Study session

Four students with laptops converse at table

Photo by Christopher Gannon.

From left, sophomores Josh Jorgensen, Tubuok Char and Nick Hoffman, and junior Sophie Almeida study together Monday afternoon at The Hub for a Law and Politics final exam. Final exams wrap up Thursday evening and, for students completing degrees, graduation events run Friday and Saturday.

December graduating class remains above 2,000 students

The Iowa State community will honor an estimated 2,231 graduating students during two commencement ceremonies this weekend in Hilton Coliseum. That number marks a fourth straight December graduating class of 2,000-plus students and, in part, reflects fall enrollments from 2013 to 2015 that grew by 1,200 to 2,000 students annually.

The Graduate College's ceremony, during which an estimated 107 doctoral and 245 master's candidates will receive their diplomas, begins at 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 20. The undergraduate ceremony, honoring an estimated 1,879 bachelor's degree recipients, begins at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 21.

President Wendy Wintersteen will give opening remarks at both ceremonies, which will be livestreamed for those unable to attend. Tickets are not required for graduation events.

Graduation speakers

José Rosa head shot

José Rosa

José Rosa, professor of marketing and John and Deborah Ganoe faculty fellow in the Ivy College of Business, will address the graduates Friday evening. Since July 2018, Rosa also has served part-time as the inaugural faculty fellow in ISU's Office of Diversity and Inclusion, where his focus is on training and development for ISU faculty members. He joined the ISU faculty in July 2015. His professional experience includes more than 25 years as a university faculty member following a 15-year career in the automotive and banking industries.



Daniel Houston head shot

Daniel Houston

Alumnus Daniel Houston, since 2015 the chairman, president and CEO of Des Moines-based Principal Financial Group, will give the undergraduate address Saturday afternoon. Houston joined Principal in 1984, the same year he completed his undergraduate studies at Iowa State. He was named senior vice president in 2000, executive vice president in 2006 and, in 2008, president of one of its four divisions, retirement and income solutions. Houston co-chaired Iowa State's 2017 presidential search committee.

Get the commencement program on an app

The university will print a traditional commencement booklet for graduating students and ceremony stage officials. Commencement guests can access its content through a graduation tile on the ISU Alumni Association's app for mobile devices. Guests at both ceremonies will receive a trifold program that outlines the ceremony and includes a message from Wintersteen. The registrar's office made this change last spring to reduce waste and save money. It printed about 5,500 fewer programs this month than it did a year ago.

The app is a free download in the iTunes and Google Play stores. The graduation tile does not require an alumni association membership to use its features (other features on the app do). Users should download the app before they enter Hilton. Once they are indoors, the app uses offline capabilities to avoid connectivity issues.

University registrar Jennifer Suchan said the full 130-page program will be archived on the registrar's website Dec. 19. She said her office will hold about 200 printed copies, which can be picked up or mailed. Call 294-1840 to request one.

College convocations

Iowa State's colleges will honor their graduating students during informal convocations or receptions Friday and Saturday.

  • Agriculture and Life Sciences, Friday (10 a.m., doors open at 9 a.m., Hilton Coliseum)
  • Business, Friday (4 p.m., doors open at 3 p.m., Hilton Coliseum)
  • Design, Friday (5 p.m., College of Design auditorium, preceded by 3 p.m. reception in the atrium)
  • Engineering, graduate convocation, Friday (5 p.m., 220 Scheman, preceded by 4:15 p.m. reception); undergraduate receptions by department, Saturday (start times from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m., various campus locations)
  • Human Sciences, Friday (2 p.m., doors open at 1 p.m., Stephens Auditorium, reception follows at 3 p.m. in Stephens lobby)
  • Liberal Arts and Sciences, Friday (7 p.m., doors open at 6 p.m., Stephens Auditorium)



Welcome, Sue Gudenkauf

Sue Gudenkauf on the steps of Beardshear Hall

Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Sue Gudenkauf joined the university human resources staff this week as a sign language interpreter. She will provide American Sign Language (ASL) workplace accommodations for Iowa State employees who are deaf or hard of hearing.

She will work closely with campus partners to provide services and support for employees and units. Examples include interpreting for supervisory communications, meetings, training and daily work duties. Requests for interpreting services can be made online and must be submitted at least three days in advance.

Although her role primarily supports faculty and staff needs, Gudenkauf also will partner with Student Accessibility Services, which handles student accommodations.

The Iowa native earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Northern Illinois, DeKalb, and a master's from the Augustine Institute in Denver. Her collegiate experience includes service as a sign language interpreter at Northern Illinois, Madison College and University of Wisconsin, Madison. She also works as an independent ASL contractor and performs remote interpreting through video relay services.

Gudenkauf's office is in 3680 Beardshear Hall. She can be reached by email,, and by text and voice via phone, 515-735-5900. She introduced herself to her UHR colleagues last month through a captioned video.

What to know about winter break

The holiday season has many traditions. Since 2009, one at Iowa State is the winter break partial closure. Leaders approved a partial closure of campus again this year, with reduced services during the week of Dec. 23-27.

The closure promotes a healthy work/life balance and conserves energy with lowered thermostats in buildings that may close or have reduced hours.

Employees who use leave during this stretch, which includes two university holidays and a pair of weekends on Dec. 21-22 and Dec. 28-29, will enjoy a significant break. Using three days of paid leave -- Dec. 23, 26, 27 -- creates a nine-day winter break. Monday and Tuesday, Dec. 30-31, are regular work days and Jan. 1 is a university holiday.

What to know

Offices aren't required to close, and employees do not have to take time off. Workers who choose not to work during the partial closure can use vacation time or take unpaid leave. Employees who take unpaid leave will be paid for the two university holidays. 

University leaders determine workforce needs in the units they oversee and approve office closures or reductions in operating hours. Units or individual employees responsible for essential or ongoing work may be required to continue regular schedules. Examples of critical functions include public safety, snow removal and utility maintenance, as well as some research and customer service jobs. In units closed during the partial closure, supervisors may establish alternative work locations or projects for employees who elect to work. 

Supervisors in closed units should establish how to handle incoming phone and email messages. For example, messages could be routed to a single email and voicemail account checked by a designated employee. Communicate holiday hours on department websites and in personal voicemail and email messages. 

Public safety and facilities planning and management (FPM) will have staff on duty during the partial closure, but won't be able to monitor the whole campus all the time. If outside temperatures fall below zero, unit staff should plan to periodically check their buildings. Trouble calls should go to 294-5100 (FPM) during business hours and 294-4428 (public safety) after hours.

"Checking your buildings when minimally occupied always is advised, especially during inclement weather," said Brian Housholder, facilities maintenance and operations assistant director for FPM. "FPM relies on local reporting to inform us of trouble."

Chipping in

A year ago, an 11-day partial closure generated daily savings of $3,060 in electricity and $7,495 in steam costs, said FPM utilities services director Jeff Witt. The total savings was a little more than $116,000.

Forty-one buildings were closed for a portion of winter break a year ago, 23 of which turned temperatures back to 65 degrees, Housholder said. So far this year, closing requests were submitted for 40 buildings.

Energy savings is a significant benefit of the partial closure.  The amount of savings is dictated, in part, by measures taken by employees before they leave for break. Here is a checklist that will help that effort:

  • Shut down all computers, printers and other accessories. If possible, plug computers and printers into a power strip and then shut off the power strip. 
  • Leave your office computer on if you need remote access from home, but turn off the monitor, printer, speakers and any other connected devices. A computer's sleep mode uses less energy than full power, but shutting it off completely protects data. A machine may be left on during break if it's providing access to a critical application. 
  • Turn off and unplug copiers and small appliances such as space heaters, coffee pots, microwaves, desk lamps or radios. 
  • Unplug chargers for electronic devices. 
  • Make sure faucets in restrooms and break rooms are turned off and not dripping. If you notice a dripping faucet, contact the FPM service center at 294-5100. 
  • If you can manually adjust the thermostat in your office, turn it down to 65 degrees. 
  • Shut down unnecessary climate-controlled plant growth chambers. 
  • Close fume hood sashes completely, if possible. Otherwise, open them minimally. 
  • Shut down cooling water systems to eliminate potential flooding issues. 
  • Turn off office lights and public lighting, such as hallways, restrooms and conference rooms.
  • Check windows to make sure they're tightly closed. Closed windows help prevent pipes from freezing.

What's open, what's closed during winter break

With the semester break beginning Dec. 23, here is a list of hours for some public buildings, offices and services. Spring semester classes begin Jan. 13.

More information

Ames/ISU Ice Arena 
Closed Dec. 25 
Check online schedule for daily public skating hours 

Athletics ticket offices
Closed Dec. 23-27 and Jan. 1-2
Hilton Coliseum opens at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 30 and 5 p.m. Dec. 31

Chemistry Stores 
Closed Dec. 23-25, 27 and Jan. 1
Open Dec. 26 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

No service Dec. 25 and Jan. 1 
Reduced hours Dec. 21-Jan. 12, including no service after 6 p.m. on Dec. 24 and Dec. 31  

Iowa State Center ticket office, Stephens Auditorium 
Closed Dec. 24-Jan. 1

ISU Book Store 
Closed Dec. 24-25, 29, Jan. 1, 5 
Reduced hours Dec. 23-Jan. 12

ISU Dining (dining centers, restaurants, cafes and convenience stores) 
Closed Dec. 21-Jan. 11
Some locations will have reduced hours Jan. 6-11. Check online schedule for details. 

Memorial Union 
Closed Dec. 24-25 and Jan. 1
Close at 6 p.m. on Dec. 23, 31
Reduced hours Dec. 22, 26-30, and Jan. 2-5 (7 a.m.-7 p.m.)

Parks Library 
Closed Dec. 22, 24-25, 28-29, Jan. 1, 4-5, 11 
Reduced hours Dec. 23 - Jan. 10 (Weekdays 7:30 a.m.-5 p.m.) 
Tech lending closed until Jan. 13

Recreation Services (State Gym, Beyer Hall and Lied Center) 
Closed Dec. 24-25 and Jan. 1 
Reduced hours Dec. 21-Jan. 12 
All facilities close at 6 p.m. on Dec. 31

Reiman Gardens 
Closed Dec. 25 and Jan. 1 
Light show and indoor holiday train display open until 8 p.m. on Thursdays through Jan. 2

Transportation Services 
Closed Dec. 23-Dec. 27, Jan. 1
Kiosk will be open 24/7 for pickups and returns. Student organizations must pick up keys by 3 p.m., Dec. 20. 

University Museums (all locations)
Closed Dec. 23-Jan. 12

Events over winter break

Ashley Joens

Sophomore Ashley Joens, espnW's national player of the week, and her Cyclones teammates host three games during the semester break, including an in-state matchup with Northern Iowa Dec. 22 (5 p.m., Hilton Coliseum). Photo courtesy of athletics communications.

Sunday, Dec. 22

  • Noon, Men's basketball vs. Purdue Fort Wayne, Hilton Coliseum, $25
  • 5 p.m., Women's basketball vs. UNI, Hilton, $10-$12
  • 6 p.m., A Magical Cirque Christmas, Stephens Auditorium, $49-$79

Monday, Dec. 30

  • 6:30 p.m., Women's basketball vs. North Alabama, Hilton, $10-$12

Tuesday, Dec. 31

  • 6 p.m., Men's basketball vs. Florida A&M, Hilton, $25

Monday, Jan. 6

  • 8 p.m., Women's basketball vs. Texas, Hilton, $10-$12

Wednesday, Jan. 8

  • 7 p.m., Men's basketball vs. Kansas, Hilton, $40