Spring at the lake

University swans swim on Lake LaVerne

Photo by Christopher Gannon.

The university's swans, Lancelot and Elaine, enjoy a sunny swim on Lake LaVerne this week, seemingly tolerant of a nearby goose.

Categories and levels in the new P&S structure: What do they mean?

When professional and scientific (P&S) employees learn their title in Iowa State's new market-driven classification/compensation system, bundled in that title will be a job classification, category and level within a category. Sound complicated? It's really not, said Emma Mallarino Houghton, classification/compensation director for university human resources (UHR). It's foreign to the 27-year-old system the university will retire soon, but grounded in best practices in the HR world.

"We hope employees come at this system with an open mind," she said. "Trying to put some of these new concepts into our old vernacular won't work."

As previously announced, the new P&S class/comp structure contains more than 575 job classifications -- or titles -- in 29 job families. Mallarino Houghton said the number of classifications has changed as UHR leaders learn more about the work P&S employees do and the responsibilities they carry. The structure must flex with the university's needs, she said. Most recently, a half dozen job titles were added as a result of meetings this month and last when supervisors, aided by HR delivery teams, linked their employees to job classifications. In a few cases, the appropriate link didn't exist yet.

"Once linking meetings are complete, we will stop adding titles so employees can go through the review process," Mallarino Houghton said. "But the UHR classification and compensation team will continually evaluate the structure to make sure it is evolving with the university's needs."

Job categories

The new P&S classification structure has three job categories and every job classification fits into one of them. Each provides a framework to assess degrees of increasing complexity and responsibility of work assignments within that category. The three job categories are:

  • Support contributor. Provides hands-on support to the daily operations of a unit, typically with some direction or supervision. Responsible for their own output but in support of someone else's work.
  • Individual contributor. Designs, implements and delivers programs, processes or projects using specialized skills and knowledge. Responsible for their own output.
  • Management. Contributes to an organization and accomplishes goals primarily by providing direction to staff members or a team. Responsible for the output of a team.

Don't visualize the three as ladder rungs because they don't work in a hierarchical order, Mallarino Houghton said. In fact, it's not unusual for an employee to spend a career progressing through one level category. Instead, picture them as cogged wheels moving synchronously.


Each category contains between three and five levels that require increasing complexity and responsibility, in both the work done and the knowledge and experience required. For example, in the individual contributor category, the four levels feature descriptors such as "developing," "intermediate," "senior" and "guru" to indicate elevated skills, responsibilities and education. Progression through the levels in a category is the usual avenue for promotion.

Mallarino Houghton noted some job families may not have all the levels in a category -- either because the market doesn't recognize a level or that work doesn't exist at Iowa State. For example, fewer than two dozen university job titles will have a fourth level in the individual contributor category, she noted.

Mallarino Houghton responded to these questions about classification categories and levels:

Is it possible to know the category and level of a position by looking at the job title?

Yes, we did develop some naming conventions. These examples use the new programs job series.

  • Job + number (for example, program specialist I, program specialist II) indicates individual contributor category and the respective level in that category.
  • Job + "assistant" + number (program assistant II, program assistant III) indicates support contributor category and the respective level in that category.
  • Title that includes a management word (manager programs, senior manager programs, director programs) indicates the manager category. These titles don't include numbers.

These general titling conventions will be shared with employees when they learn their new titles. Levels also will be assigned to job profiles in Workday.


What's the basis for promotion within a category?

The foundation of career progression is the level guidelines that describe the factors for progression within a level category. They lay out the difference in responsibilities between an employee's current job classification and the one to which they aspire. The level guides identify the significant factors in the progression of responsibility that separates the levels within a category. It's not about a long list of duties or simply doing more work. It's about what elevates the work you're doing, for example expertise required, responsibility, ability to respond immediately due to a knowledge foundation, impact, the fallout when a mistake occurs. All these factors together reflect the level of work being performed.


If I reach the top level in my category, is there anywhere to go?

Movement from one category to the next will reflect a leap of varying size depending on the job, but generally that kind of promotion indicates a significant change in your job. This is especially true for a promotion into the management category. At the end of the day, every job series caps out. To continue growing in a series or into a new series, employees should work with their managers to explore development opportunities for their career advancement.


If my level is higher than another employee's, will my salary be, too?

We've said many times that the pay grades in the new system are market-based, so a particular job's placement into a pay grade is based on market. For this reason, some jobs at the same or different levels will be in different pay grades. For example, an IT individual contributor level II likely will be in a higher pay grade than an academic adviser individual contributor level III due to the variance in market value for the jobs. While the level for the academic adviser is higher, the pay is not.


Next budgets will need to be 5% leaner

Units will need to cut 5% from the budgets they're developing for the fiscal year that begins July 1, President Wendy Wintersteen shared with university employees in an April 20 memo. She asked budget staff to plan for another 5% reduction the following year.

Five percent of this year's $742 million general fund operating budget is about $37 million.

Wintersteen also announced the university won't be able to provide performance-based salary increases for faculty, P&S and contract staff and post docs this summer. Consistent with their negotiated contract with the state, merit employees will receive a 2.1% salary increase on July 1.

In addition to an already tight budget climate for higher education in general -- Iowa State is planning for flat state appropriations and tuition revenue -- Wintersteen said the university budget will need to absorb at least $80 million in costs, refunds and lost revenue through the summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She noted this is a conservative estimate.

"As we consider these financial implications and understand there are more to come, it is important that we take a prudent and frugal approach to our budget," she wrote.

Federal emergency funds

Iowa State is receiving $21.6 million in emergency aid from the federal stimulus package, known as the CARES Act. As required by the legislation, $10.8 million will be used for emergency student financial aid. Wintersteen wrote that the senior leadership team and senior budget leaders are developing a plan to allocate the remaining funds, $10.8 million.

The president emphasized the current situation is "only a snapshot that will continue to develop" as more information and impacts arise, including decisions by the Iowa Legislature (adjourned until at least April 30), state Board of Regents and state and federal leaders. But she said university leaders will work to leverage all available resources.

Wintersteen noted that the federal CARES Act will allow employees and former employees with defined contribution retirement plans (including TIAA, AIG VALIC and Ameriprise) who experience "adverse financial conditions" resulting from COVID-19 to take up to $100,000 from an account through Dec. 31. They also may suspend their 2020 required minimum distribution from those accounts. On April 21, the payroll, benefit and tax office published an FAQ about the changes to retirement fund distribution rules.

For more information, employees should contact their financial adviser or staff in their plan's office.

Meaningful work

As campus advances further into this period of reduced operations, Wintersteen asked supervisors to be flexible about finding sufficient work for their employees. Their options include:

  • Temporary changes to job tasks.
  • Temporary reassignments for employees to other areas that have work.
  • Reduced or rotating schedules.

If sufficient work isn't available, employees may use appropriate time off. She encouraged employees and supervisors to consult university human resources' COVID-19 FAQ.

Difficult times, Wintersteen wrote, provide "an opportunity to demonstrate Iowa State's resolve, innovation and strength.

"Thank you for your commitment to our mission and your compassion for each other."

Senate to vote on scholarship change for home-schooled students

Senators will vote at the May 5 Faculty Senate meeting on a change to the way automatic scholarships are awarded to home-schooled students. 

The proposal at the April 21 meeting would eliminate GPA as part of the consideration when the admissions office awards automatic scholarships to incoming home-schooled freshmen. ACT or SAT scores would be the sole criterion for applicants who meet the requirements for the Loyal, Forever, Adventure and Journey awards that range from $2,500 to $8,000 per year.

Based on admission office recommendations, minimum test scores on the ACT or SAT for True ($1,000 per year) and Quest ($5,500 per year) awards -- currently awarded solely on the basis of GPA -- would be set at 26 ACT/1230 SAT and 25/1200, respectively.

The proposed changes put home-schooled applicants on equal footing by removing parent-assigned grades from consideration and provides transparency to the awarding of scholarships.

Senators approved a policy for calculating the GPA of home-schooled applicants that only factors in grades assigned by an independent entity. 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.

Students who do not have enough independently assigned grades to establish a GPA will be assessed on their entire academic record. That includes ACT/SAT score, high school core classes and coursework taken through high schools, colleges and universities.


The senate will vote next month to dissolve the committee on university services in the Faculty Senate bylaws. With the elimination of the senior vice president for university services position that was part of upper administration restructuring, the committee no longer serves its intended purpose. The resource policies and allocations council assumed its responsibilities.


Rob Whitehead (architecture) and Angela Shaw (food science and human nutrition) were elected as Faculty Senate representatives to the athletics council. Whitehead was reelected.

Other business

In addition to the policy on calculating GPA, senators approved three other 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 about potential accommodations before their absence.

  • 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 to which 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 proposal to update the schedule change policy during Period 2 of fall and spring semesters was referred back to committee.

Synchronous instruction provides connection students crave

Need help?

The Center for Learning and Teaching (CELT) can help instructors develop and test their synchronous teaching before they take it to the virtual classroom. Email CELT, visit the website or call the response team at 294-5357.

A lot has changed for Michael Bugeja since Iowa State went to online instruction in response to the coronavirus pandemic, but one thing remained the same.

"I still dress up every day I teach so there is no difference when I do my synchronous session," said the Distinguished Professor in the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication. "I had a student thank me for dressing up for class because it showed that I cared about them. This was during face-to-face classes and since then, I think it is obvious that I am holding class now."

Bugeja teaches two sections of media ethics three days a week this spring. That seems compatible with asynchronous instruction -- which is recommended by the university for lecture and content delivery because of possible technology limitations -- but he believes students need the real-time advantages synchronous instruction provides.

Bugeja is able to interact with his students, allow his students to challenge him, answer their questions and give structure to their schedule in a time they are expected to do more on their own.

For the students

Synchronous instruction is university-recommended for discussion, office hours and other online learning contexts that necessitate engagement.

Bugeja not only wants to make the real-time connection with his students, he believes the way they consume video makes one of the key components of asynchronous instruction less effective.

"They use video in a manner that is for entertainment or to pass time," he said. "I was worried that I as a professor would be reduced to a link, much like a YouTube video. I also wanted to keep a sense of decorum, a sense they were still in college."

By conducting class through Zoom, students are able to interact with each other and still perform group work. His students understand the need for distancing, but that hasn't diminished their disappointment about not being on campus, Bugeja said. The class is mostly seniors, who are missing out on a traditional graduation.

"I get emails thanking me for holding classes," said Bugeja, who sends an email of thanks to each student after every class. "I think in our eagerness to make it easy for students -- reducing professors to video links -- [students] are missing out on being a Cyclone."

Greenlee associate teaching professor Diane Bugeja teaches two photojournalism sections twice a week. Although the switch to online forced her to change nearly everything, she still connects with her students. 

"We are doing live critiques after I give them some structures, and they are talking back and forth and really enjoying it," she said. 

Asynchronous backs up synchronous

Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching program coordinator Karen Bovenmyer also uses synchronous instruction for the preparing future faculty program. She believes it is up to the instructor to keep students engaged throughout the class.

"Use polls, breakout rooms, matching activities and chats," she said. "Make sure there are things students can do and are asked to do during sessions."

Bovenmyer puts significant effort into planning each class. Every live class is recorded and captioned so students who can't attend can view the lecture later.

"As you prepare asynchronous materials there is a lot of synergy that helps your synchronous teaching go better," she said. 

Bovenmyer recommends instructors set the expectation that students attend the synchronous session and have the asynchronous information as a backup.

Recording a lecture ahead of time also provides a safeguard should a technology issue prevent a class from meeting. Quizzes can be inserted into the videos to test the knowledge of students watching the lecture asynchronously. Transcripts of videos can be created in Canvas Studio so students with poor internet connectivity still have access to materials.

"Use learning worksheets where it is marked out from this time to this time we will be doing these things," Bovenmyer said. "Using timestamps allows students to follow along and move along with it."

Technology tips

Students may not have the same access to technology away from campus, so Bovenmyer  offered these suggestions for synchronous instruction:

  • Only presenters should have their camera turned on for accessibility. This limits the strain on bandwidth

  • Mute microphones to avoid background noise

  • Use headphones to prevent audio looping

  • In Webex, share PowerPoints as files, not screen-shares

  • Avoid playing videos because of file size

  • Have a document ready with important links or questions to cut and paste into chats or broadcast to breakout rooms to facilitate conversation

  • Use a targeted, task-driven conversation to maximize the time together

"When students have peers on video talking to them and they are trying to actively solve a problem together, that really ups the engagement," Bovenmyer said. "It keeps the learning high, the brain engaged and the distractions to a minimum."

Performance record-keeping moves to Workday

Annual performance reviews were among the human resources functions that moved to the Workday platform last July but are getting more attention as the university heads toward the end of the fiscal year. For faculty and professional and scientific (P&S) employees, only the employee's rating and supervisor and employee confirmation of a completed evaluation will be logged in Workday this year. The content of the evaluation, including worksheets, self-assessments and other documentation, will remain in the employee's departmental file.

Since July, the entire process has been in Workday for merit employees, including an evaluation form developed in university human resources (UHR) appropriate for all merit positions. Merit employee evaluations occur throughout the year, and the new system alerts a supervisor six weeks in advance of an employee's review date.

In a memo to supervisors this week, interim vice president for university human resources Kristi Darr and associate provost for faculty Dawn Bratsch-Prince announced the deadline for completing faculty, staff and postdoc performance evaluations is extended to Sept. 1.

"This is particularly necessary for those involved in COVID-19 planning and response," they wrote.

Evaluations in progress should continue and may be completed sooner, they noted.

Performance evaluations should be conducted online or by phone, if supervisor and employee agree on a delivery method, wrote Darr and Bratsch-Prince. In-person evaluations must adhere to social-distancing rules.

P&S staff

Supervisors of P&S employees are welcome to use sample evaluation forms available on the UHR website, one developed for their department or unit, or to develop their own. Supervisors should inquire with their department head about using a department standard before developing their own or using one of the UHR forms.

The former P&S performance appraisal confirmation form is gone, replaced by a two-part process in Workday. Prior to the evaluation meeting, the supervisor opens the evaluation process by submitting in Workday one of two assessments for the employee: Meets or exceeds expectations, or does not meet expectations. Following a job performance conversation, the supervisor first confirms that the evaluation is complete. The action item is routed to the employee, who also must confirm.

Ruth Carlton-Appleton, UHR employee and labor relations consultant, noted that a systemwide record of performance appraisals serves two purposes: It compels supervisors to complete evaluations of their employees (the old system couldn't capture the omission rate succinctly) and it provides useful data to UHR leaders for identifying professional development needs.


As spelled out in chapter 5 of the Faculty Handbook, department chairs evaluate faculty each spring for the previous calendar year (January-December), with two possible assessments: satisfactory or unsatisfactory. The evaluation meeting includes a review of the faculty member's position responsibility statement and any action plans from the previous post-tenure review or annual performance evaluation.

To save on administrative tasks for academic departments this spring, HR delivery partners will collect the faculty ratings from departments centrally in the provost's office, where they will be loaded into Workday, but this process also will be delayed. When it's completed, that leaves just the short confirmation process for the department chair and faculty member to complete.

Nontechnical tips for improving virtual meetings

After a monthlong crash course, most employees working from home have the basic etiquette for virtual meetings down pat. The camera usually should be on. The microphone usually should be off. But as the "new normal" morphs into just "normal," it will take some nontechnical consideration to improve virtual meetings. 

"These are the questions I think people are asking now: How can I make this work better?" said Cory Arrants, a program coordinator with information technology services (ITS).

Arrants and senior systems analyst Vince Oliver are members of the ITS communication and collaboration team that has helped advise faculty and staff on videoconferencing, sometimes in one-on-one consultations. They shared some strategies for making virtual meetings better.

Expectations: great

Being clear about expectations before a meeting starts is the best way to ensure it runs smoothly. That could include the preferred method for asking questions (verbal, raising hand, chat area), reminders about camera and microphone settings, and a clear and concise agenda. Establishing how a meeting will run is an antidote for distractions such as cross-talk and is especially important for large meetings. 

"If it's a group of 100 or 200, someone's not going to have done this a bunch of times yet," Arrants said.

Agenda setting

In a virtual setting, be thoughtful about what you're trying to accomplish in a meeting and share the agenda in the invitation. Narrowing the scope helps keep it short, which is important because staying focused and comfortable for long stretches of time is more difficult in a work-from-home space.

Also, meetings conducted by video aren't conducive to some goals. If it's a decision-making meeting, limit the participants to those needed to make the call and actively solicit feedback from those less likely to speak. Anything extemporaneous is harder to pull off, which makes brainstorming meetings a challenge. 

"You've got to give people a chance to think about what they're going to do before they come in," Arrants said.

Consider more

Work teams should contemplate meeting more often than they did when they were together in an office and had frequent unplanned conversations. The loss of informal contact bolsters the value of "stand-up" meetings, quick and regular gatherings that give each member of a team a chance to talk about what they're working on. 

"I think that's a type of meeting that takes on a bigger role right now. Some teams do it twice a week. Some teams do it in the morning and the afternoon. It depends on how often what you're working on changes," Arrants said. 

Impromptu meetings with a colleague or two to talk through a specific issue also should be a regular occurrence. They save time, staving off long emails. "That's a way we can really take advantage of this," Oliver said. 

Yes, turn on your video

Whether meeting with the whole team or a small group, enabling video is a must, barring technical challenges. Seeing faces has significant communication value. "That's why we're doing videoconferencing instead of a phone call," Arrants said.

Keep it simple

Not everything needed to be a meeting in a work-in-an-office world, and it doesn't now, either. In addition to phone calls and email, use a chat app for simple conversations. But be flexible. If a dialogue develops, be prepared to hop on to a virtual meeting for a simpler face-to-face exchange.

When it gets big

Designating an alternate host can keep a large meeting, and its leader, on track. The second host provides information via the chat function and answers questions, or collects questions to pose to the meeting's main host. The alternate also can watch for cross-talk and mute all participants if needed to restore order to a meeting. "The alternate host essentially runs the overhead of the meeting," Oliver said. 

What's a large meeting? It might be smaller than you think. Consider using large-meeting methods such as driving feedback to the chat window with as few as 15 people or even in smaller meetings, depending on how conversation-prone the group is. "If you don't know the crowd, I would err on overmanaging the meeting the first time," Arrants said.

Audio and visuals

The collection of knowledge-base articles on the ITS learning and working remotely website has a guide for Webex best practices, a list that includes suggestions for better video and audio quality. Using a headset instead of the built-in microphone on a laptop also can improve audio, as laptop microphones often don't perform well.

Tips on timing

If you're hosting a meeting for the first time, do a test run beforehand. When setting a meeting time, schedule at least 15 minutes in the future to allow the videoconferencing provider to process the request. For more urgent virtual meetings, consider using a personal room, which is available on Webex and Zoom. Try to avoid starting meetings at the top of the hour. That's when the bulk of meetings start, which can cause connection issues. Attempt to schedule breaks between meetings, as virtual meetings eliminate the natural downtime that physically going from one room to the next provides. As a meeting wraps up, especially if you've left time for feedback, wait 10 seconds after a last call for questions before ending it, longer than you would at an in-person meeting, to allow for the extra time it takes to unmute.

Portal offers central catalog of IT services

Lunch and learn more

IT Portal demonstrations via Webex:

Service requests, equipment ordering and technology how-tos are a few of the things moving from the information technology services (ITS) website to a central home hosted on the ServiceNow platform. Unlike the current patchwork of programs, the new IT Portal provides a service catalog with everything in one place for users.

"People can browse for services by category or simply do a search for what they need. For example, if they know they need something network-related, they can search 'network' and up pops all the network-related service requests," said Michael Lohrbach, ITS director of enterprise services and customer success.

The ServiceNow platform, launched at Iowa State last year, is used by ITS and the finance and human resources specialists on WorkCyte service delivery teams. The IT Portal broadens the platform's use beyond the "incident" submissions that generate service tickets.

Lohrbach said the IT Portal provides a better user experience, with a friendlier look and feel than the ServiceNow application accessible through your Okta dashboard. He said users have the ability to drill down into the service catalog and a collection of knowledge-base articles. Access to the IT Portal is available by clicking on "Products and Services" near the search box at the top of the redesigned ITS webpage. Users also can use the "Add Apps" option to create a link from their personal Okta dashboards (search "IT Portal").


The knowledge-base articles provide a repository of information to help users troubleshoot and solve common tech issues. Lohrbach described the growing collection as a mix of frequently asked questions, how-tos and standards, and said job aids could be added in the future.

"Our focus is to enhance our self-service capabilities," he said. "Over time, we'll continuously add knowledge-base information, including the documents our IT Solution Center uses to help faculty, staff and students across campus. This is something we felt was overdue to get to the end users -- to give them tools that are readily available." 

Other service catalog capabilities include ordering/installing equipment, moving phones and computers, and requesting help -- for example, with granting ADIN system access, acquiring physical servers or purchasing Smartsheet licenses. Lohrbach said the IT Portal also can be used for initiating solution center help.

"The idea is to push the solution center traffic to the portal," Lohrbach said. "If users have an issue, they'll be able to create a ticket right from the portal -- just click the 'Get Help' button and submit your issue."

Why the change?

Better customer service is a big reason for creating the IT Portal. Users can browse available services, request service or ask for more information. Lohrbach said it also provides better visibility for users and IT staff to see the progress and status of requests in real time. 

"One of the primary reasons we're moving this direction is to better track the requests we get as a unit and to collectively have all of those requests living inside one system," Lohrbach said.

If users have questions about services that aren't available through the IT Portal, Lohrbach recommends contacting the solution center. 

"Users can create a ticket right there in the IT Portal, or submit the question by email (solution@iastate.edu) or phone (294-4000)," he said.

COVID-19 survey helped ISU improve employee support

An employee survey helped Iowa State leaders identify ways to better support faculty and staff during the coronavirus crisis, including outreach about wellness resources, information technology support, employee and supervisor expectations, and long-term planning.

Based on responses to the survey conducted the week after spring break, employees generally have positive outlooks. Most Iowa State employees think their supervisor is supportive, feel safe if they're working on campus, have clear expectations and sufficient resources if they're working remotely, and are confident in university leadership.

“The engagement between supervisors and employees is always important, but especially so during this unprecedented situation. Whether working remotely or working safely on campus, we all have new challenges to navigate that can impact our productivity. We appreciate the extra effort made by supervisors to reach out and provide guidance and grace as employees adapt to new working environments,” said Kristi Darr, interim vice president for university human resources.

The survey showed what resources and information faculty and staff were seeking. Many initiatives and communications were developed to help address those concerns, including:

  • Several ISU leaders spoke during a virtual panel April 9 to provide resources and thanks to critical employees still working on campus.
  • Information for on-campus staff is being posted near time clocks and other high-traffic areas.
  • University human resources (UHR) created a COVID-19 webpage with guidance on reduced operations, professional development links, and detailed information on time off and leave options, including the new leave program specifically for absences related to COVID-19.
  • In a message to faculty and staff April 20, President Wendy Wintersteen provided an update on the budget impact of the virus.
  • Supervisors were encouraged in memos from Wintersteen and UHR to adjust productivity expectations for employees working from home, especially if they're balancing child care or other obligations.
  • An FAQ provides guidance on remote work equipment and expenses. In a message to faculty and staff April 8, Wintersteen encouraged employees to retrieve work equipment from their campus office, if needed.

“The survey reinforced how critical communication is during a crisis. The results helped us better understand where we needed to improve our information sharing and what channels are most effective for faculty and staff. We will continue to make communication a top priority in our response efforts,” Wintersteen said.

Wintersteen released a summary of the survey's key findings in an April 20 message to faculty and staff. The anonymous survey was developed by UHR and the institutional research office and conducted March 25-27.  

About 54% of the 6,659 employees who received an email with a link to the survey responded, including 62% of professional and scientific staff, 52% of merit staff and 46% of faculty. About 60% of respondents were working remotely, 24% were in their normal workplace and 16% were working remotely when they can but are on campus to perform portions of their job.

How work is going

Two-thirds of employees surveyed strongly agreed their manager was supporting them during the COVID-19 crisis, and more than half strongly agreed they are confident in senior leaders making the right decisions for Iowa State.

Among respondents working remotely, more than half were extremely clear about what was expected from them while working from home, and more than half had all essential resources they needed. More than three-quarters of remote workers were satisfied with their IT support, and two-thirds said their team is good at discussing impacts of the changes and connecting informally. 

About one-third of remote workers also were providing child care, and the majority said it impacted their work at least some of the time. Along with internet issues and computer desk setup, the time and space available due to other family being home were the top performance barriers identified by employees working remotely. Among all employees, additional communication about balancing caretaking and job duties was a common request.

Two-thirds of employees working on campus were neutral or agreed that their health and safety were being protected, while one-third were concerned. More than half of respondents working on campus said they had all the information, training and protective equipment they needed to safely do their job in their usual workplace. Their top requests for additional needs included work supplies and resources as well as more information about what services and buildings remain open.

Staying well

More than three-quarters of respondents gauged their own well-being as neutral or better. Successfully transitioning to working from home, feeling safe and healthy, communication with supervisors and colleagues, and job security were listed as reasons for positivity. Employees with negative self-assessments of their well-being cited health concerns, stress, uncertainty, lack of communication, remote working without support, and child care and family issues. 

More than half of employees surveyed strongly agreed they have the information they need about wellness benefits, and half strongly agreed university communication about the virus has been helpful.

Surveyed employees volunteered numerous ways they have stayed connected with colleagues, including daily virtual meetings and scheduled team meetups, phone check-ins and text messaging, along with informal methods such as sharing pet photos, holding virtual happy hours and giving baked goods to colleagues.

On the front line

Darcie Buerer cleans a residence hall restroom

Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Darcie Buerer, a custodian in the residence department, sprays disinfectant on sinks while deep cleaning a restroom at Larch Hall. Buerer is one of hundreds of essential employees working on campus during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many hands assemble virtual graduation events

Production team on Stephens stage

Among many university employees involved behind the scenes in producing a virtual commencement experience was this team, who paused for a social-distanced photograph Friday afternoon. Pictured from left, Mike Pedersen, IT services; Paul Jewell and Roger Suski, Engineering-LAS online learning; Steve Kovarik, College of Veterinary Medicine IT; and Mike Broich, Iowa State Center. Photo by Jennifer Suchan.

Despite hosting no performances, Stephens Auditorium has witnessed a lot of coming and going in the last week. University leaders and others with roles in an ISU commencement ceremony honored appointments to record their parts for one or more of the undergraduate, Graduate College and College of Veterinary Medicine ceremonies.

Less than a week after President Wendy Wintersteen wrote to tell graduating students the COVID-19 pandemic was forcing their ceremonies online, production was underway. Recording began April 16 and is scheduled to wrap up April 24. The finished, edited graduation ceremonies will be available on demand beginning at 10 a.m. CST Saturday, May 9, on graduation.iastate.edu.

"Our students may be participating all over the world," said university registrar Jennifer Suchan. "We want them to view it at a time that works for them, their families and loved ones."

Suchan said the goal is a short ceremony -- perhaps 30 to 40 minutes -- that includes many traditions associated with an Iowa State commencement. For example, Simon Estes will sing, the president will officially confer degrees, students graduating with distinction will be recognized, "Bells of Iowa State" will play, to name a few.

Suchan said undergraduate colleges also are preparing their own celebratory virtual events. Those also will be available May 9 on the graduation website.

More detail about graduation virtual events will be shared in the May 7 edition of Inside.