In the winter session home stretch

Professor Terri Boylston teaches online from her office

Associate professor Terri Boylston checks her students' winter session progress in her Food Scienes Building office earlier this week. Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Terri Boylston, associate professor of food science and human nutrition, is one of about 50 faculty members leading a course during this year's four-week winter session. FSHN 101, Food and the Consumer, is a required course for majors in food science and culinary food science, and it fulfills a natural sciences general education requirement for students in non-science based majors.

She said her 21 students were almost evenly distributed among the four undergraduate classes.

Boylston taught the course during last winter's five-week pilot and also has offered it in an eight-week summer session. The course is set up in modules, the content is online and students worked at their own pace. Boylston said she provided target completion dates for each unit that would keep students on pace to complete the coursework in four weeks -- but there were no penalties for submissions after those dates. Given the time of year, she said flexibility was important.

"The course content presented during winter session is the same as during fall or spring semester, so students must spend four times their usual study time each week," she said. "This is a challenge with the holidays. It's also important students have some time to spend with friends and family and to recharge during the break. They could adjust their course activities to fit their schedules."

Winter session wraps up Friday, Jan. 14.

Denials were rare in first round of WorkFlex requests

About 15% of eligible staff requested a flexible work arrangement under the new WorkFlex program, and nearly 95% of the requests were approved, according to data university human resources (UHR) leaders shared at the Professional and Scientific Council's Jan. 6 meeting.

WorkFlex allows staff to adjust when, where and how they work, when it makes sense for their job duties -- options that include a hybrid schedule of up to three days a week of remote work. Interested employees submitted requests in November, and supervisors and hiring authorities had until Dec. 22 to consider the proposals. The flexible work plans can begin when the spring semester starts Jan. 18.

Of the 700 employees who requested a WorkFlex arrangement -- out of the 4,657 eligible P&S and merit staff -- only 42 were denied. The high acceptance rate shows that employees and managers were usually able to find common ground, even if it required modifying the original proposal, said Ed Holland, UHR benefits director. 

"What I saw was very much a collaborative approach, and I think that shows in how few denials there were," he said.  

By far, the most common WorkFlex option was hybrid remote, which allows staff to work up to 60% of their work week out of the office. Nearly 85% of requests included a remote aspect, according to the data shared with the council. About 24% of requests sought flexible start and stop times, and about 8% proposed a compressed work week, with an employee working longer but fewer days.

Among the university's four divisions, the highest rate of WorkFlex requests was in academic affairs, where 20% of the 2,641 eligible staff submitted a request. The request rate was 11% for operations and finance staff, 8% in the president's division and 6% in student affairs.

It makes sense that WorkFlex usage would be lowest in student affairs because employees in those units often work directly with students, said Dwaine Heppler, associate vice president for human resources service and strategy. WorkFlex applications required staff to specify how their flexible work plan would benefit their unit, the university and their clientele.

"There are a lot of roles in student affairs that by the nature of the work require being on campus," Heppler said.

The WorkFlex data presented to the council doesn't count staff who are in flexible work arrangements through a departmental pilot project, such as an ongoing trial in information technology services that allows employees to work remotely full time. If a full-time remote option is added to WorkFlex in the future, which isn't certain to happen, the earliest it would be offered would be this fall, Holland said. 

"We're going to want to see how this is working out before there are significant changes to the program," he said.

Heppler said some colleges and other units established additional guidelines that affected requests. He urged staff to provide feedback about those guidelines to their HR service delivery partner or associate dean/vice president, so decision-makers understand the impact.

Formal agreements documenting WorkFlex plans should be finalized and signed by Jan. 14, the Friday before spring semester plans begin. An application window for WorkFlex plans will be available before the start of classes in the fall, spring and summer. The timeline isn't set yet for submitting new requests that begin when the first summer session kicks off May 16, but communication about the process likely will begin in February, Holland said. 

Custodial services will ramp up with hiring

Male custodian cleans table surface in break room

Custodian Fernando Saldana cleaned a break room on Bessey Hall fourth floor last week, part of a focused facilities effort over winter break to clean spaces custodians weren't able to clean last fall. Photo by Christopher Gannon.

As announced last month, custodial services provided by facilities planning and management (FPM) teams will begin to return to pre-pandemic levels on Jan. 18, the first day of spring semester. Senior leaders approved funding to add 14 positions to the 127 custodians budgeted for the current fiscal year.

As with many industries, hiring and retaining custodians is a challenge right now, so custodial services senior manager Michelle Lenkaitis actually needs to fill about 20 vacancies to hit the 141 mark -- and train the new hires.

"I ask the campus community to be patient, be flexible and communicate with us," she said. "It's unlikely we'll be fully staffed by Jan. 18, and we'll have a significant number of custodians who still are new and in training. Due to staffing levels and because we clean in more than 80 buildings, we won't be able to provide all the restored services on Jan. 18. We will expand services into offices and department spaces as our staffing level improves.

"If we're not meeting your priority needs, please contact me," she added.

What's your space?

So, what will that restored service level look like as custodial staffing increases? Lenkaitis said cleaning frequency is determined by a room's classification in the campus space inventory. That information is available on the custodial services website, and by Jan. 18, it should be updated to reflect the restored service levels:

  • Restrooms: Daily
  • Common areas (vestibules, corridors, stairwells, elevators): Twice per week. Due to sand and salt dragged in from winter sidewalks, floor work in common areas may be more frequent this time of year.
  • Classrooms: Weekly full clean, plus two spot cleans (floor and trash)
  • Library study areas: Weekly
  • Department spaces such as conference or meeting rooms and break rooms: Weekly (trash emptied daily in a kitchenette)
  • Personal offices: Every other week (service includes trash, floor, dusting on cleared surfaces)

Did you know?

  • Custodians may not move anything in personal offices. If your desk surface is cleaned off, it gets dusted (though items on your desk, such as a framed photo, won't -- again, because your custodian can't pick it up).
  • Most custodians (roughly 70%) work 4 a.m.-12:30 p.m. The rest are divided between two other shifts: 7:30 a.m.-4 p.m. and 4 p.m.-12:30 a.m.

Lenkaitis said beginning this month, research labs will be cleaned monthly, but only when the service is requested. She noted many research teams prefer custodial teams don't work in their space, so unless a unit requests the service, custodial teams will stay out of research labs.

Trash centers could remain in use

Because trash wasn't collected from offices last year, FPM created trash centers on every floor of every building. Faculty and staff were asked to bring their office trash to their trash center, and custodians regularly removed the trash from the buildings.

Custodians will resume collecting trash from offices and administrative areas, but FPM will keep the trash centers available initially and, if there is sufficient use, retain them.

Catching up over winter break

During the winter break, custodial teams turned their attention to spaces, including offices and other department spaces, that weren't cleaned during fall semester under the previous service plan. Those spaces will get at least one full clean, Lenkaitis said.

Enhanced cleaning and disinfecting efforts during fiscal year 2021 -- which was supported by federal COVID-19 relief funding -- masked planned service reductions necessitated by ISU's across-the-board 5% budget cut that year. Instead, the reduced services took effect last July 1, and during fall semester custodians focused on spaces students use -- classrooms, auditoriums, teaching labs, seminar rooms and library study spaces. It left department spaces, including employee offices, to be cleaned by those who use them.

Standardized test score dropped from admission requirements

Meeting Jan. 12 at its Urbandale office, the state Board of Regents voted to move ahead with making national standardized tests -- the ACT or SAT -- optional for admission to Iowa's three public universities. Once a hard-and-fast prerequisite to study at most U.S. colleges and universities, standardized tests temporarily became optional during the COVID-19 pandemic when in-person test sites were a risky undertaking -- for students and test administrators.

According to board data, about one-third of the regent universities' combined fall 2021 class was unable to calculate a score in the Regents Admission Index (RAI) due to a missing ACT score and were admitted through individual review of their applications.

Prospective students who can provide all three components in the regents' 13-year-old RAI -- standardized test composite score, high school GPA and a set of high school core courses -- can quickly calculate their own admissibility. A minimum required score for in-state applicants is 245.

The original index included a fourth data point, class rank, but that, too, became optional in 2015 and was phased out in 2020 in response to declining numbers of high schools that provide it.

Automatic admission still an option for in-state applicants

The board's vote gave executive director Mark Braun authority to complete the steps necessary to amend the Iowa Administrative Code. Its recommendation, adopted from the regent universities' admissions study team, included three elements:

  • End the standardized test requirement for admission of first-time undergraduate students.
  • Keep the automatic admission pathway (three-factor RAI and 245-point threshold) for Iowa resident applicants.
  • Continue to individually review prospective first-time undergraduates who don't have all three RAI components or score an RAI below 245.

The board's chief academic officer, Rachel Boon, told board members a review of a significant volume of data showed that standardized tests provide insight on student preparation, but beyond first-year college grades, aren't strong predictors of student success. High school GPA is more indicative, she said.

She also noted that test-optional policies among universities "are becoming really widespread nationally." The risk would be in putting Iowa's public universities at a competitive disadvantage if they continue to require a standardized test score for admission.

"This recommendation is not about devaluing the ACT. It's really about giving our admissions teams some flexibility in the absence of a test score," she said.

Semiannual reviews

Also during the two-day meeting, the board completed semiannual performance reviews of the university leaders and Braun in closed session.

Get vaccinated

In his public remarks, board president Michael Richards, a retired medical doctor, again encouraged regent employees and students to receive COVID-19 vaccinations.

"Get vaccinated. It's the single most important thing anyone can do," he said. "The vaccines are safe and effective. They overwhelmingly stop serious illness, hospitalizations and death."

Richards said the board's fall semester guidelines for campus operations at the regent universities will remain in place for spring semester. Campus policies should continue to reflect the guidelines, he said.

Richards also said the board is keeping an eye on legal challenges to federal COVID requirements and awaiting additional court decisions "before determining how to proceed at regents institutions."

Burst water pipe relocates admissions, registrar teams

Sandwich board tells campus the building is closed

The Enrollment Services Center is closed for restoration work from water damage following a burst sprinkler pipe Jan. 3 on the third floor. Photo by Christopher Gannon.

A broken fire sprinkler pipe above a third-floor conference room in the Enrollment Services Center in the early hours of Jan. 3 caused enough water damage to force occupants -- staff in the registrar and admissions offices -- to relocate temporarily.

When spring semester begins Tuesday, the registrar staff will receive walk-in clients on the second floor of the Hixson-Lied Student Success Building. The new student programs office on the second floor of the Memorial Union (MU) will serve admissions' walk-in guests, said associate vice president for enrollment management Laura Doering. International students will be served (by admissions staff) in the international students and scholars office, 3241 MU.

Walk-in assistance:

Admissions: 2630 MU (office of new student programs)
Registrar: 2157 Hixson-Lied Building

Admissions' Soultz Family Visitors Center on the MU south ground floor, normally a candidate for an admissions walk-in center, is closed spring semester for remodeling. Beginning Jan. 18, the MU Gold Room will serve as a temporary location for prospective student campus visits.

Admissions staff who process applications will have temporary offices on the ground level of Student Services Building. Admissions leaders and Doering also will have offices in Hixson-Lied.

Office and individual phone numbers won't change, she said.

Student services continue

Because there isn't room for all displaced employees, Doering said some desk-sharing will be necessary, and employees will rotate between on-campus and remote work. But, she emphasized the services students need -- transcript, enrollment verification, veteran certification, records, graduation and commencement, tuition and fees -- will be available at the Hixson-Lied second floor location. Registrar staff who provide other services -- degree audits or course offerings, for example -- can be reached by phone or email.

"Students will be served well in these temporary offices," Doering said. "So many of our registrar and admissions services are available online, but we want to meet the on-site demand, too. We won't compromise any services."

The damage

An estimated 1,500 gallons of water flowed from the broken pipe in the short time before Ames firefighters arrived and turned off water to the building Jan. 3. At 4 a.m., ISU custodial staff got to work removing excess water and by 6:30 a.m. the first ServiceMaster cleanup crew had arrived.

In the week since the water leak, Doering said ServiceMaster crews have dried and cleaned the affected areas of the building, and employees were able to remove personal items from their workspaces. Demolition of damaged building materials has started.

Depending on the floor, the restoration phase could include replacing flooring, sub-floors, drywall and ceilings. The elevator isn't operational and repairs could take up to six months. ISU leaders anticipate receiving, by week's end, a summary of the reconstruction phases and the scope of work to be completed.

The shortage of building materials likely will create a lull before reconstruction begins, but Doering said that also provides a window to prioritize building areas and work to be completed. Optimally, staff might return to their workspaces during the semester as areas of Enrollment Services Center become available.

"We'll continue to evaluate when it makes the best sense -- for our campus partners and our students -- to move back in full or move back partially."

Spring public health measures to be similar to fall

Faculty, staff and students will have another opportunity to get vaccinated on campus, with a clinic planned soon at State Gym in partnership with Hy-Vee, senior leaders announced in a campus message last week. 

Details on the date of the clinic aren't set yet, but offering the vaccine on campus helps provide easy access to the best tool for fighting COVID-19. Vaccination against COVID-19 is safe and effective at both preventing infection and reducing severity of breakthrough infections, which are more common with the omicron variant that is driving an increase in cases nationwide.

On-campus vaccine clinics also were offered before and during the fall semester, one of many spring semester public health measures that will resemble those in the fall, with one key exception. Here are some highlights of the plans, based on the Jan. 6 message from senior leaders and a Jan. 6 companion message from the provost's office that provided guidance on instruction:

Isolation and quarantine

The most significant change in public health measures for the spring is the update to isolation and quarantine procedures, based on the most recent recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

People who test positive for COVID-19 should isolate for five days after the day their symptoms first emerged or their test sample was taken. After five days, those who are fever-free and seeing improvement in other symptoms can end isolation if they wear a mask around others for five more days.

Those exposed to a person who tests positive don't need to quarantine if they're fully vaccinated. Unvaccinated individuals should quarantine for at least five days after the day they had contact with a person with COVID-19. Regardless of vaccination status, people exposed to COVID-19 should get tested at least five days after the contact and wear a mask for 10 days.

Further changes could come when the CDC releases specific guidance for schools and universities.  


As in the fall, the default method for instruction and student services will be face-to-face. If a course was taught in a classroom before the pandemic, it likely will remain in that mode unless a change in delivery method for pedagogical reasons has been approved by the department chair and dean's office. Instructors can supplement their usual office hours with online availability, but virtual offerings shouldn't replace a physical presence. Meetings that aren't student-facing have more flexibility to move online as needed.

Cyclones Care

Health practices promoted in the Cyclones Care campaign continue to be encouraged, including getting vaccinated and boosted when eligible, staying home when sick, washing hands frequently and, as recommended by the CDC, wearing a well-fitting mask around others. Masks are encouraged in all indoor settings, including shared offices and classrooms, and are required in some spaces, such as on CyRide.


All community members can schedule a PCR test at Hy-Vee's on-campus drive-thru site, in Lot F west of Stephens Auditorium (free with lab processing, $119 for rapid test). At Thielen Student Health Center, the Memorial Union and Union Drive Community Center, employees and students can pick up a free Test Iowa kit, a self-administered PCR test that provides results within 24 hours after the lab receives the sample.

Symptomatic students can schedule a COVID-19 test at the Thielen Student Health Center. They also can schedule vaccinations at Thielen.

When positive

Faculty, staff and student employees have access to an extra bank of sick time for COVID-19-related absences (80 hours for full-time workers) through June 30 under a program approved last fall by the state Board of Regents. The time off can be used by employees diagnosed with COVID-19, quarantining due to exposure, or receiving or recovering from a COVID-19 vaccine. Employees also can access COVID-19 leave if they are caring for an immediate family member with COVID-19 or a child whose school or child care provider has closed due to COVID-19.

Employees with COVID-19 who feel well enough to work from home while isolating can contact their supervisor to make remote work arrangements. Instructors isolating with COVID-19 who wish to shift a course online temporarily can do so, following the established approval process.  

Instructors should provide reasonable flexibility to students who are not feeling well, but they are not required to post lectures online.

Keeping informed

The central site for finding information about the university's COVID-19 response remains the Moving Forward webpage, which includes updates and relevant links. Data from on-campus testing of symptomatic students and required student-athlete testing is posted online every Wednesday.  

Extension looking for diversity ambassadors

Serving Iowans is ISU Extension and Outreach's mission, but the organization is taking steps to ensure it's welcoming and reaching the most Iowans.

In October 2021, extension introduced its first diversity statement, guided by a leadership team and informed by numerous sources. Regenea Hurte, extension diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) advisor, said the 2017 climate survey, a review of peer institutions and the overall mission and vision of extension and outreach helped create the diversity statement.

Extension diversity statement:

"Iowa State University Extension and Outreach celebrates all identities, cultures and backgrounds, and actively works to foster a climate that is grounded in respect, value and belonging. In our communities, diversity, equity and inclusion enrich the experiences of ISU Extension and Outreach participants and partners. In our organization, diversity, equity and inclusion support constructive workplace and educational environments and promote excellence throughout the organization. ISU Extension and Outreach aims to provide research- and evidence-based educational opportunities to cultivate the growth of Iowa’s agriculture, families, youth and communities; is dedicated to serving all Iowans; and will continue to take intentional and thoughtful steps to achieve this goal."

Hurte said the statement is an important step for the university in its role as a land-grant university. Vice president for extension and outreach John Lawrence said in an update to extension staff "the statement is not a box we check on our 'to do' list; it is a starting point and guide for our efforts going forward."

Diversity ambassadors

Hurte, who began her full-time role as DEI advisor in July, is recruiting extension staff, faculty, council members and administrators for roles as diversity ambassadors.

"Ambassadors will be front-line representatives for extension ensuring the diversity, equity and inclusion tenets are considered, included and manifested in the daily work of their county, division, and educational and program areas," Hurte said.

That includes a range of possibilities, from making sure extension is meaningfully accessible to the widest range of Iowans, to engaging traditional and diverse identifying communities in extension opportunities. Extension's continued commitment to DEI will help create a broader pool of individuals for educational and employment opportunities within extension or positions on extension county boards, Hurte said. Ambassadors also will help ensure extension is meeting its civil rights reporting responsibilities to federal and county partners.

Hurte, who worked in the university's office of equal opportunity from 2018 to 2020, is just beginning the process of identifying individuals to serve as diversity ambassadors, but ideally there would be at least one per county, region or unit. Training is being developed and expanded based on current extension offerings. Hurte is planning an information session for the coming weeks and hopes to begin training the first cohort of ambassadors as soon as possible.

"I have already received some interest from across extension, including our administrative units, which is exciting to me," she said. "We want representation in our 99 counties across the state, but also internally in the administration to demonstrate that this is a systemwide priority."

Hurte is leading the effort but is adamant others' voices will be included in the DEI efforts. She will rely on extension staff who engage with people in their communities to determine how the commitment to DEI can best serve them.

"They will absolutely inform what this program looks like and how it functions," she said. "It might look really different from one county to the next."

Regenea Hurte

Regenea Hurte

Extension employees and council members interested in learning more about or becoming a diversity ambassador can email Hurte at or call 515-520-1832.

Larger impact

DEI is one of four goals in ISU's current strategic plan to make faculty, staff, students and visitors feel welcomed, supported, included and valued. Extension is expanding those ideas across its statewide network.

"You can't prepare leaders for a global 21st century without being able to navigate the DEI tenets that are necessary," Hurte said.

Hurte said the extension mindset of sharing knowledge to help others sets a foundation to build on DEI initiatives across the state. 

"We are working to meet our goal of serving all Iowans," she said.

King Jr. legacy series kicks off Monday

A variety of events on campus and in Ames will celebrate and honor the legacy of civil rights crusader Martin Luther King Jr.

Iowa State's annual MLK Jr. Legacy Series begins with the community birthday celebration Monday, Jan. 17 (6-7:30 p.m.), both virtually on Facebook Live and Ames Television's YouTube channel, as well as in person at the Ames City Auditorium. King was born Jan. 15, 1929.

Jeff Johnson, the Lora and Russ Talbot Endowed President and CEO of the ISU Alumni Association, will serve as the keynote speaker. The Ames Human Relations Commission will present its annual Humanitarian Award.

There are no classes and university offices are closed on the national holiday, Monday, Jan. 17.

ISU carillonneur Tin-Shi Tam will honor King during her daily central campus concert Wednesday, Jan. 19. "Let Freedom Ring" begins at 11:50 a.m. and will include hymns, spirituals and music inspired by Dr. King.

The legacy series' keynote will be delivered Thursday, Jan. 27, by Yusef Salaam, a prison reform activist who was wrongly convicted in the 1989 "Central Park Five" case. His address, "Better, Not Bitter: Living on Purpose in the Pursuit of Racial Justice," will begin at 6 p.m. in the Memorial Union Great Hall.

Prior to Salaam's lecture, the university's annual MLK Jr. Advancing One Community awards will be granted to ISU community members who are making Iowa State better while following the principles of Dr. King.

Salaam's story

Yusef Salaam head shot

Yusef Salaam

In 1989, a young woman was attacked and left for dead in New York City's Central Park. Five boys -- four black and one Latino -- were convicted of the crime and became known collectively as "The Central Park Five." Salaam was 15 years old at the time.

Their convictions were vacated and the men were exonerated in 2002 after DNA in the case was finally linked to a convicted murderer and serial rapist who confessed.

Since his release, Salaam has committed himself to advocating and educating people on the issues of false confessions, police brutality and misconduct, press ethics and bias, race and law, and the disparities in America's criminal justice system.

Salaam received the President's Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016 from then-President Barack Obama. He serves on the board of the Innocence Project, and has released a Netflix miniseries "When They See Us," based on the true story of the Central Park Five. He also wrote a book about his experiences and philosophy of life, "Better, Not Bitter."

All events are free and open to the public.