A scenic walk to class

Grace Hatchitt enjoys her walk near blooming Siberian squill

College of Design freshman Grace Hatchitt captures her own photo of the blooming Siberian squill surrounding the Knoll during her commute to class Monday. Photo by Christopher Gannon.


Digital course content saved students $5.6 million in 2020-21

Student savings from digital course content increased sharply this year, boosted in part by the temporary pandemic-driven shift to online instruction. 

Thanks to faculty using free open educational resources (OER) or lower-cost digital materials through ISU Book Store's immediate access program, students this fall and spring paid a combined $5.6 million less than they would have spent buying a physical textbook or the course materials OER replaced.

That's $1.8 million more than the 2019-20 savings through OER and immediate access, a well-timed gain given the financial difficulties many students and their families have faced during the pandemic, said Abbey Elder, open access and scholarly communication librarian.

"The cost of textbooks became insurmountable for a lot more students this year," she said.

Digital becoming the norm

Interested in immediate access?

Any course material students are required to buy likely can be offered via immediate access. Interested faculty should contact Heather Dean or John Wierson at the ISU Book Store. To aid negotiations, consult with the bookstore before informing a publisher about a selected textbook.  

About $5 million of the savings came from immediate access, which provides digital versions of commercially published course materials at steep discounts off the shelf price. That's up from $3.5 million the year before and $2.5 million in 2018-19, a spike that ISU Book Store assistant director Heather Dean attributes partially to increased faculty familiarity due to the pivot online. But immediate access was already on an upward swing, she said.

That's not solely because of the lower costs for students. Materials are automatically delivered via Canvas to every enrolled student, unless they proactively opt out, so instructors are assured all students will have the course content, publishers enjoy higher per-class sales rates and the process is more convenient for students.

"It is becoming more of the norm," Dean said. "I'm grateful our program was already established before the pandemic."

As more faculty use immediate access, the savings mount. The bookstore negotiates immediate access costs with publishers, and more courses adds leverage, Dean said.

"The more we participate, the lower we can get the prices," she said. 

Added experience

Interested in OER?

Faculty interested in open education resources should contact Abbey Elder at the University Library. Consultations are available. Apply online for a Miller Open Education Mini-Grant by April 18.  

Students savings via OER also hit a new high this year at a little more than $550,000, Elder said. That's up from about $275,000 in 2019-20 and nearly $120,000 in 2018-19. 

Elder said about one-third of the savings over those three years come from courses that benefited from a Miller Open Education Mini-Grant, an annual program to help faculty select, adapt or create OER. Mini-grant projects were the main source of increased savings this year, she said.

The pandemic set the stage for future OER growth. As part of the increased reliance on online instruction during the pandemic, faculty for the first time were required to have a presence on Canvas for each course. Additional exposure to the learning management system and the experience and training faculty received in adapting curriculum for online instruction could have a lasting impact. Elder said she's noticed a difference in the applications for this year's round of mini-grants, which are due April 18. 

"A lot more people are being thoughtful about what it takes to do this work now that they've been through the online pivot. They've developed modular content to put their courses on Canvas," Elder said.  

Broad cooperation

Elder and Dean co-chair the university's open and affordable education committee, which encourages use of free and low-cost course materials to support innovative teaching methods. It's rewarding to see those efforts pay off, Dean said. 

"I feel like we're making a huge dent in solving the problem of textbook prices," she said.

In addition to OER and immediate access, the University Library's course reserves service makes class content available to students for free. Library staff supported 133 courses with the service in the fall semester alone, Elder said.

The affordability initiative takes cooperation from a wide variety of partners beyond the bookstore and library, including the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, information technology services, procurement and accounts receivable, Dean said.

"There's a huge network of people on campus making this happen," she said.

Sign up now: Help needed for mass push to vaccinate students, faculty and staff

Nurse Kori Grooms administers a COVID-19 vaccine

Kori Grooms, senior nurse at the Ames Laboratory, administers a COVID-19 vaccine to ISU Dining cook Patrick Lanning April 2 at the State Gym vaccination clinic. Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Vaccinating thousands of members of the campus community for COVID-19 in the final weeks of the spring semester -- including employees -- will depend on hundreds of faculty and staff pitching in to help.

Nearly 750 full-day, nonclinical shifts need to be filled to operate the large-scale vaccination clinic that will begin operating out of State Gym next week, President Wendy Wintersteen and senior vice presidents Jonathan Wickert, Toyia Younger and Pam Cain announced in an April 8 memo. The clinic is scheduled to run 8 a.m.-5 p.m. on 17 days over the next four weeks: April 15-16, April 20-23, April 26-May 1 and May 3-7. Clinic dates may change based on vaccine supply.

With all Iowans age 16 and older eligible to receive the vaccine as of April 5 and Gov. Kim Reynolds prioritizing the vaccination of college students before spring classes are finished, Iowa State on April 6 announced plans to vaccinate as many undergraduate, graduate and professional students as possible before spring classes were finished, preferably with the one-dose Johnson & Johnson shot. 

The April 8 announcement expanded eligibility for the mass vaccination effort, allowing ISU faculty, staff and post-docs to sign up to receive the vaccine. All students and employees will receive information in the coming days about how to sign up to be vaccinated. Though the university will provide vaccines to employees, those who have an opportunity to receive a vaccine from another authorized provider should still do so.

While vaccines at the State Gym clinic will be administered by health professionals, faculty, staff, post-docs and graduate assistants are needed in four different roles to make the clinic a success:

  • Wayfinding: Manage waiting lines and direct patients to open registration and vaccination stations. Work is done on-site while standing. Training is provided before each shift. 
  • Registration: Check in patients. Work is done on-site while sitting behind a clear barrier. Requires advance training, including a two-hour, in-person session.
  • Observation: Assist health staff with visually monitoring patients for rare adverse reactions. Work is done on-site while standing. Training is provided before each shift. 
  • Data entry: Transcribe data from paper forms into an online vaccination database. Work is done off-site by employees who have an ISU-issued computer and reliable internet. Requires advance training, including a two-hour online session.

For more information and to sign up for shifts, go to the COVID-19 vaccination clinic support webpage. To reduce training needs, employees should sign up for at least two shifts and limit their work to one type of role. Employees should check with their supervisor immediately if they are interested in helping and sign up as quickly as possible.

"We know this past year has been incredibly challenging, and the challenges are not over yet. This vaccination effort is critically important to our plans to return to a vibrant campus experience. With your commitment, resilient spirit, and can-do attitude, we will continue to overcome any obstacle," senior leaders said in the April 8 memo.

Shifts taken at the clinic are considered working hours for ISU employees and are only available in full-day increments (7:30 a.m.-5 p.m.). Snacks and a lunch break will be provided, along with a gift card to cover the cost of lunch at an ISU Dining location in the Union Drive Community Center. For more detailed information, see a university human resources FAQ.

Students workers can sign up for clinic shifts, if they are available for the whole day and their supervisor approves. Emeritus professors and partners of employees interested in volunteering without compensation may send a request to isuvolunteer@iastate.edu.

Cyclones Care mitigation measures such as wearing a face covering and maintaining physical distance will be strictly enforced at the vaccination clinic, as they have been at the university's COVID-19 testing clinic. There was been no evidence of COVID-19 being transmitted at the ISU testing site.

For the university's most updated information about vaccines, see its vaccination webpage.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was updated to reflect the release of the April 8 memo. 

Faculty senators learn more about Workday Student

Senators learned about Workday Student and Workday Receivables and the role faculty can play as they are implemented over four years during the April 7 Faculty Senate meeting.

Vice president and chief information officer Kristen Constant and Steve Mickelson, special advisor for student information systems in the office of the senior vice president and provost, are co-leads on the project and provided a summary of the modernizing of the student information system and receivables.

Advisory groups will be formed for faculty, students, Graduate College, research, receivables, advising and student support.

"We would like your involvement in helping us build this system from the ground up," Constant said. "The advisory groups have yet to be constructed, but we would like your advice so we make sure we have broad representation."

To evaluate the current student, faculty and staff experience, focus groups will be formed to better understand challenges and how they can be addressed in the new system, Constant said.

New committee

Senators will vote at the April 20 meeting on a proposal for a new committee under the academic affairs council to oversee the U.S. diversity course requirement. It would review and approve courses proposed to satisfy the requirement for undergraduates. Each college would have a department chair and a faculty member on the committee. The senior vice president for student affairs, an associate vice president of student affairs and representatives from Student Government, the Multicultural Student Leadership Council and the Graduate and Professional Student Senate would be nonvoting committee members.


Senior vice president and provost Jonathan Wickert discussed President Wendy Wintersteen's April 6 memo about a mass vaccination clinic for students. He urged senators and members of their departments to volunteer to provide nonclinical staffing support. Wickert said he and members of his staff would fill several shifts each.


Senators observed a moment of silence for two members of the Iowa State Crew Club who died during a boating accident at Little Wall Lake on March 28.

Other business

During the meeting, senators also approved:

  • A master of arts in teaching for mathematics education major in the College of Human Sciences. The 12-month program is recognized as an initial teacher preparation program at the graduate level, and aids students with a bachelor's degree seeking a license to teach secondary education.

  • A master of arts in teaching for secondary education major in the College of Human Sciences. The degree would provide evidence on students' transcripts of significant work done for another program as they seek license as a secondary teacher.

  • A secondary major in education in conjunction with a major offering a teacher preparation program. It recognizes the work done by students who plan to become educators, an advantage in job searches.

  • A bachelor of business administration in the Ivy College of Business. The online degree targets working professionals with at least 45 college credits who want to complete a four-year degree in business while working full time.

  • A bachelor of science in human resource management (HRM) in the Ivy College of Business. It would move HRM from a track in the management major to its own major, and provide greater expertise and training for students to be immediately employable. ISU would be the first regents university to offer it.

  • A minor in cyber-physical systems in the mechanical engineering, electrical and computer engineering, and aerospace engineering departments. It would be the first minor of its kind in Iowa. Three required three-credit courses would be developed for this 15-credit minor.

  • Changes to the drop limit policy that allow students -- regardless of what grade they enter the university -- to drop a maximum of five classes. Lecture and laboratory courses that must be taken concurrently would be considered one course drop.

Senators will vote at their next meeting on:

  • Changes to the Faculty Handbook on student outcomes assessment as a result of the approval of the outcomes communication, information literacy, critical thinking and problem solving and global citizenship. It ensures programs remain compliant ahead of the next Higher Learning Commission review in 2025.

  • The 24-credit beef cattle production management, equine science and management, and swine production management certificates in the animal science department. Students will have expertise in science and technology applications of their chosen discipline. They provide clear path to specialize and document training and expertise in an area that is not offered as a major or minor.

  • A 15-credit interdisciplinary minor in preservation and cultural heritage allowing undergraduates to learn about the subject. A graduate certificate was created in 2017. Currently, three universities in the Midwest offer the minor, none in Iowa.

  • A minor in fashion, culture, history and social justice in the apparel, events and hospitality management department. The 15-credit minor helps students understand fashion history and cultural studies, and gives them an increased awareness of individuals who historically experience oppression and marginalization.

  • A discontinuation of the master of school mathematics program due to steadily declining enrollment. The elimination of collective bargaining for Iowa teachers has lessened the need for high school teachers to obtain a master degree.

  • A change in the repeated courses policy to increase the limit of credits that can be considered from 15 to 18. Repeated courses initially taken for grade must be repeated as a graded course, but courses taken pass-not pass can be repeated as graded or pass-not pass.

  • An update to the graduation with distinction policy that would add satisfactory-fail courses in the 50 course-credit minimum candidates for a bachelor's degree must have.

New student orientation comes in a hybrid package for 2021

While her team achieved nearly 100% participation with virtual orientation last summer, new student programs director Sarah Merrill is excited to offer a day on campus to students and families this year. Granted, it's an optional piece of orientation, but it's a step in the right direction, she said.

"For those who want to put their feet in the grass, get inside academic buildings, meet each other, talk with a Cyclone Aide -- they'll have that option," she said. "There still are a lot of students deciding if they'll attend Iowa State, so we're hoping this on-campus experience will be an enhancement for them to feel confident and excited about their decision to be a Cyclone."

Online orientation

The required part of new student orientation, four to eight hours of virtual modules -- depending on one's pace and academic program -- will prepare them to arrive at Iowa State in August, Merrill said. New students will complete these at home and learn about topics as varied as Iowa State's Principles of Community, financial aid and academic support services available to them.

For transfer students, who typically need to get into upper division courses, online orientation opened April 1; fall freshmen will receive an email May 24 inviting them to get started. An orientation portal for students' families offers content unique to them.

"I'm very grateful for our partnerships with academic departments and offices that prepared content, whether it's for virtual orientation or on-site orientation," Merrill said.

When students have completed the online piece, which includes a deep dive into their academic major, they're eligible to schedule an appointment with their academic advisor to register for fall classes. Those one-on-one appointments will remain virtual for 2021. They start April 12 for transfer students and June 2 for freshmen, Merrill said.

OnCyte orientation

Merrill said her team anticipates welcoming about 55% of this fall's freshman class to "oncyte" orientation, scheduled weekdays June 4-July 2 and on two Sundays: June 13 and 27. If there's demand, Merrill said they will add sessions up to July 16.

Cyclones Care protocols will be in place for orientation visitors to campus, Merrill said. Up to 140 new students accompanied by up to two guests each will be welcomed to campus daily.

"Many of these students didn't have a typical senior year, including college visits or college planning sessions. For many, this will be the first time to physically come to campus," Merrill said. "I encourage our campus community to roll out that Cardinal carpet for these students and families who choose to come to campus. They really desire to know more about our Iowa State University culture."

Looking to August: Destination Iowa State

Destination Iowa State, a three-day acclimation period for new students, is scheduled for Aug. 19-21.

"We are on board with President Wintersteen's goal of that being a very robust, on-campus experience," Merrill said. "We'll follow all the health and safety guidelines the university has in place at that time, but we are looking forward to bringing students together in community."

First Amendment Days will put focus on protest

After a year of heightened activism, Iowa State's 19th annual celebration of the First Amendment will explore issues related to protests.

Organized by the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication's First Amendment Committee, First Amendment Days is the nation's longest continually running student-led First Amendment celebration at a university. It gives the campus community a chance to learn about and use the First Amendment's five freedoms -- religion, speech, press, assembly and petition.

The 2021 theme is "Some Assembly Required," with lectures, workshops and other activities about protests scheduled April 12-16. All events are virtual, free and open to the public. Here's a daily rundown of the schedule:

Monday, April 12

In "The Power of Peaceful Protest," held at noon as part of the University Library's Monday Monologues series, two former ISU Student Government presidents will talk about their activism against the Vietnam war and as part of Black Lives Matter movement. At 5:30 p.m., the co-authors of a book about the topic will present the first of three keynotes: "The First Amendment and the Civil Rights Movement: Our History, Our Present, Our Future."

Tuesday, April 13

From noon to 1 p.m., a panel of students activists, including leaders from Students Against Racism, will talk about their efforts to improve the campus climate. Author and designer Bonnie Siegler will present the second keynote, "Signs of Resistance: A Visual History of Protest in America," in a 7 p.m. lecture.

Wednesday, April 14

Take a shot at creating protest art in a one-hour, hands-on interactive workshop at 10 a.m. From noon-1 p.m., experts from University Museums will explore art on campus that challenges the status quo in "Art of Resistance at Iowa State: A Virtual Exploration." Nadine Strossen, the former president of the American Civil Liberties Union, will lecture at 7 p.m. for the third keynote, "Hate: Why We Should Resist it with Free Speech, Not Censorship."

Thursday, April 15

At 6 p.m., awards will be presented for the Pawsies, a short pet film competition. Cast a vote in the contest by April 9. Four hourlong sessions are scheduled earlier in the day:

Friday, April 16

In two afternoon sessions, high school and ISU students can view a live discussion about "Raise Your Voice," a documentary about student journalists at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the site of a mass shooting in 2018. First Amendment experts will lead three hourlong workshops: