Vaccines are best protection, but masks also encouraged

COVID clinic

Aerospace engineering graduate student Lean Fang, right, sits with registered nurse Kelly Frizzell and waits to receive his COVID-19 vaccination during a clinic at State Gym on Aug. 9. Photo by Matt Van Winkle.

Employees and students are encouraged to get vaccinated, the No. 1 way to protect against COVID-19, and they're also encouraged -- regardless of vaccine status -- to wear face masks indoors when around others, senior leaders announced this week in a campus message about public health measures for the fall.

In addition, people who aren't vaccinated are encouraged to wear a face mask whenever they're around others and to maintain physical distance when possible, according to the Aug. 10 message from President Wendy Wintersteen, senior vice presidents Jonathan Wickert, Toyia Younger and Pam Cain, and associate vice president for student health and wellness Erin Baldwin.

Town hall set for Aug. 19

A virtual town hall for faculty and staff about public health measures this fall will be held via Webex on Aug. 19 (1-2 p.m.), with panelists including senior leaders, Dr. Dan Fulton, infectious disease expert with McFarland Clinic, and Les White, director of Story County Public Health. 

What's encouraged is not required. Masks are mandated only in Thielen Student Health Center, Ames Laboratory, CyRide buses, areas of the College of Veterinary Medicine where masks are normally required and research laboratories, at the discretion of the principal investigator or lab supervisor. Students and employees won't be compelled to get vaccinated or disclose their vaccination status, though students will receive a gift card this fall if they choose to get vaccinated at one of the numerous on-campus opportunities -- an incentive meant to emphasize the importance of being vaccinated.

"The best decision you can make is to get vaccinated," campus leaders said in the Aug. 10 message to faculty, staff and students. 

The university's free COVID-19 vaccination clinics will begin next week and include 14 days that are open to employees and students, staffed noon-3 p.m. Both the two-shot Pfizer and one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccines will be available. Appointments can be scheduled online and walk-ins are welcome. Students, faculty and staff should bring their ISU Card with them to the clinic.


COVID-19 vaccination clinics (noon-3 p.m.)



State Gym south court (use south entrance)

Aug. 17-20

3560 Memorial Union

Aug. 25, Aug. 27, Sept. 1, Sept. 3, Sept. 10

140 Parks Library

Sept. 15, Sept. 22, Sept. 29

1521 Lloyd Veterinary Medical Center

Sept. 2, Sept. 23


Student encouragement

A companion message from Wickert released Aug. 10 provides instructors with a syllabus statement they can use to outline university recommendations on face masks, vaccines and physical distancing, guidance provided to all regent institutions by the state Board of Regents. Faculty also can encourage students to wear face masks by wearing one themselves, posting newly approved signage and explaining that wearing a mask is consistent with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Instructors can't require students to wear face masks or disclose their vaccination status, penalize or criticize students who don't wear a mask, reward students who do wear a mask or base classroom seating plans on mask-wearing, Wickert said in the message to faculty.

Classroom and lab spaces no longer have restricted capacities, and physical distancing can't be required, senior leaders said in their campus message.

Other fall plans

The message from senior leaders also detailed several other aspects of the public health plans for the fall:

  • Symptomatic students should schedule an appointment for a COVID-19 test at Thielen Student Health Center. Employees should arrange tests through their health care provider or pick up a free at-home test at Thielen, the Memorial Union or the Union Drive Community Center.
  • Students who live on campus and are required to isolate or quarantine will continue to be housed in Linden Hall. ISU's public health team will notify the department of residence about students who test positive for COVID-19.
  • Faculty won't be notified about students who test positive for COVID-19. They should follow their standard absence policies.
  • Based on guidance from the Iowa Department of Public Health, Iowa State is no longer conducting case investigation or contract tracing. Individuals should continue to follow CDC quarantine and isolation guidance and make appropriate arrangements with their instructors or supervisors.
  • The university is no longer operating a public health data website, but detailed county-level statistics are available from the CDC COVID-19 data tracker and the Iowa Department of Public Health COVID-19 dashboard.

October commencement ceremony will honor 2020 graduates

University leaders are making good on their promise of an in-person graduation ceremony for students who completed Iowa State degrees in 2020.

The pandemic forced spring and fall commencement celebrations last year into a virtual format. On Saturday, Oct. 9, those graduates will have the chance to walk across a stage and hear their name read aloud. The single ceremony, for recipients of all four types of degrees, will begin at 10 a.m. in Hilton Coliseum.

This year's spring and summer graduates also were invited to participate.

While the total number of eligible graduates exceeds 12,000, interim assistant registrar for certification and eligibility Abbie Suntken said the registrar's team anticipates a more intimate event, perhaps in the range of 500 to 800 graduates. By last week, just over 200 had confirmed their attendance, about 70% of them bachelor's degree recipients.

"This ceremony is intended to honor and formally recognize those 2020 graduates, along with some spring and summer 2021 graduates, who didn't have an opportunity to walk or experience that graduation atmosphere in person," Suntken said. "The university wants to celebrate them."

Doctoral students have until Sept. 12 to RSVP. Bachelor's, master's and doctor of veterinary medicine (DVM) degree graduates are asked to respond to their email invitations by Sept. 26. Any 2020 or 2021 degree recipient who didn't receive an email invitation should contact the registrar's office,, to receive the website link.

Cyclone pomp

The estimated two-hour (or less) ceremony will include a processional, remarks from President Wendy Wintersteen, graduation address by a to-be-named individual, conferring of degrees, brass and vocal music traditions and celebratory streamers. All graduates will walk across the stage as their name and graduation term are announced. Master's and both doctoral-level students' academic majors also will be included, as will the name of the professor hooding Ph.D. and DVM graduates. The professors will sit with their graduating doctoral students during the ceremony.

Graduates received a copy of Iowa State's commemorative commencement program for the term they graduated. Guests and graduates will receive a simple order of events program the day of the ceremony.

At this time, there are no limits on guests allowed to attend the ceremony in Hilton. Suntken said the university will monitor Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on large indoor events and change the guest rules if needed.

The Oct. 9 ceremony will be livestreamed for family and friends not able to attend and archived on the registrar's website with previous graduation events.

State fair exhibit focuses on innovation

Eleven hours per day for 11 days. Forty-four thousand LEGO bricks.

That's what it will take for a team led by Iowa State alumnus Chris Ihle to build a life-sized LEGO version of one of the university's most widely-recognized innovative graduates: George Washington Carver.

The build will take place at this year's ISU exhibit in the Varied Industries building at the Iowa State Fair, Aug. 12-22.

The exhibit's morning theme -- "Ignite Innovation Showcase on the Road" -- is a continuation of the inaugural Ignite Innovation Showcase held virtually last spring, an eight-day event that highlighted Iowa State's innovation programming with performances, competitions, projects and discussions. The state fair exhibit will speak to the culture of innovation and entrepreneurship at Iowa State.

Every morning, an ISU college or unit will demonstrate innovation happening in their areas, tying in to their exhibitions at the Ignite Innovation Showcase. The lineup looks like this:

  • Aug. 12, Ivy College of Business and Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship
  • Aug. 13, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
  • Aug. 14, ISU Extension and Outreach
  • Aug. 15, University Library
  • Aug. 16, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
  • Aug. 17, Honors Program
  • Aug. 18, College of Design
  • Aug. 19, College of Human Sciences
  • Aug. 20, College of Engineering
  • Aug. 21 (all day), Ignite LEGO Challenge build-off competition
  • Aug. 22, College of Veterinary Medicine
Black and brown LEGOs form shoes and pant legs

The George Washington Carver LEGO sculpture at the university's Iowa State Fair main exhibit will be built from the shoes up. Photo courtesy of Chris Ihle.

Carver will be built out of LEGO bricks by Ihle, whose company, We Build U, constructs custom life-size sculptures out of LEGO bricks. He will build with three team members.

Carver was the first Black student and faculty member at Iowa State, and this year marks the 125th anniversary of Carver receiving his master's degree here. His innovative research resulted in the creation of more than 300 products from peanuts, more than 100 products from sweet potatoes and hundreds more from a dozen other plants native to the South.

After the state fair ends, the LEGO build of Carver will be on display at a to-be-determined campus location.

Ihle said his business is a testament to the skills he learned at Iowa State. Since launching We Build U three years ago, Ihle has built LEGO sculptures for reality TV show "Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles," the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, musician and DJ Steve Aoki, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and more -- not to mention his projects in Iowa, including a build of internationally-renowned opera singer Simon Estes for Des Moines Area Community College.

"I think the George Washington Carver build will be my favorite piece when all is said and done," Ihle said. "On my first day of college, my very first class was in Carver Hall and I didn't know where to go. But, I remember the George Washington Carver statue outside the main auditorium."

Afternoon and evening competitions

Featured alongside Ihle's Carver build will be a daily Ignite LEGO Challenge, during which teams of ISU students, faculty, staff and alumni, as well as area high school teams, will create LEGO sculptures that embody innovation at Iowa State. Teams are vying for prizes totaling $9,000.

There will be two rounds of team competitions each day, 1-3 p.m. and 5-7 p.m. Judges will determine daily winners, whose builds will be on display for the remainder of the state fair. Each daily winner will advance to a build-off competition Saturday, Aug. 21, and winners will be announced the final day of the fair, Aug. 22.

Athletics trophies, apparel and souvenirs

Visitors will see Cyclone athletics trophies from the past year and receive football posters and schedule cards at the university's exhibit.

As a health precaution, temporary tattoos will not be applied to visitors as in previous years. Instead, volunteers will hand out a souvenir bag to visitors, which will include a dry temporary tattoo, a special ISU LEGO brick and a QR code leading them to instructions to build the mascot Cy out of LEGO bricks.

The ISU Book Store again will be part of the Iowa State exhibit. Fairgoers can expect a wide variety of Iowa State merchandise, gifts and apparel, including Farm Strong T-shirts and new fall game day gear.

4-H activities throughout the fair

4-H reporters

A dozen 4-H youth completed media training and will produce feature stories from the fair.

Nearly 3,000 4-H members will exhibit close to 9,000 livestock entries in the livestock buildings. The colleges of Agriculture and Life Sciences and Liberal Arts and Sciences will award scholarships to selected 4-H'ers. Photo frames at Grandfather's Barn, Discovery Garden and outside the 4-H Exhibits Building are reminders of the connection these venues have to Iowa State.

4-H Day on the Grand Concourse will be Aug. 13 in the 4-H Youth Development tent. From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., fair goers can explore the 4-H priority areas through interactive, hands-on learning experiences. From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., stop by the tent to receive a cooling towel.

4-H is headquartered at Iowa State and available in all 99 counties. Throughout the fair, look for 4-H activities and exhibits in the Bruce L. Rastetter 4-H Exhibits Building.

ISU veterinarians care for fair animals

Three veterinarians from the College of Veterinary Medicine will oversee the health of all animals at the fair: Rachel Friedrich and Megan Hindman, both clinical assistant professors of veterinary diagnostic and production animal medicine; and Mitch Hiscocks, clinical professor of veterinary diagnostic and production animal medicine.

Assisting the veterinarians will be post-doctoral research associates Michelle Buckley, Lynn Geoffroy and Kris Hayman, as well as fourth-year veterinary medicine students Maddie Herring, Shaine Hoffman, Kelsey Meyer and Andrea Schwartz.

Why riders take the plunge to join ISU van pools


Memorial Union graphic designer Kenzie Hosch climbs into a van outside the MU for her van pool commute home on Aug. 3. Photo by Christopher Gannon.

An out-of-town commute adds some complication and expense to working on campus. But many ISU employees diminish the downsides of a daily drive to Ames by taking advantage of a program that makes getting to work cheaper and easier, decreases their carbon footprint and increases their connections with colleagues.

Those are some of the main benefits enjoyed by the 30 or so university employees who use the van pool service offered by transportation services, which provides a van from the ISU fleet for the pool to use for its commute. To cover vehicle costs, including gas, riders pay a flat monthly fee of $100-$150, depending on the route. To account for the time they spend behind the wheel and coordinating logistics, drivers don't pay a fee. Current routes run from Ankeny, Des Moines, Urbandale and along Highway 30 west of Ames.

It's a great deal for employees, and the financial benefit is the most common reason faculty and staff cite for participating, said Teri Jensen, transportation services manager. That's been the main motivation for Leland Harker, who has been working at the university for 33 years and using a ride pool to get to campus from his West Des Moines home nearly that entire time.

For an employee who lives in the Des Moines metro area, the annual out-of-pocket savings are roughly $2,000 per year and three to four times that based on the IRS mileage reimbursement rates designed to consider maintenance costs, said Harker, an electronics technician in the electrical and computer engineering department.

"Everybody saves a pile of money," he said. "You can use it to remodel the bathroom or something."

Other benefits

The financial boost is far from the only benefit. After Erika Abusharkh, AmeriCorps program director for the Child Welfare Research and Training Project, began working at Iowa State in the winter of 2018, she quickly tired of driving the stretch of Interstate 35 between Ames and her home in Johnston, a corridor co-workers jokingly called the Daytona 500.

"I found myself getting really stressed out by that drive," she said.

Since joining the Urbandale van route, she has appreciated reducing her greenhouse gas emissions and locking in a consistent cost for commuting, via the pre-tax payroll deductions for the van pool fee. And there's no more driving stress.

"It's nice to just sit back and not be thinking about the road," she said.

Susan Ray, data visualization analyst for institutional research, rides on the Highway 30 west route that began July 1, with stops in Jefferson, Ogden and Boone, where she lives. She was hired during the pandemic, so joining a van pool meant she didn't have to figure out where to park and gave her a built-in need to stay on schedule. It's also socially beneficial. 

"As someone relatively new to this part of the state, I'm meeting new people I otherwise wouldn't have met," she said.

The chattiness level in the van depends on the day, Harker said.

"Some days we have conversations. Sometimes people like to just sit in quiet," he said.

Joining up

Sharing a ride to campus isn't possible for every employee. It requires a set schedule, for instance. But it's not as restrictive as some commuters might think. Van pool riders collectively decide on their schedule. Participants get 10 daily parking passes per year for instances in which they need access to their vehicle. And if an unexpected emergency need to go home during the day emerges, transportation services will lend a van pool participant a fleet vehicle.

"We're really flexible. That's how our department runs, in general. We are here to keep Iowa State University employees on the road," Jensen said.

Harker regularly distributes fliers advertising the van pools, targeting out-of-county vehicles in staff parking lots. Abusharkh considers herself a self-appointed van pool ambassador, as she often shares her experiences with campus colleagues. Both would like to see more campus employees use the service.

"We see the same faces in cars every day," Harker said. "It's hard to pry people out of their vehicles. They like to have access to it at all times."

In her time commuting by van pool, Abusharkh hasn't had any trouble getting around Ames when needed during the work day, either by sharing a ride with a co-worker or taking CyRide. It takes a shift in thinking, but she hopes that seems more plausible for people, after they made changes to their routines because of COVID-19.

"Personally speaking, it's been only benefits, as far as I can see," she said.

Jensen said transportation services would love to see more groups form, as routes and participation are down slightly from pre-pandemic levels.  A route can run with as few as five employees, and Jensen also keeps a list of interested employees who live in areas where there isn't enough interest yet. Email her or call 515-294-1882 option 3 for more information. 

"We'd be happy to serve more communities," Jensen said.

Updated FAQ explores impact of House File 802

An Aug. 5 update to the FAQ on Iowa's new law relating to racism and sexism training provides additional guidance from university counsel and the provost's office on how Iowa State training and teaching may be affected.

Passed by the state Legislature in March and signed into law in June, House File 802 prohibits public universities, such as Iowa State, from conducting mandatory employee or student trainings that teach, advocate, act upon or promote 10 specific concepts defined in the law.

The updated FAQ includes feedback from a series of workshops for academic leaders in July that featured senior vice president and provost Jonathan Wickert, associate provost for faculty Dawn Bratsch-Prince and university counsel Michael Norton.

Because House File 802 references a narrow set of specific defined concepts, which are potentially germane to many courses of study, Iowa State expects most academic programs and courses to continue as they have in the past. As noted in the updated FAQ, university policy on academic freedom already requires that material presented in class be relevant to the scholarly subject matter of the course and presented by appropriate means.

In addition to germaneness, faculty who include the specific defined concepts in their courses also are asked to consider student choice. Though the law specifically permits discussion of the specially defined concepts as part of a larger course of academic instruction, it could impact academic courses if they could reasonably be interpreted as a required training. For instance, elective courses are less likely to be scrutinized than a required course.

The FAQ also reminds instructors to promote open discussion and enable students to disagree and have alternate viewpoints, consistent with the university’s required Free Expression Syllabus Statement

Training programs

House File 802 applies to all mandatory employee and student trainings, but not voluntary ones.

The FAQ advises departments and units to differentiate between official mandatory trainings and all other events, programs, sessions, lectures, speakers and discussions that are not required. Words like "urging" or "encouraging" could be thought of as mandatory. Instead, general statements like "open to all" are recommended.

As noted in the FAQ, Iowa State remains firmly committed to the principles of diversity and inclusion, its Principles of Community, freedom of expression, and academic freedom. Diversity training programs will continue, with the university implementing a compliance plan for any adjustments needed to mandatory trainings.

Members of the campus community with specific questions about the application of House File 802 may contact the provost’s office at, or the office of university counsel at

Rummage RAMPage continues successful growth

Rummage Rampage

Patrons look over tables full of rummage sale goods. The City of Ames, in partnership with the ISU Office of Sustainability, annually hosts Rummage RAMPage, a community sale designed to keep reusable items out of the waste stream. ISU junior Jason Gomez, of San Jose, Calif., totes a picture frame at the rummage sale inside the Ames Intermodal Facility. Photos by Christopher Gannon.

The fifth annual Rummage RAMPage, a community sale designed to keep reusable items out of the waste stream, was once again a record-setting event. The city of Ames and ISU's office of sustainability held the sale July 30-Aug. 7 at the Ames Intermodal Facility.

2021 Rummage RAMPage, by the numbers:

  • Nine days spanning two weekends for donations and sales
  • More than 100 couches, 100 upholstered chairs and 250 dining and office chairs found a new home.
  • More than 30,000 pounds of kitchen utensils, storage items, bath items, luggage and small appliances have a new owner.
  • More than $40,000 raised (an increase of more than 20% from 2019).
  • 28 local nonprofit groups benefited from funds raised.

"We are so humbled and appreciative of the support the community provides in donating, volunteering and certainly shopping," ISU sustainability director Merry Rankin said. "It is really something our community has embraced."

Most leases in Ames expire at the end of July and some relocating tenants discard items that still may be usable. Rummage RAMPage is a collaborative effort to pair unwanted items with buyers seeking low-cost options for furnishing a home.

Most items are priced between $1-$5. For the second year -- the 2020 event was canceled because of the pandemic -- there was a section of rare and unique finds such as antiques and heirlooms as well as silver and crystal items. There also was a section for items that were good but needed repair -- like a leg on a chair -- to be put back to use.

Not all donated items could be sold. Linens, bedding, clothing, books, unused food and school supplies were distributed to local agencies such as the Ames Animal Shelter, Goodwill and the Ames Public Library.

"This year we pulled out nice and gently-used blankets, and we were able to donate them to shelters for community members," Rankin said. "We had about 15 boxes of blankets that were donated."

In addition to the blankets, 50 cases of hand sanitizer were donated to area shelters and nonprofit organizations.

For the third year, Rankin said they partnered with ROAR -- Rehoming Our Animals Responsibly -- to help individuals who can no longer care for their pet. People were able to drop off their pet to get it into adoption channels.

Rummage Rampage 2

ISU freshmen, from left, Dylan Pardo, Trenton Witcher, Tate Zalasky and Julien Gamez (seated) try out some furniture choices at the rummage sale inside the Ames Intermodal Facility.

Rummage Rampage 3

Kurt Roberts, ISU Assistant Director for TRIO, totes a few found items at the rummage sale inside the Ames Intermodal Facility.