Ready for a respite

Female student works math problem on a white board

Freshman statistics major Abi Garden reflects on an equation in her Calculus I assignment, working in a study area on the second floor of the Student Innovation Center. After 13 weeks of classes and projects, students -- and their instructors -- welcome a week off Nov. 21-25. Following their fall semester break, students return for one more week of class, prep week and final exams week, wrapping up the semester on Dec. 16. Photo by Christopher Gannon.


Shawn Norman named senior vice president for operations and finance

Shawn Norman head shot

Shawn Norman

Shawn Norman from the University of Nevada, Reno, has been named the next senior vice president for operations and finance following a national search. He will oversee five units that constitute the division of operations and finance: budget, institutional financial strategy and treasury; finance services; facilities planning and management; payroll, benefits and tax; and specialty business services and cultural arts.

Norman, who serves as associate vice president for planning, budget and analysis at the University of Nevada, Reno, will begin at Iowa State on Jan. 1, 2023. His appointment is pending approval by the state Board of Regents.

"Shawn's strong set of credentials and experience at a public land-grant university make him well equipped for this important leadership role," said President Wendy Wintersteen. "I'm confident Shawn will be a strong leader for this division and the dedicated staff who support the financial health and daily operations of ISU as a leading research and land-grant university."

Norman has been in his current position at the University of Nevada, Reno, since 2018, where he oversaw the development, allocation and monitoring of the institution's budgets, data collection and analysis of student enrollment, decision support analysis and coordination of the uses of space for the university.

He previously served at the University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, from 2003 to 2018. In his last position as director of finance in the office of the provost, he was responsible for administrative, budgetary and strategic planning operations for the School of Medicine, School of Nursing, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, faculty group practice and all other academic functions within the academic enterprise.

Norman holds a bachelor's degree in accounting from Wiley College, Marshall, Texas, and a master's in business administration from Boise State University, Idaho.

"It's an honor and an incredible opportunity to join the Iowa State family," Norman said. "ISU has a distinct collaborative culture, and I look forward to working with the talented leaders, faculty, staff, students and stakeholders to further the land-grant mission."

In making the announcement, Wintersteen thanked interim senior vice president Heather Paris for her leadership. She also thanked members of the search committee, campus and community leaders and operations and finance staff for their thoughtful consideration of the candidates.

Editor's note: This story was posted on Nov. 18, at the time of the announcement.


Related story:

Two finalists named for senior VP post in operations and finance, Nov. 3, 2022

Timing of salary increases will move to Jan. 1

Following several summers of a shrinking window in which to finalize operating budgets, university leaders announced this week they're changing the implementation date to Jan. 1 for annual performance-based salary increases for faculty, professional and scientific (P&S) and contract staff, and post docs. The intent is to put some space between state appropriation decisions, the state Board of Regents' annual tuition-setting process and the subsequent parameters for employee salary increases. Tuition revenue also is clearer once the fall enrollment count is complete.

The change moves the window for performance evaluations to the fall.

The new timeline won't impact merit staff, whose review dates will remain the same and whose pay increases will continue to adhere to the state's collective bargaining agreement with the Iowa council of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

"We recognize competitive salaries and pay raises are critical to support our talented employees. Thank you for the good work you do every day to advance Iowa State's mission," wrote President Wendy Wintersteen, vice president for university human resources Kristi Darr and senior vice presidents Heather Paris (operations and finance, interim), Jonathan Wickert (academic affairs) and Toyia Younger (student affairs) in a Nov. 17 memo to all faculty and staff.

2023: Transition year

The new timing for performance-based salary increases begins in January 2024. Leaders laid out a transition schedule for 2023 that includes:

  • A delay for most faculty annual reviews until fall 2023 (they'll cover 18 months one time) to move the review period from calendar year to academic year (July 1-June 30). The provost will share information about exceptions, for example, faculty in the tenure process. Faculty annual reviews will occur in the fall.
  • A shift for staff reviews to fall (September to November) in 2024. Staff reviews that would take place between December 2022 and May 2023 should be held, with a follow-up review next fall (less formal for employees who were reviewed in March, April or May). Staff reviews that would occur in June, July or August 2023 should occur instead in the fall. Reviews already occurring in September, October or November 2023 already align with the new timeline.
  • A 1% salary increase on July 1, 2023, for all eligible faculty, P&S staff, contract staff and post-docs. Parameters for Jan. 1, 2024, salary increases will be shared next fall.

University human resources will share additional information with supervisors about transitioning their performance evaluation schedule and other situations, for example, promotions and new hires.

Making salary decisions when operating budgets are clearer

In 2019, the regents began tying tuition levels directly to state operating appropriations, so their tuition decisions awaited the Legislature's adjournment, which sometimes doesn't occur until early June. As a result, processes that took place in April or May now may occur in July or August -- after the start of the new budget year on July 1.

Iowa high school grad numbers are robust; inclination to attend college less so

While the state of Iowa isn't facing a dearth of high school graduates -- the "enrollment cliff" predicted by Carleton College's Nathan Grawe in his 2018 Demographics and the Demand for Higher Education -- its graduates are showing less interest or less ability to attend college, the state Board of Regents heard at its Nov. 10 meeting.

Regent decisions

Read more about the state Board of Regents' November meeting.

Jason Pontius, associate chief academic officer on the board staff, presented a fall enrollment summary and offered board members some insight on trends. The number of Iowa public high school graduates actually increased about 3% in the last decade, and is projected to hold steady through the end of the decade. That isn't the case in every state, he noted.

Making enrollment predictions requires a few assumptions, Pontius said, and a key assumption is that the rate of college attendance for high school students will remain the same. Unfortunately in Iowa, that rate has been dropping since before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Iowa public high school graduates: How many enroll in college


Class of 2012

Class of 2015

Class of 2018

Class of 2020

Iowa public high school graduates





Enrolled in college within one year of graduation





Percent enrolled





*First fall of COVID-19 pandemic
Source: Iowa Statewide Longitudinal Data System


Perceived importance

Many data sets support the link between a college degree and positive outcomes such as higher salaries, lower unemployment and poverty rates, and less reliance on programs such as Medicaid and food stamps, but Americans' perception of the importance of a college degree is declining. Pontius cited a pre-pandemic Gallup Poll that asked this question. In 2013, 70% of respondents said a college education is "very important;" in 2019, 51% said it's very important.

Of the top 50 jobs on Iowa Workforce Development's "Hot Jobs" list, Pontius said 96% require a bachelor's degree or more. The "hot jobs" reflect both demand in the state and capacity to provide a comfortable wage, he said.

"So we have a disconnect in Iowa, too," Pontius said. "At a time when we need more people getting some kind of post-secondary education, we're seeing less trust in higher education and less interest. These are some of the headwinds we face as we make decisions about how to grow going forward."

Intent vs. behavior

Pontius said "intent" data -- the plans graduating high school students share -- doesn't equate to enrollment behavior exactly, but can help predict enrollment trends. Rising wages and the relative ease of finding a job that pays $15/hour helped spur a growing interest in employment, he said. Data from the Iowa Department of Education indicates 17% of the state's class of 2023 plans to get a job after graduation next spring.

From 2012 to 2019, Iowa's spring public high school graduates who said they intended to attend college dropped 4 percentage points (from 80.8% to 76.7%); the number who actually enrolled in college within a year declined nearly 5 percentage points (69.2% down to 64.3%). Curiously, over the same time the number of high school graduates who had taken the ACT rose by 3.5 percentage points and those who had taken at least one college-level course rose by 6.5 percentage points.


Iowa public high school graduates: Post-graduation plans


Class of 2012

Class of 2015

Class of 2018

Class of 2021

Community college





Public 4-year





Private 4-year





Other schooling




















Other plans










Source: Iowa Statewide Longitudinal Data System


Changing demographics

Active recruiting

The board staff will lead a pilot project in the spring designed to alert high school juniors who would qualify for admission to a regent university when they apply. The board's Regent Admission Index provides a transparent tool for Iowa high school students to assess their automatic admission. The pilot is modeled after programs in other states and will involve eastern Iowa school districts served by the Mississippi Bend Area Education Agency, said chief academic officer Rachel Boon. Staff are working with school district superintendents and high school counselors now to set up communications structures and other parameters.

"We want the message to get through to all qualified students that they're on track for college," she said.

Pontius suggested changes to Iowa's population also could be impacting college enrollment. First, he looked at socioeconomics. In the last decade, the spread between high school students who do and don't qualify for free or reduced price lunch and who attend college has remained consistent, roughly 30 percentage points (in 2018, 47.7% vs. 78.5% enrollment rates, for example). What has changed is that more students qualify for free or reduced price lunches, from about 38% in 2011-12 to 45% in 2018-19, meaning more students come from the population with the lower college-attendance rate.

Similarly, a college enrollment gap exists in Iowa between high school graduates who are and are not an ethnic or racial minority. For the last 10 years, that difference has consistently remained around 12 percentage points. With Iowa becoming a more ethnically diverse state -- 14% of the high school class of 2012 vs. almost 21% of the class of 2019 -- again there are more members in a student population less likely to attend college.

Pontius also noted Iowa's female high school graduates are more likely to attend college than their male classmates. Applying all three variables -- gender, ethnicity, socioeconomics -- the student group least likely to attend college (roughly 1 in 3) is white males who qualify for free or reduced price lunch.

Other factors in declining enrollment

Pontius said other contributing factors to the overall enrollment decline among the regent universities are gains in the four-year graduation rate and fewer international students, especially from China. In fall 2016, Iowa State enrolled 1,711 students from China; this fall, that number was 476.

Iowa State's current four-year graduation rate is 55%, 14 points higher than the national average. The average time for ISU students to earn a bachelor's degree has decreased to 4.18 years, and more than 10% of students graduate within 3.5 years.

Mute swan Elaine is retiring from Lake LaVerne

Mute swan Elaine paddles on Lake LaVerne

Elaine, part of the beloved swan duo on Lake LaVerne since 2003, will be moved during the fall break to a pond owned by alumni. Photo by Christopher Gannon.

After 19+ years of dedicated service -- pausing for hundreds of photographers who show up without an appointment or hosting a thousand migrating Canadian geese each winter -- mute swan Elaine will retire from Lake LaVerne next week. An Iowa State alumni family that raises swans will welcome her to the pond on their acreage near Woodward.

Elaine had paddled solo on Lake LaVerne since late June, when her companion, Lancelot, died of natural causes. Names to the contrary, the female pair inhabited Lake LaVerne since 2003.

Campus planner Chris Strawhacker, facilities planning and management (FPM), said a team studying whether to introduce one or two swans to the lake opted to bring in a new pair, primarily to have two birds of similar age.

Lake recommendations coming this winter

Strawhacker said decisions about Lake LaVerne following a lake study will influence the timing of the next duo's arrival to campus. The study, conducted this spring and summer, is assessing water depths and sediments, analyzing nutrient levels in the water and reviewing current lake management practices. This winter, consultants and FPM staff will complete a report that will include recommendations for improving the physical condition and management of the lake.


Related stories

Governor gives two holidays to state employees

For the third consecutive year, Gov. Kim Reynolds has announced two additional paid holidays for state employees in appreciation for their service during 2022.

University leaders have decided to implement the paid holidays for ISU employees on Wednesday, Nov. 23, and Friday, Dec. 23. Those dates, combined with standing university holidays, give ISU employees an up to five-day weekend for both the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Normal holiday procedures will be followed on these days.

In a Nov. 11 email to faculty and staff, President Wendy Wintersteen and vice president for human resource services Kristi Darr asked supervisors to review necessary operations and make decisions about work schedules for the additional paid holidays. Units also should communicate any operational changes to their customers and constituents.

"I never take for granted that it's the collective effort of our entire team that allows me to serve to the best of my ability," Reynolds posted in her Nov. 10 message to state employees. "You are an important part of my team. Thank you for the work you do every day to make our state the incredible place it is."

Wintersteen and Darr reinforced the governor's message of gratitude.

"We deeply appreciate your hard work and dedication to the university," they wrote. "Thank you for all that you do for Iowa State."

Reynolds first awarded additional paid holidays in November 2020, when state employees were working through the pre-vaccine phase of the COVID-19 pandemic and responding to an August derecho that caused billions of dollars in damage across the Midwest.

Senators learn more about Iowa State Online

Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) executive director Sara Marcketti updated senators on some of the things Iowa State Online would and would not do during the Faculty Senate's Nov. 15 meeting.

Iowa State Online launches on Jan. 3, 2023, and Marcketti said CELT has worked this fall to increase staff from 12 to 40 to support instructors and promote online offerings. CELT staff will continue their work on course design and quality, instructor development, and instructional technology, in addition to overseeing the online effort. The testing centers will be administered by CELT as will the media production labs in Howe and Curtiss halls to help with technology vetting for the university, Marcketti said.

The online offerings will provide more flexibility for current students and completely online opportunities for new students.

"That might include degree completers, working professionals and companies seeking to educate their employees," she said.

Marcketti said Iowa State Online will allow for new degree programs, certificates or stackable and micro credentials, and grant-based professional development. But CELT staff will not teach any courses or be involved in the curriculum process, she said.

"The curriculum process is going to continue and only be strengthened by some of the support services we will offer," she said.

Posthumous degree

The senate approved revisions to the posthumous degree and certificate of attendance policy. The number of credits and GPA requirement were removed for undergraduate and graduate students. During the first reading in October, changes proposed would have required deceased students to be in good academic standing with at least a 2.0 GPA and have completed at least 32 credits at the university. Many senators said they want to make it as easy as possible for families of deceased students to receive the posthumous degree or certificate.

Applications increase

Senior vice president and provost Jonathan Wickert said undergraduate applications for new student enrollment as of Nov. 1 are up 5.2% from last year. Applications are up for resident, nonresident and international students.

Other business

Senators approved:

  • An interdisciplinary bachelor's degree in biomedical engineering. Graduates will be prepared to address health care challenges in injury prevention and recovery, neurodegenerative disorders and antibiotic resistance, and to improve personal protective equipment.
  • A  minor in Spanish translation and interpretation studies in the world languages and cultures department. The 15-credit minor focuses on analytical skills, linguistic competence, cultural literacy and knowledge of cultures in the Spanish-speaking world. 
  • Removing a limit on the number of courses undergraduate students can drop. The current limit is five, but over the past 12 academic years, students averaged fewer than two drops in their career.
  • Discontinuation of the Latin undergraduate and graduate minors in the world languages and cultures department. The last students graduated with the minor in 2012.
  • An updated Faculty Handbook reviewed by a task force for consistency across sections and chapters without substantive changes.

The senate will vote next month on a revision to the last 32 credit policy that would exempt students who earned credits while in an ISU study abroad or national student exchange program. The goal is to encourage students -- especially transfer students -- to participate in these programs during their final year. The policy currently reads: "The last 32 semester credits before receiving a degree from Iowa State must be completed at Iowa State."

Memorial Union projects could begin next summer

Meeting Nov. 9-10, the state Board of Regents approved 41 Iowa State faculty requests for professional development assignments in the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2023. The PDA plans include 21 for fall semester 2023, 14 for spring semester 2024 and six for the full academic year. While the three regent universities set their own eligibility requirements for a PDA, at Iowa State, all faculty with at least a half-time appointment may apply. Priority goes to accomplished senior faculty, faculty seeking competitive fellowships (such as a Fulbright Award) and those who haven't received a PDA in the previous five years.

Memorial Union improvements

The regents also approved budgets and schematic designs for two more renovation projects at the Memorial Union that will create modern spaces to better serve ISU students. Both projects are scheduled to begin this summer.

The first is a $2.25 million project that will remodel 5,000 square feet on the second floor (main level) to open up the Col. Pride Lounge to the main corridor. It includes spaces formerly used by the U.S. Postal Service, lectures program staff and hotel desk, and will provide a larger, brighter area for students to meet and study.

The second is a $4.3 million project to renovate 12,000 square feet on the third floor between the bookstore and parking ramp. This is space vacated by student service units that moved upstairs last spring to offices created through a $10 million renovation of floors 4-6. The project creates suites for Multicultural Student Affairs and Student Support Services, both of which currently operate from the Student Services Building.

Other Iowa State agenda items

In other business, the board approved Iowa State requests to:

  • Proceed with $28.5 million in infrastructure, flood mitigation and paving improvements at the Iowa State Center parking lot in preparation for the proposed CYTown development. The project will add underground utilities, improve 4,200 parking stalls, raise the eastern portion of the lots above Ioway Creek's 100-year flood plain and relocate the CyRide transit hub. Construction begins in the spring and is scheduled to wrap up in fall 2024.
  • Sell six acres of land, including five buildings, on the west edge of Nevada, to Frontline Bioenergy, Ames. Iowa State purchased the land in 1998 and developed it. Initially, it was used by the Iowa Energy Center, which closed in 2018, and via a set of leases involving the ISU Research Park, by Frontline BioEnergy, which used it for a university research project that also has ended.
  • Purchase nearly 23 acres of farmland from the Committee for Agricultural Development for $337,175. The property, three miles southwest of central campus, is adjacent to land owned and operated by the student-managed Ag 450 Farm in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. About 130 students enroll each year in the Ag 450 capstone course.
  • Sign a 15-year lease with the ISU Research Park for 81,500 square feet in a yet-to-be-constructed Ag Innovation Lab facility in the south part of the park. The Digital Ag program in the agricultural and biosystems engineering department currently operates at the BioCentury Research Farm, focusing on ag productivity and efficiency and studying the impact of equipment and new technology on crop agronomics. The additional space will help the program better support its ag industry partners.

Senate continues effort to diversify membership

Faculty Senate president Jon Perkins spoke at a recent meeting about diversifying senate membership to more closely match the overall campus makeup. Perkins shared some progress and stressed the need to continue those efforts.

The percentage of Hispanic and Asian faculty in the senate increased over the past four years while the percentage of White faculty has decreased, Perkins said. Asian faculty continue to be underrepresented in the senate, making up 15.45% of the faculty but only 8.33% of the senate. Race and ethnicities in the "other" category are 5.17% of the faculty and 1.19% of the senate.

"If we value diversity, equity and inclusion as well as shared governance, the body that represents the faculty in shared governance efforts should try to include as many faculty from underrepresented groups as possible," Perkins said.

Senate leaders encouraged faculty interested in joining to seek out senators in their college, unit or department and have conversations now to be prepared for spring elections. 

An opportunity

President-elect Sarah Bennett-George, apparel, events and hospitality management associate teaching professor, draws from her own experience to underscore the need to inform the faculty of the opportunity to serve.

"I didn't realize until several years into my employment at the university that I was even eligible to be part of the Faculty Senate," she said. "I think there are a lot of faculty in a very similar situation that may have an interest in exploring how ISU works outside of their own unit or department and just don't know."

Each academic department has one senator elected by the department's faculty and each college has one at-large senator elected by the college's faculty. A college adds another at-large senator for each additional 100 faculty members.

Perkins urges faculty leaving the senate to recruit others from underrepresented groups to run for their seats, and senators from underrepresented groups already in the senate to consider running for leadership positions on committees and caucuses. Bennett-George also encourages any faculty member with questions about or those thinking of running for the senate to email her.

"We can talk about being in the senate or what the process is like to join the senate," she said. "Progress is always the goal and you never reach an endpoint."

Term faculty are part of a balanced senate

Achieving a better balance of tenured, tenure-track and term faculty in the senate also is a goal.

"Close to a third of our faculty at the university are term faculty, so their repersentation is an important piece of the conversation," associate provost for faculty Dawn Bratsch-Prince said.

Bennett-George will become the second term faculty president of the senate when the gavel is passed in May. Denise Vrchota served as senate president during the 1998-1999 academic year as a journalism adjunct assistant professor. Bennett-George said her lens as a term faculty member helps her understand the value of electing diverse voices to help ensure the senate addresses a broad range of topics.

Multiple assessments provide insight to student wellness needs

Student health and wellness began gathering information more than a year ago on ways to improve students' health and well-being. Leaders from the unit -- recreation services, student wellness, student counseling services and Thielen Student Health Center -- shared key findings with faculty and staff during a recent online panel discussion. The information will inform health promotion strategies and help develop a health and wellness strategic plan.

More discussion

A panel next spring will focus on strategies faculty and staff can use to embed student well-being into their work.

"We talk a lot about bringing a public health approach to a lot of these issues that impact students," said student wellness director Brian Vanderheyden. "This gives us the information to have a multifaceted approach to address it."

The university has a strong commitment to service delivery and resources and wants to find a better balance of proactive approaches, Vanderheyden said.

Needs assessment

A three-part needs assessment included:

  • Collecting three years' worth of student surveys on health and well-being from departments and units across campus to review what data are available and what is not being collected.
  • A review of 40 professional publications for best practices and strategies for an institutional approach to health and well-being. The process netted 181 strategies and spurred "a self-assessment of where we are and where we can grow," Vanderheyden said.
  • An on-campus focus group study of 201 ISU students in spring 2021. 

A complete report on the needs assessment is expected by the end of the semester.

Focus groups

Two hundred one students were separated into 27 focus groups based on how they identified in one or more of 11 populations, ranging from LGBTQ+ to students with disabilities and first-generation students. Each focus group had four to 13 students.

Students responded to questions in four areas:

  • General well-being and basic needs
  • Mental health
  • Power-based personal violence
  • Substance use

Meeting basic needs and well-being included faculty keeping an open line of communication and providing flexibility with classes when challenges arise. Students asked for more awareness of mental health options and an effort to reduce the stigma around them. Results showed a desire for more counselors -- and increased diversity of counselors -- in student counseling services to reduce wait times.

"Those things are impacting all of our students in some way, and they are usually not struggling with one thing, but multiple things," Vanderheyden said. "Students talked about increased education and knowledge around those issues so faculty and staff are aware and can help them get connected to support."

Vanderheyden said faculty and staff can include practices in their lessons that promote student health and wellness. For example, slides at the beginning or end of lectures that promote resources or creating an assignment that checks in on student well-being. Faculty and staff also can attend Cyclone Support Training and use materials to increase connection to support.

Students also advocated for more training, awareness and resources for the campus community to help them feel safer. Increasing the number of SafeRide vehicles and routes would enhance feelings of safety on campus, especially at night.

To combat substance use, students asked for more events that do not include alcohol, especially on weekends. Student health and wellness began to address this with the first substance-free tailgate during a Saturday home football game this fall.

"It was successful. More than 100 students stopped by and gave a lot of positive feedback," Vanderheyden said. "We are creating a group that will work on that long term."


Vanderheyden shared general findings from the three pieces of the assessment:  

  • Most data look at risk factors and prevalence of an issue, leaving an opportunity to focus on what creates health among students.
  • Much of the response and infrastructure is focused on service delivery for students in need, not health promotion. ISU needs both as part of a comprehensive approach to enhance its health promotion infrastructure.
  • The university lacks an overarching public health approach -- for example, creating a health and well-being strategic plan.
  • There are disparities in health across student populations, particularly among marginalized student populations.

Commemorating 'The Run'

Seneca Wallace inside Jack Trice Stadium

Seneca Wallace

It's been 20 years since senior Cyclone quarterback Seneca Wallace scrambled an estimated 140 yards to carry the football from the 12-yard line to the end zone for a touchdown that helped secure an Iowa State victory over Texas Tech in October 2002.

The Red Raiders return to Ames this weekend, and to commemorate The Run, the athletics department will honor Wallace between the first and second quarters at Saturday night's game. Drafted in 2003, Wallace spent a decade in the NFL.

The trademark licensing team helped develop a throwback 2002 jersey and other merchandise to mark the anniversary, and Wallace will attend two signing events on Friday, Nov. 18:

  • 3:30-5:30 p.m., ISU Book Store, Memorial Union
  • 6:30-8:30 p.m., Cy's Locker Room, 806 S. Duff Ave.

Cy's Locker Room also will sell Wallace throwback merchandise at its popup shop outside Jack Trice Stadium on gameday. Items aren't being sold online.