be a really unique experience," Cain said.

Related stories

Improved service delivery moves forward with release of hiring plan

Calling it a major but necessary change, President Wendy Wintersteen endorsed incrementally continuing with a proposed reorganization of finance and human resources staff.

The Institutional Effectiveness Leadership Team (IELT) super group on Nov. 14 sent a status report to Wintersteen concerning improved service delivery (ISD), a proposal to create teams of finance and HR specialists who report to supervisors in their own fields. In a Nov. 16 letter, Wintersteen approved the basics of the new structure and the super group's recommendation to proceed in phases.

The job changes are expected to be in place by July 1, 2019, when the university shifts its business transactions to the Workday software platform. The proposal is largely driven by Workday, a system designed for subject-matter experts. Currently, it's common for staff to handle both HR and finance work, often on a part-time basis. But Wintersteen also emphasized that supervisors need to understand the work their employees are doing. In the existing structure, staff with HR or finance duties often report to unit, office or department leaders.

"This has created problems and inconsistencies in how processes are performed, how often employees receive training, workload balance, and the quality of staff professional development, among other issues," Wintersteen said in her letter.

Hiring plan

Resources available

Courses through Learn@ISU

  • Rethinking Resilience: Coping in Our Every Day (Dec. 5, 9-11:30 a.m., MU Cardinal Room)
  • Mindfulness Matters (Dec. 11, 1-2 p.m., MU Gold Room)
  • Inspiring Your Day Through Purpose (Dec. 18, 1-2:30 p.m., MU Cardinal Room)
  • Staying Charged through Change (available beginning in early December)

Courses through

  • Coping with Change
  • Why We Dislike Change
  • The Change Curve
  • Know Your Thought Processes
  • How to Plan for Change
  • How to Develop Mental Toughness
  • Managing Organizational Change for Managers

Need someone to listen?

Don't forget

Defining units -- the groupings of campus offices, departments and colleges the specialist teams will serve -- will be a major portion of ISD's second phase, along with determining the size of the teams serving those units.

Another key piece of the second phase is the equal opportunity plan released Nov. 19 that outlines how the new positions will be filled with the necessary speed while remaining fair, transparent and equitable.

The first positions to fill are the top leadership roles. Competitive openings were posted Nov. 16 for an associate vice president of human resources service and strategy and an associate vice president for finance and support services. Supervisor hires will follow, allowing employees seeking specialist roles to know who their manager would be.

Before turning to external searches, internal candidates will be sought for the HR coordinator, HR partner, staff recruitment specialist, financial service specialist, grants finance specialist, procurement/expenses specialist and finance manager positions. A staff survey will gauge interest and qualifications for those jobs. Qualified internal candidates will be evaluated on factors that may include:

  • Employee interest in roles or units
  • Current function and alignment
  • Experience and match to preferred qualifications and competencies
  • Input from potential supervisors or supported units
  • Internal reference checks
  • Current position description

In cases where multiple employees are interested in the same role or an employee would be promoted, the selection process may involve an interview. If an employee's interest conflicts with supervisor or unit input, a neutral mediator will be provided to identify a solution.

Implementing ISD may result in some employees being promoted or demoted, but even if an employee's classification changes, the intent is to not impact salaries. Recommendations from the ongoing classification and compensation study for professional and scientific staff, the employee group most likely impacted by ISD, won't be released until fall 2019. 

When external searches are needed to fill P&S service delivery positions, the minimum posting time will be seven days instead of the typical 15. Openings for merit positions will post for 10 days, as required under Regent Merit System rules. Merit rules also will be followed for any other transition effects.

Impact issues

Supervisors and unit leaders are expected to find additional duties for staff with HR or finance responsibilities who don't shift into a position in the service delivery system. Transition teams will help ensure appropriate staff alignment and support for offices, departments and colleges.

The equal opportunity plan also notes that staff should be free to express interest in remaining in their current role or seeking a new position without harassment or retaliation. Those who feel they've faced harassment or retaliation should contact the equal opportunity office at 294-7612.

Employees can send questions about how the ISD transition will impact them to university human resources by email at

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Regents like five-year plan that connects tuition increases and state support

With the goal of making education costs more predictable for students and families, the state Board of Regents agreed on a five-year plan that ties the size of tuition increases for resident undergraduates directly to state funding increases. Regents president Michael Richards presented the plan during the board's Nov. 15 meeting in Cedar Falls.

The plan requires that tuition increase discussions occur during April and June to better respond to the spring legislative session. The "guardrails," as Richards termed them, apply to Iowa State and the University of Iowa, whose tuitions are among the lowest of their peer schools.

  • If the Iowa Legislature fully funds the schools' appropriation requests, the base resident undergraduate tuition would increase 3 percent in the fall.
  • If state funding remains unchanged for the next fiscal year, resident undergraduate tuition would increase 3 percent plus the projected HEPI (Higher Education Price Index), in the range of 2 percent the last few years.
  • If the Legislature partially funds the universities' funding requests, resident undergraduate tuition would be set somewhere in between.

Regent Larry McKibben called the proposal "a methodology that will be significantly better for our universities," especially with a recent history that includes flat state funding and mid-year funding reversions.

At Northern Iowa, Richards said tuition also will be tied to the university's appropriation. The strategy, though, has to be tuition levels that make UNI more competitive with its Midwestern peer schools.

Stadium area improvements

Senior associate athletics director for operations Chris Jorgensen told regents fundraising has surpassed $40 million for the $90 million plan to expand and update the area north of Jack Trice stadium. He said the funding plan for the project is evenly split between private gifts and athletics department operating funds.

With the board's final approval Nov. 16, the expansion project will be done in four phases between June 2019 and August 2021. Plans include:

  • Constructing a four-story, 110,000-square-foot performance center east of the Bergstrom football complex. It will house academic, nutrition and dining services for all 450 Cyclone student athletes as well as locker rooms, training areas and sports medicine facilities for the soccer and softball teams. Some football program spaces also will move into the addition.
  • Removing the Olsen building and creating a stadium entry plaza in its place.
  • Extending the stadium concourse around the north side of the Jacobsen Building, similar to the look around the Sukup facility on the stadium's south side. Jorgensen said the north grass hill areas for fans will remain intact.
  • Remodeling part of the Jacobsen ground floor for game day use by the visiting team, officials and media.
  • Adding a single-level space to the west side of the Bergstrom complex. It will house athletics' turf operations and other storage spaces.

Campus safety update

In light of recent tragedies on university campuses -- in and outside of Iowa -- the board's campus and student affairs committee requested an update on the regent universities' student safety efforts.

ISU Police chief Michael Newton said the university's SafeRide escort program, typically offered from 9 p.m. to 5:30 a.m., was extended to begin at 6 p.m. in response to numerous phone calls from parents, students and employees following the off-campus murder of undergraduate Celia Barquin Arozamena.

A two-person education unit offers a variety of training courses, including self defense and general safety. Demand for this spiked after Arozamena's death. Newton said one person works specifically with international students and underrepresented students for inclusion and education.

Newton said Arozamena's death sparked a more collaborative effort with the Ames Police about the local homeless population and the two departments are developing an outreach team. He said campus officers assigned to this issue on an ongoing basis work to connect homeless people with services and housing and to dismantle encampments on campus property.

He said it's still important to assign officers to foot and bike patrols for better access and visibility on campus.

Police officers held their annual safety walk with Student Government leaders Nov. 1, during which they're looking for things such as burned out lights, landscaping that creates dark or obscured areas, etc.

Newton also briefly described several services, programs in the development stage:

  • CyWatch, a neighborhood watch program designed for campuses developed with the residence department, will be piloted in the next year.
  • ISU Guardian, an app that turns a smart phone into a mobile safety device in which friends or family members can virtually walk a student home. If trouble arises, the guardian can alert police. The anticipated launch is spring semester.
  • A student advisory group to Newton met for the first time earlier this month to talk proactively about safety concerns. Newton worked with Student Government leaders to assemble the team.

Other Iowa State items

In other Iowa State business, the board approved:

  • Fifty faculty professional development assignments (PDA) for the year that begins July 1, 2019: 16 for fall semester 2019, 17 for spring semester 2020 and 17 for the full academic year. All ISU faculty members employed at least half-time are eligible to apply for a PDA; there is no length of service requirement. Board policy is to approve PDAs for up to 3 percent of eligible faculty at each university.
  • A $7 million plan to finish the fifth floor of the Advanced Teaching and Research Building for the Nanovaccine Institute. Funding features $4.5 million in private gifts and $2.5 million in university funds. As proposed, construction would begin in April and wrap up one year later (April 2019).
  • A $3.2 million plan for life cycle improvements in Helser Hall, including replacing the asbestos-containing tile floor, repairing and painting interior walls, installing LED lighting and new room furnishings. The residence department's improvement funds will cover the cost.
  • A revised budget and plan for the poultry farm on South State Avenue, due to higher than anticipated costs. The budget goes up $750,000, to $5.75 million. Six buildings for teaching and research functions will be merged into one, eliminating duplicate mechanical spaces, restrooms, showers and public spaces. The project will be covered by private gifts. Construction is scheduled to begin yet this calendar year, with completion next fall.

Wintersteen makes funding request to governor

President Wendy Wintersteen's state funding request to Gov. Kim Reynolds this week mirrored what the state Board of Regents approved in September. What her presentation included that's difficult to illustrate on a budget sheet is how the university leverages the tax and tuition dollars it receives to provide an excellent return for students -- and the state. Wintersteen and her peers from the universities of Iowa and Northern Iowa made their annual appeals to the governor and her staff Nov. 26 at the Capitol.

For the year that begins July 1, 2019, Iowa State seeks:

  • A 4 percent increase ($7 million) to the general university operating budget, designated for student financial aid.
  • A 10 percent increase ($410,000) to the Veterinary Diagnostic Lab's operating support.
  • $4 million in new economic development funding (shared with the University of Iowa) to accelerate technology transfer and workforce development for four bioscience platforms identified in the November 2017 biosciences report prepared for the state by TEConomy Partners, Columbus, Ohio: biobased chemicals, precision and digital agriculture, vaccines and immunotherapy, and medical devices.
  • Facility funding of $10 million for a modern student learning hub in Parks Library and additional space for the library's special collections and university archives. The funding proposal for this project also seeks $16 million in FY21 from the state and $2 million in university or private funds.
  • Continued commitment to directed appropriations that support specific land-grant functions such as ISU Extension and Outreach, livestock disease research and the Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment Station.

"Additional resources, through a combination of increased state funds and additional tuition revenue -- as well as our commitment to savings, and strategic realignments -- are critically important to maintain the high-quality Iowa State experience," Wintersteen said. "An increased investment from the state for fiscal year 2020 will ensure that we can continue to provide an excellent return and value in our academic, research and extension programs that benefit our students and all Iowans."

Iowa State works hard for Iowa

Wintersteen used most of her time to illustrate how Iowa State's successful execution of it land-grant mission strengthens the state. Among her numerous examples:

  • Iowa State awarded more than 8,300 degrees -- a record -- during the 2017-18 academic year, providing graduates for the state workforce.
  • Iowa State's agriculture-related and engineering colleges are among the nation's largest, including a No. 2 rank for Veterinary Medicine, No. 3 for Agriculture and Life Sciences and No. 7 for Engineering.
  • ISU researchers captured $246 million in external funding last year and invested it in research jobs, equipment and education opportunities for undergraduates
  • A robust research park currently is home to 87 companies and research centers with more than 2,100 employees and 200 ISU student interns. Those companies include three industry giants: Rockwell Collins and Kent Corp. opened new offices and John Deere broke ground this fall for a design and test lab.
  • The Center for Industrial Research and Service assisted more than 1,700 businesses in 95 counties last year. The companies self-reported a combined economic impact of more than $620 million, including almost 5,000 retained or new jobs.
  • Building on 70 years of hosting a U.S. Department of Energy lab on campus, Iowa State has submitted a competitive proposal to move two U.S. Department of Agriculture agencies to Ames, the Economic Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
  • Iowa State has begun to build an "entrepreneurial ecosystem" into its undergraduate experience across the colleges, jump-started with a $17 million gift that begins an endowed fund for innovation and entrepreneurship.


Knoll open house returns to WinterFest

Two students decorate a Christmas tree

Senior Andrew Chatman and junior Jillian Kurovski decorate the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences' tree at the Knoll Wednesday evening. All eight colleges and the library prepared a themed tree for Friday's WinterFest celebration. Open house at the Knoll runs from 3 to 6 p.m. Photo by Christopher Gannon.

The campus community will celebrate the changing of the season and the approaching end of fall semester during WinterFest, Friday, Nov. 30, hosted by the Student Activities Center. Most events are free.

WinterFest president and senior Samantha Riesberg also said WinterFest is a great town-gown event.

"It's a celebration of the union between the university and the community of Ames," she said. "We see a lot of families on campus earlier in the evening. Anyone who wants to participate is welcome."

From 3 to 6 p.m., President Wendy Wintersteen and spouse Robert Waggoner will welcome vistors to their first holiday open house at the Knoll. (They were in the process of moving in a year ago.) Guests may sample cookies and former ISU first lady Ellen Parks' famous hot chocolate. Wintersteen invited students from Iowa State's eight colleges and the library each to decorate a holiday tree in a theme that showcases their college and/or Cyclone spirit. The nine trees are spread throughout the first floor of the Knoll.

The Knoll also is part of this year's Ames Altrusa holiday home tour Dec. 1-2 (1-5 p.m. daily). Admission is $20 and includes the tour's five homes; proceeds benefit four local nonprofits.

Bells and lights

University carillonneur and music professor Tin-shi Tam will give small-group tours of the campanile from 4 to 7 p.m. Each tour includes a short performance when the group reaches the console room beneath the bells.

Morrill Road will close to vehicle traffic for 20 minutesat 5:25 p.m. for an official lighting of the central campus holiday tree. A brief ceremony will begin at 5:30 p.m. near the front of Beardshear Hall and feature a WinterFest committee member and senior vice president for student affairs Martino Harmon. A short countdown by the gathered participants will trigger two things: the tree will light up and runners in the 12th annual Jingle Jog will depart on their five-kilometer trek.

Jingle Jog honors the memory of former Freshmen Council member Andy Albright who died in a 2005 car accident. Registration is $15 and supports the Andy Albright Scholarship, which assists an Albright-like council member each year.

Once the runners clear Morrill Road, it will be reopened for horse-drawn wagon rides. From 6 to 9:30 p.m., two wagons will take turns departing from the north side of the Memorial Union for an estimated 20-minute central campus tour along Union Drive, Farm House Lane, Osborn Drive and Morrill Road.

The WinterFest schedule is online. With the exception of a late night skating party at the Ames/ISU arena (10 p.m.-2 a.m.), events conclude by 10 p.m. Indoor highlights at the Memorial Union include:

  • Holiday kickoff sale, 8 a.m-6 p.m., ISU Book Store
  • Art Mart, 10 a.m.-8 p.m., Campanile Room (also Thursday and Saturday)
  • Poinsettia sale, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., near bookstore entrance
  • Seasonal beverage sampling, 4-7 p.m., Market and Café
  • Chair massages, 4-10 p.m., Gold Room
  • Cookie decorating and free chili/cornbread, 6 p.m. until supplies are gone, Trophy Tavern
  • Performance, 8 p.m., Comedian Marlon Wayans, Great Hall, tickets $29 (ISU students $15)


Hub food venues to open in January

Originally scheduled to reopen about this time after a six-month renovation, central campus' Hub will open in early January. ISU Dining anticipates taking possession of the building the week of Dec. 17 and because of its reliance on student employees, much of the staff training will occur after Jan. 1.

Learn more

ISU Dining video: The Roasterie

The Hub will feature a full-service Roasterie coffee bar at the north end and a Mediterranean-themed food venue at the south end, both of which are firsts for ISU Dining. Heaping Plato and The Roasterie will open on the first day of class, Monday, Jan. 14. They will have break hours (approximately 9 a.m.-1 p.m.) on Friday, Jan. 11, and an open house the afternoon of Thursday, Jan. 10. More information about the reopening will be shared in early January.

While the 2008 Hub renovation and addition resolved many conditions inherent to a 125-year-old building, crews uncovered a few more this summer. This added time to the project but was necessary, given the Hub's historical significance on campus.


'Wonderful Life' is a play within a play

Two cast members rehearse for "It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Rad

Pictured from left, sophomore Sydni Lapsley and senior Joi Wright rehearse as singers for a 1940s live radio production of "It's a Wonderful Life." Photo by Britney Walters.

ISU Theatre will close out its fall lineup with a production ... of a production. "It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play" opens Friday, Nov. 30, with six shows in Fisher Theater over the next two weekends.

Set in the 1940s, the play is a behind-the-scenes look at a live radio production. Audience members will see actors voice multiple characters, an artist produce sound effects on cue (and the objects used to make them), and musicians, including an accompanying pianist. "It's a Wonderful Life" is the classic holiday story within the story, featuring George Bailey's journey to find meaning in his life with the help of an angel-in-training.

Egla Hassan is directing the production as part of her Dean's Artist in Residence appointment in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Hassan, now retired, served 32 years at Western Illinois University, with experience directing, writing and teaching in theater and performing arts. She is the inaugural selection for the artist in residence appointment, funded by the Transforming Liberal Arts and Sciences Endowment.

As part of ISU Theatre's CoLab Initiative, the Ames-based Good Neighbor Emergency Assistance organization will be featured in an awareness display in the Fisher lobby.

Showtimes for "A Wonderful Life" are 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 2, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9. Tickets are $18 ($16 for seniors, $11 for students), available at the Stephens Auditorium ticket office, Ticketmaster or at the Fisher door prior to each performance.


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