A first-of-its-kind first day


Heat, steam, and oxygen gas rise from a volumetric flask during a demonstration in CHEM 050 class in Troxel Hall on Aug. 17, the first day of the fall semester. Chemistry lab technician Marco Benitez operates a camera at right. Photos by Christopher Gannon.

One-hundred and fifty days after in-person instruction was suspended at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, students returned to campus this week for a first day of class unlike any other. 

By design, fewer students, faculty and staff were physically present, reducing density to make physical distancing easier. Those who were on campus wore face coverings, whether they were basking in the natural light of a study space or in a classroom prepared with precautions in mind.

To ensure a successful fall, follow the pillars of Cyclones Care. Wear a face covering. Keep physically distant. Wash your hands often. Stay home if you're sick.


Michael Martin instructs his landscape architecture class during an outdoor session studying campus landscapes on Aug. 18.


Freshman Ashley Falcon (left), an undecided engineering major from West Des Moines, studies adjacent to others on the fourth floor of the Student Innovation Center on Aug. 18.


Buddhi Lamsal instructs his FS HN 471 class inside a Physics Hall auditorium on Aug. 17.


Junior Yishuen Lin, a dietetics major from Malaysia, studies while safely distancing from others outside Parks Library on Aug. 17.


Customized workbooks will deliver research financial reports to faculty

Faculty frustrated by the search demands in Workday for financial reports related to their research, take note. A months-long effort to develop customized report sets -- called workbooks -- for every ISU faculty member enters a final phase next month. During individual conversations with faculty, a grant specialist (who works with sponsored funds) and finance specialist (unsponsored funds) will explain the report options, and faculty will select what they need in their custom workbook. Finance service delivery leaders will meet with academic fiscal officers next week to discuss scheduling those conversations.

Once the workbooks are set up, the specialists will schedule an update for each workbook with that individual's data set as often as requested: weekly, monthly or quarterly. Faculty will access and read their workbook in Workday's Drive option. They'll also have the option to download it as an Excel or PDF document.

Associate vice president for finance and support services Heather Paris, who's part of the operations and finance/information technology team collaborating on the project, calls the workbook a "one-stop shop delivered to faculty with the reporting they need -- across all funding sources -- to make decisions."

Finance service delivery specialists will begin contacting faculty in September. With about 60 specialists and an estimated 1,500 researchers, Paris estimated that task will take most of fall semester.

"We see this as an opportunity to strengthen the relationship between faculty and the finance delivery specialists they work with, who can be a great source of information and assistance for them," she said.

Faculty input from the beginning

The project team worked with the Faculty Senate's executive board as it developed the workbook template in June. To test and further refine the template, the team then worked with the senate's research planning and policy committee to hold outreach sessions with faculty from each college; those are wrapping up this week.

That collaboration was critical to the process, Paris said.

"Faculty members have given us good feedback about what we can do to improve it further. But they love that they have all the data in one place, it includes all sources of funding, they can take it into Excel and they can filter it to see it in different views," she said. "It includes balance information as well as transaction detail if they want to get into the weeds.

"We can set up a workbook specific to the needs of a co-principal investigator versus a lead PI. We can include the worktags (account numbers) they need. It's really about what best meets their needs."

Game changer

A critical piece in Iowa State's search for improved faculty reporting came in May. Workday rolled out an enhancement to its Worksheet spreadsheet function that allows users to select composite -- or multiple-sourced -- reports from live data in Workday. Paris said Iowa State and other clients had been asking for this capability via Workday Community, a forum for Workday clients.

"That was a game changer for us," she said. "We knew faculty were frustrated about the time they were spending locating financial information, and that was the catalyst that allowed us to create a reporting solution for them that isn't a self-service model."

Condensed version of reports

Over the summer, Paris said the project team also looked at ways to improve the five Worksheet reports available for a faculty workbook. Based on faculty feedback that some reports simply contain too much information, the team created condensed versions for four of them. For example, the number of columns in a report is reduced by about half, focusing on the information faculty said they need. And tweaks to the format help with a consistent look from one report to the next. The five Iowa State reports available for a faculty workbook are listed below; condensed versions exist for the first four:

  • Driver Worktag Balance for PI/Faculty
  • Transaction Detail for PI/Faculty
  • Labor Summary for PI/Faculty
  • SPA PI Unspent Report
  • Faculty Startup Budget


Toyia Younger head shot

Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Toyia (TOY-uh) Younger's first day as Iowa State's new senior vice president for student affairs coincided with the first day of fall semester.

The student affairs division includes the dean of students' broad umbrella of programs and services, residence and dining, units supporting student health and wellness, the Memorial Union, NCORE/ISCORE project and the federal TRIO programs serving first-generation or income-eligible students. Student affairs collaborates with the academic affairs division on academic student success and other programs.

Younger comes to Ames from the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, Washington, D.C., where she served since 2016 as vice president for leadership development and partnerships. Previously, she served as associate vice chancellor for student affairs for Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, St. Paul, a system of seven state universities and 30 community and technical colleges (2014-16). She also served at the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, Washington, D.C., as director of student affairs in its office of academic affairs (2008-10).

Her service at schools includes as assistant provost at Towson University, Maryland (2010-14), where she helped implement an academic strategic plan, developed programs for transfer students, led the commencement committee and helped resolve student conduct cases; assistant director of outreach for the College of Education at the University of Maryland, College Park (2003-07); and director of student life at Montgomery College, Rockville, Maryland (2001-03).

Younger earned a bachelor's degree in social relations from Michigan State University, East Lansing; a master's degree in counseling from Trinity Washington University, Washington, D.C.; and a Ph.D. in education policy from the University of Maryland, College Park.

Younger's office is in 2350 Beardshear. She can be reached by email at tyounger@iastate.edu, by phone at 294-1909.

University Library adds, modifies services to assist users


Watch University Library's video highlighting its Cyclones Care precautions for fall semester.

University Library reopened earlier this month with new and modified services to help protect the health and safety of all who use it. In addition to important actions everyone can take, highlighted by Cyclones Care, library staff changed some operations in response to the pandemic. They also implemented new ways to access information.

Library materials and loans

Checkout times on library materials like books and DVDs for undergraduate students and merit staff have increased from four to 12 weeks.

"Because of COVID-19 and the fact that during the summer we were mailing things out, we decided to keep the 12-week time period. We don't want people getting caught short," said head of access services Dawn Mick.

Interlibrary loan was shelved for borrowing physical items until the end of July as many libraries closed or reduced staff because of the coronavirus. Requests are now being filled, but it can take longer because a three-day quarantine on all received items is in effect. Scanned items have been available throughout the pandemic.

As of Tuesday, about 900 libraries out of more than 1,800 across the U.S. and Canada have resumed lending, Mick said.

The library material delivery service will continue at least through the semester even though Parks Library has reopened.

Special collections and university archives

Launched this month, Aeon is the library's online request system for special collection and archive materials. It allows faculty, staff and students to request items in the collection and keeps a digital record. Copies of most materials also can be requested.

"In our old system, we gave out these carbon copy slips to help remember what people had looked at," said reference coordinator Olivia Garrison. "For students, it is really helpful to have that record of what you have looked at electronically and not have to keep track of those pieces of paper that can get lost."

Users must create an account to access Aeon or log on through Okta.

In response to the coronavirus and the need for physical distancing, access to special collections and university archives is available only by appointment 10 a.m.-noon and 1-3 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Appointments must be made at least 24 hours in advance.

The library continues to make researcher copies for individuals who are unable to come to Parks, Garrison said. Individuals can use Aeon or email requests to archives.

Accessing online resources

After spring semester ended in May, the library implemented a new interface, OpenAthens, for accessing electronic resources. Whether on- or off-campus, users need to log in via Okta the first time they access a subscription-based database, electronic journal or e-book. Those who use bookmarks to link to frequently used resources will need to replace any bookmarks created prior to May 11. 

Streaming service

This spring, the university gained full access to the Kanopy film library of more than 30,000 titles. Anyone with an ISU Card can access the streaming service free of charge.

"It is similar to Netflix, but the focus is more on independent and classic films, documentaries and educational content," said associate university librarian for scholarly communications and collections Curtis Brundy. "It really is content that fills in the areas not covered by other streaming services."

Kanopy can be streamed on a range of devices from televisions, desktops and laptops to tablets and mobile phones.

As more instruction is done online, faculty and students have greater demand for streaming content, Brundy said. Previously, the library had licensed titles through Kanopy on a case-by-case basis, a time-consuming process.

"This is a way for us to support faculty and the work they are doing in the classroom," Brundy said.


The library has added a bug in the top left corner of its webpage to alert visitors when seating is readily available.

"We installed some sensors that help us determine how many people are in the building, and how many of our seats are full," Mick said. "It helps people decide if they want to come into the building, depending how crowded it is."

An update on the COVID-19 daily symptom checker

Graphic of daily symptom check reminder

The daily Cyclones Care symptom checker rolled out this week. All students, faculty and staff -- even those working remotely -- should complete the COVID-19 self-check every morning school is in session as a good health practice. Individuals who are symptom-free may go about their regular schedule of on-campus activities. Those who report symptoms that indicate a potential COVID-19 infection should stay home and will be directed to more information about treatment or testing.

A campus team continues to tweak the daily survey based on feedback from users. Updates since Monday include:

  • Allowing users to change their preference for text or email delivery. Click the link "change how you receive the symptom checker," and you will receive an additional question to select your preferred distribution method (email or SMS/text).
  • Providing an option for those who might have symptoms similar to COVID-19 but know their symptoms are from something else, such as seasonal allergies, based on self-assessment.
  • Improving consistency on the timing of when users receive their survey each morning.


Answers to frequently asked questions about the daily symptom checker.

Faculty and staff who haven't received the daily survey should consider these troubleshooting possibilities:

  • If you have not received a survey email or the initial notification preference email (Aug. 14), check the junk folder in your @iastate.edu email account.
  • If you opted for SMS/text delivery and are not receiving your survey by text each morning, ensure your home phone number is correct in your contact information in the Workday system. It needs to be a mobile phone, not a landline. (Students and student employees can make this change in AccessPlus).

If these tips don't fix the problem, email solution@iastate.edu to open a ticket, and an IT team will investigate what might be preventing you from receiving the daily symptom checker.

Daily symptom checking is on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's list of actions that institutes of higher education can implement for healthy operations. In addition to requiring face coverings and encouraging physical distancing and frequent hand washing, a daily self-check is part of Iowa State's COVID-19 mitigation plan.

Videos are a common focus in new round of OER grants

This year's Miller Open Education Minigrants will fund nine open educational resources (OER) projects, creating free course content tailored for use in Iowa State classes and available to instructors around the world.  

After a spring in which teaching at times leaned heavily on video, more than half of the projects have a video component. In some cases, that experience may have had an impact, though many projects were in the works long before the pandemic hit, said open access and scholarly communications librarian Abbey Elder, who coordinates the grant program. The deadline to apply was mid-April.

"Some of them explicitly mentioned COVID in their applications," Elder said. "But often, this is something they've been thinking of for years and are now making a reality."

Faculty creating videos as part of their project will work with digital accessibility coordinator Cyndi Wiley to make sure the content meets accessibility requirements, Elder said.

The OER minigrant program is sponsored by the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT), University Library, and office of the senior vice president and provost. The minigrants, which are being awarded for the third year, are inspired by the Miller Faculty Fellowship Program, a CELT program funded by the Miller Endowment Trust. 

Elder said the minigrants are a key way to support faculty in creating OER, which saves students money and can support innovative teaching methods. Encouraging faculty to use freely licensed instructional materials, whether custom content or existing OER created by others, is an initiative backed by the Faculty Senate, the provost's office, the library and Student Government. Faculty who receive a grant are featured in the trailblazers section of the university's OER website.

Here are summaries of the 2020-21 minigrants, along with a statement from the faculty recipients about the project.

Eunjin Bahng, associate professor in the School of Education, and John Hauptman, professor of physics and astronomy

Humanizing science through STEAM challenges

  • Course: EDUC 449, Teaching of Science
  • Description: Bahng and Hauptman will produce STEM and the arts (STEAM) videos for K-5 students and short videos about scientists with various backgrounds. The former will be made in collaboration with teachers of science, technology, engineering and math in rural Iowa, and the latter by Iowa State elementary teacher candidates. 
  • Amount: $4,100
  • Quote: "We are mostly excited about community connections, peer-mentoring, and the creativity of science teachers in meaningfully placing the arts in STEM learning and teaching."


Anson Call, associate professor of graphic design

Developing OER videos for 3D motion graphics

  • Course: ARTGR 463/563, 3D Motion Graphics
  • Description: Call is developing video tutorials to bring subjects to life in an engaging way. Call's tutorials will be both pedagogically strong and focused on the course subject, aspects that available videos lack.
  • Amount: $4,000
  • Quote: "I'm excited to show graphic design in motion in a way that is exciting for my students but also accessible to a wider audience."


Yongyeon Cho, assistant professor of interior design

Tutorials of visual graphic communication programs for interior design

  • Course: ARTID 263, Graphic Communication for Interior Design II
  • Description: Cho will develop modular text, image and video tutorials to support students' understanding of three major computer graphic applications: AutoCAD, Revit and Enscape. The hybrid materials could help students with different learning styles.
  • Amount: $4,220
  • Quote: "Typically, graphic software learning requires direct interactions between students and instructors in a lab. Because of COVID-19, I am developing tutorials that could be optimized for online learning and a flipped classroom."


Kate Gilbert, associate teaching professor, and Ken Prusa, professor, food science and human nutrition

Creating instructional materials to improve the product development experience

  • Course: FS HN 412, Food Product Development
  • Description: Gilbert and Prusa have been teaching FS HN 412 for years as an innovative, team project-based course. They will publish an open textbook through ISU Digital Press and craft interactive exercises in ThinkSpace, a courseware platform developed at Iowa State.
  • Amount: $4,000
  • Quote: "We don't know what the spring semester will look like, so having the modules students can learn from and complete outside of lab time will provide needed flexibility for our capstone course."


Shan Jiang, assistant professor of materials science and engineering

An illustrated lab book and demos for polymer courses

  • Course: MAT E 453/553, Physical and Mechanical Properties of Polymers
  • Description: Jiang is developing an illustrated lab book to walk students through experiments with step-by-step images and videos. These materials may serve as teaching materials for other polymer courses as well, particularly MAT E 350, Polymers and Polymer Engineering.
  • Amount: $5,000
  • Quote: "The new materials will greatly enhance the learning experience for students. It also provides new ideas to help deliver lab courses in a virtual environment."


Tim Kochem, doctoral student in English; Lily Compton, graduate communication programs coordinator for the Center for Communication Excellence (CCE); and Elena Cotos, associate professor of English and CCE director

Intelligibility-based oral communication resources for teaching nonnative English speakers

  • Course: ENGL 180 A-D, Communication Skills for International Teaching Assistants
  • Description: For over three years, Kochem, Compton and Cotos have been generating oral communication training materials and activities for international graduate students. The team will combine and refine that content in an interactive textbook.
  • Amount: $5,000
  • Quote: "ISU Digital Press empowers us to create our project as a progressive, evolutionary process. We can continuously re-mold our materials to best serve the populations they are intended for."


Corinna Most, adjunct assistant professor of ecology, evolution and organismal biology

Biological and premedical illustration students’ anatomical drawings for BIOL 351

  • Course: BIOL 351, Comparative Chordate Anatomy
  • Description: Biological and premedical illustration (BPMI) students will create anatomical digital drawings of the specimens studied in the lab sections of BIOL 351.
  • Amount: $5,000
  • Quote: "I see this project as a win-win-win! The students in BIOL 351 benefit from having an updated and improved lab handbook; the BPMI students get the chance to produce material for a university course and add a paid experience to their CV; and ISU gets to showcase the quality of both our biology and our BPMI majors by making these materials open access."


Megan Myers, associate professor of world languages and cultures

At home and abroad: Languages and cultures for the professions graduate experiences

  • Course: SPAN 304, Spanish for Global Professionals
  • Description: Myers' project will connect students to alumni through video testimonials and assessments. These videos will feature graduates of the languages and cultures for the professions (LCP) program.
  • Amount: $3,250
  • Quote: "Students often enroll in the LCP program because they recognize the importance of seeing themselves (and presenting themselves to future employers) as culturally competent global citizens, but they don't often get to see other students who've taken a similar professional trajectory and been successful. These video shorts -- linked to course objectives -- will allow students to virtually connect with past graduates and global professionals around the world."


Walter Suza, adjunct associate professor of agronomy

Integrating OER in AGRON 320

  • Course: AGRON 320, Genetics, Agriculture and Biotechnology
  • Description: Building on his experience creating online modules for teaching crop breeding to African students, Suza will create an open textbook that takes an interdisciplinary approach to genetics and biotechnology for agriculture.
  • Amount: $5,000
  • Quote: "The pandemic has created immense financial difficulties for many. The genetics OER will save our students and their families some cash while providing relevant and up-to-date educational resources.”

Renaming committee begins its work

Iowa State's Committee to Establish Principles on Renaming held its first meeting Aug. 4. President Wendy Wintersteen appointed the committee last month and tasked it with developing a university policy to ensure a consistent, evidence-based and historically thoughtful means by which to evaluate historical naming and honors.

The 20-member group is led by Reg Stewart, vice president for diversity and inclusion, and Carol Faber, Faculty Senate president and associate professor of graphic design. The committee plans to complete its work by the end of fall semester.

As a first step, Stewart and Faber directed committee members to review Stanford University's set of principles and procedures, and begin to consider how an Iowa State draft policy might look.

Adopted in 2018, the Stanford policy is one example for renaming buildings and other features. Committee member Daniel Hartwig, head of the library's special collections and university archives, served as university archivist at Stanford when its renaming policy was created. Hartwig shared some of his past experience and background with the committee.

Stewart and Faber shared other examples of similar policy efforts at Oklahoma State University, Yale University, University of Michigan, University of Minnesota and Oregon State University. Committee members were encouraged to share other resources, insights or information that would be useful to developing a policy for Iowa State.

Committee members reviewed current policies on the process to name university property established by either the state Board of Regents or the university. These policies are linked on the committee's web site. The committee also received information on the university policy development and approval process.