The four-story addition to the east side of the Gerdin Business Building, home to the Ivy College of Business, is about 75% complete and cruising toward a fall target completion. Always a sign of progress, the tower crane left the site the first week in May. On the outside, brickwork is complete and limestone panel installation has begun. On the inside, a significant amount of wall framing and drywall and tile work is underway, and plumbing, electrical and climate control systems are being installed on all levels.
The $28 million project adds five classrooms, student-focused team rooms and faculty and graduate student offices for the college. It also will include a behavioral sales suite and a two-level commons (pictured inside the glass doors, below) for curricular, co-curricular and special events.
The first of a multiphase plan to bring university employees back to campus has select managers (or designees) and a limited number of staff returning around June 1 for the purpose of developing a return-to-work strategy suitable for their workspaces. In a May 15 email to faculty and staff, President Wendy Wintersteen said "the vast majority" of faculty and staff working remotely will not return to campus June 1 for this planning phase.
"The health and safety of the Iowa State community is our top priority, and we recognize that departments and units perform diverse work in diverse workspaces," Wintersteen wrote. "Decisions about safely increasing work at normal locations must include local expertise."
She said the local teams will receive guidance in several forms:
- A toolkit to help them develop their workspace plan. The toolkit is being distributed this week to administrative officers, who will more broadly relay its content and intent. The COVID-19 unified command team, representatives from some emergency operations working groups and university human relations (UHR) leaders prepared the toolkit.
- Their building supervisor will provide information regarding that building's common spaces, including entrances and atriums, corridors, stairwells, elevators, open seating areas and restrooms. Facilities planning and management (FPM) leaders will develop and distribute baseline standards for using common spaces in all campus buildings and building supervisors will apply those standards to their buildings.
On the heels of these resources, faculty, staff and graduate student researchers will receive additional guidance for their laboratories and research projects.
Beginning June 1, all faculty and staff who are able will be expected to wear a face covering or face shield when they're near others and when other mitigation options (for example, physical/social distancing) are difficult to maintain. Prior to June 1, faculty and staff working on campus are encouraged to wear face coverings if they have them.
Wintersteen said the university is working to provide face coverings to faculty and staff who need them; more information will be shared when it's available.
Wintersteen acknowledged in her email that returning to campus poses a higher risk for employees who meet health criteria or live with someone who does. She directed any employee who is asked to return to their campus workplace but has health concerns about making the change to contact Andrea Little, UHR director of employee and labor relations. Little will discuss appropriate options with them, she said.
Wintersteen wrote that local teams first will need to assess whether their workspace can accommodate greater distances between the employees assigned to it and what modifications -- such as physical barriers or signage -- are needed to help achieve physical distancing. Other decisions they'll need to make, all with a priority on employee safety and physical distance, include:
- Staff levels and schedules for necessary in-person work.
- What, if any, common spaces -- such as break rooms or conference rooms -- will be used.
- Schedules for any workspaces shared across units.
- Expectations for sanitizing surfaces and spaces used by many, such as copiers, printers, tables, phones, etc. This is in addition to regular cleaning performed by FPM custodial teams.
- Additional needs, such as soap and hand sanitizer, to help with employee hygiene and safety.
- If and how office visitors can be accommodated.
- Other mitigation needs specific to a workspace.
Two new study spaces in Bessey Hall will greet biosciences majors when they return to campus. Remodeling work on the nearly identical first-floor rooms wrapped up in March.
The rooms anchor the corners of a hallway T-intersection in the southwest area of Bessey. Foot traffic in both hallways can be seen but not heard through glass walls on two sides of each room.
The lounge-like student spaces contain seating with padded seats and backs. Several table styles -- for example, high-top, breakfast bar and coffee tables -- are available for individual work or small-group interactions. There are plenty of power and USB outlets for students to keep their devices charged.
The rooms are accessible -- via a preprogrammed ISU Card swipe -- to more than 1,000 biology, genetics and environmental sciences majors. Their differential tuition helped fund the remodel. Room 153 can hold 30 students, while occupancy for Room 150 is 37.
The repurposed spaces served as laboratories which now are housed in the Advanced Teaching and Research Building that opened in 2018.
The $407,000 Bessey project was funded by the ecology, evolution and organismal biology department, the genetics, development and cell biology department and the colleges that administer them -- Agriculture and Life Sciences, and Liberal Arts and Sciences.
Departmental computer labs on campus have been empty during the COVID-19 crisis, but they haven't all been idle. Thanks to some quick work by information technology services (ITS) and College of Engineering IT staff, students have easy access to the computing power and specialized software available on machines in some locked campus labs.
Remote computer access -- also known as virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) -- has been offered at Iowa State for years, though usage has been limited and sporadic, said Jason Shuck, ITS systems operations manager. Users had to connect via a virtual private network (VPN), and virtual labs were emulated on central university servers.
"It wasn't 50 physical machines. It was 50 sessions students could log into," said Cory Johns, College of Engineering IT manager.
With the rapid shift to online instruction in mid-March, ITS and Engineering IT leapt at a proposal to simplify and improve virtual labs by dropping the VPN requirement and connecting users directly to physical computers in labs using the VDI software VMware Horizon.
"That immediately made the barriers to connection vanish," Shuck said.
The 1-to-1 connection with a dedicated computer and video card means better performance, from a computer loaded with licensed software students may use in coursework -- intensive graphics or modeling programs, for instance. With simplified access that was a necessity in some cases, VDI usage soared. About 1,600 students used a virtual lab computer after spring break, when Engineering and ITS staff made the switch in about two days, Shuck said.
Access was provided to 700 computers running in 15 campus labs. Of those, about 500 of the computers were in College of Engineering labs. Other major users included Design and Human Sciences colleges, Shuck said. Depending on the lab, faculty and staff also may have access, though it's primarily a service for students.
Students can connect to lab computers with almost anything that has a strong internet connection, including old laptops, tablets and smartphones. A student showed Shuck how he could use a powerful 3-D modeling program on his iPad, for instance.
"It doesn't really matter what you're connecting with," Johns said.
Some version of providing virtual access to on-campus lab computers is likely to continue in the fall and beyond, Shuck said. Staff are exploring options for in-person and virtual access co-existing.
"I think if we can get the process nailed down, others are going to want to do this because they just have computers sitting there at night. Why not get some value out of it?" he said.