Reiman Gardens prepares to reopen

View of Sycamore Falls from the tower base

Photos by Christopher Gannon.

Reiman Gardens will reopen to the public on Monday, June 8, with daily hours of 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Garden members also may visit June 1-7. During June, only outdoor garden spaces and restrooms in the Hunziker House and Mahlstede Building will be available.

Taking advantage of empty grounds during its COVID-19 pandemic closing this spring, the gardens completed two significant improvements initially expected to extend over much of the summer. At the main entrance, the first replaced the cedar facings on the structure and the aggregate sidewalk with concrete. The second completed a two-summer project to replace crushed red aggregate or brick paver pathways in the west half of the gardens with poured concrete walkways (bottom photo). Funded with revenue from the Nature Connects LEGO exhibit rentals, the wider paved pathways improve accessibility for garden visitors, improve winter maintenance and eliminate paths washing out during heavy rains. They also will allow Reiman Gardens to host holiday walk-through light events beginning this winter.

By the end of June, visitors also will be able to enjoy the newest addition to Reiman Gardens, Sycamore Falls in the southwest part of the complex. The three-acre expansion features seven historic sycamore trees (featured in top photo), cascading water with a large basin, a 42-foot tower guests can enter at the base (as did Reiman Gardens director Ed Lyon in the photo below), a perimeter walkway and more than a thousand new plantings.

Garden visitors should enter at the east kiosk (off parking lot S2). Admission is $10 ($9 for seniors ages 65+, $5 for youth ages 2-12 and free for kids under 2) and free for members and ISU students with valid ID.

Ed Lyon in the base of the tower at Sycamore Falls
Paved pathway at Reiman Gardens


Guidance on reopening plans sets stage for return

Most Iowa State employees working remotely will continue to do so after the first phase of a reopening plan begins June 1, a gradual approach to build readiness for in-person instruction this fall. A handful of supervisors and staff who had been working off-site will be back in their usual workplaces next week, developing local plans for safely resuming on-campus operations.

Training available

President Wendy Wintersteen announced in her May 26 message to faculty and staff that an online training session on Learn@ISU will provide employees with information about the procedures needed to resume on-campus work.

Last week, supervisors received updated guidance for preparing plans. The documents are available in the summer planning section of ISU's central COVID-19 website. Among the resources was a guide for returning to the workplace, a 13-page document marked as "Version 1."

"We expect there will be other updates and versions," President Wendy Wintersteen told administrative officers during a May 21 virtual meeting presenting the resources.

The guide outlines health and safety measures as well as university expectations and procedures. It addresses some common scenarios, for instance:

  • Wearing a cloth face covering is expected when physical distancing of 6 feet can't be maintained, so masks will be unnecessary in private offices or cubicles but needed in all shared spaces such as break rooms, hallways and restrooms. Central stores will supply departments with two cloth masks for every employee who needs them. 
  • Elevators should be limited to one person at a time and reserved for those with mobility needs.
  • Avoid trips with more than one person in a vehicle and, if possible, walk instead of taking CyRide.

Local plans

Supervisors designated by academic department heads and unit leaders will develop workspace plans using a 10-page worksheet released last week. The plan will identify on-campus staffing needs, changes to employee schedules and work areas to achieve physical distancing, educational and communication efforts, cleaning plans and other risk mitigation steps. Guidance for supervisors during the phased increase in operations also was released last week.

Supervisors will submit the plans to department heads and unit leaders for approval. They need to be approved before employees can return to work, which requires at least a two-week advance notice. The plans don't necessarily need to be complex answers for each topic, said ISU Police chief and associate vice president for public safety Michael Newton.

"A few sentences in many cases will be fine," Newton told administrative officers in the May 21 meeting.

The worksheet includes links to workplace cleaning guidelines and suggestions -- with photo examples -- of physical distancing strategies for general workplaces and laboratories

Questions about workplace plans can be directed to

Coordinated effort for cleaning, safety supplies will go through central stores

As departments plan for increased campus operations this summer into the fall and purchase supplies to keep workspaces clean and employees safe, they are strongly encouraged to place their orders through ISU's central stores. President Wendy Wintersteen included this request in her May 26 email to faculty and staff.

The central stores website features a COVID-19 "back to work essentials" website populated with products handpicked collaboratively by staff from central stores and environmental health and safety (EHS). It includes products such as disinfectants, gloves, goggles and face shields, infrared thermometer and hand sanitizer.

Cloth face coverings

Campus units also should work with central stores to reserve cloth face coverings for employees who need them when they return to work in their building. (Individual employees are asked to not reserve for themselves.) The central stores website includes a page just for this purpose. These are provided at no cost to the unit, up to two face coverings per employee. The initial batch of solid black face coverings has been distributed and the next batch will feature university colors and brand. Units should reserve quantities now so when they arrive they can be distributed quickly.

"In the current environment, coordinating these purchases will go a long way toward maximizing our price point and, more importantly, getting employees products we know will work," said EHS director Paul Richmond, who chairs the university's COVID-19 workforce protection working group. "They've been evaluated for their effectiveness -- for example, a disinfectant that is the most effective while being the least harmful to those using it."

Central stores supervisor Bill Spratt encouraged employees to stay flexible with their product requests, and to use approved products they need even when it's not the specific brands they want. For example, he said central stores has more than 200 gallons of a liquid sanitizer produced by Iowa Prison Industries that works effectively on hands and office surfaces. Is it a gel that smells like aloe? No. Does it work? Yes.

While units could find what they want from a local or online retailer, Richmond pointed to several reasons university leaders are asking the campus community to work together to secure cleaning and personal safety supplies:

  • Buying power. Central stores works closely with its vendors and can negotiate a better price by buying in bulk.
  • No scams. Demand is creating opportunity for scammers selling fake items or not fulfilling orders, and the university has seen an increase in fraud. Work with central stores to avoid being the victim of a scam.
  • FEMA tracking. The operations and finance division must track these purchases to receive Federal Emergency Management Agency reimbursement. Purchases through a central point reduce the amount of paperwork and are more efficient. Individual purchases increase the volume of documents and staff time necessary for reimbursement.
  • Proper products for the job. As mentioned, environmental health and safety worked with central stores to ensure that available cleaning supplies are safe and effective for cleaning offices and labs.

Supply chain challenges

The national supply chain is tenuous, though improving, said Jared Hohanshelt, director of logistics and support services, which includes central stores. Purchasing large quantities of certain items -- gel hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes or N95 masks for research, for example -- is difficult for everyone, not just universities.

"We ask for everyone's patience as we work to get some of these products to campus. We have contracts, and we know we're going to receive them," he said.

"People may feel pressure to have products in hand in a week or two, and we understand that anxiety. But with employees gradually returning to campus, there is still time to receive product orders. We will supply the university community with what it needs," he said.

Worktag for pandemic-related supplies

Departments and units should use the department detail DD11790 worktag for any expenses, credits and refunds directly related to the COVID-19 response. This includes cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer and other personal protective equipment outside of their routine orders. 

Five questions about mental health month

Outdoor portrait of Leslie Ginder

Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Feelings of anxiety, isolation and uncertainty seem to be common during the COVID-19 pandemic, underscoring the importance of Mental Health Month in May. Leslie Ginder, employee leave and accommodation coordinator for university human resources (UHR), talked to Inside about mental health and the resources available to Iowa State employees.

The basics

Name: Leslie Ginder

Position: Employee leave and accommodation coordinator, university human resources

Years at ISU: Nearly four

What should we know about mental health?

One important distinction is that there's a difference between having a mental health diagnosis -- like depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder -- and feeling anxious or depressed. Mental health conditions and feelings of sadness and anxiety are a normal part of the human experience. It is important to recognize, especially during a time like the COVID-19 pandemic, many people experience mental health conditions and overwhelming feelings. You are not alone.

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) estimates that in any given year, one in five U.S. adults has a diagnosable mental disorder. For our employee population at Iowa State, one in five -- 20 percent -- is at least 1,400 people who may have a diagnosable mental health condition just this year. That does not even include those in our community who are experiencing temporary overwhelming emotions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

How should we talk about mental health?

I prefer to say someone is "experiencing a mental health condition," not that someone is "suffering from a mental health condition." In an article about how words matter, the APA says to avoid using terms like "suffering" or "victim" when discussing people with mental health challenges. Someone can have a diagnosed mental illness and still be well.

Because mental health conditions display differently in different people, you may not recognize a mental health condition in another person. I prefer not to use "hidden disability" language. Instead use "not apparent."

What resources are available to Iowa State employees?

The EAP (Employee Assistance Plan) program is part of our benefits package, but it's completely separate from the health insurance plan. Employees and their families can call the EAP 24/7 phone number and get connected with mental health counseling services. EAP also provides life coaching, financial and legal support services, and elder care consultation. All EAP counseling services are free and confidential. Our employee health care through Wellmark also provides exceptional coverage for mental health counseling.

For a lot of people, myself included, who experience mental health conditions, stress management is really important for maintaining wellness. The Adventure2 program provides opportunities to connect with our ISU community. And there are cool mindfulness activities ISU WellBeing is facilitating. Mindfulness and exercise have been shown to be effective stress reducers.

The work I do with employee workplace accommodations includes assessing reasonable accommodation requests for mental health conditions. The ADA provides a framework for creativity as it relates to workplace accommodations, which allows me and my team to think outside the box when discussing possible accommodation options. The job accommodation network,, has information about what kinds of mental health conditions may qualify as a disability and ideas for potential accommodations.

FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) also is a resource. If an employee is eligible, it provides job-protected leave for care of a serious health condition, including many mental health conditions. Employees may need to provide documentation from a health care provider for FMLA and disability accommodations. 

Adventure2 and counseling services through EAP do not require employees to provide medical documentation. All of these resources continue to be available for employees, even if they are currently working remotely.

If employees find themselves experiencing a potential mental health condition, what should they do?

Wellmark has an online resource to find a provider for mental health who accepts our insurance. There is no copay for mental health visits. They can let their supervisor know or connect with their HR service delivery representative regarding resources on leave, reasonable accommodations, EAP and FMLA. If an employee does not feel comfortable reaching out to their supervisor regarding their needs, they can email HR directly and the message will be directed to a qualified HR representative who can help.

Employees do not need to tell supervisors their specific diagnosis or any information about their medical records. All they need to do is request an accommodation or leave through their supervisor or human resources service delivery team representative. The information provided for facilitation of FMLA and disability accommodations is separate from ISU performance and employee records. UHR maintains medical information securely. UHR also has developed supervisor resources about supporting employees through leave of absence and reasonable accommodations requests. 

Why is mental health awareness important?

The National Alliance on Mental Illness campaign is "You are Not Alone." As a person who experiences a mental health condition, I want employees to recognize that they are not alone. I want to increase awareness not only about mental health conditions, but the number of people we work with who likely experience mental health conditions.

It's OK to ask for help. If you think about the sheer number of people working at Iowa State and that statistic of 20 percent -- how many people that is. Mental health conditions affect people at different stages of life and different stages of their careers. Understand that if you are experiencing a mental health condition, you may feel very alone, but you're not alone. You have resources to help support you if you're having any challenges with employment-related needs.


Related stories

Online student orientation debuts next week

While they aren't being invited to experience a beautiful campus this June, thousands of incoming Cyclones will take a step closer when they begin their student orientation next week online. The new student programs staff, led by director Sarah Merrill, has organized several hours worth of orientation modules students can complete at their own speed. New students will receive an email June 1 inviting them to begin their transition to Iowa State.

Her office serves as the first point of contact, but Merrill is quick to note it's not the only one.

"It's been a true partnership across campus. People who traditionally presented at orientation -- student financial aid, student activities, public safety, all the academic units, to name a few --found a way to virtualize that," she said.

Families on board

June orientation includes modules for families, too. Merrill also noted that the parent series in the admissions office's Cyclones Connect live workshops already has high participation.

Students will complete short units to learn more about paying for college, navigating campus, living and dining on campus, diversity and inclusion, campus safety, health and wellness services, identifying ways to get involved, student expectations, their academic program and home college, and registering for classes. When they finish the set, they'll sign up for an appointment with their academic adviser and register for fall semester classes.

"The campus community has set up an excellent online program, but we know there are going to be gaps and students and families are going to have questions," Merrill said. "They're going to want to connect with someone, so we ask [faculty and staff] to continue to be open to those personal interactions.

"That's still the Cyclone touch, and a little personal attention will help students make a positive transition to Iowa State," she added.

The goal, Merrill said, is to complete online orientation and course registration by the end of June -- because there's more to do.

New role for Cyclone Aides

Typically an integral part of June orientation on campus, the peer mentors known as Cyclone Aides will really step up in July. Each aide will have a new student cohort they'll spend time with, beginning online in early July and continuing through the annual Destination Iowa State campus event Aug. 20-22. Merrill said that mentoring will include group and one-on-one online interactions to help new students prepare to succeed on campus and meet classmates.

"We're trying to help with connections before students arrive in August," she said. "The intent is that students will meet each other during this experience and continue their transition to Iowa State."

Between orientation and Destination Iowa State, Merrill said new students also will be expected to complete online modules on helpful topics such as alcohol and mental health awareness to help them get off to a good start.

The additional summer programming will replace the week of welcome proposed earlier this spring that would have preceded Destination Iowa State and included family members. Merrill said the change allows everyone involved in Destination Iowa State to focus on making it a safe and meaningful experience for new students.


New template simplifies course construction in Canvas

The instructional design team at the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) had been talking about developing a simple template for faculty to create a course in Canvas, the learning management system that launched at Iowa State in fall 2017.

Then came the coronavirus, which forced all spring semester classes online after spring break -- 6,100 courses shifting from in-person to virtual instruction in less than two weeks, a transition that relied heavily on Canvas as its usage spiked from 63% to 86%.

"The need became so very vivid," said CELT's Lesya Hassall, who creates and implements programming for online course design and development.

"The rapid changes made it rather apparent that we needed to build something soon," said Gretchen Anderson, who leads technical and pedagogical support of audience response technology for CELT.

The template is now available on Canvas, and CELT has launched individual and departmental workshops on how to use the template and a course-planning worksheet collectively called online course essentials (ONCE). CELT staff, in consultation with others across campus, constructed the easy-to-use process, which is meant to keep instructors focused on creating meaningful learning experiences instead of hashing out technical details.

"Talking to faculty and peers, listening to what they needed right now, it became obvious that we need to get the mechanics of creating an online course out of the way," Hassall said.

It doesn’t take any advanced expertise in Canvas to modify or customize the template, which is ideal for online courses but would be valuable for in-person classes as well. The simplicity and flexibility were intentional, Anderson said.

"That's something we really took into consideration as we built this," she said.

The template includes orientation and example modules to be replicated throughout the course. The modules use the standards identified as essential by Quality Matters, a nationally recognized faculty-driven organization that publishes a research-based review rubric for assessing the quality of an online course.

"Quality Matters served as a compass to make sure that we include all the must-haves," Hassall said.

Designs in the template meet digital accessibility requirements, adapt well on handheld mobile devices and include Iowa State branding -- not a necessity, but a nice touch that helps give online courses institutional identity.

"We want students to always know where they are when they're online," Anderson said.

The ONCE process includes a "plan your course" worksheet, designed to help instructors clearly connect learning objectives, activities and assessments in Canvas course modules and to demonstrate the philosophy behind the modular design, Hassall said.

"We wanted to explain exactly why it's built this way," she said.

To request a departmental or college-level workshop on the ONCE tools, submit a request online. Register via Webex for two upcoming individual workshops on June 1 and June 9. Additional workshops will be scheduled over the summer and fall and publicized on the CELT opcoming events webpage. For other questions, contact CELT at