Away from track arenas, Felix continues to inspire

Allyson Felix speaks to a room of women innovators

Photo by Christopher Gannon.

America's most decorated track and field Olympian and also an entrepreneur, Allyson Felix (right), speaks during a women innovators breakfast and discussion Tuesday morning in the Launch Pad at the Student Innovation Center. Felix also was scheduled to meet with Cyclone student athletes and presented a public lecture on social innovation Monday evening in the Memorial Union Great Hall.

Dependent eligibility verification project underway

Employees with dependents on their medical, dental or vision plans must provide documentation verifying their eligibility by June 2 as part of an effort led by university human resources (UHR) to keep health plan costs as low as possible for employees.

No action is required for employees who cover only themselves through Iowa State's health plans. For spouses who are both employees at ISU, only the contract holder will be contacted and responsible for verifying dependents.

Verification process

Information about the project was shared in memos sent to all benefit eligible employees on March 8 and 24. Verification began March 27 and employees must submit the required documents -- such as birth certificates, marriage licenses and proof of residence in the same household -- by June 2.

What type of files can be uploaded to the online system?

You can upload .jpg, .png, .pdf and .gif photo files. Photos of documents taken on a camera or smartphone are acceptable as long as they are legible.

Documentation must be submitted directly to WTW (formerly Willis Towers Watson), a consulting firm assisting with the project. The verification process can be completed online, by mail or via fax. Around 4,000 employees have received a verification packet via email and mailed to their home addresses from WTW.

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 had ineligible dependents on their plans. In September, Iowa State will provide a response to employees via mail and email regarding ineligible dependents, who will be removed from benefits enrollment records before open enrollment in November. Eligible dependents can be added to plans with required documentation during open enrollment, and changes to plans will be effective Jan. 1, 2024.

Why it's important

In addition to helping keep premiums as low as possible, verifying dependent eligibility can be especially important for longtime ISU employees who may not know that their plan has an ineligible dependent.

Health care costs are one of the largest components of the university's benefits plan and claims for ineligible individuals increase the total cost of health care benefits for all enrolled. Ed Holland, UHR director of benefits, said dependent eligibility reviews are a best practice in the benefits industry because they can monitor compliance with regulations and help control the costs of benefits. UHR currently verifies and will continue to verify dependents at hire, for a qualified life event and during open enrollment.

The decision to conduct a dependent eligibility verification project followed a recommendation from a state Board of Regents internal audit of the benefit plan administration in spring 2022. Findings from the audit highlighted the return on investment for dependent eligibility verification at seven other universities, six within the geographic region and one regent institution. The cost of the projects ranged from $136,000 to $389,000 -- ISU's will cost less than $136,000 -- and resulted in estimated savings ranging from $1 million to $4 million.

About dependents

Eligible dependents include:

  • Spouse: legally married in accordance with state law
  • Domestic partner: financially interdependent persons residing at the same address for at least one year who are not blood related and have not been married or in a domestic partnership with anyone else within the previous 12 months
  • Children: biological child, stepchild, adopted child, foster child or child for whom the employee has legal guardianship

Dependents can change from eligible to ineligible over time -- such as a child who is older than 26 or no longer a full-time student -- or due to life changes like a divorce or the end of a domestic partnership.

Employees can view their dependents in Workday.

  • Log in, click View Profile and select Benefits from the left side menu
  • Log in, click Menu on the right side and select Benefits from the listed apps

For assistance

Contact the WTW Dependent Verification Center at 1-855-722-9663 (8 a.m.-5 p.m. CST, Monday-Friday) with questions about the process. Additional information can be found in the verification packet provided by WTW and on the UHR website.

LAS' Schmittmann to retire in June 2024

Beate Schmittmann head shot


Beate Schmittmann, professor of physics and astronomy and dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (LAS), will retire from Iowa State on June 30, 2024.

Schmittmann began her service as the university's 10th LAS dean in 2012 after serving as professor and chair of physics at Virginia Tech University, Blacksburg. She was reappointed as dean in 2017 and 2022.

"Beate's strong leadership has guided the college through myriad changes over the last decade, and her efforts have laid a solid foundation for the college's future," said senior vice president and provost Jonathan Wickert. "She also is a great colleague and a champion for students, faculty and staff across the college's many programs."

Schmittmann's achievements as dean include the development of innovative new academic programs, enhancing student success in gateway courses, strengthening research funding and unprecedented success in fundraising, including a $159 million gift from Curriculum Associates in 2017 to establish the Transforming LAS Endowment.

The search for Schmittmann's successor will begin immediately. The search committee will be chaired by College of Engineering dean Sam Easterling and associate provost for faculty Dawn Bratsch-Prince.

The LAS college has 6,800 students, 596 faculty and 272 staff among 21 academic departments, one professional school and 25 cross-disciplinary and interdepartmental programs. The college's faculty and scientific staff attracted more than $37 million in research grants and contracts in fiscal year 2022.

Five questions with the extension and outreach leader

John Lawrence

John Lawrence will retire as the vice president for extension and outreach on April 2. Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Vice president for ISU Extension and Outreach John Lawrence will retire on April 2 after an Iowa State career spanning more than 30 years. Though Lawerence, who was honored last week by the ISU community and Iowa Senate for his service, is stepping down from his current position, the Iowa native and ISU alumnus will remain connected by assisting the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences with a review of its research farms and the continued development of its Kent Feed Mill and Grain Science Complex.

Inside caught up with Lawrence for a quick five questions.

How did you decide that extension work was your path?

I was finishing up my graduate program and I had a faculty member at the University of Missouri tell me that I should really look into it. I was coming out at a time right after there had been budget cuts and layoffs, and out of the nine jobs I was looking at, seven of them were extension-related. Once I got into it, it just felt natural because I could communicate with the farmers and I enjoyed the work.

You have filled numerous leadership roles. What have you learned about leading?

I do a lot of listening. You have to learn what the questions, concerns and hot-button issues are and then speak to those. You have to speak to your audience and communicate often through multiple venues. People want to know that you are paying attention. I like going out and meeting with people to present, but also to listen to get some feedback on the message and methods.

You've also filled numerous interim positions. Have you ever said "no" to an opportunity?

Nothing immediately comes to mind. When I stepped into those roles it was because I had an interest in it. I thought it was important, and in many of those roles it was just to reassure the great staff that was already there.

I remember the phone calls when [senior vice president and provost Jonathan Wickert] asked me to lead the [COVID-19] fall planning executive committee in 2020 and the moving forward coordinating committee in 2021. I had not been in a classroom in a decade or more, I never lived in a dorm room and didn't have a lot of on-campus experience. No one had experience with this kind of thing so I could come in without any biases and just listen to the people who deal with each aspect every day. My role was to listen and work with the people who knew their jobs very well but were in a new and uncertain environment.

You became known for riding your motorcycle to all 99 Iowa counties to visit extension offices. How did that shape how you led extension?

It took about three years to visit them all and get a photo with the bike under every extension sign. My license plate is "JUST JOHN" and the tour was a chance to get out and visit the county offices. My management style throughout my career has been an open-door policy -- but not just here when extension employees come to campus. That tour got me out to see them and listen to them. It helped me learn about our system, and you can't do that sitting behind a desk.

You still have responsibilities at ISU, but what will you do away from campus?

(My wife) Kathy and I will do some more motorcycle riding and travel. We have a farm in southwest Iowa that we're building a cabin on near Tabor. We are converting a shed into a cabin and doing all the work ourselves. I'm looking forward to doing more things on the farm.

Bubble sheet fans have new option this fall

With Scantron Bubble Sheets sunsetting after the summer session, the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) has created several resources and is hosting learning opportunities for instructors to experience Gradescope, a Canvas-integrated assessment feedback platform that includes automated bubble sheet scoring.

Learning opportunity

CELT will host a virtual Gradescope user panel on April 4 (11 a.m.-noon).

Gradescope enables instructors to administer, grade and provide students feedback on pen-and-paper, bubble sheet and computer programming assignments. The switch to Gradescope bubble sheets will impact about 150 instructors who had student answer sheets from nearly 1,300 tests scanned during the 2021-22 academic year.

"Information technology services is transitioning to Gradescope. It wanted an assessment product that is more robust for campus and is excellent for instructors who require handwritten work and bubble sheet users," said Lori Mickle, CELT instructional technology specialist.

Supply chain management assistant professor Rob Overstreet made the switch to Gradescope to administer a final exam for the fall semester that used the bubble sheet function. He continues to use it for a pair of courses this spring because of ease of use and time savings.

"I am able to build the answer keys in a few minutes and by the time I scan the sheets, email them to myself and walk to my office, they are waiting for me in Canvas," he said. "Previously, I would have to collect all my forms, walk it over to the library, sign them in with the answer keys and wait up to five days to get the grades back."

The bubble reader is so efficient, Overstreet can collect the assessments, grade the sheets and post grades in about 15 minutes. It also allows instructors to provide feedback on bubble sheet assessments.

Written work also can be scanned and uploaded to Gradescope, where instructors digitally grade it. Although students can submit written work digitally using Canvas, instructors must upload each manually one at a time. Grading is easier and faster through grading guides the instructor creates beforehand or in real time, which can be changed and applied, and submissions can be grouped to provide fast and effective responses. Gradescope also allows multiple graders to work at the same time.

CELT instructional technology specialist Sonya Nichols said more than 6,000 submissions have been made through Gradescope this semester. 

Mickle said the response from the fall semester pilot of Gradescope was "overwhelmingly positive" from disciplines across campus.


Nichols said Gradescope makes grading and feedback easier and less time consuming for instructors in multiple ways:

  • Provides targeted and specific student feedback
  • Applies retroactive scoring adjustments to all submissions
  • Grades late submissions automatically
  • Recognizes and grades bubble sheet forms that are damaged, bent or folded
  • Keeps digital records to lessen paper records

Help available

CELT has a Gradescope resource page with more information about the app and a training course to help instructors link it with Canvas.

Related stories

Gradescope test pilot open to all instructors this fall, Sept. 22, 2022

Enhance leadership skills with new certificate program

Supervisors can level up their leadership skills with a new certificate offered by university human resources (UHR).

The leadership skills certificate program provides a professional development opportunity for managers to build and enhance leadership skills applicable to a variety of roles at the university. The program includes a mix of instructor-led courses offered quarterly by Employee and Family Resources (EFR), the human services organization the university contracts with for the employee assistance program, and LinkedIn Learning courses available on demand.

The program kicks off with an EFR course, Leading with Your Best Self, on Thursday, April 6 (11 a.m.-noon).

How it works

Employees register for EFR and LinkedIn Learning courses on Workday Learning. LinkedIn Learning progress will be updated automatically, and instructors for EFR courses will receive a roster of employees who registered on Workday Learning to confirm attendance with UHR. After completing all courses, the employee will receive a printed certificate and an electronic badge of completion for use in email signatures.

UHR Leadership Skills Certificate Program Sample Certificate

Sample certificate for the UHR Leadership Skills Certificate Program.

At this time, the program is offered only to supervisors. There is no specific timeframe or order in which coursework must be completed to earn the certificate.

Program content

The selected curriculum -- more than 14 hours of courses -- explores important topics for new and existing leaders at ISU, said director of benefits Ed Holland. Throughout the program, supervisors can reflect on their leadership behavior, identify strengths and opportunities for growth and learn practical skills that can be applied every day and in challenging situations.

If you're not sure where to begin, UHR recommends attending one instructor-led course and completing one or two LinkedIn Learning courses per month to earn a certificate in approximately six months. For more information, contact Holland.

LinkedIn Learning courses (8)

  • Coaching and Developing Employees
  • Managing Teams
  • Boosting Your Team's Productivity
  • Delegating Tasks
  • Managing Employee Performance Problems
  • Collaborative Leadership
  • Developing Credibility as a Leader
  • Body Language for Leaders

EFR instructor-led courses (6)

  • Virtual (Workday Learning)
    • Leading with your Best Self
      • April 6 (11 a.m.-noon)
      • Sept. 21 (10 a.m.-11 a.m.)
      • Nov. 15 (11 a.m.-noon)
    • Communicating in Challenging Situations
      • April 20 (11 a.m.-noon)
      • Aug. 3 (10 a.m.-11 a.m.)
      • Dec. 6 (11 a.m.-noon)
    • Effective Leadership and Communication
      • May 11 (10 a.m.-noon)
      • July 12 (1 p.m.-3 p.m.)
      • Nov. 9 (10 a.m.-noon)
    • Building an Effective Team
      • June 7 (10 a.m.-noon)
      • Sept. 14 (10 a.m.-noon)
      • Oct. 19 (2 p.m.- 4 p.m.)
    • Knowing How to Use the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) as a Supervisor
      • June 15 (1 p.m.-2 p.m.)
      • Aug. 31 (1 p.m.- 2 p.m.)
      • Dec. 19 (1 p.m. - 2 p.m.)
  • In-person (Location TBA)
    • Managing Conflict
      • May 23 (10 a.m.-noon)
      • July 18 (10 a.m.-noon)
      • Dec. 12 (10 a.m.-noon)

Spring weather message to the Iowa State community

Editor's note: This message was emailed March 28 to Iowa State students and employees.

Dear Iowa State community,

Spring weather in Iowa is often unpredictable and can quickly change from snow to severe thunderstorms in a matter of days.

The National Weather Service has designated March 27-31 as Severe Weather Awareness Week in Iowa. We encourage you to make time to review the information below and take steps to prepare for severe weather.

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.

Weather announcements

The university will share information about cancellations and closings through a message sent to all Iowa State email addresses and on 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. Both departments work closely with the National Weather Service to provide updates for campus. 

Environmental Health and Safety also has a weather webpage with tips to prepare for severe weather and information about conditions we see during the spring and summer:

  • Severe thunderstorms: These are dangerous storms that can include lightning, hail, powerful winds, flash flooding or tornadoes.
  • Weather warnings: Timely and reliable emergency alerts are critical to your emergency response plan.
  • Tornadoes: A tornado is a violently rotating column of air, shaped like a funnel, that extends from a thunderstorm and contacts the ground. Tornadoes can produce winds exceeding 200 mph.
  • Flash floods: Floods are the most common natural disaster in the United States. Melting snow, heavy rain and overflows of dams or other water systems can quickly flood low-lying areas.

Weather alerts, notifications

The National Weather Service will send text messages through the Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) system to WEA-capable phones during an emergency. The alerts are for extreme weather conditions including tornadoes, severe thunderstorms (when the damage threat is destructive), flash flooding, etc.

If you are interested in receiving additional weather alerts, you can take advantage of the services provided by several local media outlets or consider purchasing a weather radio. 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 for severe weather.


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

Sheldon extension shifts west so parking lot can expand

Grader sits adjacent to realigned road bed

Looking north up the Sheldon Avenue extension west of Town Engineering Building. The new road bed veers left of the former road. The change will create space (right) to expand parking lot 10. Photos by Christopher Gannon.

This spring, crews are realigning the Sheldon Avenue extension west of Town Engineering to create space to expand parking lot 10. The work won't alter the width of the road -- or its northbound-only restriction -- but it will move the street from 15 feet to 65 feet west of its former footprint and add a retaining wall in the northwest corner of the project. It also will replace the storm water drains and street lighting in that area. The spot where northbound traffic on Sheldon empties onto Pammel Drive will not move.

Road closure signs at Sheldon construction zone

The street work is on schedule to wrap up in the week following graduation so the lot 10 expansion can begin. That part of the project will add 66 parking stalls. With another 63 stalls already added to lot 1 south of State Gym last fall, the result is a net gain of 42 general staff permit stalls on the west side of campus.

The two parking lot expansions are part of the Therkildsen Industrial Engineering Building project, a new facility for the industrial and manufacturing systems engineering department. The location, southwest of Howe Hall, formerly was part of lot 3.

Iowa Stater content is online, too

The spring issue of Iowa Stater, the official print magazine of the ISU Alumni Association, takes you deep inside the world of nanotechnology -- a world so small it's measured in billionths of meters. Discover how Iowa State researchers are advancing human and environmental health via this tiny, mighty science. Check out a feature on Dr. Frederick Douglass Patterson that highlights how the Iowa State grad helped launch the United Negro College Fund and Tuskegee Airmen.

This content and more stories of Iowa Staters making their communities, the state of Iowa and the world a better place are available on the magazine's companion website.

Full content from the magazine's debut issue last fall also is available now, including a Homecoming feature, Cyclone stories about centenarians Verne Harms and Viola Wilson, a tale of the origins of the Cyclone Football "Varsity" Marching Band, and a profile of 2022 Cyclone sweethearts Cheryl and Bob McCarthy.

ISU Alumni Association member-only content featured in the current issue (spring) includes a feature on the 50th anniversary of the Student Alumni Leadership Council and stories about alumni Lisa Schmit, task force co-lead with the National Weather Service; and juvenile book author David Barclay Moore.

Interested in full online access and receiving all three yearly issues of Iowa Stater in your mailbox? Become an ISU Alumni Association member today.

Expanding participation is the goal for second 24-hour giving event

Iowa State's second annual 24-hour online giving event, Forever True Day, will run from noon Tuesday, April 4, through noon Wednesday, April 5. A top goal of "24 Hours of Cyclone Power" will be to build on last year's benchmarks, said Dana Savagian, director of annual and special gifts at the ISU Foundation.

Follow Forever True Day progress on social media:

During the inaugural event in March 2022, Cyclones around the globe made more than 2,000 gifts totaling $646,689.

"Faculty and staff were a very significant part of last year's donors, and we're hoping to see great participation from them again," she said.

In addition to growing participation numbers, Savagian said the focus of Forever True Day will be on "showing your love for Iowa State and helping spread the word throughout the 24 hours -- on social media, word of mouth, email, whatever channels you have."

University employees can make a gift on with a check, credit card or payroll deduction. An FAQ answers many questions about gifts during Forever True Day.

Hundreds of options

One factor to greater participation is offering lots of giving options, and Savagian estimated donors can choose from more than 200 fund options including scholarships and emergency grants, academic opportunities such as study abroad, research programs, support for faculty, athletics or funds for facilities.

"We want anyone with a passion for Iowa State to feel like they can make a difference on that day," she said. And if someone doesn't see the program or category they'd like to support, Savagian encourages them to call 515-297-8498 and an ISU Foundation staff member will assist them with their gift. Every gift should go to the donor's priority, she said.

Check your mail

Forever True Day envelope

Faculty and staff received a campus mailing from the foundation earlier this week. In addition to a mail-in pledge form for Forever True Day, it includes a door hanger to promote the event and display in your office when you make a gift.