Students share their joyful song

Students sing on the Parks Library steps

Photo by Christopher Gannon.

One of Iowa State's newest student organizations, the Jubilee Gospel Choir, performed praise and worship songs outside Parks Library Monday, during university library's final Monday Monologues presentation of the semester. Carl Wells (left), director of equal opportunity and Title IX coordinator, lent his voice and served as backup keyboard accompanist for the performance.

Funding announced for emerging degrees, faculty hiring initiatives

The office of the senior vice president and provost has announced funding decisions for the Degrees of the Future and Strategic Faculty Hiring initiatives. Both efforts were funded by President Wendy Wintersteen in 2022 to invest in Iowa State's new strategic plan.

Degrees of the Future

Degrees of the Future is a $1.5 million initiative to create new degree programs that address student and workforce demands. Proposals chosen for funding include both bachelor's and master's degrees, and the full range of delivery modes.

Funded proposals


Lead department(s)



Digital health


Human Sciences


Digital storytelling

Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication



Game design

Community and regional planning

Design, LAS


Integrated health sciences

Genetics, development and cell biology; Food science and human nutrition

LAS, CALS, Human Sciences


Master of finance and technology (FinTech)

Finance, Computer science

Business, LAS


Precision agriculture

Agronomy, Agricultural and biosystems engineering




Initiative leader Ann Marie VanDerZanden, associate provost for academic programs, said areas such as digital communications, health careers and game design are emerging or high-growth areas for both students and employers.

"As a student-centric major research university, it is critical we have a full range of degree programs to address Iowa's workforce needs, from established fields like chemistry and agronomy to new disciplines that leverage technology to address grand challenges," she said.

Faculty receiving funding will meet in the coming weeks to learn more about all the funded proposals and create awareness of the range of strategies being used to develop new degree programs. Proposals not chosen for funding as part of the initiative still may be supported at the college or department level. An additional round of funding and request for proposals will be announced in the coming weeks.

Strategic faculty hiring in critical areas

The $3.5 million faculty hiring initiative was designed to build additional capacity in four emerging research areas critical to Iowa's and the nation's economic future, and where new faculty could leverage institutional strengths and resources. Sixteen new positions across the four areas were funded.

Emerging research area: Climate science and sustainability

Faculty specialization

Lead department


Beef production and precision agriculture

Animal science


Food packaging

Food science and human nutrition


Climate science

Geological and atmospheric sciences


Plant systems biology for food security

Genetics, development and cell biology



Emerging research area: Critical materials

Faculty specialization

Lead department


Critical materials

Materials science and engineering, and Ames National Laboratory


Condensed matter physics

Physics and astronomy



Emerging research area: Cybersecurity

Faculty specialization

Lead department


Cybersecurity and information systems

Information systems and business analytics



Computer science


Computing (2 positions)

Computer science


Cybersecurity policy

Political science



Emerging research area: Human health initiatives

Faculty specialization

Lead department


Biomedical engineering

Mechanical engineering


Human physiology


Human Sciences

Integrative health science and nutrition

Food science and human nutrition

Human Sciences

Antimicrobial resistance

(2 positions)

Various departments

Veterinary Medicine


Faculty hired through the initiative will start at Iowa State as soon as this July, with arrival dates extending through August 2024. No additional proposal rounds are planned as part of this initiative.

"Faculty hiring helps drive Iowa State's land-grant mission by providing new content for degree programs, exploring new avenues for research and sharing scholarship through extension and outreach," said associate provost for faculty Dawn Bratsch-Prince, who co-led the initiative with vice president for research Peter Dorhout.

According to Bratsch-Prince, many of the successful proposals landed at the intersection of multiple disciplines, creating additional opportunities for collaboration. Several also address new academic programs proposed through the Degrees of the Future initiative, including digital health, integrated health sciences and precision agriculture.

Regents' DEI review likely to take several months

A state Board of Regents working group tasked with reviewing diversity, equity and inclusion programming and efforts at Iowa's three public universities is developing a comprehensive process but hasn't yet begun its review. At the board's April 20 meeting, president Michael Richards said the board's regular meeting in November is the tentative target for the group to present its findings and recommendations to the full board.

In March, Richards appointed regents David Barker, Jim Lindenmayer and Greta Rouse to lead the review process. He said the three regents have been working with board staff, in consultation with the three university presidents, to outline their work and the process they'll follow.

Once it begins "we expect the review to take several months and will likely stretch into the fall semester. Faculty, staff and students from the universities will be included in the process," Richards said. Any member of the public will be able to provide input via a web-based form, he added.

"This is a very important topic. The board looks forward to letting the working group create the process and do its work," he said.

Comments on employee compensation

In anticipation of a FY 2024 salary policy discussion at their June meeting, board members received comments from the leaders of employee representative groups about their constituents' pay situation. At Iowa State, those leaders are accounting associate professor Jon Perkins, Faculty Senate; and Jamie Sass, P&S Council, who directs the writing and speaking center in the Ivy College of Business.

Perkins told the regents the mean salary for tenure-eligible faculty in each of ISU's colleges is significantly below that at peer institutions, making it difficult to compete for new high-quality faculty. Faculty in the colleges of Business, Human Sciences and Liberal Arts and Sciences have either the lowest or next-to-lowest salaries when compared to peer institutions.

In addition to low base salaries, Perkins said salary adjustments in the last five years haven't kept up with inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index.

"In particular, salary adjustments for fiscal years 2021 (0) and 2022 (3.5%) fell dramatically short of keeping up with inflation -- 6.1% and 9.7%, respectively -- resulting in effective salary decreases of 6%," he said.

Referencing the new 2022-31 strategic plan, Perkins noted that "ISU is striving to be much more than an average university."

"I urge you to do everything you can do to support our faculty with salaries that allow them to feel they are not at the 'bottom of the barrel' and show them their efforts are acknowledged and appreciated."

Sass, who submitted written comments, said professional and scientific staff fill roles that support and help retain "the university's most valuable asset: our students."

"For the first time in my career at Iowa State, I'm seeing my colleagues leave Iowa State in waves, chasing different opportunities with better chances for career advancement and yes, better salaries," she wrote.

She noted that with the exception of 2019, performance-based salary increases in the last five years failed to keep up with cost-of-living adjustments, creating "a brutal financial reality for many P&S employees."

Many staff stay out of loyalty -- to students, faculty and the university, but that's not a sustainable strategy, she argued. The failure to invest in P&S talent, including salary increases to retain them, ultimately hurts students and the university's bottom line, she wrote.

"Please, do what is right for us. Keep fighting in the Legislature for meaningful salary increases because, without big steps forward, we will continue to face challenges in recruiting and retaining the staff who bring the university to life," she concluded.

Iowa State building projects

The regents approved Iowa State's requests to:

  • Purchase and install a combination of donated and discounted feed mill and grain processing equipment ($11.2 million) at the new $24 million grain science complex on the Curtiss Farm west of Ames along U.S. Highway 30. The new complex replaces three ISU feed mills and will be used for research and training future employees in grain and feed facilities to serve the state's ag industries.
  • Begin planning for an estimated $23 million project to add 16,000 square feet to the southeast corner of the Lied Recreation Athletic Center and renovate 20% of the facility. The addition will be named for the Kirk and Rae Malcolm family, who provided a lead $5 million gift. The project will expand weight rooms, locker rooms and sports medicine areas for the Cyclone wrestling and track and field programs. Recreation services, which uses roughly two-thirds of the facility, and the athletics department would exchange some space. Rec services' space allocation wouldn't diminish. An early timeline gets the project to completion in fall 2025.
  • Build seven teaching labs for textile sciences (apparel, events and hospitality management department) in the Human Nutritional Sciences Building, permanently replacing and modernizing current labs in the adjacent LeBaron Hall which is scheduled for replacement. University funds would cover the $2.1 million cost; estimated completion is fall 2025.


ISU Dining will be the first campus retailer to go cashless

ISU Dining's 20-plus campus locations will stop accepting cash payments on Monday, May 15, the first Iowa State unit to go cashless. With just 1.6% of last year's revenue from cash receipts -- and that figure never rising above 2.5% in the last five years -- associate director for business services Stu Essex said most of its customers won't be impacted by the change. More than 70% of ISU Dining's revenue is in meal plan sales, so those customers are swiping their ISU Card to eat.

Accepted forms of payment on May 15 will be credit cards, debit cards, student meal plan and employee charge plan (both on the ISU Card), and smartphone options such as Google Pay or Apple Pay. Essex said dining leaders are investigating options for selling ISU Dining cards at non-dining campus retailers that accept cash, for example, the university bookstore or the dining office.

"We're going to work with people who want to eat on campus. There will be alternatives for people who don't have a bank account," Essex said.

For example, he noted it can take newly arrived international students several weeks to get U.S. bank accounts. Essex said dining leaders work proactively with staff in the office of international students and scholars during orientation to provide international students options, such as preselling dining center meals, until they get a U.S. account.

The catering unit in ISU Dining will eliminate cash transactions on June 1, though catering customers still will be able to pay with a personal check.

Why cashless?

Many food and entertainment venues in Iowa and across the country are setting a cashless precedent. Essex noted Des Moines' Wells Fargo Arena, Principal Baseball Park and Adventureland amusement park are cashless. And various units (dining, athletics) at universities around the country are cashless. The key reasons are to:

  • Provide a quick, easy experience for customers. Essex said credit card transactions at a register are up to 40% faster than cash transactions.
  • Eliminate risks inherent with handling and storing cash, including both theft and the germs carried on coins and bills.
  • Create efficiencies in operations to focus on quality food and customer service. At 20+ locations around campus, multiple times every shift, ISU Dining employees count the cash in their registers. At the end of the day, when all cash returns to a central location, it's counted again. That turns out to be a lot of hours each week spent counting cash for a tiny fraction of revenue, especially in a time when hiring and retaining employees is challenging, Essex said.

Essex noted some large cities, such as New York City, have codes that prevent businesses from going cashless. The practice is considered discriminatory in a locale where large numbers of residents don't have bank or credit card accounts. Given ISU Dining's downward trend in cash revenue, the decision to eliminate cash is less impactful, he added.

Did you know

In addition to credit or debit cards, faculty and staff have their own options for eating on campus.

  • Full-time university employees may sign up for ISU Dining's faculty-staff charge plan to have dining purchases deducted from their next paycheck. There is no cost to start it and no obligation to use it. With it, employees receive a 20% discount on the door rate at the four dining centers on campus, but can use it at any ISU Dining location.
  • Essex said the leadership team is studying meal plan possibilities for faculty and staff.

Interim leadership named at the MU

The Memorial Union's two associate directors, Kristine Heflin (student engagement) and Brad Hill (operations), are serving as interim co-directors of the MU, effective April 26. They'll report to interim associate vice president for campus life and department of residence director Virginia Speight and serve on the Division of Student Affairs cabinet.

Heflin and Hill succeed MU director Steve Winfrey, who died April 19 of pancreatic cancer. Visitation and funeral services for Winfrey are this week.

Senior vice president for student affairs Toyia Younger said a search for the next director of the Memorial Union will begin after a new associate vice president for campus life and director of residence is named. That search is underway.

The interim leaders

Kristine Heflin head shot


Heflin joined the MU staff in fall 2019 and oversees all student engagement programming, including leadership and service programs, student organizations and Student Union Board; major events such as WelcomeFest, ClubFest, ISU AfterDark, Dance Marathon and Winterfest; art programs including the Workspace and art galleries; the Maintenance Shop; and CyBowl and Billiards. She can be reached at

Brad Hill head shot


Hill began his MU role in summer 2019 and manages internal and external MU reservations and events; the MU parking ramp; renovation projects; and building operations including custodial services, technology and maintenance. He can be reached at

Regents approve promotions for 75 faculty members

Meeting April 20 in Ames, the state Board of Regents approved promotions, including tenure, for 75 Iowa State faculty members, effective for the 2023-24 academic year. The group includes 43 cases of promotion to associate professor with tenure, tenure-only awards for three associate professors and 29 promotions to full professor for tenured faculty.


2023-24 faculty promotions


To assoc prof
with tenure

Tenure (for
assoc prof)

To professor
(already tenured)

Agriculture and Life Sciences
















Human Sciences




Liberal Arts and Sciences




Veterinary Medicine









New degrees

The board greenlit two new degree programs at Iowa State: an online Master of Accounting Analytics (an in-person version exists) and a Bachelor of Science degree in agricultural communications. Since 1996, the ag communications programming was offered as a communications option within the agricultural and life sciences education major. Students pressed for a degree program with a name that reflects the strategic communications aspect of their education.

Parking permit increases

The regents approved Iowa State's request for a 3% increase to parking permit rates for the fiscal year that begins July 1. The Memorial Union manages its parking ramp, and ramp permits will increase 7.5%-9.2%, with the exception of the winter permit.

The penalty for three parking violations will increase $5 each: overtime on parking meters (to $20), failure to purchase a parking receipt (to $20) and improper parking (to $30). The last violation excludes improperly using a space designated for people with disabilities, for which the fine remains $200.


Parking permit rates

Permit type



24-hour reserved






General staff*









Motorcycle, employee



Meters, metered lots



Memorial Union ramp



    Annual, MU employee



    Fall or spring



    Winter (Nov-Feb)






*includes residence and Ames Lab staff permits


Final meeting for regent Nancy Boettger

In other business:

  • The regents approved residence system rates for the 2023-24 academic year. At Iowa State, that's a 2.9% increase to most hall and apartment rates and a 5% increase to its 25- and 50-meal plans and academic year plans. On average, a room-meal package will go up 3.9%. For example, an unair-conditioned double room with unlimited dining center meals will go up about $369, to $9,726. The price guests pay in the campus dining centers also will go up about 5%, to $15 for lunch and dinner, to $11.65 for breakfast.
  • The regents approved Iowa State's request to close four centers due to circumstances: Biobased Industry Center, Center for Metabolic Biology, Iowa Center for Advance Neurotoxicology and the Center for Earthworks Engineering Research. The first faces declining private sponsors, the others are due to center leadership departures.
  • Board president Michael Richards expressed the board's "deep gratitude" to regent Nancy Boettger for her six years of service as board member (May 1, 2017-April 30, 2023). Speaking to her colleagues, Boettger said, "What a privilege it's been to be with the fine minds in this room. I encourage you to keep up the good work." Robert Cramer, president and chief administrative officer of road construction company Cramer & Associates, Grimes, and a 2013 regent nominee, will succeed Boettger on the board. The Iowa Senate confirmed his appointment April 17.
  • A scheduled presentation on the regent universities' economic impact in Iowa by Hannah Ruffridge, Lightcast labor market analytics firm, was postponed a second time due to Ruffridge's illness.


Pickleball prodigy? Rent a set to find out

Adventure program

Johnna Ragland, left, recreation services' Adventure Program coordinator, and student employees Jessica Paulson and Erik Evans are with some of the program's bikes and canoes available for rent at State Gymnasium. Photos by Christopher Gannon.

With the calendar about to flip to May, it means two things for many people -- sun and fun. Recreation services' Adventure Program can help with equipment, outdoor trips and advice to experience the outdoors year-round. Options are available to everyone:

  • Members: Any faculty, staff or student who has paid the recreation/student activity fee
  • Non-members: Anyone affiliated with the university who has not paid one of the fees
  • Community members: Anyone not affiliated with ISU

Membership provides cheaper prices to rent equipment or games and less expensive trips.

"We try to have anything and everything that will help get people outside," said Adventure Program coordinator Johnna Ragland.

Equipment rental


Membership options for faculty, staff and retirees range from daily to annual. More information is on the rec services webpage.

Everything from tents to kayaks to dodgeball sets can be rented through the Adventure Program. Renting is a good way to see if you enjoy climbing before investing in personal equipment, or to determine if the pickleball craze scores points with you. People can rent equipment for a day, a weekend -- a four-day span -- or extended for five or more days. The website lists all available equipment and games, including winter gear such as cross-country skis and snowshoes.

"We rotate our equipment -- especially camping gear -- every few years as needed and add gaming gear as it becomes popular," Ragland said. "Our most recent additions are pickleball and spikeball."

When picking up gear, staff will conduct a quick tutorial on operating and maintaining the equipment, especially larger items like canoes, kayaks and paddle boards. There also are instructional videos on how to safely load those items on top of a vehicle.

The rental process is streamlined online with a request form followed by a confirmation email from program staff. In-person requests and pick-ups can be made at State Gymnasium. Rec services previously sold equipment and gear that had aged but still was in working condition. Ragland said that likely will resume next summer.

Ragland said faculty and staff take advantage of equipment both for personal and university use.

"For a lot of our gear, it is an even mix between faculty and staff and student use," she said. "We do have a lot of classes where instructors come to us to reserve equipment to use for a project or assignment."


This semester brought the return of many trips and workshops offered by the Adventure Program that were paused in spring 2020 because of the pandemic. They include overnight, weekend and extended trips for climbing, horseback riding, backpacking and other outdoor experiences.

"We have about 50 student staff members each semester that we conduct training sessions with to learn the soft and technical skills," Ragland said. "They then lead the group on whatever that trip may be. It is a great way to give people who sign up an experience in the outdoors."

All nonpersonal gear is provided to participants, including food and lodging, depending on the trip. Ragland said trip offerings will grow through next summer to prepandemic levels.

Bike maintenance

The Adventure Program recently added basic bike maintenance to its services with a variety of for-fee options. Routine bike safety inspections are free. An online form is available to schedule an appointment.

"We do basic repairs, and we have partnerships with a couple other shops that we can refer people to for more involved repairs," Ragland said.


Johnna Ragland stands with some of the program’s camping supplies and equipment available for rent and stored at State Gym.


Inventive ideas abound at IGNITE showcase

IGNITE graphic 2023

A digital banner advertising the 2023 IGNITE Innovation Showcase at Iowa State University. Provided by Student Innovation Center staff.

Creativity and imagination are at the heart of the IGNITE Innovation Showcase, an event fueled by the inspiring work of students. Hosted at the Student Innovation Center May 4-6, the showcase will celebrate budding entrepreneurs and creators from across campus.

The full schedule is on the IGNITE website. From make-and-take prints and glass firing to a dessert-making demonstration and Dolphin Tank presentations -- inspired by the TV show "Shark Tank" -- for the Student Innovation Fund Challenge, the university's culture of innovation is on full display during this annual event.

The focus this year is to "dress the building" with presentations, displays, exhibits, receptions and activities, said the center's learning and development specialist Rebecca Nation.

"Students should be proud of their creative projects and have the chance to show them off to the campus community," Nation said. "Our best work is done when multiple diverse ideas and views are brought together."

Jim Oliver, Pithan executive director of the center, echoed this sentiment. "Innovation is about identifying a problem and suggesting a different way of thinking about it. It's about creativity and bringing different fields together to come up with new ideas."

Collaboration is key

Oliver said participation from the colleges and campus partners is what makes this event -- and the mission of the Student Innovation Center -- stand out.

"There's really no place else in the country with this breadth of innovation activity," Oliver said. "The scope and the scale of what we're doing at Iowa State is unmatched."

With all of the colleges participating in the showcase, Nation said it's the perfect opportunity to celebrate student work and remind the campus community that the Student Innovation Center is here to serve everyone during IGNITE and year-round.

"A lot of students see innovation as making the world a better place, and that has to start somewhere," Nation said. "They learn a lot from putting their creative ideas into action."

Work in progress

Since taking the helm in 2019, Oliver has seen the Student Innovation Center transform from a concrete skeleton to a bustling hub of creation and entrepreneurship. 

The showcase has also transformed -- this year's event clocks in at three days in contrast to the weeklong events of years past. Oliver said this was intentional as they considered the capacity for participation by the colleges and students during a busy time in the spring semester.

While past showcases were in mid-April, the center received the provost's permission to hold the event during prep week. By moving the showcase to May, the center was able to highlight student projects completed in innovation classes and programs instead of asking them to finish up in April or create additional work to have something to show.

"I think we have a really nice program coming up," Oliver said. "We're happy to have this event to get the word out about this unique resource and opportunity for ISU students."