The first week back from spring break often is a hectic time for academic advisers, who can get swamped with one-on-one office visits in March and April as students prepare for summer and fall registration. This year was stressful not because their offices were packed but because they were empty, like most workspaces on campus during the coronavirus pandemic.
Though shifting academic advising into virtual mode may be simpler than moving learning online, it dislocates a regular, important and personal interaction for students at a time when they have many questions. Four advisers who spoke with Inside Iowa State the first week of virtual instruction described how they and their students were handling the change.
How they're connecting
Making sure students are well-informed with so much in flux is a priority. Some advisers set up new email newsletters for advisees or a Canvas page to share news and resources. Succinctness has been a focus, as students are being inundated with information.
Registration, scheduled to begin March 23, was pushed back a couple weeks, with start dates for classes throughout April. The extra cushion helped make time for checking in with students. Many advisers prefer videoconferencing, especially for these types of contacts, because it heightens the personal connection.
"That has been more impactful than I initially thought it would be," said Kelly Pistilli, an Ivy College of Business adviser. "I can see that stress melt a little bit when they know somebody is there, right? We are still here. We are still working for them, making sure they're making it through and being successful in whatever this looks like."
Autumn Cartagena, an adviser in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said her team of four that advises open option LAS students is providing them information about what types of questions and concerns work best for different methods of contacting them.
For Austin Haytko, an Ivy College adviser, email is almost always the most efficient route. He estimates 95% of situations can be resolved by email, with phone calls for more complicated matters.
Creating community can have value, too. Pistilli asked her seniors to contribute mood-boosting songs to a shared Spotify list, which she planned to open up to all her students. Part of the goal, she said, was to model for students how they could connect to each other on their own.
Students have had numerous questions about the implications of a policy allowing them to take courses that shifted online as pass/not pass for full credit toward academic progress.
"There's a lot of 'I don't knows' flying around out there. That's hard for students," Haytko said. "Typically, students come to me for an answer, and I have it. Now they're coming to me for an answer, and I have to say 'I have part of it, and as soon as I get the rest, I'll get back to you.'"
Widespread modifications in courses have made some students feel less confident about their academic performance, Pistilli said.
"There's a lot of uncertainty. The rules have all changed, literally," she said.
Cartagena and her colleagues talked to a group of in-training peer mentors about how they're managing during the crisis, and students overwhelmingly said their professors were helpful and accommodating. But many who had moved back home were concerned about obstacles they hadn't considered, such as doing homework in a house with siblings and parents also working and studying.
"One comment that I thought was really great was a student who described it as a mixture of summer, high school and college, all at one time and all really fast," she said.
In the same boat
In some cases, ISU employees and students face similar challenges, said Amber Kargol, a food science and human nutrition adviser.
"It's all about time management, and I think that's true for all of us," she said. "I think students find comfort in knowing we're in the same boat together."
In a similar vein, Pistilli said the video chats that put her students at ease also reduce her sense of isolation.
"It's amazing how these face-to-face conversations make me feel better," she said. "It makes you feel not quite as weird."
Students and employees are learning about the value of their campus relationships, Cartagena said.
"A lot of our students are finding out how much people care about them. They're finding that the institution cares about them, their professors care about them, their advisers care about them," she said. "To go through this and find out you're not alone is a positive for students. And that's been true for me as a staff member, as well. I have felt cared for."
Kargol agreed that the difficult circumstances have brought her colleagues together, prompting extra collaboration and compassion.
"We're being a little more intentional about being supportive of each other," she said.
One recurrent theme advisers brought up was the resilience of students.
Haytko said the reward of seeing a student realize they can overcome difficulties and succeed is what drew him to advising and what keeps him there, and he's seeing that toughness lately.
"In general, students are resilient. If you give them some assurance that they can do this, they are up for the challenge," he said.
It's been exciting for Cartagena to watch students figure out they can pick themselves up after an interruption and keep going.
"They still want to be engaged and be successful. They have ownership," she said. "I think students are finding out how resilient they are."
The unprecedented response to the COVID-19 pandemic evolves rapidly. Campuswide communication and regularly updated FAQs -- including one specifically for employees -- are available on the campus safety page. Each week as needed, Inside Iowa State will recap how coronavirus is affecting the university and share relevant resources for employees. On April 9, here is what Iowa State faculty and staff should know.
Employees should prepare for reduced operations -- including remote working, for those who can do so -- at least into May and perhaps for longer, President Wendy Wintersteen announced in an April 8 message to faculty and staff. Supervisors and employees should communicate frequently and ensure remote workers have necessary equipment, which may require safely returning to campus to retrieve items for use in home offices. All university events through May 31 are canceled, postponed or moved online, and instruction will be virtual through at least portions of the summer semester. At virtual meetings of the Professional and Scientific Council April 2 and the Faculty Senate April 7, senior leaders answered questions about how the crisis is impacting employees.
ISU leadership is planning for how the university would continue its core missions even if it needed to reduce operations to the smallest possible on-campus footprint. In an April 3 message to faculty and staff, Winterseen outlined what that would include, such as continued virtual teaching, closing most buildings, limiting CyRide service, and schedule adjustments or leave for employees unable to work remotely.
In an April 2 memo, the provost's office provided additional virtual instruction guidance for faculty, including advice on assessment, communication and engagement. The division of operations and finance published an FAQ providing some direction on accounting for expenses related to COVID-19, and more information on financial tracking will be released soon.
Status of spread
As of April 8, six of Iowa's 1,145 test-detected COVID-19 cases were in Story County, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH). See the state's coronavirus website for updated information on confirmed cases, hospitalizations, deaths and recovery in Iowa. ISU officials are in daily contact with IDPH and Mary Greeley Medical Center and will keep the campus community informed to the extent possible about any cases connected to Iowa State.
Support for students
Along with classwork, support for students has shifted online. That includes academic advising and units such as the Academic Success Center and the Writing and Media Center.
Support for employees
Numerous professional development and well-being resources are available for faculty and staff. ISU Surplus has arranged non-contact pickup for employees who want to purchase used monitors, mice and keyboards for remote-working needs. Various ISU units have online activities for children, which can help parents working at home while providing child care.
President Wendy Wintersteen and other university leaders met virtually with the Professional and Scientific Council at its April 2 meeting, fielding questions about how the university's response to the coronavirus pandemic is affecting employees.
Here are some highlights from comments by Wintersteen and other ISU leaders, who answered questions for about 70 minutes during the council meeting held via Webex.
In an opening statement, Wintersteen acknowledged the strain faculty and staff are under -- whether performing essential duties on campus or working from home, in many cases while taking care of children -- and emphasized an accommodating approach to navigating the unprecedented change. The temporary but indefinite disruption in how employees work is bound to impact productivity, she said.
"I think we have to understand this is a different time, and there is a different set of expectations given the challenges we're facing," Wintersteen said.
There are some signs that managers have taken that advice to heart. An employee survey conducted the week after spring break found that 84% of respondents feel supported by their supervisor, interim vice president for university human resources (UHR) Kristi Darr said.
Staying on the job
Whenever possible, Wintersteen said, university leaders want to keep employees on the job. Though there will be situations where that isn't possible, maintaining an active workforce is a "guiding philosophy" for Iowa State's response, she said.
"We want work to be available to all of our employees," she said.
For employees who no longer have work in their usual position, a short-term reassignment to a unit that needs additional help is possible. Information about what units have those opportunities isn't being collected campuswide yet -- but might be in the future -- and senior vice presidents have had some preliminary discussion about reassignments, Wintersteen said.
"We would hope that we all would be thinking about this in unique and innovative ways," she said.
With a projected drop in enrollment, fiscal year 2021 already was set to be a tight budget year. Budget plans were being drafted with reductions from 3% to 5%, with an aim to reallocate $24 million to $28 million. That was before COVID-19 caused widespread economic pain.
The financial aspect of the crisis will complicate efforts to increase salaries for faculty and staff for FY21, a discussion that continues but must take into consideration the economic stress and cash flow issues some units are experiencing, Wintersteen said.
"At this point, I'm not very positive about the opportunity to do even a minimal pay increase on July 1, but we're going to continue having conversations with our Faculty Senate and our P&S Council before we come to that final decision," she said.
It's the question that looms large at Iowa State and everywhere else: How long will this go on? The truth is, no one knows, said Jonathan Wickert, senior vice president and provost. But he's not optimistic about a speedy return to standard operations.
"As hard as it is to say this, I think we should assume that we're going to be working remotely and going to be working in this mode for a longer period of time rather than a shorter period of time," Wickert said.
Employees who need to retrieve a computer or other items from their campus workstation for their home office should talk to their supervisor and make it happen, he said.
Darr urged employees to map out how they would handle a variety of future scenarios.
"I think you need to make a plan for what matters to you and how to make sure your personal and professional life are taken care of. Just as the university is going through multiple plans, we really encourage you to tap into resources and have a strategy," she said.
In an April 8 message to faculty and staff, Wintersteen announced all university events will be canceled, postponed or moved online through May 31
Children on board
Because K-12 schools are closed at least through the end of April and the Iowa Department of Human Services is recommending that parents working from home avoid sending their children to child care providers, many faculty and staff are caring for children while working from home.
Wintersteen called for "exhibiting grace" for parents providing child care by setting realistic expectations and encouraged employees to communicate concerns to their supervisor.
"We know it really would be impossible to expect that everything would be operating at 100% under these circumstances," she said.
A temporary expansion of leave programs for virus-related absences created under a federal paid sick leave law enacted in mid-March provides some options for parents who are caring for children whose school or child care provider are closed. That bill was signed into law just hours after the state Board of Regents announced it was relaxing some systemwide policies to give regent universities more flexibility to consider adjustments to leave policies. HR representatives from all the regent schools worked with the board on its temporary policy, which permitted but didn't mandate the changes.
"We are all allowed to be unique and consider what might be best for our institution," Darr said.
UHR staff continue to look at leave policy options, Darr said. A group also is preparing additional resources for faculty and staff who are working while providing child care, based on feedback from the employee survey.
Implementation of the classification/compensation review for P&S employees is delayed slightly, said Emma Mallarino Houghton, UHR director of classification and compensation.
HR delivery staff and managers were to meet in March to link all P&S staff to one of the 569 job titles in the newly developed, market-based system for classification and compensation. Because some of those meetings were postponed due to the COVID-19 response, the timeline will shift a bit later to make sure employees and managers not involved in the linking meetings have time to request a review, Mallarino Houghton said.
As part of its monthly seminar series, council is holding a live webinar with Mallarino Houghton about the class/comp review on April 14 (2-3 p.m.). Access the livestream online. A recording will be posted to Learn@ISU about one week after the event.
The $2 trillion federal COVID-19 aid package identified $14 billion in relief for higher education institutions and support for coronavirus research, shifting instruction online, emergency student grants, and flexibility for student work-study programs and federal loan repayment.
University leaders are studying the bill and working with Iowa's congressional delegation to find out more details, Wickert said.
"It's too early to know exactly how much that will be and what it will look like," he said of federal aid.
Senior leader self-care
Asked what ISU senior leaders were doing to ensure their own well-being during this stressful time, Wintersteen said she encourages her leadership team to find some measure of work-life balance during the COVID-19 crisis. Senior leaders try to inject levity into meetings and exchange recommendations for end-of-the-day Netflix choices, she said.
"We're a very supportive group," she said.
Still, there's no denying that finding the balance is more difficult than ever, Wickert said.
"Let's face it, normal boundaries of work-life have completely been lost here. It's impossible to keep that normal rhythm and that normal separation of our work at the university and our life at home," he said.
That makes project prioritization and finding time to disconnect from work all the more important, he said.
Many employees have transitioned to working from home. Now they can learn from home, too, with a list of free web-based professional development opportunities accessible from just about anywhere. The compilation is a collaboration between information technology services (ITS) and university human resources (UHR).
Topics range from leadership and management, to financial wellness, to diversity and inclusion. There are links to online presentations, webinars, tutorials, seminars, articles, podcasts and even TEDx Talk videos. The links lead to internal and external resources -- for example, courses offered through Learn@ISU and training available through ISU membership organizations such as the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities.
The site includes an overview of LinkedIn Learning, which employees also can access from their Okta dashboards. Formerly Lynda.com, LinkedIn Learning's video library offers thousands of courses presented by industry experts. The content -- mostly related to business, technology and creative skills -- is available by logging in with your Net-ID and password.
"Employees are encouraged to take advantage of these learning opportunities as time is available," said Emma Mallarino Houghton, UHR compensation and classification director. "These resources are provided as a way to help employees continue to strengthen and hone their skills and competencies, ultimately empowering employees to keep growing during these times of drastic change."
Start with recommended training
Resources still are being added to the webpage, including courses that employees may be strongly encouraged or required to complete. The latest is a link to a recommended "Managing Bias" course that also appears on employees' Learn@ISU individual dashboards. The 20-minute interactive course helps participants understand, identify and reduce bias in the workplace.
"We all have a responsibility to create a welcoming and inclusive campus here at Iowa State," President Wendy Wintersteen said in the video introduction to the course. "Together we can foster a working and learning environment that aligns with our Principles of Community and empowers all individuals to reach their full potential."
Many of our Iowa State staff and faculty working remotely this spring are keeping a lot of balls in the air. Do your job. Entertain your kids. Keep the house picked up and sanitized. Protect your health. Try to score some toilet paper.
School districts are offering supplemental learning materials to parents whose young children aren't at school or a child care center, and parents are swapping ideas for useful online activities for kids. Inside poked around campus and found some programs and offices that might be able to assist, too.
Exercise and fun
- Fit Fam Friday, 10 a.m. weekly, exercise with Jody, Parker and Paige for 10 minutes on ISU Extension and Outreach's Spend Smart Eat Smart Facebook page.
- Junior Cyclone Club activities page, photo quiz, crossword puzzle, design a jersey sheets, coloring sheets and more for little Cyclone fans, hosted by the athletics department.
- STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) Academy, weekly activity, sponsored jointly by Iowa 4-H and the NASA Iowa Space Grant Consortium (headquartered at ISU).
- Stay-at-Home STEAM, new activity videos posted Monday, Wednesday and Friday guide school-age students through fun indoor activities and experiments with limited adult supervision, hosted by Team Neutrino, a FIRST Robotics team for Story County high schoolers sponsored by 4-H and Iowa State.
- Iowa State Engineering Kids at-home activities, a daily theme offers hands-on things to do with items around the house, a deeper dive into the STEM concept, a program or movie to watch together and a short bedtime boredom buster.
- Insect Zoo live shows, 10 a.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays on the zoo's Facebook page and archived on its YouTube channel, hosted by the entomology department.
- Water Rocks, features songs, videos and a game on the theme of water conservation, hosted by ISU Extension and Outreach (parents can sign up for the Monday Mix newsletter highlighting new activities for their K-8 kids).
- Mosquitoes and Me, lesson plans for at-home activities for kids and parents (modified content from a summer camp curriculum that doesn't require special equipment or expertise), hosted by the Urban Ecosystem Project at ISU.
- Stay InCYde, links to virtual tours and wildlife cams from historic or famous places around the world, curated by the ISU Alumni Association's travel staff.
- Art-2-go kits ($10-$18), options include pottery figurines with paints or a wood tray with decoupage kit. Order online, with delivery in Ames or pick up outside the Memorial Union, offered by the MU Workspace.
- #TourThursdays, tours of areas inside Stephens Auditorium not typically seen by the public, 3-minute features updated every Thursday (9 a.m.) on YouTube, hosted by Iowa State Center staff.
- Caterpillar Club story time, children's books read by Reiman Gardens volunteers, archived on the gardens' YouTube channel several times each week.
- Cooking with Stephens, a weekly video series starring the culinary staff at the Iowa State Center.
- Stay Home with Cy, activity sheets you can print, links to project websites and activity ideas with a cardinal and gold twist, curated by ISU Alumni Association staff.
- Weekly programming for kids on Iowa Public Radio's Talk of Iowa radio show (10-11 a.m.), Tuesdays: Iowa wildlife, Thursdays: Iowa history, listeners of all ages may phone in their questions.
- Family resources for teaching children at home, includes articles for parents and links to free educational websites, curated by the human development and family studies department.
- 4-H At-home Learning Resources, daily challenges organized around a weekly theme, includes a link to an online spreadsheet that filters activities by topic, grade, cost, etc., as well as links to at-home activities offered by nearby states' extension programs.
Senior vice president and provost Jonathan Wickert addressed concerns faculty raised during the April 7 virtual meeting of the Faculty Senate. With 76 participants taking part through Zoom, Wickert said the return of faculty, staff and students to campus is not imminent.
"We are not anywhere near that point," he said. "No date has been set for when the remote-work approach is going to end."
Campus events -- for example, conferences and other large gatherings -- have been canceled through May 31, Wickert said.
Planning is underway should a shelter-in-place order be issued.
"If we have to move to a minimal campus footprint, what does that look like for our research?" he said. "We have been working on the definition of essential research and the principles that we would bring to making those decisions."
Associate provost for faculty Dawn Bratsch-Prince said she is collaborating with the Faculty Senate executive board, department chairs and academic deans on spring course evaluations.
"We have developed an eight-question survey that will be used for all courses, whether they started online or not," Bratsch-Prince said. "The course evaluations will not be included in any review process unless a faculty member wants to reference them."
The survey will ask for an overall rating of a course, whether the instructor provided timely feedback, thoughts on the online transition, and what was most and least helpful about the course.
Faculty will receive a survey after the semester to provide their input on the transition and virtual instruction.
Senators will take action at the April 21 meeting on several proposals:
An update to the military service policy requiring instructors to excuse veteran or military service obligations of up to two weeks without penalty. For obligations that last longer than two weeks, it is the student's responsibility to communicate with their adviser and instructor on potential accommodations before their absence.
An update to the schedule change policy during Period 2 of the fall and spring semesters. Students who want to add or change course sections or adjust course credit hours need signatures from their adviser and course instructor, but to drop a course, only the academic adviser’s signature is needed. No fee is charged for adds, drops, section changes or administrative schedule changes.
A policy for calculating the GPA of home-school applicants. Only grades assigned by an independent entity -- not parents or guardians -- are factored into the cumulative GPA. Twelve semester credits of college-level coursework or at least five Carnegie units of high school-level work -- or a combination of both -- must be completed to establish a GPA. A GPA is not a requirement to be considered for admission.
A change to the early reinstatement policy allowing each college to set procedures for juniors and seniors requesting early reinstatement. Students must follow the academic standards committee procedures for the college they are requesting reinstatement.
A name change for the department of management in the Ivy College of Business, to department of management and entrepreneurship. A third of the 30 faculty members deal exclusively or mostly with entrepreneurship.
Disappointed they had to cancel a campus reception to honor her 50th anniversary at Iowa State, Faye Draper's colleagues in the admissions office decided to not take it lying down.
"We couldn’t let April 6 pass by without doing something special for Faye," said admissions associate director Phil Caffrey. "She's an amazing employee, and she's been the backbone of our operations team for decades."
So, shortly before noon Monday, about 50 current and former officemates decorated their vehicles and surprised Draper with a parade outside her south Ames home, complete with horns, lights, balloons, hollering, Silly String and even a police siren. (Caffrey, her supervisor, faked a meeting with her to make certain she'd be available, and called her a few minutes in advance to ask her to look outside.)
"We knew we needed to do something to honor Faye's accomplishment," Caffrey said. "The number of persons who've worked 50 years at Iowa State is very small, and the number who worked 50 years in the same department is even smaller."
Hired as an 18-year-old by former admissions director Karsten Smedal, Draper evaluates thousands of high school transcripts every year in her work as a record analyst.
The parade, she said, was "a great surprise."
Between the parade and a congratulatory video her colleagues sent later in the day, "I felt blessed by a lot of love and appreciation," she commented.
Draper said she never imagined on April 6, 1970, that she'd still be an admissions team member 50 years later.
"It's been a great place to work and an awesome group of people to work with throughout the years," she said.
Employees' ability to work from home has aided the university's efforts to complete the spring semester through online instruction, but spending time away from colleagues and without normal routines can create other issues.
Since 2014, ISU WellBeing has served benefits-eligible employees. The program is working to help employees successfully adjust to their new normal during the coronavirus pandemic.
"We embrace the idea of being able to support people wherever they are in this journey in a way that helps them lead healthier lives," ISU WellBeing coordinator Stephanie Downs said.
The program is centered around six elements of well-being and healthy lifestyle:
As much of the world practices social distancing to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Iowa State employees must find new ways to remain connected and support each other. Since 2017, Adventure2 has provided opportunities to engage in activities designed to enhance the six elements of well-being.
Employees are awarded points for participating in activities and earn prizes -- for example, gift cards -- as they progress. The program runs each year from September through mid-August, and activities range from a daily steps goal to improving a credit score. Each activity has information about its importance, tips for completion and resources for more information.
Some activities require a team, which is a good way to meet other employees outside of a specific department or college.
Coping with stress and mental health are current program highlights. Participants can leave comments about completed activities, giving others valuable feedback. It also provides a virtual community of support.
"You can see what others are doing and how they are connecting and what is working for them," Downs said. "A lot of these [activities] are designed to help support people during a difficult time. They are just little nudges. So even if people don't want to do them, they can look for ideas for what might help them."
Downs said a recent analysis found nearly 2,600 employees registered for Adventure2, with 69% participating in the program. The results have been encouraging, with users giving a satisfaction score of 4.3 out of five.
ISU WellBeing partnered with student wellness on its "Keep Community. Stay Informed. Be Well" campaign. It provides information and resources for well-being during online instruction, remote work and social distancing.
"We really felt we could help in the ‘be well’ portion," Downs said. "A big part of this is the mental side of it."
Stay calm, be present and embrace life are the three areas focused on, and each topic has activities to complete and strategies for being successful.
Every Friday from April 3 to May 15, ISU WellBeing hosts Friday Walk and Talks to virtually connect employees on a mile walk starting at 12:10 p.m. Participants can call a friend, walk with family members, take a pet for a walk or use Webex to connect with the ISU WellBeing team. Email Downs with a subject line "Friday Walk and Talks" for a meeting invite.
Well-being Wednesdays began April 8 and continue through May. The weekly Webex meetings (2:30-3 p.m.) provide information on staying well and remaining connected. There also is an opportunity for participants to talk about concerns they may have. Email Downs with a subject line "Well-being Wednesday" conversations for an invite.
Midmorning mindfulness meetings started April 2 and occur every Tuesday and Thursday (10-10:15 a.m.) through May. ISU WellBeing team members lead a 15-minute Zoom session that focuses on relaxation breathing techniques, meditations or being present. Email Downs with a subject line "midmorning mindfulness" for an invite.
The employee assistance program (EAP) is free, confidential and available to all employees and their families. Through a third-party vendor to the university, EAP offers support through a 24-hour telephone line, financial and legal consultations, counseling, life coaching and more.
EAP has resources to manage many of the challenges the pandemic is presenting -- for example, stress, work-life balance, anxiety, depression and coping with change.
"They will be offering weekly webinars and stepping up to fill a need," Downs said. "Typically, 5% of our population uses it, but they said they are seeing much higher increases. If they can't fully support you, they can refer you to the care you need."
Downs also said the National Alliance on Mental Illness offers workshops and programs and will continue to expand offerings.
ISU Surplus, which is closed to walk-in traffic during the COVID-19 pandemic, launched a "noncontact" drive-up option April 3 for faculty and staff working remotely who could use additional Dell computer equipment to do their jobs. This option isn't available to nonemployees.
"If an employee is in need of an extra monitor, keyboard or mouse, we might be able to help them, while our supplies last," said ISU Surplus manager Mark Ludwig. "And we know for certain we'll be able to save them some money because they won't have to buy new."
He said all equipment will be tested to confirm it works. But, buyers won't get to hand-pick the piece(s) they purchase because currently customers aren't allowed inside the surplus facility on Airport Road.
"People need to remember they're buying used equipment. So, there may be some cosmetic issues -- such as scuff marks or small scratches on the screens," Ludwig said.
Faculty and staff interested in this used IT equipment option should follow these steps:
- Email Mark Ludwig, email@example.com. He will email you an inventory list of Dell monitors (various sizes, $3-$30) and Dell wired keyboards and mice ($3).
- Email Ludwig again with your equipment request and any follow-up questions.
- When your order is placed, you will be asked to call ISU Surplus, 294-7300, to pay with a credit or debit card. No checks or cash will be accepted.
- Your item(s) with receipt will be placed on a bench outside the front/south door of the ISU Surplus Facility, 925 Airport Rd., on the date and time you request (8 a.m.-3:30 p.m., Monday-Friday). You will drive up and load them.
- Service notes: Items from the inventory will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis. There is a limit of two monitors per person. If you purchase two, surplus staff will do their best to select matching models. Consistent with all ISU Surplus sales, purchases are final and no returns are allowed.
The requirement to work remotely whenever possible to slow the spread of coronavirus came just as training was scheduled to begin for the new software program campus budget planners will use to create the fiscal year 2021 budget.
The project team behind the Workday Planning rollout shifted to remote collaboration with relative ease, and the launch is still on for April 13 -- providing a more sophisticated cloud-based budgeting module in the midst of a crisis that makes the improvements especially valuable.
For more information
Check out the webpage for the Workday Planning for general information. For Workday Planning job aids, go to the "resources" webpage on the WorkCyte website. For questions or comments, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
"This will be leaps and bounds better than the legacy system. It's going to be a great tool for us to have," said project team member Brad Steward, a budget analyst with the institutional budget management team.
Workday Planning will connect directly with the financial and personnel data in Workday, giving budget writers access to real-time financial information for forecasting and planning. Current-year finances from Workday and centrally supplied revenue estimates and allocation rates will feed automatically into budget plans.
Integrating financial transactions with budgeting will standardize and aggregate data, giving planners a clearer big-picture view. Looking at budgets that way offers more control for testing different scenarios, particularly useful in an uncertain fiscal environment.
"It lets people budget at a little higher level and identify the resources they have available to them and how they might want to commit them," said project team leader Ellen Rasmussen, a senior adviser to interim senior vice president for operations and finance Pam Cain.
Previously, budgeting was done outside of the system for tracking finances, on individual spreadsheets.
"At some point, you just dumped it into the system and made sure it all balanced," Rasmussen said.
Workday Planning will be embedded in Workday, accessible via the enterprise platform by more than 50 staff with a "planner" role, which allows them to create and edit budgets. Building budgets in Workday makes them more accessible and allows for better collaboration.
"From a remote working standpoint, it's cloud-based so you can access it anywhere," Steward said.
Bringing budgeting to Workday also gives the institutional budget management team an additional method for sharing information with planners in a consistent and visible manner. The landing page for Workday Planning will include job aids, deadlines and other resources, Rasmussen said.
In its first phase, for the FY21 budget, Workday Planning will be used to budget for the general fund, the half of the university's $1.5 billion annual budget composed of state and federal appropriations, tuition and indirect cost revenue. Restricted funds that account for the other half of the university budget will be added in future expansions of the platform.
The project, which launched in November, was about a week away from the start of training when social distancing prompted by COVID-19 began at Iowa State. The project team moved virtual, a shift made easier by the months the team had worked together and occasional remote meetings with consultants before the pandemic.
Frequent videoconferencing became the team's new normal, including a daily standup meeting on Zoom. Unlike the weekly project meeting, the daily meetings have a light agenda. They are meant to keep the team connected and offer a chance for raising questions or issues.
"We've really tried to overemphasize communication and patience," Steward said.
In-person training sessions and user acceptance testing were to kick off March 23. Both were moved online, which turned out to be a benefit in disguise in at least one way. Rasmussen said nearly all the planners taking the training logged on for both of the training sessions offered, which would have been impossible in a real-life lab, where space is limited.
The final decision to launch will be made the morning of April 13, and if it's a green light, planners will have access beginning at noon that day, Rasmussen said.
User labs scheduled April 14-24 will take place virtually in a Zoom meeting room, with a handful of ISU staff and consultants available to answer questions one-on-one for two hours per day. The screen-sharing function works well for training sessions, Rasmussen said.
Central budgeting parameters likely won't be distributed until later in the spring, but planners can begin analyzing their budget-to-actual numbers right away, Rasmussen said. Access to that information will make the transition from the year's end to the next year's start more seamless, she said.
Deadlines for FY21 budgets likely will be impacted by the continued response to the COVID-19 emergency.