Orchids, for starters

Greenhouse manager Kenny McCabe

Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Kenny McCabe, manager of the greenhouse/Richard W. Pohl Conservatory atop Bessey Hall, checks the growth of orchid dendrobium kingianum Tuesday morning inside the orchid room, one of his 75 orchid species that bloom year-round. About 20 different rooms house a conservatory plant collection, plant species for instructional labs and plants for various research programs and projects -- approximately 1,000 plant species in all.

The greenhouse is open to the public, free of charge, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Thursday and until 2 p.m. on Friday. The greenhouse website includes a plant photo index, for those seeking a particular species of plant.

Lower state income tax impacts net pay

Did you notice? Take-home pay in January was up a bit for most university employees, a reflection of new -- in most cases, lower -- state income tax rates. In HF 2317, the 2022 Iowa Legislature simplified Iowa's personal income tax structure from nine rates in 2022 to four this year. According to the timeline, in both 2024 and 2025 the highest rate will be eliminated, so in 2026 Iowa will have a single rate.


Changes to Iowa personal income tax


Tax year



Gross income*

2023 (4 rates)

2026 (1 rate)

2022 (9 rates)

Up to $6,000












$75,001 or more




*Upper and lower limits of income brackets double for married taxpayers filing a joint return


The lower rates mean most employees get to keep more of their salaries, and the Iowa Department of Revenue has updated its tax tables and withholding instructions to employers for 2023. The two key variables in how much tax employers withhold are salary and the tax elections an employee sets in their W-4 form. The latter can be changed anytime.

Employees can confirm their state and federal withholdings in Workday under the "pay" icon (among "actions," select "withholding elections"). They can make changes to their Iowa W-4 or federal W-4, both of which also are available in Workday. But complete your calculations first; once you click "update" for either form, the previous tax elections are gone.

If you're uncertain about whether the university is withholding enough Iowa income tax, the state revenue department updated its basic withholding estimator to help individuals calculate their 2023 withholding amounts. Employees also are encouraged to talk to a professional tax advisor about whether to adjust their withholdings, said senior payroll manager Teri Kruse.

Student group, meats lab step up to stock SHOP

SHOP (Students Helping Our Peers), the campus food pantry that serves students living with food insecurity, is about to get a big assist from another student organization.

Meats Lab

Graduate students Kayle Eivins (left) and Caroline Downey pack ground pork, one of the proteins available to SHOP from the meats lab. Students have key roles at the lab, from the time the animal arrives to packaging and selling products. Photo by Michelle Hiscocks.

The Block and Bridle Club is teaming with the nonprofit Cactus Cares to donate meat processed by the Iowa State University Meats Laboratory to SHOP on Feb. 24. The student organization raised about $1,500 to purchase protein, one of SHOP's most requested items. Cactus Cares -- the nonprofit of Cactus Feeders based out of Texas and with farms in Iowa -- pledged to match up to $5,000.

Block and Bridle raises money at events it hosts throughout the year. Members also were allowed to wear jeans, sweatpants or leggings to meetings, an effort that raised $700.

"We have worked with SHOP before, and we know the impact it can have on the community," said club president Leah Greiner, who added fundraising will continue past February. "It is something that helps put things in perspective for our members. We may be fortunate enough to not have to visit SHOP, but we know others do, and the fact we are able to impact other students makes it worth it."

This is the first time the meats lab has partnered with a student organization to benefit the pantry, which became possible after SHOP purchased two residential refrigerators and a chest freezer in 2020.

"We will sell them whatever they want to purchase, but we will steer them to ground beef and pork, hot dogs and ham because those are things you can get a lot of value out of," said Matt Wenger, animal science program specialist and Block and Bridle faculty advisor.

Students helping students

The protein mostly is prepared by fellow students who work in the meats lab, from the time an animal arrives through packaging and selling.


To maximize Cactus Cares' match, employees and student groups can donate money to SHOP through the ISU Foundation. It can be a one-time donation or a recurring amount through payroll deduction. Cactus Cares will match up to $5,000 annually.

"Projects like this allow us to do things on a larger scale and for our students to experience that," Wenger said. "One of our classes does several activities throughout the semester, including boning out hams, and this allows us to have each student work on their own ham instead of three working on one."

Cactus Cares also has a monthly order with the meats lab to benefit other food pantries in the state. That contract provides more opportunities for students to learn the steps of the butchering process, Wenger said. The meats lab is self-supported and recovers much of its costs through retail sales.

Another partnership

In addition to the upcoming donation to SHOP, Cactus Cares recently partnered with the Iowa Pork Producers Association to purchase $15,000 -- about 4,500 pounds -- of ground pork from the meats lab that went to the Iowa Food Bank Association, which also provides food to SHOP.

Council learns about dependent eligibility verification project

At its Feb. 2 meeting, the Professional and Scientific (P&S) Council learned more about an upcoming university human resources (UHR) project to identify ineligible dependents on employee medical, dental and vision plans.

Verification process

Ed Holland, director of benefits, said UHR will be working with Willis Towers Watson (WTW), an insurance consulting firm, to complete the project.

Employees will receive communication about the process beginning in March. Verification is slated to start in late March, with a deadline of June 2 for employees to submit the required documents to WTW verifying the eligibility of their dependents. Iowa State will respond to employees in September about any ineligible dependents on their insurance before removing ineligible dependents ahead of open enrollment in November. Employees will have a final opportunity to add back any eligible dependents to their plan during open enrollment if they provide the required documentation, and any changes will be processed in December for a Jan. 1 effective date.

Employees who do not provide the proper documentation to verify their dependents will have ineligible dependents removed, but there won't be a penalty for having ineligible dependents on their plans. Employees can view their dependents listed on medical, dental and vision plans in Workday.

Workday Learning

P&S Council members also heard updates about Workday Learning, the online training and development system for faculty, staff and hourly student employees. Steve Couchman, UHR learning and development specialist, shared that courses are being added throughout the ongoing training period with learning partners and content creators.

Early analytics revealed that more than 250 employees have completed training for Workday Learning and more than 850 courses have been completed in Workday Learning with an average of 3.38 courses per person. The top courses are Understanding FERPA and Building Supportive Communities: Clery Act and Title IX.

General business

  • The council approved an amended compensation and benefits annual report that will be submitted to senior leaders to influence decisions regarding fiscal year 2024 budget plans. The report was updated following employee feedback on the Jan. 5 version. Notable changes include data illustrating comparisons between cost-of-living, salary increases, and purchasing power and additional details regarding the suggested reinstatement of the previous tuition reimbursement policy. Reports can be viewed on the Meetings section of the P&S Council website.
  • Council president Jamie Sass encouraged employees to use the P&S Council's new online suggestion box to share questions, concerns and ideas in addition to talking with their council representatives.
  • Sarah Larkin, the council's vice president for university community relations, shared upcoming dates for council meet-and-greet events, listed below. For more information about council events, visit the P&S Council website.
    • March 24 (3-5 p.m.), CyBowl and Billiards, Memorial Union 
    • April 12 (4:10-5 p.m.), Brew lab tour, Food Sciences Building 
    • May (Time TBA), steam tunnel tour
  • Professional development committee chair Jennifer Schroder encouraged employees to register for the upcoming professional development conference for P&S staff on Feb. 22 at the Gateway Hotel and Conference Center. Registration closes Feb. 14. Additional information is on the conference website.
  • P&S Council elections will take place in six weeks, with nominations open through early March. Representation committee chair Jason Follett encouraged interested employees to contact their area’s council members for more information.

Some guidance for using AI in the classroom


Several technologies historically have impacted education. The introduction of the calculator altered ideas about learning, and now artificial intelligence is making educators rethink their methods. Graphic by Deb Berger.

Abram Anders is not shying away from the challenges artificial intelligence (AI) presents in the classroom. The English associate professor will teach the experimental course Artificial Intelligence and Writing this fall, using only AI.

"It is exciting and there is no better teaching and learning experience than when everyone is excited to try something new," he said. "It's clear that the future of writing will be drastically, dramatically influenced by these tools, and I want to be at the forefront of that to help our students be prepared."

Lean more

CELT hosts a monthly ChatGPT teaching talks series that began in January and continues through March. Anders' virtual presentation, "How to use ChatGPT to boost your research and teaching" is Feb. 20 (1-2 p.m.). Faculty with questions about AI and its use can email celt-help@iastate.edu.

One of the newest AI tools is ChatGPT. Launched in November 2022, it can generate text, computer code, images and more when asked questions by a user. The quality of its output separates it from other AI tools and has some educators across the nation worried it will do students' work for them. Some institutions have gone as far as banning it.

"It's artificial intelligence backed up with a database," said Matt Carver, Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) enterprise instructional technology senior manager. "It can't think critically and can only act on the sources it finds, mostly the internet. Those sources are extensive but limited."

University leaders, led by the provost's office, began meeting last month to address AI questions and provide guidance to help instructors address the use of AI by students and incorporate it into their teaching, if they choose.

Set expectations

Instructors can set expectations for students in the syllabus or on assignments by defining when and how AI can be used. Four examples for content-generating AI could be:

  • It's not allowed: Only content done by a student or as part of an assigned group is accepted.
  • It's allowed with appropriate attribution: AI-assisted work on some assignments is allowed when students clearly identify what parts of the assignment were AI generated and how it helped them.
  • It's allowed in limited instances: AI can be used to prepare for assignments by brainstorming, but students must show how it helped them reach the result.
  • Use is encouraged broadly: Students can use AI but must identify what parts it generated.

"It is important to be open and set expectations with students ahead of time," Carver said. "They are aware it is out there, and they are aware the faculty member knows about it."

When students use AI -- no matter how much -- they are responsible to ensure the information is correct. Carver said one of ChatGPT's biggest limitations is its database only goes up to 2021, making it unaware of current events.

Instructors can encourage or discourage its use by the type of assignments. Instead of testing students' knowledge through a written paper, they can use debate, student reflection or focus on current events. Instructors also can look at the amount of work and the timeline to complete assignments to not overload students and increase the possible use of AI.

ChatGPT poses a challenge for students who require accommodations because it is not designed for universal accessibility.

Embracing AI

Anders said the new course will have students use AI to generate multiple arguments and counterarguments on a topic leading to discussion. Students also will have AI generate text to evaluate things like tone and style.

He believes AI increases the important role of instructors, who must know how to use it effectively. It can benefit students who use it for some of the mundane tasks, allowing them to focus on more challenging aspects. Students still need to be able to understand what they are reading and learning to use AI.

For instructors looking to see how AI can benefit their teaching, Anders suggests trial and error.

"Use AI tools to do things you already need to do and find the spaces where it works and doesn't. That is the discovery of beautiful teaching moments," he said.

Using AI detectors

Instructors can use software to detect when students use AI, but Carver said most of the detection tools lag behind upgrades to AI. They're not as effective as, for example, tools to detect plagiarism, he said.

Hanson joins Inside staff

Carly Hanson

Carly Hanson

Carly Hanson has joined strategic relations and communications as a writer for the weekly faculty-staff publication, Inside Iowa State. Hanson filled the position following the transition of Dave Roepke to the news service team.

A graduate of Morningside University (bachelor's degree in English) and the University of Northern Iowa (master's degree in communication studies), Hanson most recently served as the marketing technology specialist for the office of diversity, equity and inclusion. Previously, she worked for three years as the associate vice president for marketing and communication at Morningside University in her hometown of Sioux City.

The strategic relations and communications unit is in Suite 201 of the Kingland Building at Lincoln Way and Welch Avenue. Hanson can be reached by phone at 515-294-2795 or via email at hansonc@iastate.edu.

Symposium turns words into action

Kristen Clark, Ashley Pick and Carmen Flagge

Photo by Christopher Gannon.

(l-r) University public health coordinator Kristen Clark and associate director of the student health center Ashley Pick congratulated the inaugural Health and Wellbeing Champion, Carmen Flagge, during the opening session of the university's first Health and Wellness Symposium Feb. 3. Students could nominate faculty or staff for the honor as part of their registration for the event.

Flagge, who serves as director of multicultural student success for the College of Human Sciences, was recognized for her outstanding communication skills and knack for connecting students to campus units and programs that can improve their experience, such as the Connect Four learning community, GRO program, SHOP food pantry and student wellness. "Everything that Carmen does is intentionally centered around her students," wrote her nominator.

Faculty members Amanda Anderson, kinesiology, Carmen Gomes, mechanical engineering; and Matthew Holman, computer science; were the other nominees for the recognition.

A symposium, at last

Eight dimensions of well-being:

  • Physical
  • Financial
  • Spiritual
  • Emotional
  • Occupational
  • Intellectual
  • Social
  • Environmental

The inaugural symposium filled its registration capacity of 350 participants, both employees and students, with a waiting list. Several years in the making (thanks in part to a global pandemic), the symposium is a partnership among student health and wellness, ISU WellBeing, and university human resources (UHR).

"We understand that when our community members are well, they do better in the classroom and in the workplace," said senior vice president for student affairs Toyia Younger. She noted that Iowa State is pursuing becoming a health-promoting university, which would "infuse wellness into all areas of the campus experience, and keep it at the forefront of both our actions and our words."

"I'm thrilled to see us all together -- faculty, staff and students. It's important we all work together to create this powerful community where people can thrive," said vice president for UHR Kristi Darr. "We're one family here, right? To share experiences and work toward a common goal is important to build strength for the institution."

Next year

Save the date: The second annual Health and Wellness Symposium is set for Friday, Feb. 2, 2024.

"We'd love to see this event grow. Bring your classmates, bring your colleagues, invite others to participate next year," said Erin Baldwin, associate vice president for student health and wellness, director of the Thielen Student Health center, and interim director of recreation services.