As real as it gets

Four students discuss with business owner Bob Recker

Photo by Christopher Gannon.

(From left), Agricultural and biosystems engineering seniors Katie Sobotka, Laura Rouse and Carl Howell and biological systems engineering junior Tayana Roark met with their capstone project sponsor, Bob Recker, owner of Waterloo-based Cedar Valley Innovation, in the Sukup atrium Tuesday. The hands-on project is the focus of the students' experience in the two-semester ABE 415/416, Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering Design.

The team is developing tools for simulated water erosion and water quality impacts, and creating models that communicate the impact of cropping choices.

"My great joy in life is working with capstone teams," said Recker of the experience. His company focuses on soil health, specifically identifying and testing opportunities for cash crops and companion crops that improve soil quality for future generations.

Faculty job satisfaction survey results shared with senators

Assistant provost for faculty development Tera Jordan presented results of the COACHE faculty job satisfaction survey at the Feb. 15 Faculty Senate meeting.

The 2021 survey was administered from Feb. 1 to April 13 and had a 56% response rate (856 of 1,527 eligible faculty). All full-time faculty except those in their final year at Iowa State receive the survey. Administrators at the assistant dean level and higher don't participate in the COACHE survey. The response rate varied among groups:

  • 64% of underrepresented faculty
  • 61% of women faculty
  • 60% of white faculty
  • 42% of Asian faculty

Four areas faculty selected among the best aspects of working at ISU are:

  • Quality of colleagues (30%)
  • Cost of living (17%)
  • Academic freedom (16%)
  • Support of colleagues (14%)

Four areas they selected in need of improvement are:

  • Compensation (27%)
  • Geographic location (22%)
  • Too much service/too many assignments (15%)
  • Lack of diversity (14%)

Seventy percent of faculty said they would choose to work at ISU again, but only 55% would strongly recommend their department as a place to work, Jordan said. Thirty-five percent would recommend their department with reservations, a number similar to peer institutions.

Universities that complete the COACHE survey are allowed to compare their results to up to five other institutions. Iowa State selected the same peers from previous years: North Carolina State University, Purdue University, Texas Tech University, University of California, Davis, and Virginia Tech.

"It allows for custom questions that gives us a rich source of data and information in the survey," Jordan said. "Compensation and too much service were also in the top four areas and at about the same percentages for improvement for our peer institutions."

ISU faculty have participated in the survey every three to four years since 2005-06. Jordan said survey results contributed to several changes, including improved clarity and guidelines for faculty advancement and review, strengthening of faculty mentoring and enhanced faculty leadership programing.

Survey results will be posted on the provost's website when they are prepared.

Strategic plan

Vice president for research Peter Dorhout presented a progress update on the next university strategic plan. A second town hall for faculty and staff is Feb. 21 (4:30-5:30 p.m., 0114 Student Innovation Center). It also will be livestreamed.

Start time

Senior vice president and provost Jonathan Wickert said conversations have begun to determine if class start times will remain as they are or revert to the pre-pandemic schedule. Beginning in fall 2020, the passing time between Monday, Wednesday and Friday classes was increased by five minutes, from 10 to 15 minutes, to provide more time to empty classrooms and ease congestion. Classes currently begin at 7:45 a.m. and end at 6:20 p.m. instead of 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Committee shuffle

Faculty Senate president Andrea Wheeler announced University Professor of biomedical sciences Tim Day is leaving his position as chair of the judiciary and appeals committee to serve in a role for President Wendy Wintersteen. University Professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering Steve Freeman will serve as interim chair until Day's term ends in May. Matthew Frank, industrial and manufacturing systems engineering professor, will replace Freeman as chair of the governance council.

Other business

Senators will vote at the March meeting on a name change for the undergraduate agriculture and society major, to agricultural and rural policy studies, in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Ninety-one percent of current students voted in favor of a name change in a recent survey, and sociology department faculty voted 17-0 in favor of the change. Students said the current name is confusing to employers.

Senators also approved a change to the catalog in effect policy to clarify students can graduate under a catalog from the previous six years. The change adds a year due to students taking longer to graduate. The year range can cover the period a student is enrolled at an accredited college or university, not just ISU.

Innovators will share their stories at the statehouse next week

"Innovation for Iowa" is the theme for this year's ISU Day at the Capitol event at the statehouse Tuesday, Feb. 22.

The annual event, cancelled last year due to the pandemic, is an opportunity for the university to share with legislators its latest innovation and entrepreneurship initiatives, and to tell stories of how Iowa State is preparing workforce-ready graduates. ISU Day at the Capitol runs from 9:30 a.m. to noon in the building's rotunda.

President Wendy Wintersteen and nearly 50 faculty, staff and students and their Iowa-based partners plan to participate in the exhibits and engage with elected officials. A selection of "Innovation for Iowa" exhibits to be showcased includes:

Cyclones work. Fifty-eight percent of Iowa State graduates stay in Iowa to begin their careers. ISU's career services professionals provide effective practices, services, resources and events to prepare ISU students for a successful transition to the workforce of Iowa and beyond. Strong ongoing relationships between ISU and Iowa employers help make this possible.

First-of-its-kind rural broadband R&D. Iowa State is developing the Agriculture and Rural Communities Wireless Living Lab, the only such lab in the world, which promises to make Iowa a national model and growth center for rural broadband. The project will study infrastructure needed for smart, connected rural communities, and for providing affordable, high-capacity connectivity.

A new era for safeguarding animal health. A new home for ISU's world-class Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory is under construction. A second phase of the project will bring all the lab's operations under one roof. The lab plays a major role in safeguarding animal health and public health -- and keeping Iowa's $32.5-billion-a-year animal agriculture industry competitive.

CYStarters: A catalyst for innovation culture. Students in the Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship's CYStarters program have a mindset for entrepreneurial businesses. Student entrepreneurs will showcase their creativity in:

  • Super hero collectibles
  • Sharing the stories of meat produced on family farms
  • One-stop shopping for events and entertainment
  • Personalized planners
  • Musical instruments with lit-up flare

Award-winning Ames Lab partnership. Ames Laboratory's Critical Materials Institute is partnering with TdVib, an Iowa firm, to recover rare-earth metals from electronic waste on a commercial scale. The project, based on technology honored with a national R&D 100 Award in 2021, has provided the company an opportunity for growth and expansion.

Filtering the noise for businesses in every Iowa county. Over the past five years, the Center for Industrial Research and Service (CIRAS) and its partners have helped more than 4,100 businesses in every Iowa county -- a multibillion-dollar impact. CIRAS showcases how ISU expertise helps "filter the noise" so companies can make better decisions, including navigating federal cybersecurity rules and increased understanding of a myriad 3D printing options.

Harnessing innovative tech to meet rural housing needs. ISU is helping redefine affordable, resilient housing for rural Iowa communities. The 3D Affordable Innovative Technologies Housing Project brings together cutting-edge innovations to deliver quality housing that meets the needs of Iowa communities and their workforce. ISU and Iowa Central Community College are partnering to develop educational programs on the project.

Toward a more cybersecure Iowa. ISU is leading cybersecurity education and workforce projects that will protect Iowa businesses and critical infrastructure. The Iowa Cyber Hub facilitates collaboration between education providers and companies to provide a cyber workforce. CySim will help organizations practice cyber defenses to prepare for future attacks. ReCIPE, a federally funded coalition, will help secure the energy sector.

New program taps campus experts to fuel student innovation

Early in her career, Claudia Lemper-Manahl worked in the pharmaceutical industry, and it's an experience the microbiologist fondly recalls. Collaborating with engineers and statisticians on projects expanded her perspective beyond DNA and bacteria. 

"There was so much more than what you were studying," she said. "It was getting to see the bigger picture of what science does that excited me."

Claudia Lemper-Manahl head shot


Lemper-Manahl, an associate teaching professor of plant pathology and microbiology, has aimed for that same big-picture enthusiasm in the 25 years she's taught undergraduate genetics and microbiology labs and led youth outreach efforts. It's why she leapt at the chance to be a part of a new program designed to forge faculty and staff connections with the Student Innovation Center (SICTR).

She's one of the eight faculty and staff selected as an SICTR consulting innovator, a roster of diverse ISU experts who are collaborating with the center to develop and deliver innovation programming, events and industry-sponsored experiences for students.

While many ISU employees are already engaged with SICTR to advance student innovation -- often as technical advisors or skill coaches -- the faculty and staff innovators program creates a formal role for lending expertise and curating student experiences, providing recognition for work that's above and beyond usual job duties, said Karen Piconi Kerns, director of innovation programs.

"Students engaging faculty and staff as consulting experts advances their understanding of how to advocate for themselves and advance their projects. These faculty and staff advisors are crucial contributors to our program," she said.   

The program also encourages participation and emphasizes the mutual benefits, Piconi Kerns said. Consulting innovators receive professional development funds ranging from $2,000 to $5,000 and work closely with industry experts, innovators-in-residence, students seeking challenges and colleagues with shared sensibilities. Those relationships could lead to private-sector funding, graduate student recruits or new collaborations with peers, she said.

Lemper-Manahl said the contacts she's made across campus as a consulting innovator have been valuable and invigorating, like she's joined an innovation-focused community.

"The No. 1 thing has been connecting with other people who are like-minded about innovation," she said. "That's worth everything."

The project Lemper-Manahl has taken on as a consulting innovator is CySI, an innovation challenge based on microbiology and forensics scheduled to debut this fall. She'll select an eight-person task force of students from various disciplines to design the details of the challenge, which will be held over one weekend day and take competing teams of undergraduates to locations across campus. The student team will be co-coached as part of the Innovation Fellows Program and students will receive credit toward their Fellowship goals. Students will apply for the task force positions, which will carry stipends and academic course credit.

In future years, new student task forces will design that year's challenge. Industry partners will vary based on the challenge topic. It also could be offered in the summer as a high-school outreach program.

"It could get people thinking and innovating in so many different ways," Lemper-Manahl said.

The student-driven aspect of CySI is one of the guiding principles in student innovation programming, which promotes independence, creativity and problem-solving. That's why consulting innovators assume the role of collaborating experts as opposed to teachers or advice-givers, Piconi Kerns said.   

"Our goal is to companion students with consultants who give them an experience of invitation, permission and resourcing so they own and create innovation opportunities more proactively," Piconi Kerns said.   

At the same time, the consulting innovator program also encourages faculty to get support for universitywide innovation experiences by bringing in industry innovators to give workshops or serve as technical experts or holding innovation-based events. 

See the SICTR website for more information about the consulting innovator program. To explore what collaboration with the center could look like, co-create or sponsor an innovation experience or to serve as an industry innovation sprint consultant, contact Piconi Kerns at

Mail delivery makes impression for university

Iowa State's 34-17 victory over Oregon in the 2021 Fiesta Bowl was one of the biggest wins in program history. The athletics department received congratulations on the victory months after the game, not because fans were continuously rewatching it. They were just checking their mailbox.

Meter ads

Mail meter ads that could appear on outgoing university mail. Provided image.

The victory led to one of the latest mail meter ads on every piece of outgoing university mail recognizing the accomplishment. In 2021, about 2,000 pieces of mail ran through three meters each weekday, postal and parcel services manager Bob Tott said.

Fans took notice.

"After the Fiesta Bowl win, we ran the ad the whole spring semester," Tott said. "I know it surprised the football program when people commented on it. It does leave an impression."

Meter ads are special at ISU, most frequently reserved for football bowl victories. The brand positioning program "Innovate at Iowa State" has been used. The university's sesquicentennial celebration in 2007-08 also warranted a special mail meter.

"They are really for a university event, celebration or achievement," said university marketing director Carole Custer.

The latest meter ad will feature "Reuse, Reduce, Recycle" during the month of March in support of the Live Green initiative.

The first meter ad appeared after coach Dan McCarney led the Cyclones to a 37-29 victory over Pittsburgh in the 2000 Bowl.

"We had a championship logo made and got it approved through the bowl," said Custer, who has done the same with each successive bowl victory. "The number of impressions that it makes serves us well."

Technology makes it easier

Meter ads are a logo or personalized message printed on the envelope, boosting brand visibility. Prior to a digital upgrade in 2009 that allows a JPEG image to be turned into a meter ad in a day or two, the process was far more involved and time-consuming.

Football bowl victories since 2000 Bowl: ISU 37, Pittsburgh 29 (2000)

Independence Bowl: ISU 17, Miami (Ohio) 13 (2004)

Insight Bowl: ISU 14, Minnesota 13 (2009)

Liberty Bowl: ISU 21, Memphis 20 (2017)

Fiesta Bowl: ISU 34, Oregon 17 (2021)

"When we had mechanical meters, you had to purchase a metal slug to put in the meter which would have the message on it," said Tott, who had to order three slugs, one for each postage meter. "To make a slug you needed three to five weeks to get it. It was a lot of hurry up and wait."

"The last slug I ordered was the Pinstripe Bowl," said Tott of the 27-13 setback to Rutgers in 2011.

Custer praised postal and parcel services for its willingness to work together to honor the university, usually under a tight timeline.

"It really shows that can-do spirit at the university," she said.

Tott has a collection of past slugs -- some not used after a defeat -- tucked away in a drawer, but many were tossed after being used.

Parking increases and pay matrix adjustment go to regents

Parking permit increases, a March 1 adjustment to the Professional and Scientific pay matrix and a request to begin planning phase two of the new Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (VDL) are on the agenda when the state Board of Regents meets Feb. 23. The virtual event will be based at the board's Urbandale office; all public portions of the meeting will be livestreamed on the board's website. The agenda also is online.

A proposed 6% adjustment to the P&S pay matrix would align the structure with changes in the higher education jobs sector since it was adopted in September 2020. Adjustments for two pay grades in the matrix, P803 and 804, took effect Dec. 1 as part of a strategy to be more competitive in the local Ames market. If approved, the rest of the adjustments would take effect March 1. The regents' action would change the pay matrix, which sets minimum, maximum and intervals for each pay grade; salaries don't automatically move with it.

The first phase of the VDL, a $75 million project, is scheduled to open in fall 2023. It contains the laboratory's sample processing and receiving functions. The proposed $64.3 million second phase would allow all remaining testing sections of the laboratory, diagnostic research activities and administrative staff to be in one facility. The funding package for phase two is still being developed.

Parking permits

The parking division is proposing to raise parking permits about 4% for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Hourly rates at parking meters or metered lots ($1.25) would not change.

ISU lot permits

Permit type






24-hour Reserved



General staff*



Staff motorcycle









*Includes residence department and Ames Lab

Similar increases are proposed for the Memorial Union parking ramp, which is managed by the MU, not the parking division. Hourly rates at the ramp also would go up a proposed 25 cents per hour (to rates of $2.25 to $2.75 per hour), and the daily maximum would go from $17 to $20. The MU also wants to raise special fees (lost ticket, illegal exit, lost permit replacement) by $10 each.

MU ramp permits

Permit type






Fall or spring






Winter (Nov-Feb)



New centers

Iowa State will seek board permission for two new centers, the Translational AI Research and Education Center ("TrAC") in the office of the vice president for research; and the Center for Wireless, Communities and Innovation ("WiCi Center") in the College of Engineering. The latter addresses the need for leadership in rural broadband technologies and service (39% of rural U.S. lacks broadband access). The former focuses where artificial intelligence and machine learning converge, with a broad goal of solving science, engineering and societal challenges.

In other business:

  • Board staff will present the results from the board's first biennial free speech survey, conducted Nov. 9-Dec. 1, 2021, on the three university campuses. Iowa State had an employee response rate of 47.5%, and a student response rate of 10.3%, both the highest among the three schools.
  • The athletics department also will ask the board to approve a $1 million increase (to $9.1 million) to the budget for its 330-stall gameday RV parking lot east of the football stadium for fans. The increase reflects the pandemic's impact on construction materials and labor costs. The new lot and the pedestrian bridge spanning University Boulevard should be completed in time for the 2022 season.
  • The board will consider transferring, for $1, public radio station and call signs and licenses with the Federal Communications Commission, towers or tower leases and equipment used to operate the stations from the universities to Iowa Public Radio (incorporated by the board in 2006).

Iowa State will seek permission to:

  • Award an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters to Daniel Houston, a 1984 alumnus in marketing who serves as chairman, president and CEO of Des Moines-based Principal Financial Group, to recognize "one of the world’s most influential business leaders." Marketing faculty nominated Houston for the honorary degree.
  • Name the new Turkey Teaching and Research Facility for alumnus Stanley Balloun, who served as a professor in animal science and was an international expert in the science of turkey feed. A lead gift was provided by Jim and Julie Balloun of Atlanta, Georgia. Jim, also an Iowa State alumnus, is Stanley Balloun's son. The turkey facility, under construction north of the poultry farm on 520th Avenue south of Ames, should be completed this spring.
  • Demolish nine buildings on ISU's Bilsland Memorial Farm (two miles north of Madrid) that were heavily damaged in the August 2020 derecho. All functions from those buildings were relocated to other ISU farms. The land would become cropland.


Several oral reports are scheduled during the day:

  • Academic affairs committee (9 a.m. start): Winter session update,FY21 distance education
  • Campus and student affairs committee (10 a.m. start): Annual student financial aid report
  • Full board (1 p.m. start): Residence system annual report, Fall graduation and retention report

Do more with ISCORE this year

ISCORE program director Japannah Kellogg invites faculty and staff to put the annual Iowa State Conference on Race and Ethnicity into action, in a very simple way: With office coworkers or perhaps university colleagues doing similar work, choose one or two conference sessions you'll all watch -- and then schedule time after March 4 to discuss what you heard and learned and how it changes perceptions or behaviors.

"That approach, planning ahead and following up, gives the campus community an on-ramp to continue the dialogue on these topics and this conference," Kellogg said. "Now ISCORE isn't just a conference they attended. Now they're taking some actions back to their departments, for example at the next staff meeting.

"It's another way of moving the needle" on issues of equity and inclusion, he noted.

ISCORE 2022 includes a virtual pre-conference for employees and graduate students Wednesday, March 2 (10:45 a.m.-4 p.m.), and an in-person conference for all students, faculty and staff at the Memorial Union Friday, March 4 (8:45 a.m.-5 p.m.). Register online for both events.

Another example of ISCORE in action is a group of academic advisors in the College of Engineering who, for several years, have been meeting a couple of times each semester to discuss a book or movie that focuses on a minority population. Their discussion includes strategizing on how they can use what they learn to help their students. (Hear more from that team during a 1 p.m. breakout session March 2.)

2022 champions

The addition of champions to ISCORE in 2016 gave Iowa State's colleges and library a path to share innovative projects, achievements and best practices -- and integrate their efforts, where appropriate. Two are featured each year. The 2022 champions are the colleges of Business and Liberal Arts and Sciences. Recorded messages from deans David Spalding and Beate Schmittmann, respectively, about their college's recent accomplishments and current projects in inclusivity will be shared during Friday's welcome session (Business) and keynote session (LAS).

All keynotes available virtually

Kellogg said keynote addresses at both the pre-conference and conference will be livestreamed. The ISCORE platform is on and individuals need to register for ISCORE to receive access to Whova. The three keynote talks are:

  • Wednesday, 3 p.m., "Land-Grab Universities: How Indigenous Lands Funded U.S. Land-Grant Institutions," Robert Lee, history department, University of Cambridge, England, and Tristan Ahtone, member of the Kiowa tribe and editor at large for Grist, an online magazine for environmental news and commentary.
  • Friday, 9 a.m. "Calling on the Choir," life experiences that made her part of the diversity, equity and inclusion "choir," Anita Rollins, ISU retiree (2019), Ames city councilwoman, former Ames school board member, owner of Asriel Consulting and Publications.
  • Friday, noon, "Navigating Universilandia using Landing Spaces," social and political contexts for opportunities in higher education for historically marginalized communities, Cristobal Salinas Jr., ISU alumnus, educational leadership and research methodology department, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton.

Symphony of diversity

Stick around Friday afternoon. At the ISCORE closing reception March 4, student musicians in ISU's Symphony Orchestra will reprise their 2021 Symphony of Diversity performance, "A Thousand Thunderbolts," first performed last April to commemorate the centennial of the Tulsa Race Massacre. The performance includes recorded video of speeches by living Tulsa civil rights activists and a program of music written by Black American composers.

Director of orchestral activities Jonathan Govias brought his "Symphony of Diversity" concept with him to Iowa State in 2020. He began the concert series in 2017 at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte.