Winter weather prep never stops for campus services

Winter fleet

Campus services mechanic Brandon Williams works on a truck that will be outfitted with a snow blade to clear streets once the snow flies this winter. Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Winter weather awareness

University leaders urged all students and employees to prepare for winter weather and exercise caution when traveling to and from campus in a Nov. 10 email.

The dropping temperatures forecasted this weekend have many thinking of the snow and cold that will follow. For facilities planning and management's (FPM) campus services team, winter preparation never stops.

Readying for winter weather, keeping all the equipment in working order and clearing roads and sidewalks is a 12-month endeavor for the 40-plus team members working to keep campus streets, lots and walkways as safe as possible.

"When it was raining last week, we used that as a practice run for everyone as if it was snowing," plant services supervisor Todd Wilson said. "We had everyone put on their blades and pushers just to test everything and make sure we were ready to go."

Wilson targets April 1 as the tentative end of the winter season before maintenance on blades and sweepers begins and they can be stored "in repaired, working condition." The hibernation period for winter equipment doesn't last long. Starting July 1, employees bring it back out to ensure it will be ready by Nov. 1. Mechanics make parts lists and place orders. Campus services supervisors meet to ensure all routes on campus are covered for shoveling, sweeping, salting and sanding, and plowing.

The blades, sand spreaders and sweepers may get a few months break, but not the machinery that moves them. Virtually every vehicle in campus services' fleet is used during the winter by outfitting them with attachments.

"Everything we use in the winter is used in the summer as well," Wilson said.


How winter weather is handled depends on the situation. There are shovels, snowblowers, lawn mowers with blades, utility terrain vehicles, skid-steer loaders, Toolcats, one-ton pickups, single-axle dump trucks, front-end loaders and a road grader.

Campus is serviced by 14 large plows, 18 broom routes and 18 shovel routes. Two dump trucks and the road grader also help maintain streets, and one piece of equipment is responsible for clearing all loading docks. All the equipment is kept running by two mechanics and drivers who perform their own maintenance.

A multitude of salt and sand spreaders are used separately or in combination with other equipment in a two-thirds sand, one-third salt mixture. Wilson estimates more than 250 tons of sand is used across campus each year. More than 10 years ago, a switch was made from calcium chloride to ECOSALT, which is less abrasive on concrete surfaces. Central Stores orders about five semi loads of ECOSALT each year. It's used on sidewalks and entryways. Iowa State also purchases about 300 tons of road salt each year from the Iowa Department of Transportation.

Employees receive a $185 clothing allowance every two years for bib overalls, a high-visibility winter coat and a pair of gloves.


Plant services supervisor Joel Bender said improved weather forecasting helps with planning. Employees start clearing campus when measurable snow is expected, beginning in the early morning to have major roads, parking lots and routes across campus open by 7 a.m.

"Very rarely do we get caught by surprise with the weather anymore," he said.

Crews follow six priorities for clearing snow and ice:

  • Roadways serving university facilities
  • Parking lots: Accessible spaces, then permit spaces and general spaces
  • Main walkways traversing campus and leading to main building entrances
  • Main building entrances and accessible entrances
  • Secondary sidewalks (those not in the primary route to campus facilities but instead leading to side or back doors)
  • Secondary building entrances including side and back entrances and limited-access exits

FPM is looking to hire more workers and continues to be impacted by supply chain issues, making parts for repairs or buying new equipment challenging.

Stay safe

Safety for all on campus is important, but personal responsibility also plays a key part. Dress for the weather, which includes wearing the proper footwear, Bender said.

Employees can use the online report a problem form or call 4-5100 to let FPM know about spots where ice or snow are a concern.

"If there is a slip or fall, we get together and try to figure out why it is happening," Wilson said. "That is what allowed us to add a few more sanders a couple of years ago. Environmental health and safety keeps track of those issues and it allows us to find zones where issues can be addressed."

Five questions about Iowa State Online

Sara Marcketti head shot

Sara Marcketti

Iowa State announced a plan in August to restructure the separate online education units in academic colleges into the new Iowa State Online, which in January will become part of the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT). Assistant provost and CELT executive director Sara Marcketti provided this update on their progress.

How is Iowa State Online going?

Fast! We've been working hard to bring together the online learning professionals from colleges' online units and find additional talent in marketing, communications and business development. We're also preparing a move to Howe Hall so the entire team can be physically together and collaborate in one location.

What are the goals for bringing everyone together?

The short answer is, "growth, synergy and quality." But more specifically, we have six broad goals for Iowa State Online. Three are related to growth and innovation in online learning:

  • Establish a universitywide business model focused on both growth and operational efficiency.
  • Leverage Iowa State's strengths as a university of science and technology to address student and employer needs.
  • Develop a single cohesive brand that elevates awareness of Iowa State's online programs.

The other three goals build on CELT's strengths related to quality instruction and student experience:

  • Provide a consistent, high-quality experience, regardless of whether a class is taught in the classroom, online or in a hybrid format.
  • Create a better experience for the faculty and staff who develop, support and deliver online courses and programs.
  • Create a seamless experience for students, whether they're on our Ames campus, our 99-county campus across the state or anywhere in the world.

Will every ISU course be taught online?

No. As is the case today, online courses will continue to be developed based on student demand, faculty interests and strategic prioritization. When it does make sense, CELT will work with college leadership, departments and instructors to provide a high-quality academic product that is consistently branded within Iowa State Online.

What are the opportunities?

It's about having a growth mindset. We want to serve new markets of students, expand the breadth of our online programs, increase online enrollments and address Iowa's workforce needs in ways that simply weren't possible before. A few specific opportunities include:

  • Better market our expertise to both traditional and non-traditional students, including completion programs for students who stopped out, to come back and earn their degrees.
  • Offer micro and stackable credentials in important and timely areas where a core set of modules and courses helps students sharpen their skill set and support their career growth.
  • Become the preferred online education provider for Iowa employers, with customizable education and professional development products that help both employees and businesses prosper.

Who should faculty contact for their winter or spring courses?

Faculty preparing for winter session or the spring semester can continue to work with their existing college contacts. In many cases, these relationships will continue after the official launch of Iowa State Online on Jan. 3. One key benefit of the new organization is that we'll have greater bench strength and capacity to serve instructors through vacations, sick days and peak course development periods.

I may have heard a rumor that CELT will turn 30 next year . . .

That's a rumor I can confirm! When you look back at the last three decades, there has been a tremendous evolution in our work, from the advent of online and hybrid courses to inclusive classrooms and leveraging learning management software (like Canvas) to support students and instructors. As we begin this new chapter, CELT will continue to share best practices and programming, but now, we'll also include instructional design staff, a comprehensive strategy for online education and centralization of the testing centers. I look forward to what the next 30 years will bring.

Winter weather message to the Iowa State community

Editor's note: This message was emailed Nov. 10 to Iowa State students and employees.


Whether you are eagerly anticipating or dreading the first snowflakes of the season, now is the time to start preparing for winter weather.

The National Weather Service has designated Nov. 10 as Winter Weather Awareness Day, which is why we want to share some important information and reminders about campus closures and announcements.

Severe weather and emergency closings

While extremely rare, there are occasions when the university will cancel classes or close due to weather conditions. University policy provides guidance and outlines expectations for employees related to cancellations and closings. If you are unfamiliar with the policy, we encourage you to access it through the policy library.

University leaders encourage employees and students to put safety first when deciding to travel to campus during the winter months. If you cannot make it to campus because of icy roads or blizzard conditions, please coordinate with your supervisor or instructor to arrange to work remotely, take leave or make up class material.

Weather announcements

The university will share information about cancellations and closings through a campus message sent to all Iowa State email addresses, on the university homepage and social media accounts @IowaStateU (Twitter and Facebook) and @IowaStateUNews (Twitter).

We encourage you to follow Iowa State University Police (@ISUPD) and Environmental Health and Safety (@IowaStateUEHS) on social media for weather-related information when dangerous wind chills, blizzard conditions or ice are in the forecast. Both departments work closely with the National Weather Service in Des Moines to provide updates for campus.  

Environmental Health and Safety also has a winter weather webpage with tips for winter walking and driving as well as information on winterizing your car and emergency kits.

Weather alerts, notifications

If you are interested in receiving weather alerts, we encourage you to take advantage of the services provided by several local media outlets. This will allow you to customize notifications to your location. We'd also recommend bookmarking the following links:


Thank you for doing your part to be prepared this winter season.


Michael Newton, associate vice president of public safety and chief of police
Paul Richmond, assistant vice president of environmental health and safety

Be the boss in new recycling campaign

Faculty and staff have had opportunities to recycle at work for more than two decades. (Anybody recall recycling newsprint or campus phonebooks in the 1990s?)

Boss Your Toss logo

A new Iowa State campaign this fall, "Boss Your Toss," is about being a smart, efficient recycler. The arrival in fall 2015 of single-stream recycling -- collecting multiple types of materials in one bin -- made recycling easier on campus. Boss Your Toss encourages everyone to review their recycling habits and make them even better.

"You are in charge of how you throw away your waste," said recycling coordinator Steve Kohtz, who's been in the role in facilities planning and management since June. "You're the boss. You can fill the landfill or you can make sure it gets reused."

Sometimes it's about recognizing the nuances that separate the two destinations.

Kohtz said something seemingly small -- a swallow of coffee left in a cup dropped into a single-stream recycling bin -- will cancel the recyclability of everything in that bin, relegating it to trash instead. It takes extra effort, but ideally, the coffee drinker pours out the coffee dregs and swishes the cup with water before it goes in a blue recycling bin.

Know your colors

To Boss Your Toss, use the correct bin in campus buildings:

BlueSingle-stream recycling
Black: Trash
BrownCorrugated cardboard
YellowLab glass
GrayConfidential documents (to be destroyed)
Green: Food compost

Likewise, a clean pizza box can be recycled, Kohtz said, but one with a greasy stain can't. In the ensuing recycle process, the oil will compromise the quality of the new paper product.

Kohtz offered these tips for other common items eligible for single-stream recycling on campus:

  • Glass bottles. Rinse first.
  • Tin, aluminum or steel cans. Rinse (paper label doesn't have to be removed).
  • Plastic bottles and tubs. Rinse. If the lid twists off, it also can be recycled (with two exceptions: butter and yogurt tub/cup lids can't be recycled; the container can).
  • Paper, newspaper, magazines and paperboard (such as a cereal box). If it's dry, recycle. If it's wet, compost it.

These common items can't be recycled:

  • Plastic "clamshell" food containers. This variety of plastic is too thin to be processed by shredding machinery. Kohtz credits ISU Dining with actively pursuing carryout food packaging that's compostable, despite the added cost.
  • Paper cups with a plastic or wax coating -- no matter how clean they are.
  • Plastic store bags and plastic wrap. Many retailers have bins for the public to return bags.
  • Styrofoam and packing peanuts.

On average, an adult generates 1,260 pounds of garbage annually, Kohtz said. The key is to figure out how much of that can be recycled, rather than (in Ames) burned for energy or landfilled.

Learn more

Tuesday, Nov. 15, is America Recycles Day, and Kohtz will host a celebration on the Parks Library lawn (10 a.m.-2 p.m.). Stop by to learn more about Boss Your Toss, test your recycling skills and (if you like) be part of a "recycling shuffle" version of the Cha Cha Slide line dance at 11:30 a.m.

Provost's office honors 32 extension professionals for their innovation

Iowa State's extension and outreach professionals worked tirelessly over the last two years to help Iowans navigate the effects of a pandemic, including economic and emotional challenges, all the while maintaining excellent programming in youth development, human sciences, agriculture and natural resources, and community and economic development.

In celebration of their efforts, the provost's office has recognized 32 extension faculty and staff with Innovation Awards. Each awardee will receive a one-time monetary award. Funding was provided by a generous donor supporting excellence in achieving the university's mission.

Here are a few examples of their work:

  • At the height of the pandemic, Victor Oyervides, a field specialist for Latino small business development, used social media, radio programs, podcasts and virtual meetings to spread the word about programs to assist small business owners.
  • Brianna Montross, a healthy food access specialist in southeast Iowa, builds partnerships that make healthy choices easier for Iowans who shop at food pantries, including new ways to prepare frozen meats.
  • Christa Hartsook, leader of extension's small farms sustainability program, uses innovative approaches to bring educational opportunities to her clients, including the "Small Farm Sustainability" podcast.
  • Beth Bunkers, a youth 4-H extension specialist on the northwest field team, works to develop innovative programs for Iowa youth, including Precision Ag Days, STEMfests, Clover Crates and summer day camps.
  • Ron Nelson, document accessibility specialist, is a resource both on campus and nationally for enhancing accessibility in Adobe InDesign and PDF documents, ensuring extension publications are available to all Iowans.

"Iowa State's outstanding extension and outreach professionals are the face of our 99-county campus," said senior vice president and provost Jonathan Wickert. "Every day and with every program, they ensure the university's scholarship reaches every corner of the state and addresses the most pressing needs of Iowa communities."

Here is the full list of the innovation awardees, by educational area:

Agriculture and natural resources

  • Meaghan Anderson, field agronomist, central region
  • Jennifer Bentley, dairy extension specialist, northeast Iowa
  • Tim Christensen, farm management specialist, southwest Iowa
  • Fred Hall, dairy extension specialist, northwest Iowa
  • Christa Hartsook, manager, agri-tourism and small farms
  • Courtney Long, manager, food systems
  • Mary Reynolds, beef cattle specialist, Iowa Beef Center
  • Rebecca Vittetoe, field agronomist, southeast Iowa

Community and economic development

  • Chelsea Krist, Farm to School coordinator, community economic development
  • Victor Oyervides, field specialist, Latino small business development
  • Sara Shonrock, director, Municipal Professionals Institute and Academy
  • Scott Timm, field specialist, community economic development
  • Aimee Viniard-Weideman, field specialist, community economic development

Human sciences

  • Suzanne Bartholomae, associate professor of human development and family studies and state extension specialist
  • Mona Berkey, online program coordinator, I-Learn Early Childhood Education
  • Beth Marrs, AnswerLine management, human sciences extension
  • Brianna Montross, human sciences healthy food access specialist, southeast Iowa
  • Jeannette Mukayisire, human sciences extension specialist, north central Iowa
  • Kristin Taylor, creative projects specialist

Youth and 4-H development

  • Beth Bunkers, youth 4-H extension specialist, northwest field team
  • Emily Damro, youth 4-H extension specialist, central/highway 30 region
  • Nicole Hanson, youth 4-H extension, program specialist
  • Kim Kuester, 4-H positive youth development specialist, south central field team
  • Lorena Dorado Robles, recruitment, retention, and engagement lead


  • Mary Adams, community development specialist and Navigating Difference facilitator
  • Gayle Coon, professional development specialist and Navigating Difference facilitator
  • Jed Findlay, multimedia/creative manager, advancement
  • Himar Hernandez, community economic development assistant program director and Navigating Difference facilitator
  • Kaleena Middendorf, services coordinator, conference planning and management
  • Ron Nelson, document accessibility specialist, professional development
  • Malisa Rader, family wellbeing specialist and Navigating Difference facilitator
  • Maddie Reed, MyData registration coordinator, registration services

P&S Council's food donation drive benefits SHOP

During the season of thanksgiving, the Professional and Scientific Council's university community relations committee is sponsoring a food donation drive through Friday, Nov. 18, to benefit the campus food pantry, SHOP. The committee's goal is one ton of donations, and participants are encouraged to consult SHOP's requested items list (though all donations are welcome).

During the council's Nov. 3 meeting, the committee designated these donation drop-off locations (including the council member or contact located there):

  • 1212 Coover, Tina Prouty
  • 146 Design, Matthew Crain
  • 2148 Gerdin, Jamie Sass
  • 101D Hamilton, Kaylee Wellik
  • Lied Recreation Center, Doug Arrowsmith
  • Extension Store (SE corner of Printing and Publications Building), Chris Johnsen
  • 2630 Veterinary Medicine, Heidi Nye

Complete the benefits survey

Benefits manager Ed Holland, university human resources, told council members that in the first two days, about 15% of employees had completed UHR's benefits survey being administered by Mercer consultants. Holland encouraged all employees to complete the survey by the Nov. 15 deadline. Even if you're satisfied with the benefits package, complete the survey so that sentiment is conveyed, he added. Employees should have received an email Nov. 1 (from containing a unique link to the survey.

Benefits enrollment closes Nov. 18

Holland reminded council members the annual open enrollment window for calendar year 2023 benefits closes at 5 p.m. Friday, Nov. 18. He also mentioned the spring semester project (administered by a consultant and ISU's fringe benefits and accounting compliance office) to verify dependents on employees' medical and dental plans. Open enrollment presents an opportunity to remove any individuals who no longer meet the dependent definition:

  • Relationship to employee: biological, foster, legally adopted or legal guardianship
  • Up to age 26 (covered through Dec. 31 of the calendar year in which they turn 26)
  • Unmarried, full-time student age 26 or older
  • Totally and permanently disabled child

Survey will collect input on walking, biking, rolling in Ames

Faculty and staff are invited to participate in a survey this month on nonmotorized transportation in Ames. The survey data will inform Walk Bike Roll Ames, a comprehensive plan to help Ames become a community where walking, biking and rolling are safer and easier for everyone, regardless of age or ability.

Scheduled for completion early next summer, the plan will have two key components:

  • An overall plan, including policy, programming and projects, to improve walking (or rolling or skateboarding) and biking in Ames. This will include long- and short-term recommendations.
  • Standards for wayfinding, including a robust sign series that helps people get to points of interest and common destinations.

The survey is open to people who live or work in Ames.

Walk Bike Roll Ames won't specifically address campus paths and roads, said campus planner Sarah Lawrence, facilities planning and management. But, as with many university-city shared interests, recommendations that integrate Ames and Iowa State transit plans with ease and create a seamless experience for users is the goal, she said. Via their roles with the Ames Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, Lawrence and other university staff are involved in the planning process for this comprehensive bicycle and pedestrian plan.

The city and Iowa State each have a sustainability plan with emission reduction goals, Lawrence noted. Improving the infrastructure to encourage broader use of nonmotorized vehicles is a strategy toward those goals.

Last May, the Ames city council hired Toole Design Group of Madison, Wisconsin, to assist city staff with developing the plan. The team will rely on outreach to the public throughout the project.

Well-schooled dogs set to take over teaching farm


Sixty sheepdogs will compete this weekend in the Cyclone Acres Sheepdog Trial at the Sheep Teaching Farm. Dogs and their handlers from across the Midwest are trying to earn points for a trip to nationals. Photo by Rachel Ritland.

If every dog has its day, 60 sheepdogs are about to have a weekend to remember at the Sheep Teaching Farm. Sixty competitive pooches will take part in the Cyclone Acres Sheepdog Trial Nov. 12-13 (8 a.m.-5 p.m. daily), looking to successfully corral sheep during their runs and maybe make a friend or two along the way.

Mac Cassas, graduate student manager of the ISU sheep farm, helped organize the trial because competitors at United States Border Collie Handlers Association-sanctioned events earn points. Earn enough points and handlers and it's off to nationals.

"We really need more trials to allow competitors to earn more points," said Cassas, who will compete with her border collie. "Most of the dogs that will compete are finished dogs that have been training for at least four years."

Cassas hopes the event will raise awareness of sheepdog trials and convince people to try it. Experience will range from novice to pro, but an experienced sheepdog can easily move a flock of 80 sheep, Cassas said.

Competition will commence rain or shine. Teams of handlers and their dogs are coming from across the Midwest and each duo will have two runs daily. Spectators are welcome at the farm (3601 520th Ave.) at no charge. Concessions will be available.

How it works

The Cyclone trial is an open-field trial -- conducted outside, not in an arena. At one end is the handler and their dog and at the other is four sheep. A trial setup represents the traditional work a sheep farmer needs from a dog.

The dog is scored by a judge on multiple elements:

  • Outrun: When the dog leaves the handler and heads toward the sheep. Ideally, the dog ends up about 20 yards directly behind the sheep without disturbing them. The perfect route is shaped like a lightbulb.
  • Lift: When the dog makes contact with the sheep and they begin moving toward the handler's post.
  • Fetch: When the dog brings the sheep to the handler, ideally in a straight line. It needs to be as stress free as possible for the sheep. When the dog successfully moves the sheep around the handler's post, the fetch is complete.

The dog then will drive the sheep away from the handler through a set of panels, turn and drive the sheep across the field through the last set of panels. The last two elements of the course are the shed and the pen, where dog and handler work together to split the sheep and put them in a holding pen. Points are deducted by the judge and the highest score wins.

Host school duty

The farm is supplying 90 Polypay ewes for the event, which allows them to rotate into the competition.

"Polypay is a white-faced heavier breed, which means your dog may have to apply more pressure to move them," Cassas said. "Different breeds move differently when it comes to working your dog."