Inside staff writers and university photographer Chris Gannon spent the first days of new student orientation observing and talking to staff who, summer after summer, work full days and put personal plans on hold for a month to make incoming students' first day and a half on campus welcoming, reassuring and fruitful. Among large public universities, we're told it's an uncommon commitment to provide a personalized orientation experience for nearly 5,700 students -- roughly 280 each day from May 31 to June 30. It's one of the many grand examples of team work here at Iowa State.
We'll share a few of those employees' orientation stories in the first Inside Impact -- a special edition of Inside Iowa State -- Tuesday morning, June 13. Periodically during the year, we'll add editions, organized around a theme and highlighting dedicated employees doing excellent work.
The Benefits and Pay Hub, a new Workday feature launched June 1, provides a single location for employees to review benefits, compensation and pay information.
The hub helps Iowa State illustrate the value of an employee's total rewards package, said university human resources (UHR) director of benefits Ed Holland. Base pay, applicable allowances, awards or one-time payments and employer-paid contributions for benefits are visible in the hub on a rolling 12-month basis.
The hub currently is available for faculty, merit, postdoc and Professional and Scientific (P&S) employees. Additional employee groups, including hourly students and contract employees, will be added in the future. The hub's implementation was driven in part by employee feedback indicating a desire for more accessible benefits and pay information.
"We periodically receive questions from current employees related to what the university provides from a total rewards perspective," Holland said. "With the new hub, we can clearly show ISU's total rewards proposition."
Staff involved in the admissions process began using Workday Student on June 5, and prospective students will submit applications via Workday Student starting June 15. More information.
Working with Workday
The Benefits and Pay Hub can be accessed in Workday's main menu from a web browser. Additional instructions and details were provided in a video included in a May 9 memo to faculty, merit, postdoc and P&S employees. One thing to note: While some tax information is provided in the hub, Holland said employees will need to email email@example.com for tax documents prior to 2019. The hub is also not yet available on the Workday mobile app.
This hub, along with the Internal Careers Hub launched in April, is part of Iowa State's ongoing adoption of Workday functionality. Holland said the university continues to evaluate all new functions Workday introduces, including the hubs, as they become available.
Having spent much of the spring semester like their students -- learning -- Iowa State Online staff is using that information to improve the experience for online learners.
Iowa State Online director Susan Arendt said she is pleased with the results of a whirlwind first five months since its launch, and now has the data to back up those feelings. Every student in an online program received a survey this spring to determine their awareness of available services and overall satisfaction. It was the first time ISU compiled information about online-only students and will provide a baseline. A 2022-2023 Emerging Leaders Academy group collaborated on the survey.
Of 737 surveys distributed, 175 students responded, and 83% indicated they were somewhat to strongly satisfied with their online learning experience. Seven percent somewhat disagreed that they were satisfied but no student strongly disagreed.
"We took the overall results as a positive, but we were able to identify some areas that were not as positive and that is what we are really focusing on," Arendt said.
The bulk of information from the survey came from student responses to open-ended questions. Arendt's team identified five opportunities for improvement:
- Develop an online student orientation
- Strengthen the availability and consistency of online offerings
- Enhance community building and connectedness to ISU
- Clarify online exams and proctoring
- Enhance instructor understanding of the online student population
Orientation for students in online programs is being developed as part of a pilot project that began during the spring semester. It will remind students about resources they might not know about, like evening and weekend technical support and academic skills coaching. Programs can choose to use parts or all of the orientation as it fits their needs, Arendt said.
"The survey results showed us that if we can educate our online students on the services that are available to them, they will use them," she said. "We have on-campus orientations and orientations that are provided online for those coming to campus, but we are in the process of developing an orientation specifically for students in online programs who may never visit campus."
Other improvements will develop over time. The consistency of online offerings will improve going forward, but occurs at the college level. The online-only student -- many who are working professionals -- may put a different emphasis on education while juggling other responsibilities, such as caring for children. Arendt said students and instructors can work together on timely communication that works for both of them.
A universitywide support structure
For some, questions linger about what Iowa State Online is and isn't. It's one of four focuses of the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT). The others are: instructor development, course design and quality, and enterprise instructional technology.
"We don't have programs or courses," she said. "We are a support and service unit to the entire university. Iowa State Online is a universitywide brand and support structure that brings online education programs under one umbrella."
Iowa State Online is not a Purdue University Global or another online university that has its own courses or programs, Arendt said. Her team does not determine what programs, curriculum or courses will be offered or initiate curricular changes.
"We do not offer degrees that say 'Iowa State Online,'" she said. "We are here as a support service to the university."
Iowa State Online has gathered its staff in one location in Howe Hall, but the task of transitioning all the information from the three former distance education units -- College of Human Sciences Online and Distance Learning, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Online Learning, and Engineering-College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Online -- continues. Websites for those units will remain active and direct visitors to Iowa State Online until the process is complete.
The number of graduate, undergraduate and certificate programs and courses continues to increase, and Arendt anticipates continued growth around the Degrees of the Future initiative that includes areas like digital communications, health care career opportunities and game design.
Improvements to the Iowa State Online website soon will include an online course catalog and a chatbot to answer current and prospective student questions in real time. Arendt said Iowa State Online also is providing colleges with marketing research to help make strategic decisions about online offerings and support.
"We are working for that consistent and identifiable branding of Iowa State Online so people not only know who we are, but that we have a look that aligns with our branding at Iowa State."
Tuition rates and student fees for 2023-24 and a fiscal year 2024 salary policy are on the agenda when the state Board of Regents meets June 13-14 at the University of Iowa's Levitt Center. Tuesday is reserved for annual evaluations of the four institutional heads, including President Wendy Wintersteen, and board executive director Mark Braun. Board committees and the full board will complete their work on Wednesday. Wednesday's events will be livestreamed on the board's website, and the agenda also is online.
FY24 salary policy
The agenda item directs the universities to develop salary policies for faculty and staff not represented by a union for the fiscal year beginning July 1 "that best meet the needs of the institution" and to submit them to Braun for approval.
The new merit system pay plan on July 1 features 19 pay grades and 3% adjustments to pay grade minimums and maximums.
Grants for degree programs that lead to high-demand jobs
The regents will be asked to approve a list of bachelor's degree programs that train students for a set of high-demand jobs developed by Iowa Workforce Development to meet criteria in a piece of May legislation. The 2023 Legislature created the Iowa Workforce Grant and Incentive Program, funded with a $6.5 million education appropriation, to encourage the state's public university students to pursue degrees that prepare them for high-demand jobs in the state. As proposed, eligible students would receive $2,000 grants for up to three semesters, with an additional $2,000 payment if they accept a high-demand job aligned with their major within six months of graduation.
If approved, the Iowa College Aid Commission would implement the new program, with first grants disbursed this fall.
Proposed tuition and fee increases
Proposed tuition increases for the 2023-24 academic year are unchanged from the board's first reading on May 11: At Iowa State, that's a 3.5% increase ($304) for resident undergraduates and 4% increases for nonresident undergraduates and all graduate students. Professional students -- those enrolled in the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program -- would experience tuition increases of 3.8% (nonresidents) to 5% (resident students).
As proposed, all Iowa State students would pay an additional $60 (4.1%) next year in mandatory fees, bringing total fees to at least $1,515 (students in specific programs pay a higher technology fee, according to the demands of that program). The proposed increase would be divided among these specific fees:
- Technology, $14 increase for higher software license fees
- Health, $15 increase to support a fulltime psychologist, rising costs for medical supplies and professional salaries necessary for market competitiveness
- Student activities, $10 increase to support student government's inflationary costs and the Iowa State Daily student newspaper
- Student services, $11 increase to CyRide for fuel and labor increases
- Building fee, $10 increase to the Memorial Union to keep up with inflation
Clinical services incentive for Vet Med faculty
Leaders in the College of Veterinary Medicine will ask for board permission to add three years to a year-old pilot program intended to grow and expand veterinary clinical services offered to the state and region while financially rewarding the faculty who provide the veterinary medical doctor portion of the services. All faculty (tenured, tenure-track and term) who meet eligibility criteria may participate in the Veterinary Clinical Services Incentive Plan, which, as proposed, pays them 25% of the specific portion of service fees generated through their time and expertise. Payments would be made twice a year (in January and July) and faculty may earn up to 20% of their base university salary. College leaders believe the program will be a useful tool for recruitment and retention.
Department chairs and unit directors recommend faculty for participation in the program to the dean each spring. Payments to faculty are based on an auditable, professional service fee structure established for the college's four service units: Lloyd Veterinary Medical Center, Veterinary Pathology and Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, which offer services at the college campus; and Veterinary Field Services, which provides on-site services to clients.
The program was modeled after the university's Faculty Incentive Salary Increment Program, which rewards researchers and research units for outstanding grantsmanship. Vet med faculty could participate in both, but the combined incentive from both can't exceed 20% of their salary.
If approved, the college would submit a review to the board by June 2026.
Patterson naming request for veterinary complex
The college also will ask for board permission to name part of the Vet Med complex for alumnus Frederick Douglass Patterson. Building areas that would be included in Frederick Douglass Patterson Hall are: primary academic centers, classrooms, college administrative and academic department offices, research labs, library, main entrance and adjacent common spaces. The request excludes the Lloyd Veterinary Medical Center and nearby facilities on the Vet Med campus such as the new Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, Veterinary Field Services building and Veterinary Medicine Research Institute.
This year, the college is celebrating the centennial of Patterson's graduation with the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine 1923 class.
Other ISU business
Iowa State leaders also will seek board approval to:
- Terminate the B.S. in biophysics, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Over several decades, its learning objectives have drifted toward biochemistry, to the extent that students now are better served with a biophysics specialization in the biochemistry B.S. degree. If approved, the change is effective in August.
- Combine board-approved remodeling projects for the second and third floors of the Memorial Union into a single project with one contractor and construction schedule. The change is possible due to greater certainty about funding and space availability in the MU than a year ago.
Two faculty presentations are on the agenda:
- Artificial intelligence opportunities and challenges, presenters include Abram Anders, associate professor of English and director of Communication Innovation, to the academic affairs committee, 9:45 a.m., June 13
- University of Iowa's Center for Noninvasive Brain Stimulation, Dr. Aaron Boes, director, and Roy J. Carver associate professor of neuroscience, to the full board, 2 p.m., June 14
Wendy Kisch has been appointed interim associate vice president for facilities planning and management (FPM), effective July 1, following the departure of Paul Fuligni.
Kisch has been with Iowa State since 2008 and currently serves as director of operations for the Student Innovation Center. Previously, she served in FPM for eight years, including as assistant director of facilities services (2015-19).
She earned three degrees at Iowa State: a bachelor's degree in industrial engineering, a master's degree in statistics and a doctoral degree in statistics and industrial engineering.
"I am confident Wendy will provide strong leadership for our dedicated FPM staff who work hard to develop, operate and maintain our facilities," said senior vice president for operations and finance Shawn Norman. "I know she will work collaboratively across the division and the university to support and enhance our campus environment."
Norman said a search to permanently fill the FPM leadership position likely will start in the fall.
The ISU Research Park has helped innovators succeed since its founding in 1987, but sharing those successes with a larger audience isn't easy. Late in 2020, research park associate director Alison Doyle decided to use her years of knowledge about the park's tenants to help them share their story directly with the people they impact daily.
"The Innovators Podcast" was born.
Starting a podcast? What to consider:
- Is there equipment or can it be purchased?
- Identify a target audience.
- Define the topic.
- Determine a podcast style (interview, conversation, storytelling, etc.).
- Follow a consistent general outline in each episode.
- Establish an episode release schedule.
- Who will write scripts?
- Determine platform and length of podcast.
- Will it be audio, video or both?
- How will the podcast be promoted?
- How will it be made accessible for everyone?
"We struggled to tell the story of the people who have started businesses here, so we began a podcast that really allows us to put faces to the infrastructure we are building here," Doyle said. "Being in a free-flowing conversation creates a dynamic that you just can't capture any other way."
"The Innovators Podcast" is one of numerous podcasts across campus that touch on a range of topics from invasion to travel and parenting. Finding ways to reach those on campus, in the community and throughout the world can be challenging when most people have significant demands of their time. Podcasts provide a valuable source of information that can be accessed at anyone's convenience.
Doyle said the audio podcast is aimed at three groups: prospective park tenants, faculty and students. All benefit from learning about each other and the potential to work together on future projects. She said not everyone may want to start a business, but the podcast may spark an interest among faculty or students to work with someone in the research park.
"It can be difficult when you have groups that are different to pick a medium that is attractive and appeals to all of them," said Doyle, who interviews each guest on the podcast. "I still believe the written story or newsletter have their place, but this is an easy way to shine a light on something in a personal way."
Doyle knew the podcast was catching on when she no longer had to pitch the idea to different businesses in the research park. Instead, their leaders came to her and asked to take part. Doyle said the mission of the research park extends past just being a landlord and helping businesses reach new audiences is a big advantage. Podcasting has shown the value of taking time to celebrate success and share the struggles of trying to be an entrepreneur or innovator.
One of Iowa State's newest audio podcasts is "To Infinity and Abroad" launched in March from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences' study abroad office. It uses student hosts to give fellow Cyclones an idea of what to expect when traveling around the world.
Study abroad advisor Marta Grant helps student interns develop each podcast and communication specialist Nicole Hurlburt handles all the editing. The interns learn skills that will be useful after graduation.
"They were learning communication skills, how to interview people, make them feel comfortable and coming up with topics," Grant said.
The podcast is an interview with students currently studying abroad, those who previously went abroad and program leaders. Hurlburt said they hope to expand the audience to include and align it with similar units in other colleges. The podcast will run during the fall and spring semesters, adding to the website, social media and newsletter used to get the word out about the study abroad program.
Students wearing earbuds while walking across campus is a common sight, so a podcast made sense to try to reach them, Grant said. Analytics indicate listeners prefer a podcast of 30 minutes or less which helps shape discussions.
Like most new podcasts, there were technical challenges, such as audio that comes across too loud or faint, unintended background noise and time needed to edit. Determining equipment needs, like a microphone, and how and where to upload the finished product also were completed with a little trial and error, Hurlburt said.
Podcasting with expertise
ISU Extension and Outreach pivoted to podcasts to fulfill one of its missions of reaching all Iowans. Its 10 podcasts in the ag and natural resources program and one in human sciences provide an informal way to educate people, especially those unable to participate in traditional extension programming.
The "Small Farm Sustainability Podcast" launched in 2015 and has reached more than 125,000 listeners and was recognized as the best sustainability ag podcast in 2021 by Feedspot Blog.
"Not only does the podcast provide convenience to our listeners, but it allowed us to reach other technical service providers across Iowa to strengthen partnerships with organizations like the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and various U.S. Department of Agriculture agencies," said small farms program coordinator Christa Hartsook.
The increased use of video conferencing apps, like Zoom, expands the list of possible guests and cuts down on travel.
The "Science of Parenting" podcast -- which began more than a decade ago -- launched after a blog of the same name began seeing fewer visitors but had a built-in audience. It gives parents a trusted place to find information backed by the extension name and allows extension staff to expand their reach nationally and internationally.
"We are able to offer a resource that parents can trust amid the blur of contradictory information online," said extension specialist Mackenzie Johnson. "When they listen to our podcast, they know it's research-based and trustworthy."
The podcast is one of a growing number that provide both an audio and visual version, often uploaded to YouTube.
Students in ag education and studies assistant professor Fally Masambuka-Kanchewa's Communicating Contemporary Issues in Agriculture course this fall will develop a podcast for the first time.
"The podcast will allow students to facilitate conversation with people who have different points of view," she said. "Too often people try to inform others about how wrong they are about their perceptions of agriculture, instead of trying to listen."
Students will line up guests, determine questions, interview experts and produce the podcasts.
"I want students to take a step back and appreciate why people think about things the way they do," Masambuka-Kanchewa said.
Masambuka-Kanchewa's research during the pandemic showed how people on two sides of an issue attacking each other affects public trust and leaves little middle ground where the general public can make informed decisions. She said she hopes the podcast project helps erase some of the public's doubt. The finished podcasts will be shared publicly.
What started as an idea for a food and supply shelf in the front room of the Margaret Sloss Center for Women and Gender Equity evolved into the Sloss Resource Room. Open to all and fully stocked with nonperishable food, personal care items, parenting supplies, donated books and more, the Sloss Resource Room provides a new avenue for students, employees and anyone who needs it to give and receive.
- 5,884 pounds of food donated to SHOP and Sloss Resource Room from January to May 2023
- $7,307 in-kind donations from community partners and individual donors between January and May 2023
- More than 1,600 items provided to visitors since opening in March
The center's partnership with SHOP (Students Helping Our Peers) was vital to creating the Resource Room which acts as a satellite location for the student-run campus food pantry in Beyer Hall. Director Ruxandra (Sandra) Marcu said she always admired SHOP's work and approached its staff last summer with the idea.
"My vision from the beginning was that this would be a SHOP at Sloss," said Marcu. "It's very much a partnership where both sides said 'This is what I need and this is what I'm looking to create, how can we do that for each other?'"
Marcu said a decision was made early on to only have nonperishable items in the Resource Room instead of losing space by installing fridges and freezers. She sees the center's satellite location as an opportunity for more students to learn and spread the word about SHOP, which offers refrigerated items in addition to nonperishables.
Marcu said SHOP staff taught them what it takes to run a food pantry and started stocking the Resource Room shelves before it opened this spring. In exchange for the assistance, staff at Sloss are helping unload deliveries and stock shelves at SHOP.
"We wanted to create a partnership that's mutually beneficial, and I think we have," she said. "It could be a good model for other areas to replicate."
Taking care of each other
In addition to the food provided by SHOP, the center used supplemental funds from grants and donors to purchase specific items such as hygiene products for different skin and hair types and spices and ingredients not often found at traditional food pantries.
"We polled people and asked what tasted like home to them," said Marcu. "We wanted to have things where you come in here and you feel like this is for you."
The center doesn't collect any identifying information about those using the Resource Room beyond how many items were taken so staff can track and demonstrate its impact. Marcu said students are not the only people experiencing financial strain or food and housing insecurity, which is why the room is open to all.
The mission of the Resource Room is grounded in mutual aid, a philosophy that centers on the reciprocal exchange of resources with mutual benefit. Marcu said it's about giving what you have extra of and taking what you need. That mission resonated with groups on and off campus, and the Sloss Center received donations from student organization fundraisers and community partners like Dog-Eared Books in Ames and United Way of Story County.
With year one done, Marcu said they are encouraged by the engagement of the students and community and already have ideas for the future, which may include creating meal kits and celebration sets -- think cake mix and candles -- and cooking demonstrations.
"The goal is to keep sustainably growing, refining our donation system and engaging more students as volunteers," she said. "We're always asking, 'Is this meeting a need?' We're in a good place where we can get into fun and creative things too."
How to donate
Stop by the Sloss Center during open hours (Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.) or by appointment to drop off items with a staff member. A list of items accepted for donations can be found on the Sloss Center website, and the center will take gift cards as well.
The Professional and Scientific (P&S) Council recognized outgoing members and welcomed elected and reelected councilors for 2023-24 at its June 1 meeting.
The new councilors and executive officers will begin their terms on July 1. In addition to the 18 positions filled, Katie Steigleder, world languages and cultures, and Kerry Aistrope, ISU Extension and Outreach, were appointed to one-year terms to fill vacancies that occurred after the 2023 election.
Patrick Wall, ISU Extension and Outreach, will be president of P&S Council for the next year, and Jason Follett, software engineering, is president-elect. Following the departure of the previous council member in the position, Susan McNicholl, FIRST LEGO League of Iowa coordinator in the College of Engineering, was selected in a special election to serve as vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion and chair of the diversity, equity and inclusion committee.
- A motion to accept revisions to council bylaws passed -- details on the revisions were discussed at the May P&S meeting and included updates to the council's committees.
- Jennifer Schroeder, associate director of accounts receivable, will host the next entry in the council's seminar series on June 13 (2-3 p.m., Workday Learning). Her presentation, Magic Customer Service, is based on "Lessons from the Mouse" by Dennis Snow.
The council's next meeting is scheduled for 2:10 p.m. on July 6 in room 3580 of the Memorial Union.