Cyclone tips to temper the winter blahs


The center atrium in Curtiss Hall is one of six stops on the winter editions of ISU Strolls for Well-Being sponsored by ISU WellBeing. Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Groundhog Day week brings joy to some; others need to hit March 1 to believe winter will release its grip. For employees in either camp, the Inside staff put together some no-cost to low-cost campus suggestions for solutions to the winter doldrums.

Learn something. University Museums' free art walks, featuring the Art on Campus collection, are organized this semester by material (ceramics or wood, for example) and led by staff members and docents. Through July, they begin at noon on the last Wednesday of the month.

Pay less. 50% discounts on mindfulness electronic subscriptions or activity trackers are some of the current finds in Blue Cross 365 discounts, available to benefits-eligible employees.

Get outdoors. You don't need a membership to enjoy overnight rentals of snowshoes ($9), a cross-country ski package ($10) or a headlamp ($4) from ISU recreation services. The "weekend" rate (any four days) is charged at double the daily rate. The outdoor rec counter in State Gym's lower level (opposite the climbing wall) is open 2-7 p.m. Monday through Friday; complete the online request form, and pay before you take your equipment.

Check out books for your kids (or you). The Ames Public Library's bookmobile parks north of the Hub on Thursdays, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.

Kick winter in the shins. Head to the Hub for a gelato or sorbet by ISU Dining (choose from eight flavors daily), or visit the ISU Creamery, 2953 Food Sciences Building, for a scoop or three. Six ice cream flavors rotate daily from the Creamery's 19 flavors.

Enjoy a novelty. ISU carillonneur and music faculty member Tin-shi Tam performs every weekday at 11:50 a.m. And remember, she takes requests. Try to select pieces suitable for a carillon, and know Tam typically prepares the arrangement herself (this could take a week or two). She notifies requesters prior to the performance date. In the meantime, enjoy Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" on the ISU carillon from the summer of 2010.

Walk. Strolls for Well-Being added three strolls for winter on themes of journey, possibility and gratitude. Each features six pauses across campus, indoors and out, such as the Memorial Union north entrance, Morrill Hall and Kildee Hall. Strolls can range from 30 to five minutes, depending on your schedule. If time is too tight, try some pause where you are strategies.

Walk indoors. Parks Library has a self-guided tour of the building's art and architecture. Or, just walk. Smart librarians have calculated that one mile equals six laps around the second floor (including the tiers) or five laps around the third floor (without the tiers).

Talk about it. Employee and Family Resources counselor Joe Klipping is on campus Wednesdays (8 a.m.-5 p.m.) for counseling sessions with benefits-eligible faculty and staff (up to six sessions/year are free). Klipping can assist with life issues such as depression, anxiety, stress, grief, family and marital/couple relationships, and substance abuse concerns. Appointments are required (virtual sessions are available, too); call 800-327-4692 to schedule an appointment.

Be a campus philanthropist. Improve the lives of our students by making a cash or merchandise donation to the SHOP food pantry, 1306 Beyer.

Challenge a coworker. Check out a chess set from Parks Library's main desk. You have 24 hours to complete your game.

Try the rec. With a $10 day pass, faculty and staff can explore recreation services' facilities and fitness classes, from yoga to weightlifting. If you prefer to work out at home, subscribe to fitness on demand for a semester; there are rates for members and nonmembers.

Five questions for the awards shepherd

Kirsten Abel head shot


The basics:

Name: Kirsten Abel, inaugural honors and awards coordinator, office of the senior vice president and provost
Years in the position: 3.5
Years at ISU: 6 (previously in the office of sponsored programs administration)
Supervisor: Associate provost for faculty Dawn Bratsch-Prince

Similar to many structures at Iowa State, the university's faculty awards process is decentralized. Some departments have robust, decades-old award committees, some don't yet have a formal process. As a one-person, data-driven shop, Kirsten Abel is a resource for the entire campus and helps fill in around existing structures. She connects an awards committee to resources that help identify recognition opportunities. She visits with a department about how to begin to build an awards process and strategy. She works with faculty affinity groups that are award champions for their members. She also works with campus communicators to help shine a light on specific faculty and their work.

She said she limits herself to being active in 10 nominations at any time, but helps get many more to the finish line.

"Almost all of my emails begin with 'I'm just checking in,'" she said. "My primary role is as a shepherd."

Beyond the satisfaction of "winning," why are awards important?

We want Iowa State University to be a place where faculty can grow in their careers. We want to support a culture of recognition here. Awards are stepping stones to more success. We've found a strong correlation between awards, recognition, competitive funding success and service opportunities. Recognition is an important component to help our faculty be successful.

What's a frequent misperception you run into?

'Awards are for senior faculty, and I'm not there yet.' That's just not true. There's a continuum of awards throughout the faculty lifecycle, from young investigator to lifetime achievement. There are many opportunities for junior and mid-career faculty; in fact, that's probably the most important time to be thinking about recognition for your work. These are building blocks.

How should a faculty member in any discipline prepare to be a strong nominee?

Some of these might seem obvious, but they all count:

  • Keep your CV updated.
  • Maintain a summary document of your grants.
  • Have an online presence, for example a website for your lab.
  • Join disciplinary societies, but also be involved and offer volunteer service to them.
  • Network and collaborate in your discipline. Don't be a lab hermit.
  • Save letters of support. Later, it may be easier to start from "something" than to start from nothing.
  • In your annual performance review, include a conversation about awards and recognition you're interested in pursuing. It sets that expectation with your department. It might be in your college, a university award, an award in Iowa, but it helps to self-identify a few -- and receive input on timing and appropriateness.
  • Remember the door swings both ways. If you receive an award and that puts you in a position to nominate someone else, do it.

What's your best advice for a faculty member ready to vie for external honors?

Two things: First, be involved in your nomination packet (except for rare cases when the nomination is a secret). No one knows your work or its impact better than you. Second, nomination letters of support should come from people who know you and know your work. Letters written off of your CV -- even by someone with a prestigious title -- are easy to spot, and reviewers know the difference immediately.

Does a rejected nomination mean it's time to find a different award?

Not at all. Persistence is one of my strongest messages to faculty. Some people get very demoralized when they don't receive recognition immediately for something. I never think a nomination is a waste of time. If you don't play, you won't win. It's really important to get feedback, hone the nomination and put your name in the hat again. An unsuccessful nomination package is the beginning of a successful one, whether it's for the same award or a different one.

Strategic plan draft to be shared at town halls


Editor's note: Due to a glitch in the Webex security setting, the Feb. 9 town hall for faculty and staff was scheduled again for Feb. 21 (4:30 p.m., 0114 Student Innovation Center and via Webex Events.)


What do we want Iowa State University to be over the next 10 years?

Next week, the campus community will get a first glimpse of "to be" statements drafted by faculty, staff and students working to shape the next ISU strategic plan.

A faculty-staff town hall meeting will begin at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 9, in the lower level auditorium of the Student Innovation Center. Faculty and staff also can opt to join virtually via Webex Events.

A similar town hall meeting for students will be held Feb. 16 at the same time and location, and it also will be available via Webex Events. Links to both virtual events can be found on the 2022-2031 Strategic Plan Development website. Recordings of both town hall meetings will be posted on the site.

"We'll be seeking reaction and discussion on draft statements on what we see Iowa State becoming," said Peter Dorhout, chair of the strategic plan steering committee and vice president for research. "Our working groups drafted the statements based on four themes or pillars -- innovative solutions, education experience, knowledge and discovery, and community engagement."

"We'll also share our initial thinking about success factors -- the ways in which we'll measure success once the plan is in place. We definitely want to hear from faculty and staff on other ideas to measure success."

Regular updates

Participants at the town hall meetings will hear more about a draft process for inviting campus and external stakeholder input on a regular basis through the span of the nine-year plan.

"We're eager to hear input on a strategy we've been envisioning that enables campus and external stakeholders to propose ideas to achieve the 'to be' statements of our plan," Dorhout said. "Our hope is to determine a process that allows us to seek input, request proposals and consider and recommend new ideas or initiatives to invest in that are in line with our priorities."

Part of the process will be to communicate progress on a regular basis, which may take the form of an online dashboard of success stories as they accumulate.

In addition to the town hall meetings, the working groups identified stakeholder groups to seek input from, both on campus and off. The list includes Faculty Senate, P&S Council, Graduate and Professional Student Senate, Student Government, alumni, business and industry leaders, state elected officials, prospective students and parents, state community leaders and others. Many of these groups will be contacted over the coming weeks.

And coming soon is a web-based survey for providing additional input to the 2022-31 plan. Once it's ready, access to the survey will be from the strategic plan development website.


Related stories

Free speech training: A 20-minute investment

The state Board of Regents expects all students and employees at the three regent universities -- Iowa State and the universities of Iowa and Northern Iowa -- to complete virtual training about free speech and the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Everyone should complete the training by May 13, the end of spring semester.

The training module, created for Iowa's public universities by Boston-based Six Red Marbles, is among 10 recommendations the regents unanimously endorsed in February 2021. Universities are required to provide training annually. November's free speech survey was another recommendation on the list. Students, staff and faculty will participate in a survey every two years.

"The first step in creating a campus environment where different viewpoints are welcome is to understand the basic principles of First Amendment rights to free expression," wrote regents Michael Richards and Greta Rouse in a Feb. 2 letter to the three campus communities. Richards leads the board and Rouse chairs the board's one-year-old free speech committee.

Every person's participation, they wrote, "is important to our continued commitment to providing an educational, living and working environment that protects the First Amendment rights of all members of the campus community."

The training emphasizes the importance both of how to use speech and expression in classroom and out-of-class activities and to respect the protected speech and activity of others.

In a separate letter, Iowa State's senior leaders noted free speech and other First Amendment protections "are important components of Iowa State's welcoming campus and how we live out our Principles of Community."

The online training can be completed in about 20 minutes. Supervisors of staff members without regular access to computers should work with their employees to arrange access to a computer during their work hours. The survey also can be completed on a mobile device.

Iowa Staters who have technical problems accessing the survey should contact the IT Solution Center, 294-4000. More information about university policies related to free speech is on Iowa State's Free Speech website.