Great cold-morning jobs

Jeff Schreck works on an oil change on a lawnmower tractor

Photos by Christopher Gannon.

What do our employees with largely outdoor duties do when the windchill plummets to -35 degrees? University photographer Christopher Gannon found out Tuesday morning.

Above, groundskeeper Jeff Schreck changes the oil on a lawnmower tractor inside the shop at the General Services Building. The campus services team works on repairs and regular maintenance of equipment and machinery during winter's coldest snaps.

Below, a campus services team removes snow piles from Lot 37 northeast of Science Hall. When it's too cold for snow to melt, crews remove some of it  -- a lot of it, this winter -- to keep the parking lots useable for permit holders and delivery drivers. Snow from central campus ends up in the open field east of Haber Road, north of the railroad tracks, where its melting pace is less urgent.

Brrrrrrr . . .


Front loader and dump truck remove snow piles from campus lot

Proposed 2021-22 calendar includes a winter session

Senior vice president and provost Jonathan Wickert told the Faculty Senate Feb. 16 that the 2021-22 academic calendar would include another winter session, pending state Board of Regents approval.

The first, five-week winter session at ISU was possible due to a pandemic-modified 2020-21 academic calendar in which the fall semester ended before Thanksgiving. Next year's proposed academic calendar would see the return of Thanksgiving and spring breaks.

"We heard a lot of concerns about the impact of not having the Thanksgiving break so students could get additional work done on end-of-semester projects," said associate provost Ann Marie VanDerZanden. 

Prior to the addition of a winter session, the upcoming fall semester was set to begin Aug. 23, with Thanksgiving break Nov. 22-26 and final exams ending Dec. 16. Adjustments to that calendar still are under consideration.


Faculty Senate president Carol Faber addressed several bills proposed by the Iowa Legislature. She focused on a bill to end tenure at regents universities or its use at community colleges, and a bill to survey regent university employees on their political party affiliation.

The regents and other lobbyists are working diligently behind the scenes to inform the Legislature of the importance of tenure, she said.

"There is a comprehensive legislative strategy by all three universities and the Board of Regents," Wickert said. "This work is happening every day and every hour, and is at the top of [President Wendy Wintersteen's] activities right now. You don't see it, but a lot of this is individual work or being done in meetings."

He told senators the bills' future will be clearer after March 5, the Legislature's first bill funnel date.


New vice president for research Peter Dorhout told senators he has spent much of his three-plus weeks on campus visiting with campus leaders and listening. He shared three key goals of his office:

  • Promote a vibrant and supportive environment for scholarly and artistic endeavors.
  • Foster ethical conduct in research.
  • Integrate the research mission with ISU's education, outreach and engagement missions.

Dorhout also presented his vision for assisting research at the university:

  • Support research environments that create, apply and share knowledge.
  • Develop, manage and be transparent about investments, strategies and business models for research.
  • Provide educational leadership for comprehensive training in safe, effective and ethical research practices as well as a diverse research environment.
  • Display a servant leadership and partnership.
  • Facilitate key collaborative, interdisciplinary partnerships across the university.
  • Lead state and federal officials in conversations that advance the university and its stakeholders.

"How do we identify and go after the resources that are going to support the research enterprise across campus?" he asked. "That is a leadership role I have taken on, but it is a team effort."

Dorhout said he wants to reduce the administrative burden for faculty in grants management and make sure their voice is heard.

"We will listen to your challenges, understanding what it is that we need to improve and involve you in that process," he said. 

Student affairs

Senior vice president for student affairs Toyia Younger also introduced herself to the senate. She said her division focuses on student development and engagement; connection, collaboration and communication; diversity, inclusion and social justice; and holistic health, wellness and safety of students and staff.

"We are very aware of the needs of the staff," Younger said. "We provide direction and services to ensure our staff are their best selves when helping students."

Younger said the focus for this academic year has been on five priorities:

  • Safety, health and well-being
  • Student success
  • Diversity, equity and inclusion
  • Assessment and research
  • Staff development and retention

Other business

Some senators expressed concern over in-person instruction this semester in light of the new COVID-19 variants. Faber shared new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about using and wearing proper face coverings.

Engineering solutions to keep labs, learning going during pandemic

Grawe and Braga

Materials science and engineering lab supervisor Michelle Grawe, left, and teaching laboratory specialist Ryan Braga implemented technology and safety measures that have kept labs open and safe for research and lab courses. Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Monitoring numerous labs with scaled-back users in response to the COVID-19 pandemic brought some unexpected exercise for materials science and engineering teaching laboratory specialist Ryan Braga.

The pandemic forced many researchers and the faculty who teach in the labs to abruptly pack up and leave campus last March. But labs couldn't be completely ignored, and that is when Braga began pounding the pavement.


For their service and innovation, Michelle Grawe and Ryan Braga received a COVID-19 Exceptional Effort Award for exemplary student support.

"I went around checking each lab every day," Braga said. "I had to make sure every lab was OK, there were no water leaks, doors were locked and address any other issues."

His daily walk through Hoover and Gilman halls to check 29 labs covered more than a mile.

Pivoting on the fly

When the university moved to virtual instruction in the spring, numerous decisions had to be made about labs.

"We have a lot of people who have independent access to our labs -- students, grad students and faculty," lab supervisor Michelle Grawe said. "We had to decide who would keep access, and our research faculty had to decide if they would keep their research going. We also support those labs."

Those who continued to conduct research followed strict safety protocol with face coverings, physical distancing and restrictions on the number of people in the lab.

"For a while, we were having people cycle through the lab by themselves so there would only be one person working at a time because we just weren't sure," Grawe said.

Braga and Grawe also became even more hands-on over the short term to help undergraduates and their instructors successfully complete the semester or, in some cases, shut down projects.

"When they couldn't be in the room to run the experiments, we cranked out some numbers for them so they would have that to work with," Braga said.

As faculty, staff and students left campus, a new reality took hold.

"I think for much of the world everything ramped down, and for us, everything just ramped up," Grawe said.

Planning for fall

Determining how to bring students back into the lab safely for fall semester began during the summer with a committee led by materials science and engineering professor Alex King.

"It was basically just a conversation about how we were going to help the students, and the different things we could do and innovate," Grawe said. "It was all so we could have as much in-person learning as possible, as safely as possible."

Grawe began by enhancing safety protocols already in place in labs where daily risks were present long before the pandemic added another difficult layer. The medical community informed much of that: wearing personal protective equipment, limiting the number of people in labs and keeping them properly spaced, working with the same people and accommodating those with health needs.

Grawe also mapped each lab and designated stations where a limited number of people could work. She also organized lab safety gear.

"In our teaching labs we used to just share lab coats and safety glasses," Grawe said. "So we now have a system with numbered lab coats for each student and their own safety glasses. Each lab coat was sprayed down daily with a hospital-grade cleaner."

To aid contact tracing, teaching assistants recorded student movement by taking photographs after anyone moved to a different area. Those pictures were uploaded to a file and could be referenced if someone became ill to determine who their close contacts were.

Grawe and Braga also are responsible for training others on and servicing the equipment in the labs. They had to work out their own best practices to do those tasks as safely as possible.


It no longer was possible to have 10 to 15 students crowding around a single piece of equipment, so the department went to work designing a solution. The result was three technology carts that could respond to the impact of the pandemic. Braga collected cameras, computers, software and other easily accessible technology to build a mobile learning center. Each cart enabled images of an instrument as well as the individual using it to be projected on a screen in that room, a room down the hall or to a student's computer logging in online.

"It was determining how we would respond to different levels of lockdown," Braga said. "It was from 'everything is working great' to 'what if everyone had to leave the lab again?' How do we make it valuable for the students?"

The carts continue to be used, and instructors are able to go from room to room and remain connected with students through web cameras and speakers. It's beneficial when a lab section might have 18 students, but only eight to 10 are allowed in a room because of physical distancing. 

To better serve graduate students, Grawe and Braga transformed a small conference room into a studio where they could record or livestream with greater quality. Green screen and picture-in-picture were two options used during fall semester that improve lectures for both instructors and students.

"With students watching remotely, this provides a better quality experience that will continue to be important going forward," Braga said.

Graduate students working as teaching assistants helped extend lab hours so students could complete projects and provided a needed assist to the lab staff.

Beyond the pandemic

Some of the technology that was vital this fall likely will become permanent fixtures in labs. The ability to save recorded lectures and experiments also will enhance future teaching within the department, Grawe said.

The pandemic made the department rethink some procedures that now have become staples.

"There are a lot of times in history where things have gone sideways, and that has been a time of innovation and moving forward in the long run," she said.

New central portal connects ServiceNow content across campus

Whether you’re requesting assistance or finding your own answers, getting help is getting a little bit easier.  

With the launch of Workday and improved service delivery in 2019, information technology services (ITS) and specialists in human resources and finance began using the ServiceNow platform for receiving and responding to service requests. In 2020, all three groups (ITS in April, HR in August, finance and planning in October) launched portals on the platform, offering how-to guidance in "knowledge base" articles. The ITS portal also allows ISU students, faculty and staff to order equipment or request services.

Joining the platform

If you're interested in using ServiceNow in your unit or department, request a consultation with ITS.

Between those three units and a handful of others on campus, there are about 800 public and private knowledge base articles -- a number that's continuously growing, said Jason Shuck, ITS systems operations manager. A new campuswide portal -- the ISU Service Portal -- allows the ISU community to query all of that information in one search. Before, you could only search in individual portals.

"You don't need to know exactly where to look. You can just go to one location and get everything," Shuck said.

Building a gateway that offers a global search of all of the university's ServiceNow content was the plan from the get-go when ISU adopted the platform, Shuck said. When looking at how other institutions used ServiceNow, ITS staff explored their campuswide portals.

"We were thinking, 'OK, someday we want that,'" he said. "But it would have been awkward to launch a campus portal with only one subject in it. Now that there is more content on there, it is beginning to provide a lot of value."

The importance likely will grow as more units begin to take advantage of ServiceNow. The Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching is using the platform for some of its articles, and Shuck said ITS has spoken with some colleges about how it could be useful for storing and sharing their information internally.

"We see a lot of future here," Shuck said.

Searches on the ISU Service Portal will only show content users are authorized to view, said Michael Lohrbach, ITS director of enterprise services and customer success. Deciding who should have access to a knowledge base article or service request option is part of the process of adding them to the system. Some articles don't require the user to even be logged in, such as the how-to on setting up a Net-ID.

Units already posting articles in ServiceNow may expand their usage in the future. Finance and planning, for instance, will begin offering in-portal service requests starting next month.

"Knowledge base articles are a good place to start, and over time service requests can be added," Lohrbach said.

All of an individual’s service incidents and requests managed in ServiceNow, including those handled by the ITS Solution Center and HR and finance service teams, are visible in any of the platform's portals, including the ISU Service Portal. When signed in, click on your name in the upper right corner of a portal and select "My Dashboard" to see requests and incidents.

To find the ISU Service Portal, go to your Okta login page, which includes a tile linking to the portal.

What our undergraduates are studying

One-third of Iowa State's undergraduate students this spring claim one of 10 majors. Mechanical engineering, kinesiology and health, and animal science hold the top three spots, respectively, as they have for numerous years.

Additionally, there are 1,192 freshmen and sophomores listed in "pre-business" -- not a degree-granting major but the holding place for a significant group of undergraduates. Top-enrollment majors were compiled for Inside by the registrar's office.

The top majors vary significantly in a gender breakout. The top two enrolled majors for female undergraduates -- animal science and elementary education -- don't crack the top 10 among males. The top male-enrolled major (and top overall), mechanical engineering, snuck in at No. 10 on the female undergraduates' list.

Among this spring's 24,482 undergraduate students, 56% (13,736) identify as male and 44% (10,746) identify as female.

Spring 2021: Top 10 undergraduate majors*


All students

Female students

Male students


Mechanical engineering

Animal science

Mechanical engineering


Kinesiology and health

Elementary education

Aerospace engineering


Animal science 884

Kinesiology and health

Software engineering 617


Aerospace engineering


Computer science


Software engineering




Elementary education

Apparel merchandising and design

Computer engineering




Electrical engineering 414



Event management

Kinesiology and health



Animal ecology

Civil engineering


Computer science

Mechanical engineering






*Reflects students' first major only


25 Year Club takes individual approach for this year's honorees

Due to the pandemic, the 25 Year Club won't hold its 86th annual banquet as planned March 1 to honor Iowa State employees who have worked at the university for notably lengthy and continuous stints. But the honorees still will have a chance to enjoy a meal acknowledging their service. 

"While unfortunate, canceling our annual banquet was a necessary precaution as we adhere to Cyclones Care behaviors on campus," said Deb Vance, president of the 25 Year Club and the assistant director of the International Students and Scholars Office.

The 137 employees to be recognized this year for their work anniversaries achieved in 2020 -- 75 newcomers employed at Iowa State for 25 continuous years, 49 for 35 years, nine for 45 years and four for 50 years -- are eligible to receive a $50 voucher to dine at one of numerous Ames restaurants.

Honorees will receive an email next week with more information about signing up for the voucher. TIAA, which has been the primary sponsor for the club's annual banquet for several years, will provide financial support for the vouchers.

There will be no virtual ceremony, though honorees will receive a note of appreciation from President Wendy Wintersteen as well as an award for their years of service -- a pen, paperweight, tumbler or plaque -- and a discount coupon from the ISU Book Store. Honorees also will be asked to contribute favorite memories or milestones from their years of service at Iowa State, with a selection to be highlighted on the club’s website.

Club officers are optimistic that the banquet will be back as usual next year. In fact, the date is already on the calendar: Feb. 28, 2022, in the Scheman Building.

The club's efforts uphold a tradition that's more than a century old. The 25 Year Club traces its roots to an informal convocation in 1915 and was formally founded in 1934 by Col. Harold Pride, the first director of the Memorial Union. Over its long history, more than 3,400 university employees have become members of the club, which requires at least 25 years of continuous service to join.

"Some of the great Iowa Staters of the past, with names like Curtiss, Buchanan, Marston, Knapp, Davidson and more, knew that it's important to recognize years of dedicated service to the university, and we do, too," said Vance. "That's the tradition we carry on, to honor the long-serving women and men of the faculty and staff who personify Iowa State University."

ISCORE eyes growth in virtual format

Like many university traditions in this pandemic year, ISCORE -- the 21st annual Iowa State Conference on Race and Ethnicity -- will move to a virtual platform to keep presenters and attendees safe. ISCORE director Japannah Kellogg also sees the change as a solution to the event's capacity constraints in the Memorial Union the last year two years, when attendance hit 1,200. He said he anticipates a hybrid format for ISCORE in the future.

The ISCORE planning team recruited the same number of breakout sessions this year -- about 45 -- but Kellogg is optimistic the virtual format allows more students and employees to take part. Earlier this week, registration already had cleared 1,000.

ISCORE Champions

Each year, two Iowa State colleges serve as primary NCORE-ISCORE Champions to help promote integration and opportunity across the university community. Engineering dean Sam Easterling and Design dean Luis Rico-Gutierrez will help open the conference Wednesday and Thursday, respectively, showcasing college achievements.

ISCORE will begin at 8:45 a.m. Thursday and Friday, March 4-5. Students, faculty and staff who applied will present on their research and experiences related to race and ethnicity, with sessions wrapping up by 1 p.m. Thursday and 2 p.m. Friday.

A seventh annual preconference "of employees, for employees," as Kellogg termed it, will be held Wednesday, March 3 (10:45 a.m.- 4 p.m.). A panel of employees who participated in recent NCORE (National Conference on Race and Ethnicity held each May) and the follow-up Professional Development Academy back on campus, will share their experiences during Wednesday's opening session.

Each of the three days features two to four breakout session slots and a keynote presentation:

  • Wednesday, 3 p.m.: Katy Swalwell, associate professor in the School of Education
  • Thursday, 11 a.m.: Novotny Lawrence, associate professor in the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication
  • Friday, noon: Michael Benitez, vice president for diversity and inclusion at Metropolitan State University, Denver, national speaker and author, and Iowa State alumnus

Senior vice president for student affairs Toyia Younger, who started in her new post on the first day of fall semester and will take in her first ISCORE, will close the conference Friday (2 p.m.).

"Student affairs is at the heart of ISCORE and hearing from our students especially is a tremendous opportunity," Kellogg said, "but partnerships and collaboration across campus are why ISCORE has stood the test of time."

Maximize your ISCORE

"After the summer we had, with the current social unrest and the political insurrection at the U.S. Capitol last month, we have to do something to keep the conversation going and try to understand and appreciate the value of our human differences," Kellogg said.

He encourages all ISCORE goers to "do some prep and some follow-up" to get the most out of a virtual ISCORE event. He hopes participants will "be deliberate about what sessions they attend and find someone to process the conversation with.

"ISCORE will provide an array of topics, some of which won't fit everyone's job tasks, but if you and your colleagues have a conversation about what you heard, it gives your department a common experience," he said. "Continuing the conversation is what ISCORE is all about."

He also noted ISCORE participants may complete their own professional development action plan during or after the conference.

How to register

Participants need to register in advance for ISCORE sessions in Whova, an event management website. Sessions will be streamed on Zoom via Whova. Registration for both the employee preconference (March 3) and ISCORE (March 4-5) will close Monday, March 1.

New ombuds officer joins team serving ISU employees

Jai ("JAY-ah") Calloway joins Chuck Doran at the MWI firm providing ombuds services to Iowa State employees, effective Feb. 15.

The university's ombuds services are an informal resource for employees to resolve university-related matters. Services are are independent, neutral and confidential.

Jai Calloway head shot


Calloway serves as an external organizational ombuds for small businesses across numerous industries and previously served as corporate ombuds for Halliburton Oil Services, Houston. She earned a master's in dispute resolution from the Straus Institute of Dispute Resolution at Pepperdine University's Caruso School of Law, Malibu, California, and serves as chair of the International Ombuds Association's diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging task force.

In addition to her work as an ombuds, Calloway consults on organizational development, focusing on conflict resolution, employee engagement, and diversity and inclusion.

ISU employees may contact Calloway:

She succeeds Dina Eisenberg, who has accepted a position as senior director of ombuds services at Twitter. Doran said his team has been working to ensure that members of the ISU community see no disruption in service.


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