Taking shape by spring break

students at work in a wood studio

Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Architecture senior Rylee Higgins (right) sands pedestal table support pieces Tuesday in a College of Design woodworking lab for members of two of professor Chris Martin's integrated studio arts classes.

Finance, university services divisions merge for efficiency

The divisions of finance and university services have been reorganized into a single division of operations and finance, effective March 1. President Wendy Wintersteen directed interim senior vice president Pam Cain, who oversaw both divisions, to propose a new structure, and university human resources approved it. Cain will serve as interim senior vice president for operations and finance, pending a Wintersteen decision about a search.

"The new structure aligns related functions under senior leaders to strengthen interaction among those functions and make better use of our university resources," Cain said. "I believe this new structure will be responsive and help us serve the university community more efficiently and effectively."

In July 2016, former President Steven Leath split the division of business and finance into the two divisions, finance and university services. Cain said some components of the new division may resemble the pre-2016 structure. In other cases, she reconfigured alignments to reflect best practices and create efficiencies. For example, five units previously either in facilities planning and management or with a direct report to a senior vice president -- postal services, golf course, museums, public radio and Reiman Gardens -- join six units from the former business services group to assemble a new unit, specialty business services and cultural arts.

The leadership team for the new division includes five associate and three assistant vice presidents, who will report to Cain. Leadership team members are:

  • Associate VP for facilities planning and management (FPM), Paul Fuligni
  • Associate VP for finance and support services, Heather Paris
  • Associate VP for finance and treasurer, Joan Piscitello
  • Associate VP for institutional financial strategy, Ellen Rasmussen (interim)
  • Associate VP for public safety and chief of police, Michael Newton
  • Assistant VP for environmental health and safety, David Inyang
  • Assistant VP for payroll, benefits and tax, Tim Ashley (interim)
  • Assistant VP for specialty business services and cultural arts, Norm Hill (interim)

Three are new positions.

  • The associate VP for institutional financial strategy reflects Wintersteen's decision to keep overall institutional budget responsibility within this division. The Institutional Budget Management Team, whose members represent all divisions, will work with the associate VP.
  • The associate VP for finance and support services position provides oversight as the university implements Workday, including improved service delivery. Divisionwide responsibility for communications, marketing, development, diversity/inclusion support and staff training also will reside here.
  • The assistant VP for payroll, benefits and tax consolidates core employee payroll, benefits and tax compliance functions.

Cain said she'll fill the three positions held by interim leaders through external searches over the next 15 months. Funding for the new leadership structure will come from vacancies left over from the two-division structure, including the senior vice president for university services, chief financial officer, associate vice president for finance, and a budget director post in the finance division.

Central staff in the division includes assistant to the senior VP Pat Strah, executive assistant Madeline Burkhart and office manager Lauren Schalinske.

Cain noted the division structure changes the reporting line for nine unit leaders with the intent of aligning similar units for greater synergy and efficiency.

  • Veenker golf course and postal and parcel services will move July 1 from FPM to specialty business services and cultural arts. University Museums, WOI Radio and Reiman Gardens, which reported directly to the interim senior VP for university services, moved to the new unit March 1.
  • Procurement services, formerly within the business services umbrella, and the controller's office, formerly reporting directly to the senior VP for finance, are aligned with the treasurer's, ISU Card and accounts receivable offices as core finance functions.
  • The payroll office moved from the controller's umbrella to join the employee benefits accounting and tax compliance functions in an expanded unit.
  • Risk management moved from business services to public safety. The two share responsibility for campus activities and issues such as investigations, vehicle record checks and reviews of campus events or alcohol service. This change creates options for consolidating administrative processes and communication and developing new services and outreach. Cain said many universities of Iowa State's size and complexity use this alignment.

Cain said the process of creating a single division took nearly a year. The new structure reflects revisions driven by input from across campus. She shared drafts with senior leaders; deans or their representatives; director-level staff in the finance and university services divisions; and student, faculty and professional and scientific governance leaders.

Finishing service team hiring is essential to fleshing out transition details

ISD Transition

Answers are coming soon for employees who haven't received a response after expressing interest in joining one of the service teams that will take on much of the university's finance and human resources work beginning July 1.

In a presentation and question-and-answer session at the March 7 Professional and Scientific Council meeting, the co-chairs of the improved service delivery (ISD) transition team process told councilors that interested staff shouldn't assume they aren't being considered if they haven't been contacted yet. Though an ambitious initial timeline called for filling the estimated 186 ISD positions by March 1, hiring was only two-thirds complete by the morning of the presentation. The current goal is to fill all service team jobs by April 1.

"It's a work in progress," said Leslie Ginder, an employee and labor relations consultant for university human resources and co-chair of the transition team process. "I know that is very challenging. I 100 percent get it."

Several council members said they are hearing from P&S staff who are concerned that they are not getting detailed information yet about how ISD will affect them.  

"We're past the point where 'I don't know' is cutting it. I don't think you understand the angst out there," said Barry McCroskey, an accountant for ISU Extension and Outreach and the council's vice president for university planning and budget.

Faculty forum

Identical sessions on Workday and improved service delivery specifically targeted at faculty begin today. All are in the MU Sun Room except April 3. 

  • March 14 (11 a.m.-1 p.m.)
  • March 26 (10 a.m.-noon)
  • March 26 (1-3 p.m.)
  • April 2 (10 a.m.-noon)
  • April 3 (9:30-11:30 a.m., MU Great Hall) 

Many of the anxious staff are among the 562 employees who indicated in the ISD job interest survey that they might want a position on one of the 10 new service teams, councilors said. Though all survey participants received an automated response Jan. 25, council president Stacy Renfro said interested employees who haven't been offered a job often are in the dark on where the hiring process sits.

"For us to have not called the 'yeses' is unacceptable, in my opinion," she said.

Transition team co-chair Stephen Simpson, director of emergency management and outreach for environmental health and safety, said all employees who expressed interest in the staffing survey in January will be contacted eventually, but completing the hiring for the service teams is a linchpin for formulating transition plans and communicating details to impacted staff.

Transition work progresses

Even as the hiring process continues, 17 local transition teams are meeting with staff in their departments to collect information about how the shift to service teams will impact their workloads, Simpson said. Transition teams will make recommendations to unit leaders about how to address those impacts. The information gathered by transition teams also will help inform the budget model for funding the service teams, he said.

"This is an iterative process. It's not going to all happen today, tomorrow and the next day. It's going to take the next few months to really solve this," Simpson said.

Ginder and Simpson urged employees with questions to contact them or email ISD_Transition@iastate.edu.

"We want to do everything we can to help make sure that we're getting the right information timely to people the best we can. That is very important to us," Ginder said.

Officer elections

The council also selected its officers for 2019-20, electing Sara Parris, current chair of the policies and procedures committee, as president-elect. Parris is Thielen Student Health Center's assistant director of administrative services. The president-elect for this year, Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching program coordinator Amy Ward, will serve as president in 2019-20.

Under current bylaws, new officers take on their positions after the final meeting of the fiscal year in May or June. A revision considered in a first reading last week, up for approval at the council's April 3 meeting, would have officers' tenures begin at the start of the fiscal year July 1. Renfro said delaying the start of officers' terms would make year-to-year transitions smoother.

All other officers were re-elected to their posts, including:

  • Vice president for university community relations Kelly Friesleben
  • Vice president for university planning and budget Barry McCroskey
  • Vice president for equity and inclusion Lindsay Moeller
  • Secretary/treasurer Joy Stroud

ISU Police adds mental health advocate

Kinsey Phillips and her certified therapy dog, Zosia.

Kinsey Phillips and her certified therapy dog, Zosia. Photo by Justin Conner, Mary Greeley Medical Center.

Michael Newton is passionate about mental health. As associate vice president for public safety and chief of police, it's something he sees as a growing issue on campuses nationwide.

"Our students are at the prime age for the initial onset of many forms of mental illness. This, along with the pressures that exist, can lead to them needing mental health resources," Newton said.

ISU Police responded to 287 welfare check requests in 2018, a number Newton said is contributing to a rise in service calls related to mental health. In response, Newton added a full-time mental health advocate to his staff. Kinsey Phillips will step into the newly created role on March 25. Phillips will work with all campus populations, not just students.

Phillips, a 2017 Iowa State graduate, returns to her alma mater after serving as a psychiatric assistant at Mary Greeley Medical Center (MGMC) in Ames. She also provides certified pet therapy in partnership with the Ames Police Department and MGMC with her dog, Zosia.

Filling a need

Newton said he created the mental health advocate position to assist officers on calls, evaluate and assess service needs, provide resources, and serve as a liaison to the campus community and area mental health partners.

"Police officers aren't always best equipped to deal with all of these situations," Newton said. "Getting somebody who's specially trained and really has focused on mental health was important. The advocate will follow up on mental health cases to make sure we've done all the things we needed to do and determine if there are things we can do better."

Newton also signed on to the One Mind Campaign, an initiative of the International Association of Chiefs of Police to bring three populations -- communities, public safety organizations and mental health agencies -- together with one focus. He said the advocate will help his department meet the objectives of the campaign, which include training officers in crisis intervention (30 percent already are, exceeding the 20 percent minimum) and departmentwide certification in mental health first aid.

"Our calls for service the past three years continue to rise when it comes to welfare checks and mental health. This position will integrate with a lot of resources on campus and answers an increasing need campuswide," Newton said.

New P&S classification structure is on schedule for fall rollout

Work continues on developing a market-based classification and compensation structure for Iowa State's professional and scientific (P&S) employees. Director of classification and compensation in university human resources Emma Houghton provided an update to a live and online audience March 12, part of the P&S Council's seminar series.

The classification and compensation project is independent of the university's implementation of Workday software for finance and human resource processes, and will roll out after the planned July 1 Workday go-live date.

Launched in June 2017 when 75 percent of P&S employees voluntarily completed a profile tool for his or her job, Houghton said fall 2019 remains the target for a potential staggered implementation of the new structure.

"Our future structure looks nothing like today. We can't draw parallel lines from current state to future state," she said.

But Houghton also clarified that the new structure won't change the work employees do. The intent is to "identify what employees do and label it accordingly."

Leveling jobs

The new structure introduces level guides to differentiate the type of work being done and level of work performed (from entry to highly experienced). Three level guides apply uniformly across all jobs:

  • Management (levels 1-5): Employee supervises a team of P&S or merit employees, or has responsibility for a major function
  • Individual contributor (levels 1-4): Employee is focused on the outcomes of own work (at higher levels, this could include managing a small number of employees, but not as a main focus)
  • Support contributor (levels 1-3): Employee provides support to someone or something else

Houghton said the level guides provide transparency and apply consistent criteria across the system. For example, program coordinator 1 would indicate a similar type and level of work for employees in a college or the student affairs division -- even if their duties vary. In the current system, employees with the same job title might be doing vastly different levels of work, she noted, due to a lack of consistency applied over time.

Level guides, which will be reflected in job titles, drive salary ranges. Houghton said market variations -- industry vs. higher education, local vs. national, for example -- also impact pay in the new structure. Employees at different levels in different fields could have similar salaries.

"It lets our employees get paid what is grounded in market, what's competitive, so we can help people stay," she said.

What's completed

Houghton said her staff, assisted by the extended project team, has defined jobs and the kind of work in each, used third-party salary surveys to benchmark jobs, and proposed a jobs progression framework that lays the groundwork for a pay structure.

What's next

The task at hand is to write job profile descriptions -- the Workday term for what we have known as classifications -- and assign job titles to them. The current structure of just over 400 classifications will be replaced with a structure containing an anticipated 500-plus job profiles, about 300 of which are drafted. Some of these are the human resources and finance P&S positions in the improved service delivery (ISD) model. Position descriptions will continue to be unique to individuals but aligned with a job profile.

Houghton said the next task, through April, will be to make sure the proposed structure places jobs accurately within a hierarchy. The final tasks are to complete a salary structure and slot employees into jobs. When P&S employees receive their job titles in the new structure, there will be time for review, she said.

Other notes

During a Q&A discussion, Houghton offered insight on these topics:

  • Reclassifications still are being processed, but will stop at some point "when we need things to stop moving."
  • Level of work and responsibility will impact where employees are slotted in the new structure; years of service in the job or highest degree earned, less so.
  • The new structure won't fix salary compression inequities (new hires brought in at salaries not far from employees with many years on the job). "It will highlight the issue for managers and start the discussion on how to rectify it. It may take time," she said.
  • Salaries will not change (up or down) at the time of job slotting. "Budgets are tight and we're not going to rectify market inequities right away," she said.
  • In the context of ISD, Houghton said units that need to reassign duties locally should be attempting to match the level of duties transferred with the level of the employee's current duties.


Related stories

Public web service sunsets this year

The close of 2019 also will signal the end of Iowa State's first public website service. Users who have webpages on www.public.iastate.edu should move their information off before Dec. 31.

Mike Lohrbach, director of enterprise services and customer success for information technology services (ITS), said IT staff worked over the last several years to move departmental sites off the www.public.iastate.edu service and contacted people actively using the system. However, hundreds of websites remain. Many likely are abandoned or inactive, but IT staff want to make sure users transfer information they wish to keep.

"We don't have an exact number of people using the service," Lohrbach said. "People could have an active website out there, but they just haven't updated it."

Why the change?

The old "public" website service dates back to 1993. Many of ISU's first websites were hosted on it -- those paying attention may remember a tilde (~) in those URLs. As websites moved to other systems and formats, the public service slowly phased out of use. Lohrbach said an expiration date is needed in light of today's technology.

"It's been around forever and is outdated," he said. "There are much better solutions available today."

Alternatives for academic and faculty sites

Lohrbach said information can be moved to other services that offer functions provided by www.public.iastate.edu, including a new service that launched last fall for faculty webpages. Single-page and multiple-page faculty websites can be created on www.sites.iastate.edu.

The "sites" web service page design matches the university's web theme, meets digital accessibility requirements and is responsive for large and small display formats. John VanDyk, senior systems analyst, said improvements and updates to the sites web service will be continuously added.

"In early spring, we will add a third option with a turnkey website for faculty with busy research labs," he said.

Lohrbach offered these guidelines for moving information off www.public.iastate.edu pages:

In addition, ITS' web development unit offers free space for web development coursework.

Lohrbach said websites and information on the public service will not be transferred automatically to the sites service. An online tutorial provides step-by-step instructions for creating and editing a site on the service. ITS' solution center can help with additional questions. Feedback can be submitted by email (websupport@iastate.edu) or online.

Six teaching projects receive Miller grants

Six faculty teams will split nearly $72,000 in grants next year to develop innovative approaches to undergraduate student learning through Miller Faculty Fellowship grants. Funding came from two sources: the president's office ($50,000) and the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching ($22,000).

Nineteen proposals were submitted for review by the CELT advisory board with a total of $240,530 requested. The board made recommendations to senior vice president and provost Jonathan Wickert, who gave final approval.

Following is a quick summary of the six funded projects that represent principal investigators from five colleges.

Flipped pre-lab discussion and structured inquiry in CHEM 331L

Summary: Redesign the largest organic chemistry lab class -- perceived by students as a huge obstacle -- by replacing pre-lab lectures with video tutorials, other materials and discussion to predict experiment results. Experiments themselves will use structured inquiry and guided inquiry approaches in which the outcome is less certain. The goal is for students to use critical thinking to learn basic concepts, understand why organic chemicals behave as they do and become better interpreters of experiment results.
Award: $9,442
Faculty team: Teresa Fernando, Joseph Awino, George Kraus, Arthur Winter and Yan Zhao, chemistry

Developing virtual lab software as a new teaching tool for biochemistry lab course

Summary: To aid the introductory biochemistry lab course, software will provide animated visualization of biomolecules to help students simulate and understand experiments outside of actual labs. The team will track if the software helps students better execute and understand complex experiments.
Award: $16,452
Faculty team: Baoyu Chen and Desiree Gunning, biochemistry, biophysics and molecular biology; and Simanta Mitra, computer science

Enhancing best practices in microbial sciences in the digital age through experiential learning

Summary: As part of the capstone course (Micro 440) for students in microbial sciences, integrate computational and bioinformatic data into previously purchased laptops (replacing a paper notebook archive) for efficient, secure use of the data and to expand the scope of possible learning exercises.
Award: $13,705
Faculty team: Larry Halverson and Claudia Lemper plant pathology and microbiology; and Greg Phillips, veterinary microbiology and preventive medicine

Video enhanced mobile observation: Mobile-app supported peer observation and feedback pedagogy

Summary: Develop a video mobile app for use in an elementary science teaching course to enhance students' peer observation and feedback and ultimately develop better teachers.
Award: $13,812
Faculty team: Evrim Baran and EunJin Bahng, School of Education

Leadership skill awareness development through peer feedback

Summary: Turn a lecture-based course into one where students are the decision-makers on topics, and peers assess each other's leadership skills. It will help ensure students' ideas are heard and leadership behavior is shown in group settings.
Award: $5,500
Faculty team: Maartje Schouten and John Watt, management

Innovative learning framework for classes involving physical systems: Combining the inductive teaching and learning method and the Make To Innovate program

Summary: Use an inductive learning method (which begins with questions or challenges for students), as well as aerospace engineering's successful "Make To Innovate" program to help students in two AE courses (355 and 531) understand complex concepts in flight dynamics and aircraft performance. Inductive methods are rarely used in engineering courses, mostly due to a lack of evidence they can work in the discipline.
Award: $13,000
Faculty team: A Ram Kim, Benjamin Ahn and Matthew Nelson, aerospace engineering

The projects must be completed by June 30, 2020. In addition to preparing a final report, Miller fellows share the outcomes of their project during a fall luncheon.

The 2019-20 academic year marks the 23rd year of the program, which now has funded 206 projects and dispersed more than $3.5 million. It is named for and partially funded by the estate of F. Wendell Miller, an attorney and farm manager who died in 1995. His will stipulated that the bulk of his estate be used to create the Miller Endowment Trust, with income from the trust divided equally between Iowa State and the University of Iowa. Former president Martin Jischke established the faculty fellowship program in 1996.