Colors that say 'welcome'

Students walk outside Black Engineering amid orange leaves

Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Students walk under a canopy of shifting fall colors this week near Black Engineering. Campus is transitioning from greens and yellows to vibrant hues just in time to help welcome thousands of Cyclone guests for Family Weekend, Oct. 14-16. About 900 Iowa State families -- more than 2,800 individuals -- will visit this weekend. Sponsored by the dean of students office, Family Weekend features loads of family-friendly events and activities on campus, as well as discounts at area businesses to encourage visitors to explore Ames, too.

October brings first chance, final shot for debt relief programs

For Iowa State employees with student loan debt, October is a big month. 

The U.S. Department of Education on Oct. 17 opened up the process for eligible borrowers to apply to reduce their student loan debt by as much as $20,000. Also, Oct. 31 is the expiration date for temporarily relaxed requirements for a different federal loan relief program that eliminates student debt of public sector employees after a decade of service.

Here's what ISU faculty and staff need to know about the pair of loan relief programs.

New one-time relief

In August, the federal government announced a plan to reduce the student loan balances of borrowers who in either 2020 or 2021 had an annual income of less than $125,000, or $250,000 for spouses filing jointly or a head of household. The relief payments will be up to $10,000 for borrowers who did not receive a Pell Grant in college and up to $20,000 for Pell recipients. 

Need help?

Benefits-eligible Iowa State employees have access to Savi, a TIAA-run student loan repayment assistance service that can help navigate federal and state programs to propose personalized options. At the free "DIY" level, employees receive links to the needed forms for the recommended programs and take it from there themselves. At the paid "essential services" level, Savi acts as a concierge, processing application forms, employer verifications and annual recertifications. Employees can sign up for Savi online and don't need to be a TIAA client. 

Most federal student loans are eligible, including all Direct and PLUS loans for parents and graduate students. Loans from discontinued federal financial aid options such as the Perkins and Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) programs are eligible if the debt is still federally held. Loans that meet the criteria qualify for relief even if they're in default or consolidated.   

An estimated 8 million borrowers will be notified they are approved automatically for the relief because the Education Department already has their recent income data. Most people will need to apply to receive debt relief. Applications for the program will be online-only at first via a form available on the Education Department's program webpage, which also includes additional details and FAQs about one-time relief. The form is designed to be simple, available in English and Spanish, and doesn't require submitting any documents or providing loan account login information. Support is available by calling 833-932-3439.

Applications will be accepted through Dec. 31, 2023. Borrowers should expect to see loan relief applied within about six weeks, which means they should apply right away, by mid-November at the latest, to have relief payments processed before student loan repayments resume in 2023. Loan payments have been suspended since March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic but will begin again in January.

To prepare to apply, log in or create an account at and confirm that your contact information is accurate. Also make sure that your loan servicer has your updated contact information. To be notified when the application goes live, sign up for an alert.

Waiver ends Oct. 31

Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) is designed to eliminate federal student loan debt for employees working at least 30 hours a week for the government or certain nonprofits, after they've made 120 months of qualified payments. But in the four years after borrowers were first eligible for forgiveness in 2017, only about 2% of applications -- fewer than 20,000 -- were approved under the program's detailed rules.

In October 2021, the Education Department announced it would waive some of those rules for a year, temporarily making it easier to apply for PSLF. Through July 31, the waiver has paved the way for a wave of PSLF discharges, with nearly 190,000 borrowers successfully using the program -- relieving $12 billion in debt. In Iowa, 2,370 borrowers have received $120.7 million in student debt relief. 

The temporary changes include:

  • Counting every month in a repayment plan counts toward the 120-month requirement, even if the borrower paid late, paid less than the amount due or didn't make a payment that month. The nearly three years of student loan payments paused during the pandemic may count toward the 120-month tally.
  • Accepting forbearance periods of 12 or more consecutive months, forbearances of 36 or more cumulative months and some deferment periods toward the required 120 months. In-school deferments and months when a loan has been in default will not count.
  • Allowing payments made toward federal loans that usually don't count. Under usual PSLF rules, payments made on FFEL and Perkins loans don't contribute to the 120-month mark. Applicants must consolidate them in a Direct Loan first. Under the waiver, pre-consolidation payments toward FFEL and Perkins will get PSLF credit.

The program still requires applicants to certify their employment and consolidate into a Direct Loan before applying.

For more information and FAQs, including how to meet the Oct. 31 deadline even if your application isn't finished and submitted by then, see the Education Department's PSLF waiver webpage.

Editor's note: This story was updated after the application for one-time student loan relief went live Oct. 17.

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Five questions with the invention expert

Patrick Klepcyk outside the Innovation Hub

Patrick Klepcyk has led Iowa State's Office of Innovation Commercialization since June 2021. Contact the office at 294-4740. Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Patrick Klepcyk ("KLEP-sick") leads the Office of Innovation Commercialization, an umbrella for two workhorse units: The ISU Research Foundation owns and manages the research intellectual property -- inventions -- developed at Iowa State. The Office of Intellectual Property and Technology Transfer executes all agreements about its use, which involves negotiating with industry partners and commodity groups. Collectively, the staffs work on about 100 patent applications and 1,400 supporting agreements in a year.


Patrick Klepcyk
Director, Office of Innovation Commercialization (OIC) and Office of Intellectual Property and Technology Transfer(OIPTT)
President, Iowa State University Research Foundation (ISURF)
Time at Iowa State: 15 months
Years in the work of protecting and commercializing intellectual property: 20 (including five previous institutions)

How do I know it's time to tell you about my work?

Early and often is what we're after, and that involves my staff engaging with you. Our review of a disclosure is a one-point-in-time decision. You might get a "not yet" response from us, but the earlier we know of your work, we can advise, for example, on a better patentable route or a better path toward commercialization. The only way you know when it's time is through conversations.

We try to leverage ISU programs and their leaders -- the bioscience platform CTOs, the leadership council in the vice president for research office, associate deans of research -- to see who's doing interesting research. So, we're actively looking for leads, too.


What changes when I disclose my invention?

A public disclosure -- sharing your concept at a conference or in a journal, for example -- starts a one-year clock to seek a U.S. patent. Filling out our disclosure form isn't public; you're simply telling your employer about your invention. But it alerts you to the fact that a public disclosure could impact your ability to get patent protection, and it engages our office to decide how we'll move forward with potential patent protection and commercialization. An iterative process between this office and the researcher is ideal.

Don't be intimidated by the disclosure form. You don't need a complete disclosure to reach out to us, and a lot of the information in it can be obtained during an initial meeting with someone from OIC. And remember, the disclosure form doesn't automatically start the patent application. When the time is right, we would work with you on that process.


What's a common misperception about the work your office does?

That we only review the patentability of the invention and not its path to commercialization. We're actually reviewing the intellectual property and commercial prospects at the same time, taking into account variables such as faculty interest in entrepreneurship, stage of development, graduate student involvement, research funding or interested investors.

There can be less-than-ideal patent situations that are more successful because some of those other pieces are present. Inversely, if you have patents no one wants, maybe we shouldn't be filing a patent. Those inventions could just be disclosed to the public for broad use.


What are the current royalty producers for Iowa State?

Over the last 10 years, our watermelon germplasm and several animal vaccines have been the most lucrative. And many remember this office's historical success commercializing leadfree solder: $58 million in royalties until the patent expired in 2013. Today, we're looking for innovation in all corners of the campus. Our goal is to build a pipeline of revenue-generating licenses from numerous successes, not just "the big one." Lots of licensed technologies, in aggregate, add up.


Why should I disclose my invention?

Our highest calling is to disseminate information from Iowa State, whether that's publishing, graduating students or conducting research that leads to products people can use. So, part of our decision is whether there's a benefit to the public, not just whether there's a significant financial gain.

Yes, there is a benefit to protecting inventions so companies will invest in them. When that happens successfully, there is revenue for the university, and the inventor receives one-third of that revenue after expenses.

Workshops will share progress in WorkCyte Phase II

A multiyear effort to bring student-related functions and all receivables into Iowa State's Workday platform is introducing a series of readiness workshops this year to provide faculty and staff with progress updates on specific functions -- and opportunities to ask questions. Once a month, from October to April, employees whose jobs will be impacted receive an invitation to a specific workshop. But all employees are welcome at any of the workshops, which will be hosted on Webex and archived.

WorkCyte Phase II: Student information and receivables

The changes will affect nearly all faculty, staff and students, replacing aging software systems such as ADIN and AccessPlus. Initial uses in Phase II are scheduled to begin in June 2023 and continue through November 2024.

Each workshop is intended to answer a few basic questions: What will the changes look like? How will they impact my daily responsibilities?

The first readiness workshop on Wednesday, Oct. 19 (3:10-4 p.m.), will share progress on courses and course section components. Members of the curriculum management team within WorkCyte II will summarize their work to date, explain new terminology and lead a short demonstration of the software. Participants can ask questions in the chat function or during the Q&A portion of the workshop. Register online to receive the Webex invitation.

Staff doing the work will share it

The presenters of each readiness workshop will be the functional experts responsible for the configuration and design of the system related to that workshop's topic, said Geoff Janes, director of systems in the admissions office and a project management team member. These experts include staff from the offices of the registrar, academic advising, admissions, student financial aid and accounts receivable and the Graduate College.

Dates and themes for other readiness workshop are:

  • Nov. 9, Recruiting and admissions
  • Dec. 7, Academic record
  • January, Registration and class management
  • February, Advising and academic planning
  • March, Student financials, financial aid
  • April, Grading overview


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A follow up on COACHE faculty survey results

Assistant provost for faculty development Tera Jordan led a workshop discussion Sept. 27 with faculty on some key data from the Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education (COACHE) Faculty Satisfaction Survey administered in 2021. Faculty have participated in the survey since 2006 with tenure, tenure-eligible and term faculty taking part to gain an overview of the faculty experience.

Among Iowa State's 1,527 eligible faculty, 56% completed the survey, significantly higher than the overall rate of 42%. Results were compared to the traditional five peer institutions ISU leaders selected -- North Carolina State, Purdue, Texas Tech, University of California, Davis and Virginia Tech.

Faculty were asked standard and custom questions. Iowa State's custom questions inquired about the response to the pandemic, faculty development and faculty mentoring.

Jordan and executive director for institutional research Karen Zunkel said the COACHE survey provides a vast amount of information, and they only discussed a small portion of it. The results are used as a guide to inform initiatives for growth, Jordan said.

"We use it to assess needs, develop action plans and implement best practices to strengthen hiring, promotion, retention, our campus climate and diversity," she said.


Results were divided into 25 categories on a five-point Likert scale – ranging from strongly agree to strongly disagree -- with eight key benchmarks, which comprise the mean of several five-point survey questions that share a common theme. The benchmarks are:

  • Nature of work
  • Resources and support
  • Promotion and Tenure
  • Leadership
  • Governance
  • Department collegiality
  • Teamwork and mentoring
  • Appreciation and recognition

Faculty satisfaction was highest with the quality of colleagues, cost of living and academic freedom. The least favorable aspects included compensation, geographic location, lack of diversity and too many assignments and service.

"Compensation and too many assignments and service were also the top least favorable aspects for our peer institutions," Jordan said. "That doesn't mean we don't have to continue to work in these areas, but it does say we are not the only ones."

ISU is in the top two of the peer group in 19 categories, in the middle in five and in the bottom of one -- department collegiality -- where it ranked fifth out of six.

"This is a small sample and what COACHE does is a comparison, not a statistical analysis," Zunkel said. "Everyone in the cohort is feeling positive, it is just a matter of how positive they are feeling."

Closer look

Zunkel focused on responses to department collegiality. The survey defined it as: A faculty member's sense of "fit" among their colleagues, their personal interactions with colleagues, and whether their colleagues "pitch in" when needed and support work-life balance.

Faculty responses ranged between 3.6 and 4.2 on the five-point scale, giving ISU a score of 3.75. The top three among the peer five scored 3.79.

Eighty-seven percent of faculty agreed their colleagues were committed to diversity and inclusion, the highest marks in the peer group. Eighty-nine percent agreed meeting times were compatible with their personal needs. Only 79% of faculty were satisfied with their sense of fit, and 83% agreed that colleagues pitch in when needed.

Zunkel also shared responses to department collegiality from surveys in 2014, 2017 and 2021. Each category improved from 2014 to 2017 before dipping in 2021, largely because of the pandemic, Zunkel said. The lone exception was "meeting times compatible with personal needs" as more virtual meeting options were offered.

"If we are all sitting in our homes doing our work how collegial do we feel?" Zunkel asked.

The data

Some of the categories in which ISU ranked first among its peer group:

  • 97% were satisfied with the health benefits
  • 94% were satisfied with their assigned teaching schedule
  • 94% were satisfied with time spent on outreach
  • 90% were satisfied with their office space
  • 90% were satisfied with family medical or parental leave policies
  • 86% were satisfied with the pace of decision making from the president and provost

Some categories identified for improvement:

  • 69% were satisfied with how the teaching load is distributed
  • 67% were satisfied with time spent on administrative tasks
  • 66% agreed important decisions are not made until there was a consensus
  • 64% were satisfied with availability of course release for research
  • 58% were satisfied with child care
  • 53% were satisfied with their department addressing substandard performance

Strong donor support makes FY22 third-highest giving year in history

When alumni and friends contributed nearly $230 million in one year -- achieving the third highest giving year in university history -- the impact was personal for Mariana Chavez.

No stranger to hard work, Mariana made food deliveries and donated plasma to try to make ends meet during her first year at Iowa State. She still feared she'd have to leave school due to lingering financial challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. With the help of the Sulentic Family Success Grant, a fund established in 2021, she was able to stay in school and now is a junior successfully working toward a degree in public relations.

Mariana is just one example of the thousands of students impacted by the generosity of 44,491 alumni and friends of the university who gave to Iowa State during the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2022 (FY22).

More than 7,000 students received donor-funded scholarships. One new fund available to students is the Drew Patrick DiDonato Memorial Scholarship, established in memory of Drew DiDonato, who was a sophomore at Iowa State in 2021 when he died following a skateboarding accident. Diagnosed with autism, Drew was passionate about helping others believe in, embrace and love their authentic self. His family created the scholarship to help support students with disabilities attending Iowa State.

In addition to improving access to Iowa State through scholarships, donor support helps enable an exceptional Iowa State experience, from student organizations and study abroad to undergraduate research and internships that help prepare students for the workforce. This past year alone, donors provided more than $90 million in total student support.

First 24-hour event

Nearly 20% of last year's donors gave to Iowa State for the first time. Those who gave also engaged with Iowa State in new ways, including the first-ever Forever True Day. In just 24 hours, Cyclones from around the globe gave gifts of $50, $100 and more to collectively raise nearly $650,000 to support students, faculty and programs.

"Following the highly successful Forever True, For Iowa State campaign that ended in July 2021, Iowa State alumni and friends continued their extraordinary support for the university and its future by generously giving to all areas of campus and beyond," said Larissa Holtmyer Jones, president and CEO of the Iowa State University Foundation, a private, nonprofit organization committed to securing and managing gifts that benefit the university.

This included investing in the university's priorities, such as entrepreneurship and innovation. The new Thamodaran Family Innovation in Agriculture Fund provides scholarships to students enrolled in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences who are working on innovative scientific, technological or business ideas related to challenges in agriculture today. In addition, the Larson Scholarship in Entrepreneurship and Management will support students in the Debbie and Jerry Ivy College of Business pursuing degrees in entrepreneurship or management.

Support for faculty and staff

Since the university's founding, Iowa State faculty and staff have been renowned for their research, collaboration, service and dedication to teaching. Donors recognize the valuable contributions these professionals are making to the state, nation and world, as well as to individual lives. This is evidenced in donors' support of professorships, fellowships, department chairs and more. One example is the Hoefle Professorship in Small Animal Orthopedic Surgery, an endowed position that supports faculty who specialize in small animal orthopedic surgery. During FY22, 28 faculty positions were newly endowed or supported thanks to donor generosity. In total, 346 positions are supported by alumni and friends of the university.

In addition to outstanding faculty, donors gave to programs that enhance the student experience and broaden opportunities for hands-on learning. Cyclones provided more than $75 million in FY22 for programs. The Steven and Susan King Landscape Architecture Excellence Fund was created to further enrich Iowa State's top-ranked landscape architecture programs. The fund helps faculty increase place-based learning opportunities and expand the Traveling Savanna studio, a semester-long course in which sophomore landscape architecture students travel to places in the United States to study a range of landscapes, from urban city plazas to rural locations and national parks.

Donors also are helping keep Iowa State's beautiful campus vibrant and providing innovative learning spaces for students with projects like the LeBaron/MacKay Complex and the Therkildsen Industrial Engineering Building. More than $53 million was contributed during the past fiscal year for Iowa State's learning environments.

For many students, Iowa State donors are an inspiration. When Mariana graduates, she hopes to start a national nonprofit organization aimed at supporting first-generation and low-income students in their college journeys. Knowing students often experience unforeseen hardships that might force them out of college, Mariana wants to help others the same way she's received help along the way to achieve her dream of an Iowa State education.

P&S Council learns about Workday training in development

The Professional and Scientific Council received an update on training and development for employees in finance leadership roles across the university during its Oct. 6 meeting.

Training will be delivered in three parts by July 1, 2023, primarily focused on cost center and business unit managers, but also useful for business unit financial analysts and financial administrative support specialists. The training will assist 165 cost center managers and 45 business unit managers.

Cost center managers are responsible for review and  final approval of Workday transactions to align with current policies and departmental strategy, said finance service delivery operations manager Rachael Gross. Previously their training came in various forms, from desk manuals to word of mouth, which led to inconsistencies.

A survey of cost center and business unit managers helped identify gaps in training as well as current strengths. Training is being designed using input from the results.

"We identified a real gap in terms of training for all of our finance leaders across campus," said Heather Paris, interim senior vice president for operations and finance. "Having something that is comprehensive, in one place and on-demand for a new cost center manager coming into a department, or someone who has been there a while but needs to learn more about the Workday system, is key."


The training will focus on financial business processes and tools, interdepartmental collaboration and essential information to work in a financial leadership position. Currently, it is broken into three parts -- introductory, intermediate and advanced -- and will be administered through Workday Learning, which is set to launch in the coming months. Managers would be required to take the trainings that apply to their job. Gross said the amount of training is fluid to ensure it is easily understood and not too lengthy.

"It is not just how to do the transaction, but when you run into something that doesn't fit into a box, where do I go or who do I reach out to?" she said.

The introductory level is intended for the first week on the job with organizational and budget structures, allowability and appropriateness, and basic Workday transactions, Gross said. Intermediate provides a higher level of training on reporting, petty cash, payroll accounting and expense reimbursement. Advanced training focuses on audit reporting, internal billing, receivables, tuition and nonconventional payments.

Training would be assigned to new employees in Workday and available to those currently in a role wanting to increase their knowledge. It also will be updated as needs of financial managers shift.


The financial leaders alignment group (FLAG) leadership team is helping develop training. Its members come from financial units and departments across campus. Each contributor is evaluating what information should be included in the training and at which level.

"Our FLAG representatives work with change management to review for risks, knowledge gaps and any policy or procedure issues from their point of view," Gross said.

Material for the first level of training will be collected by mid-November and the course draft developed by the end of November. A focus group will provide feedback in December with the introductory level launch in January.

"We will pull together the training in a way that allows us to do knowledge-based checks and be very interactive with the different layers of a transaction," Gross said.

Tentatively, intermediate training would launch in the spring with advanced to follow in the summer, Gross said.