The welcome bridge

Workers atop pedestrian bridge east of stadium

Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Work continues on the athletics department's $10 million Gateway Bridge project to provide a safe pedestrian route between the football stadium and gameday parking areas east of University Boulevard. It also adds a south entrance to the university. The bridge, which will be in use for the Cyclones' first home football game on Sept. 3, is about 60% complete. The span across the road to connect the two towers will be added in mid-June.

New website is central spot for tracking retirement funds

A website that launched this week will allow employees to see all their university retirement savings in one portal, which they also will use to manage voluntary retirement contributions.  

Advisors available

Thinking about your retirement goals? Consider meeting with a financial advisor from one of the three vendors who provide ISU voluntary retirement plans.

AIG (In-person, virtual or on-campus)
Contact Dan Allen by email or at 515-322-0990

Ameriprise (In-person or virtual)
Contact Colette Gunhus by email or at 515-233-5402, or Emily Mickelson by email or at 515-253-8200

TIAA (In-person, virtual or on-campusmore information)
Contact Paige Philips by email or at 515-268-8607, or Jay Albrecht by email or at 515-268-8614

The Retirement@Work website simplifies planning for the future by displaying all of an employee's 403(b) and 457(b) retirement fund balances in the same spot no matter the vendor, including mandatory defined contribution plans (TIAA) and voluntary retirement savings (TIAA, AIG or Ameriprise). Information on IPERS, a defined benefit plan employees can select instead of TIAA for their required retirement contributions, is not shown in the portal.

In addition, Retirement@Work is where employees now go to sign up for voluntary retirement plans, select a vendor for a voluntary plan, and set or change their voluntary contribution amounts. Employees will no longer sign up for or make changes to voluntary retirement accounts in Workday. 

One benefit of Retirement@Work, a TIAA product, is the ability to select the maximum amount an employee can contribute without having to calculate how much that equals per monthly deduction. Adding that feature has been a frequest request from employees, said Angela Elthon, accounting manager for the fringe beneft accounting and compliance office. 

Retirement@Work provides investment research tools and retirement planning calculators, but to adjust investments or beneficiaries, employees will continue to access their accounts directly through their chosen providers. The launch of the new site doesn’t change prior retirement savings choices or policies.

Use Okta to log in to Retirement@Work. Here's a guide for adding application tiles to Okta, a guide for navigating the website and a 2-minute video that provides a visual tour.

For assistance with enrolling and managing accounts, call the phone center for Retirement@Work, managed by TIAA, at 844-567-9090 on weekdays, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. For general plan questions, email the fringe benefits accounting and compliance office.

Five questions for a Morrill Professor

Lee Burras

Lee Burras is a Morrill Professor in agronomy. Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Lee Burras is a self-described introvert who finds satisfaction in helping his agronomy students discover their passion. He was named a Morrill Professor in 2020, which recognizes faculty whose professional work demonstrates outstanding success in teaching and learning. Burras said the honor is important because he wants his teaching and research to impact people at Iowa State, across the nation and in other countries. His research has led to partnerships in other countries, including Uruguay, and provided opportunities for students. 

Name: Charles Lee Burras

Position: Morrill Professor in agronomy

Years at ISU: 27

Education: Bachelor's in agronomy and master's in soil science from Iowa State; Ph.D. in agronomy and soil science from Ohio State University

Burras is one of 20 current Morrill Professors at ISU. The title was first awarded in 2013.

What do you enjoy most about teaching?

I am naturally curious, and I find it exciting when I learn new things. Part of the fun of teaching is that if you are excited about something and you work with students, they want to learn, too. It's a way of sharing knowledge and getting them excited about something. That certainly gives me energy because I am learning from them just like they are learning from me.

What makes you successful as an instructor?

I do everything wrong. I use a whiteboard or chalkboard and I pose a question to the class about what I want them to think about that day. I don't use a lot of visual aids, but I try to use verbal examples and verbal images to get them to see in their mind and have it be dynamic. I see my job as a faculty member being able to pull them into what I am doing and talking about.

How did you land in agronomy?

I was encouraged to think about college because of a Navy ROTC scholarship that I ended up not using. I came to Iowa State undecided my first year and, I am embarrassed to say, I didn't even know that agronomy was an option as a major. I grew up in Iowa on a farm and didn't realize people studied soils in a serious way. The summer after my freshman year I needed a job, and a corn breeder in the agronomy department hired me. That's how I learned about agronomy, and I have been learning ever since. I love science, but it all really happened by chance.

How did you connect with a university in Uruguay?

About 20 years ago, a student came to Iowa State to work on his Ph.D., and I got to know him. He already was a faculty member in Uruguay. He asked me to do some research with him, and I asked him if he would be willing to do the study abroad opportunities we now offer our students. I have been to Uruguay a couple of times, and in the next year I will travel there and do a two-week field course with Uruguayan students at the university. I will be in the field explaining what I see to them, and they can tell me what they see.

What advice would you give new faculty?

Do the things, from a technical point of view, that you are really excited about. There will be a need for that knowledge, and if you are excited, you will be able to communicate it to other people. People want to listen to others who find what they do interesting. Also, always be a good citizen because Iowans are counting on us to advance knowledge, and a big part of that is sharing it with our students and stakeholders across the state.

Employee survey will help prioritize central ISU web portal

Where do you go on the ISU website?

Complete the survey by 5 p.m. Monday, April 18.

Last spring, Iowa State launched a major effort to redesign the university's front door -- its homepage -- and to reimagine its entire website template. The web redesign remains on schedule to debut this summer.

New look, new focus

President Wendy Wintersteen's charge for the redesign project was to focus the homepage on student recruitment.

"The project recognizes how imperative it is for us to meet the needs of prospective students and their families," Wintersteen said. "We're reimagining a web presence that serves as a critical component of our recruitment strategy, provides a positive first impression, piques interest and provides a clear pathway for prospective students and their families to engage."

A project team that includes staff from admissions, IT Services and strategic relations and communications is working with the Baltimore-based idfive agency on the mobile-first, accessible redesign.

The admissions website will move to the university's main site ( Extensive research and testing guided the development of a design concept and information architecture that appeals to prospective students and their families. The new website will debut by July 1.

Survey asks faculty, staff for input

As part of the project, a central page is being created to help faculty, staff and current students quickly access information, tools and resources important to their everyday needs.

A brief survey was emailed to faculty and staff on Monday, April 11. Employees have until 5 p.m. Monday, April 18 to share their input. Survey results, web analytics and interviews will help identify the information and resources featured on the central portal-style page.

"The goal is to provide a central page that connects the university community with navigation that helps them successfully learn, work and live at Iowa State," said Jacy Johnson, associate vice president for strategic relations and communications.

New design theme for campuswide use

The redesign project also includes the development of a theme package that will be available to campus units, offices and departments at no cost. The theme package includes a large selection of components to create custom websites in line with the main site's new look. The goal is to provide a consistent user experience across all websites, with a similar look, feel and experience on Iowa State University sites.

"This project will provide a more consistent user experience and strengthen Iowa State's brand. No matter where someone visits us online, they will see us as one university," Johnson said.

Town hall-style training sessions will be offered as part of the theme package launch in late summer or early fall. A web style guide -- including best practices for showing and telling Iowa State's story -- also is being developed.

"We're excited to offer a modern, research-based central web theme to the university community. We know it will take time to implement broadly, but this is an important first step," Johnson said.

P&S Council gets update on Reimagining LAS initiative

After tightening its budget in recent years, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (LAS) already has a lean staff as it begins the Reimagining LAS initiative to close the college's growing deficits, dean Beate Schmittmann told the Professional and Scientific Council at its April 7 meeting.

Schmittmann said that makes significant staff cuts unlikely in the three-year process to streamline LAS, which has a $11.4 million budget shortfall in fiscal year 2022 projected to grow to $15 million in FY2025 if changes aren't made. Any staff positions lost would likely be openings that aren't filled.

"We think we can handle this with natural attrition," she said.

While solving a $1 million per month deficit isn't pleasant, it does offer an opportunity to rethink how the college can bolster growing programs, support distinctive research, and respond to student and workforce needs, Schmittmann said. The varying departmental budget reductions that are part of the initiative reflect the need to refocus the college's resources.

"The cuts had to be differential because that really drives this reconfiguring," she said.

Schmittmann said departmental reductions ranging from zero to 25% were data-driven, based on current levels and trends in both program enrollment and overall student credit hours, as well as research productivity.

The college will take on 40% of the $15 million shortfall centrally with a combination of reduced services, all-funds budgeting, reallocation of unrestricted revenue and aggressive pursuit of new revenue, she said. Budget targets need to be met by FY2026.

Between the differential cuts and repayment of outstanding debt, departments will shoulder about 60% of the deficit. Savings will be determined by department leaders but could come from adjusting course offerings and phasing out or merging programs, which Schmittmann said will follow all university and state Board of Regents policies. The board recently approved a retirement incentive for eligible LAS faculty.

Schmittmann asked council members to be mindful of the stress the initiative is causing among the college's faculty.

"This will require some of our departments to really rethink what they do, how they do it and who they serve. And that's difficult in the best of times," she said.

In other business, the council:

  • Elected Matthew Femrite as vice president of university planning and budget. Council officers are elected at the March meeting, but there were no nominees for this position when officer elections were held last month.
  • Discussed conducting a survey to study the differences in how WorkFlex, the flexible work program for staff, is being applied in different units across campus.
  • Approved a motion seeking additional information about a technical issue related to sick time converting to vacation. University human resources said more information will be released in the near future. 

Faculty, P&S staff leaders make compensation pitch to regents

Preceding its review and approval of university salary policies in June, the state Board of Regents heard comments April 7 from representatives of employee groups not covered by a collective bargaining agreement. Iowa State presenters were Faculty Senate president Andrea Wheeler, architecture; and P&S Council president Chris Johnsen, extension and outreach. Below are excerpts from their comments.


Andrea Wheeler, president of the Faculty Senate

Full text (PDF)

"Faculty have worked tirelessly for the past two years. They have demonstrated goodwill to the university and a wealth of care for their students. Despite personal obligations -- family commitments, children at home, and elderly parents to shield and protect -- faculty continued to uphold the importance of the educational achievement of students, Iowa residents, to ensure the greater life opportunities that education brings."

"Faculty support the great State of Iowa. Graduating students support its businesses, its start-ups and its young entrepreneurs and innovators. The overall economic situation is not bad in Iowa. So, when I tell you, you need to recognize what faculty do, what they really do, I mean recognize through proper reward and proper salary increase what they contribute to the greatness of the State. Iowa State is losing both its competitiveness and the goodwill of faculty."

"Unless we can build, support and reward, Iowa State will experience a silent drain of the investment it has made in the development of its young faculty. And it will lose great faculty, those who have benefitted from investment: First-generation women advancing in their careers, underrepresented faculty and those with leadership aspirations. Without a commitment to salary increases, Iowa State will lose this year, and each further year, those who have ensured the continued education of Iowa residents during this pandemic and helped maintain the national and international reputation of our institution."

"Our new strategic plan aspires to a flourishing body of faculty, staff and students. But without proper salary increases, proper plans, agreed rewards, this plan will not succeed. The disengagement of faculty, the outward flow of excellence, this slow bleed, will harm not only the wellbeing of Iowa State University, but the educational resources of the great State of Iowa."


Chris Johnsen, president of the Professional and Scientific Council

Full text (PDF)

"The majority of my constituents that I have been elected to represent, from the largest employee group at Iowa State, know the work they do for Iowa State University is valued. I see it every day from our senior administration and leaders throughout campus. And most importantly -- from our student population.

"A senior leader shared with me a conversation they had with a collection of students who were asked, in the midst of the pandemic and shortly after a derecho ripped its way through Iowa, "How are you making it through all of this?" The resounding answer was, 'It's the staff.' When I heard this, I could not help but feel emotional. Many of us have taken on additional roles of counselors and mental health advocates that, while valued, add weight to many of our shoulders."

"While my primary mission here today is a salary statement, I do not believe we can separate the discussion of salary and benefits any longer. How else can we attract and retain employees? We must evolve and be responsive to keep pace with our industry counterparts; to keep our professional and scientific jobs attractive to quality talent. We have implemented a flexible work program. Perhaps for some, a fully remote work position will become a reality. Perhaps improvements will be made to adoption benefits? Establishing paternity leave?"

"I am here today asking for your support as Iowa State University continues to reimagine its future. Support innovative ways we can reward high performing individuals, support additional benefits to recruit and retain quality employees, and support evolving methods to allow for meaningful, annual raises."

"I am proud to say -- we will [still] succeed. We believe in our senior administration, our regents and ourselves. We've leaned on and supported one another in ways we did not imagine possible. We continue to provide incredible value to Iowa State University and the State of Iowa."

Return to normal can mean a return to basics

Kipp Van Dyke fielded a question from a community college transfer student that caught him off guard. The student spent the last two years attending every class virtually and was trying to get a feel for in-person classes at Iowa State.

"His first time stepping foot into a college classroom will be as a junior at Iowa State," the director of student assistance said. "It's important that you don't assume everyone is at the same level just because they are a sophomore or junior."

Faculty and staff spent the past two years helping students deal with challenges presented by the pandemic, and as it fades there are ways to adjust to the new normal.

Van Dyke said communication between instructors and students is vital, and neither should make assumptions about the other.

"We know some students still loaded their schedules to take advantage of virtual options this year and may not know some of the routines that were previously taken for granted," he said. 

Online elements remain

With instruction, meetings and office hours often available virtually for the past few years, Van Dyke said a "hybrid state" is likely to continue, with online elements incorporated into classrooms and events.

Faculty can help students by communicating when and where they are available for office hours and if there is a virtual option. As instructors prepare courses for the summer and fall, spelling out expectations in a syllabus will help students succeed.

Things that seemed obvious before the pandemic may no longer be taken for granted for a student population that has significantly different college experiences, Van Dyke said. Some students are adjusting to basic elements of a college classroom, like taking notes and answering questions in a live lecture instead of viewing a recording.

"For faculty, it is just stating that something is an in-person event, or even reminding students what the procedure is for turning in an assignment. Some of them have only done it electronically," he said. "Through all of this, faculty and staff have proven they are nimble and able to make the necessary adjustments."

Student health

The return to classrooms also allows instructors to monitor students' well-being in a traditional environment. Instructors have some of the most impactful relationships at the university with students. This can lead to students sharing problems that may extend beyond the classroom.

Not every student with an issue will seek help, but instructors may notice student behavior that suggests a larger issue, including:

  • Significant missed class time
  • Change in mood
  • Disruptive actions
  • Other students expressing concern about a peer

Adapting to change

Van Dyke said the office of student assistance tweaked several practices during the pandemic. For example, he has resumed meeting face-to-face with students, though still recognizes the benefits of virtual meetings. Commuting students avoid significant travel to meet with him, and the ability to include a parent in discussions can be helpful.

"I will always prefer face-to-face to make that connection, but the ease of a virtual platform can be great in certain situations," he said.

A plan to repurpose plexiglass

ISU logistics and support services (LSS) will coordinate a program to repurpose plexiglass shields for campus units that no longer use them. This is a voluntary program; units that want to keep their shields in place -- many date to summer 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic took hold -- are encouraged to continue using them.

LSS director Jared Hohanshelt said the first priority is to find other uses for the plexiglass shields on campus. Examples could be: raw materials for industrial design student projects; replacement windows or multiple types of barriers on university farms; or to support university museums exhibitions. Units with repurposing strategies for plexiglass should contact ISU Surplus manager Mark Ludwig,, for more information.

A second option could add some of the plexiglass to ISU Surplus' weekly public sale. The last choice, if needed, would be to find recycling options for it, Hohanshelt said.

Fill out the form

Campus units with plexiglass to turn in should follow the same procedure they use to dispose of office furniture and equipment. Complete an ISU Surplus Excess Property Disposal Form (PDF), and schedule a pick-up with LSS. Include the number of pieces and plexiglass dimensions in the description or comments section of the form.

Hohanshelt said plexiglass shields should be ready for transport. If a shield is attached to a surface or suspended from a ceiling (and employees can't free it without tools), they should request assistance via facilities planning and management's FAMIS360 platform.

Celebrate students' creative sparks at innovation showcase

The IGNITE Innovation Showcase next week will give some of Iowa State's most inventive students an opportunity to show how they're making their mark in a variety of ways. 

Each day of the second annual celebration of student innovation is organized around a theme and features keynote speakers in the evening, sessions throughout the day often focused on specific colleges and the final judging for student challenge competitions. More than 200 students will be participating in a challenge, with nearly $100,000 in prizes on the line over the week.

The showcase is designed to drive and elevate talented student innovators compelled by their sense of social and professional responsibility to address pressing challenges facing the world, said Karen Kerns, director of innovation programs at the Student Innovation Center.

"These students have reimagined and re-created themselves as changemakers, consultants, intrapreneurs, researchers, entrepreneurs and industry agents of advancement. They recognize that they can broker resources, relationships and opportunities to accelerate their progress and scale the impact of what they contribute," said Kerns, who organizes the showcase.

Most of the sessions are in the Student Innovation Center (SICTR). Registration is requested for the keynotes, which are open to everyone and feature an awards ceremony followed by a reception. The keynotes will be livestreamed.

Here's what faculty and staff may enjoy in each day's schedule:

Monday (theme: Change the World)


  • Expanding Our Narrative, 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., 4250 SICTR
    A University Library-led panel discussion on the importance of elevating voices and experiences of marginalized communities.
  • Snapshot Stories in Arts and Sciences, 12:30 p.m.-2:30 p.m., 2106 SICTR
    Students, faculty and staff in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (LAS) will share their innovation and entrepreneurship in 20 slides, with 20 seconds to talk about each slide. Heavy appetizers will be served and registration is required.
  • Design for Social Change: Civic Innovation, Social Entrepreneurship and Community Engagement, 3-4:30 p.m., 2260 SICTR
    Students in the College of Design's interdisciplinary option studios are exhibiting their work, emphasizes civic and social innovation. College of Design dean Luis Rico-Gutierrez will give remarks at 3:30 p.m. The exhibition is open all week.

Challenge competition:

  • Change the World, 2:30-4 p.m., 4250 SICTR
    Student teams propose solutions for addressing social and civic issues, vying for $10,000 in prizes.

Keynote speakers (0114 SICTR and via livestream):

  • Trent Preszler, CEO of Bedell Cellars and author of "Little and Often," 5:20 p.m.
  • Louis Carr, president of media sales at BET, 6:05 p.m.

Tuesday (theme: Move the World)


  • CYstarters, noon-1 p.m., SICTR step-a-torium
    Meet the newest class in the Pappajohn Center's summer accelerator program that pays students to work on their business ideas.
  • Plant the Moon, 12:30-1:15 p.m., 1133 SICTR
    This STEM learning opportunity challenges students in grades 4-12 to grow crops in conditions that simulate lunar or Martian conditions. 
  • Innovation in Engineering, 2-5 p.m., SICTR step-a-torium
    College of Engineering students will present capstone innovation projects. 
  • LAS Start Something I+E Academy, 4-5 p.m., SICTR second floor
    Students will share the projects developed in the first year of the LAS innovation and entrepreneurship program. Showcase also runs at the same time Wednesday.

Challenge competitions:

  • Move the World, 1:30-3 p.m., 4250 SICTR
    Students propose innovations in transportation, tourism, supply chain, digital tools and related resources, vying for $5,000 in prizes.
  • Retail Reinvention, 6-8 p.m., 4250 SICTR
    Students propose new strategies for Mindy Bergstrom's three downtown Ames businesses (Nook & Nest, Cooks' Emporium and Z.W. Mercantile), vying for $5,000 in prizes.

Keynote speakers (0114 SICTR and via livestream):

  • Panel discussion at 5:10 p.m. with Hudson Harr (CEO and founder of SkyCurrent), Dennis Muilenburg (president and CEO, DAM CyFly Consulting), Robert Piconi (CEO and co-founder, Energy Vault), Anthony Sardella (vice chairman and founder, evolve24) and Paul Willard (partner, Grep VC), with speech by Piconi at 6 p.m.

Wednesday (theme: Make to Innovate)


  • Symposium on Undergraduate Research and Creative Expression, 8 a.m.-5 p.m., various locations
    More than 200 students will present the results of their research in rolling presentations in SICTR rooms 1118, 1133, 3121A, 3237, 4227, 4237, 4201 and 4250. At a ceremony at 8 a.m. in the step-a-torium, two $750 awards will be given out to student researchers.  
  • Conversation with the dean on civic innovation, 3-5 p.m., 0101 Design
    Students and faculty will join Rico-Gutierrez for a discussion about how the college’s civic innovation agenda can be implemented in the classroom and curriculums.

Challenge competition:

  • Make to Innovate Lab of the Future, 2-4 p.m., 0625 Howe Hall
    Students propose an ideal space for the aerospace engineering department's Make to Innovate project-based learning program, vying for $10,000 in prizes.

Keynote speakers (0114 SICTR and via livestream):

  • Panel discussion at 5:10 p.m. with Mohammed Alabsi (senior VP of technology, Bukalapak), Narayan Devanathan (chief client officer for India, Dentsu International) and Gopichand Katragadda (founder and CEO, Myelin Foundry, and author of "S.M.A.S.H Innovation"), with speech by Katragadda at 6:05 p.m.

Thursday (theme: Feed the World)


  • CHS entrepreneurship and innovation, 5-8:30 p.m., fourth floor SICTR
    College of Human Sciences students pitch their business proposals and consulting projects to external judges at SPARKS café and in rooms 4201, 4227, 4229, 4237 and 4250.

Challenge competitions:

  • Food Fusion, noon-6 p.m., 3238 SICTR (culinary creation lab)
    Student teams create recipes fusing at least two cultures' cuisines, vying for $10,000 in prizes.
  • Student Innovation Fund, 1-4 p.m., 1118 SICTR
    This fund is for seed stage concepts that can be delivered by student teams within a year. Judges will distribute $20,000 among several student teams. From 3-4 p.m., four winning teams from last year will present their results.
  • Food (In)security, 2:30-5 p.m., 3121A SICTR
    Teams of high school students propose solutions for local issues related to food insecurity, vying for $3,000 in prizes.
  • Feed the World, 2:30-4:30 p.m., 1133 SICTR
    Interdisciplinary student and faculty teams will propose ways to better produce or distribute healthy food, improve food technologies or secure food sources. Winning team will receive $10,000 to devote to the project over the next year, and students will receive $1,000 stipends and three academic credits to develop their proposal.

Keynote speakers (0114 SICTR and via livestream):

  • Collin Hurd, business development manager of Raven Autonomy and co-director of ISU Ag Startup Engine, 5:05 p.m.
  • Oshoke Abalu, architect, futurist and co-founder of Love and Magic Company, 5:35 p.m.
  • Alison Van Eenennaam, cooperative extension specialist, animal genomics and biotechnology laboratory, University of California, Davis, 6:05 p.m.

Friday (theme: Innovation Awards Day)

Challenge competition:

  • Music Challenge, 11 a.m.-2:15 p.m., 4250 SICTR
    Student teams will present the musical instrument they invented or reimagined and will perform the song they composed for their instrument, vying for $10,000 in prizes. 

Keynote speaker (2055 Hoover Hall and via livestream):

  • Tan Le, founder and CEO of EMOTIV, 3:05 p.m., followed by an awards ceremony recognizing student innovation fellows, faculty innovators and others.