A cappella at lunch

Female students sing on the steps of Parks Library

Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Jennifer Rodgers (left front), assistant director of choral activities in the department of music and theatre, conducts during a noon concert on the steps of Parks Library Monday. The concert included performances by three female choral ensembles, Cantamus, Lyrica and Count Me In, and was the Oct. 4 edition of the library's Monday Monologues series highlighting faculty and student voices. It featured songs that "work beyond a concert hall."

Flexible locations, hours may be option for some staff by spring

Under the new WorkFlex program announced to supervisors this week, staff will have options for flexible work arrangements should they make sense for their job duties and the university's mission.

Supervisors will evaluate employee requests for flexibility by taking into consideration the needs and staffing of the unit and Iowa State's research-intensive and residential campus, which puts an emphasis on in-person learning, support and services.

Maintaining excellence in teaching, research, extension and outreach, student support and other operations must remain front and center when considering staff requests. But Iowa State's excellence depends on skilled employees, senior leaders noted in messages to administrative officers and supervisors.

"As the work environment is evolving and more organizations are providing flexible work arrangements, ISU must be competitive in recruiting and retaining top talent," wrote President Wendy Wintersteen, the three senior vice presidents and vice president for university human resources (UHR) Kristi Darr in their memos.

The WorkFlex program will provide professional and scientific and certain merit staff (excluding ISU Police) with options that include:

  • Flexible start/stop times -- working outside the standard work hours
  • Compressed work weeks -- fewer but longer days (for example, four 10-hour days)
  • Hybrid work -- working from home or another designated location up to 60% of the time
  • Reduced hours -- moving to part-time
  • Gradual return to work -- gradually increasing hours following leave
  • Retirement transition -- gradually reducing hours when approaching retirement

In the initial rollout of the WorkFlex program, full-time remote work arrangements will not be allowed. Remote work pilot studies currently underway will need to be further evaluated before considering expanding the WorkFlex program beyond hybrid options.

The WorkFlex program was developed with input from focus groups of P&S and merit staff, faculty, Faculty Work-Life Advisory Committee members and supervisors of all staff types.

The program was designed with a four-week application window for staff to submit their requests. Rather than a first-come, first-served approach, supervisors will review all requests after the application window closes.

Administrative officers and supervisors were first to learn about the WorkFlex program this week to give them time to understand the options and the process. Detailed information for employees, including how to submit a request, will be released later this month as indicated in the timeline below.


Timeline for WorkFlex program



Oct. 6

Administrative officers and supervisors received detailed program information.

Oct. 8-29

College and unit leaders and HR delivery teams work with supervisors to understand expectations, guard rails and key considerations for WorkFlex, preparing supervisors for employee requests.

Week of Oct. 18

Employees receive detailed program information. A Professional and Scientific Council seminar series event on WorkFlex is set for Oct. 19 (2-3 p.m., via Webex), rescheduled from Oct. 12. 

Nov. 1-26

First employee application window.

Nov. 29-Dec. 23

Supervisor decision window for requests received during the first application window.

Dec. 23-Jan. 14, 2022 Supervisors work with staff to prepare for approved arrangements. 
Jan. 18 First day WorkFlex arrangements can be effective. 


An unusual request of a teacher

Faculty member officiates at outdoor wedding ceremony

Teaching professor Alan Constant welcomes family and friends to the August wedding of high school sweethearts Jonathan Zaugg and Sara Medina. Submitted photo.

Alan Constant -- with the bride and groom facing each other in front of him, their hands clasped -- introduced the big event that had attracted about 100 friends and family to the covered patio at the Alta House Event Center in Newton.

"Welcome to Jonathan and Sara's matrimonial roast," said the teaching professor in materials science and engineering, and on this sunny summer Saturday, the officiant for the wedding of high school sweethearts Jonathan Zaugg and Sara Medina.

Constant's roast was more of a toast to the smiling, laughing couple, Jonathan in a cardinal bow tie, Sara in a flowing veil and train.

To Jonathan: "You are one of the most academically gifted students I've ever had in my 30 years of teaching. Was that OK, Jonathan? Remember, I don't accept personal checks but I do take PayPal."

To Sara: "Congratulations, you are about to become a nurse. You're one short preceptorship from that goal. I imagine being a nurse requires a lot of patience and a lot of hard work. And you're going to need both, because Jonathan over here is going to need a lot of help."

It was all personal and chatty, full of quick asides and little sidetracks. It was Alan Constant being Alan Constant.

Early in the ceremony, right there behind his officiant lectern, Constant took off his tie, featuring crystal structures, and gave it to Jonathan. Then he returned an old favor from Sara and presented her with a souvenir coffee mug.

Later -- at the ceremony's "midterm," as he called it -- he got a little more serious. This, after all, was a wedding, and families and futures were coming together. This was why he became an ordained minister of the Universal Life Church.

"In lieu of a wedding sermon, I'm going to do what I always do in class when I'm at a loss to explain something," he said. "I'm going to tell a short story."

That story began "with possibly the strangest conversation I've ever had in my life," Constant said.

"Shortly before the end of spring semester, Jonathan came up to me at the end of class. This is Jonathan's fourth class with me and I thought I knew him pretty well by then. He said, 'Dr. Constant, are you perhaps an ordained minister?

"I said, 'What about everything I've ever said to you, Jonathan, would suggest that?' Jonathan smiled and -- I'll never forget this -- he said, 'Do you want to be?'"

Looking for a personal touch

Jonathan and Sara started dating in the winter of 2017, his senior year and her junior year at Southeast Polk High School. It started with a trip to the original Sugar Shack Diner in Altoona. There was a new server working that night. It took 90 minutes for dinner to arrive, so they talked and talked. They knew of each other from band -- he was the lead clarinet and she was the lead flute -- and now they were actually getting to know each other.

The relationship grew from there, and in July 2020, they got engaged and started planning for an August 2021 wedding. At wedding time, he would have just finished his bachelor's in materials engineering, ready to start working on an Iowa State doctorate. She would be wrapping up a bachelor's in nursing from the Mercy College of Health Sciences in Des Moines, with the goal of working as an obstetrics nurse.

They weren't planning on a church wedding. So what could they do? Who could officiate?

Well, as they were making plans, they went to a friend's wedding. The officiant was one of the bride's high school teachers.

"We liked the personal aspect," Sara said.

"It was nice to hear the personal stories," Jonathan said. "That's not something we'd get with a random pastor hired to marry us."

And so, who was the best storyteller they knew?

"Would Constant do it?" asked Jonathan, a veteran of four Constant courses. (Those included an introduction to materials science and engineering, an introduction to electronic properties, a class about electronic and magnetic properties and a materials design and professional practice course).

"He's a very funny guy and makes learning fun," Jonathan said. "He makes you want to be in the classroom."

Sara, having heard all about Constant's jokes and his commitment to teaching and students, agreed to a meeting.

"The first thing he said when we sat down was, 'Are you sure?'" she said. By the time she left that meeting her answer was, "Yes, absolutely."

High honors for a teacher

Officiant Alan Constant with the bride and groom

Officiant Alan Constant with Jonathan Zaugg and Sara Medina.

During his family's regular "Thirsty Thursday" online gatherings during the pandemic, Constant brought up Jonathan and Sara's request to officiate their wedding.

Constant and his wife Kristen, vice president and chief information officer, have three sons who are now scattered to Pittsburgh, Boston and Rochester, New York.

The Constants were married in Kristen's family church in Osceola. It was a traditional, religious, June wedding.

Constant, who grew up in a Catholic family in Queens, New York, summarizes his religious views this way: "God, good. Religion, uhhh …"

And so, he asked his family that night on the internet call, what should he do about this wedding request?

"Everybody said, 'You've got to do this.'"

So Constant, who in 2015 won both the university's Award for Outstanding Achievement in Teaching and the Louis Thompson Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching Award, thought more about it.

"What he asked me is probably the greatest honor I've ever received as a teacher. This really meant something. I must have had some impact on this guy," he said.

Time for the vows

Jonathan and Sara, a garden-green soybean field cresting a big hill behind them, were still holding hands when Constant wrapped up his story about becoming a minister and preparing a wedding ceremony.

The couple, he said, had asked him to include a Scripture reading (Colossians 3:14-17):

"And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity …"

Constant added a final, good word to the couple:

"I've heard it said that the secret to a happy marriage remains a secret. And although that is meant to be humorous, I actually think it is true in essence. Because I think each couple will find their own way to happiness."

Then it was time for the formal vows.

Constant: "Do you take Sara to be your lawfully wedded wife …"

Jonathan, interrupting: "I do."

Constant: "No," shaking his head. "Not yet."

Laughter all around. The groom threw his head back. The bride pointed to him.

Constant, resuming: "Do you promise to support her completely and love her unconditionally so long as you both shall live?"

Now Constant pointed to the groom.

Jonathan: "I do."

Constant, smiling, with more shakes of the head: "A-minus."

Vaccinate against the flu

nurse administers a flu shot

Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Registered nurse Sue Dekkers (left) administers a flu vaccine to Cindy Osborne, custodial services manager for recreation services, during the first day of the employee flu shot clinic in State Gym's south courts. The clinic will continue through Friday, Oct. 15 (9 a.m.-4 p.m. weekdays, with the first hour each day reserved for high-risk individuals). Employees don't pay for their vaccination, but they must wear a mask and know (or bring) their nine-digit university ID number. They should use the south doors to State Gym.

Considering a software or system change? Consider its impact

The second phase of Iowa State's adoption of Workday enterprise software isn't as far off as you think. In fact, if your unit is considering a change to its business processes or an upgrade on a system or software that uses university financial, human resources or student data, the project could impact you right now.

Across the university, limiting system changes will be a top priority during the next four years, the implementation window for WorkCyte Phase II: Student Information and Receivables. The project will replace the remaining systems in ADIN and AccessPlus with modern, cloud-based technology that offers Iowa State students a mobile, tablet or desktop-friendly experience throughout their college years.

During focus groups held in April and May, the top theme from students, faculty and staff was how the proliferation of systems used on campus makes it difficult to accomplish tasks. Maximizing Workday's functionality -- how all its features perform together -- will give employees and students a better experience. So, planning is critical both for IT systems that will sunset and for upgrades to systems that integrate with a system to be replaced.

"For a project of this size to succeed, we must prioritize the IT services and other resources, including human resources, it demands," said vice president and chief information officer Kristen Constant. "We know units still may need upgrades to their IT systems, but our capacity to support other enterprise software requests is very limited."

Even seemingly small changes to existing systems and processes could impact the broader network, she noted.

Get help to evaluate your needs

The good news is that you don't have to do the impact assessment yourself. The WorkCyte team will help, and you actually can save time by going to them first. Units contemplating either changes to their business processes, programs or systems, or an enterprise system purchase are asked to contact the WorkCyte team using an online form. A team member will help you evaluate the request for any issues or risk before it goes to the Technology Enterprise Advisory Committee (TEAC) as part of the normal review process. The team also can suggest workarounds until there's better timing or solutions for integrating with the new Workday Student Information and Receivables systems.

TEAC has ranked, by priority, six circumstances for which changes or updates might be needed, everything from a critical but non-functioning business application to enhancements for existing systems. Requests will be assessed by priority, and those that intersect with the Student Information and Receivables project will get special consideration.

Questions about enterprise system changes may be directed to workcyte_feedback@iastate.edu.

On-demand fitness videos fill service need during pandemic

Timing is everything. It certainly was for recreation services.

Staff discussed offering on-demand fitness videos before the pandemic began to match trends in the fitness world. The pandemic just sped everything up.

Originally designed to supplement the in-person experience, on-demand videos became vital for many in the ISU community when gathering indoors was not possible and people left their homes less frequently.

"We had started making videos pre-pandemic and then just ramped it up," said Ashley Artist, senior assistant director of wellness programs. "This was a really important service at that point. Because we had been thinking about it, we were prepared to do it."

The subscription service launched in November 2020 and is available to anyone with a Net-ID.

"We have seen interest from both students and employees, with the most use right after we launched," Artist said. "We had some more this summer, but we are back to fully in-person options."

Now, the videos are used more for their original purpose of getting in a workout after hours or with a preferred instructor.

The videos

There are 36 videos encompassing six types of fitness -- strength training, barre, yoga, core strength, high intensity interval training and Pilates -- with two videos each at three intensity levels. Instruction progresses from beginner to intermediate to challenging as users advance at their own pace.

Artist said each course was selected because it is accessible to people working out at home with limited equipment.

"With each of these you can use dumbbells or just body weight," she said.

On-demand subscriptions run the length of a semester -- fall, spring or summer -- and cost $25 per semester for rec services members and $50 for non-members. Summer rates are $20 and $30, respectfully. The first level of each exercise is available for trial at no cost. Rec services also will offer a half-price promotion at the midterm of the semester for those interested.

Users access the videos through Panopto, an app that provides recording, streaming and other video options used by instructors on campus. The app can be downloaded to a device, added to an Okta page or accessed through a web browser.

"Once you purchase the on-demand option, we grant you access to the folder on Panopto that houses all of the videos," Artist said. "You just log in with your Net-ID."

Student teachers

Students were the driving force in front of and behind the camera for all of the videos. Each is led by a student instructor and lasts about 30 minutes. It allowed them to customize instruction for people as they advanced through the different levels.

The experience proved beneficial on several levels.

"If some of our graduates were interviewing for a position that involved teaching a fitness class, a lot of times they weren't doing in-person interviews and the company asked for a video demonstration," Artist said. "So they had a professional 30-minute example to send them."

Ray Schmidt, communications and marketing specialist for rec services, used his student staff team behind the camera. The design and marketing majors also gained valuable experience in helping shape the look of the offerings.

Looking ahead

As users increase, more video options will be added to keep workouts fresh, Artist said. Some new content already has been recorded but not released.

There also are opportunities to expand the offerings past fitness. Videos focused on stretching and recovery are planned, and Artist sees a chance to partner with other departments on campus, for example on topics such as meditation.

A consistent service for employee sign language requests

A new vendor is handling all requests for sign language interpretation for ISU employees, providing a reliable process for accommodating faculty and staff who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Since last month, Vancro Integrated Interpreting Services has been coordinating sign language interpretation requests for employees, said Andrea Little, associate director of employee and labor relations for university human resources (UHR).

Prior to the contract with Vancro, UHR used varying models in recent years to manage employee requests for sign language accommodation, she said. In 2019 and most of 2020, UHR had an in-house interpreter who also coordinated all interpreting and translating services for employees. After that staff member left the university late last year, UHR staff handled sign language interpretation requests, coordinating with employees, departments and the pool of third-party interpreters the university has used for several years.

Little said contracting with a vendor to coordinate requests for sign language interpretation, translation and captioning ensures they will be handled in a streamlined and consistent way. Vancro primarily will coordinate services with Iowa State's existing third-party interpreters but can provide either in-person or virtual interpretation if needed when the usual providers are unavailable. Vancro also offers specialized trainings, support and workshops upon request

"​​Vancro's in-depth experience in providing interpreting services and their attention to deaf preference and honoring local interpreter standards will help to provide a high level of service and focus on the varied requests and needs of our employees and departments," Little said.

To request a sign language interpreter for an employee, fill out this online form at least three days in advance. To request changes to an existing request, email Vancro at interpretingservices@vancro.com. Vancro's online scheduling platform allows 24/7 request submissions.

Student requests for sign language interpretation, cued language transliteration and captioning are handled by student accessibility services and must be submitted at least five days in advance via online form

See UHR's workplace accommodations website for more information on accommodations for employees.