Students observe a lawn of U.S. flags south of Parks Library on Monday, the 22nd anniversary of a terrorist attack against the United States that killed several thousand office workers, air travelers, and fire and police officers. The display contained 2,977 American flags, one for each innocent person who died in the four hijacked airplane attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
This display and others like it are sponsored each September by Young America's Foundation, an organization for young conservatives. Since 2003, student chapters of Young Americans for Freedom have hosted the 9/11: Never Forget Project on their campuses. ISU chapter president Donald Miller said it took a half dozen members about two hours to plant the field of flags Monday morning.
Andrea Wheeler, faculty fellow for student success in the office of the senior vice president and provost, spoke to the Professional and Scientific (P&S) Council Sept. 7 about the Best Next Steps Program -- a result of the jump-start project to address student retention and success with a focus on first-generation and multicultural students.
Wheeler said the pilot program -- spearheaded by working group members from the provost's office, division of student affairs and representatives from each college -- began this August and will run through July 2026. The group worked with associate deans this spring to discuss college retention plans, identify resource gaps and develop eight initiatives:
- College retention plan - A customizable template created by the working group with categories based on best practices.
- Student retention data dashboard - A dashboard with student retention data tailored to each college.
- Cyclone support specialist - An initiative of the Navigate team in the provost's office that will respond to student requests.
- Cyclone support training - Online training for faculty about student mental health.
- The Exceptional Tutor - Additional training for student tutors and dedicated student tutor preparation time.
- College help rooms - To enable discipline-specific local academic support and enhanced college-level peer tutoring.
- Student assistance specialists - Embedded case managers will address complex student retention issues and assist with the onboarding class (below).
- Online onboarding class - Tentatively planned to launch next summer, the course will include modules on help-seeking practices.
Using a student-centric approach, Wheeler said Best Next Steps leverages college and university-level resources to identify solutions and support for students.
"The collaboration across campus is the key to this work," she said.
Four new councilors were appointed at the meeting to fill vacancies -- Sarah Riley, economics; Taylor Gerdes, chemistry; Susan Ray, institutional research and Julieanne Rogowski, Iowa State Online.
The council also discussed its goals for the year, including how to better educate P&S employees on maximizing their benefits package. As part of the discussion around maximizing benefits, university human resources director of benefits Ed Holland presented a demonstration of ALEX, the free interactive online benefits tool made available to employees last fall. Holland shared that ALEX will be updated with new benefits information in early October following the September state Board of Regents meeting.
The next council meeting is Oct. 12 (2:10 p.m., 3560 Memorial Union).
Iowa State Online launched as a unit within the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) in January to reach new students and audiences -- and already is seeing results. Amazon approached the university this summer about assisting employees, particularly at its Bondurant facility, with continuing education.
"One of our goals is to partner with businesses and help with workforce development throughout the state," said Iowa State Online director Susan Arendt. Partnering with four-year institutions is a recent development for Amazon, she added.
Amazon partnered with Iowa State through its Amazon Career Choice network, which supports employees learning new skills and gaining knowledge to advance at the company or elsewhere. There are online and in-person options, and Amazon funds up to $5,250 per year for full-time employees and $2,625 for part time.
Currently, four employees are enrolled at Iowa State through this employee benefit, with majors ranging from community and regional planning to electrical engineering. All four are taking classes on campus, but Arendt sees the benefits of the online option.
"The online space is a nice opportunity for those employees because then they don’t have to leave Bondurant to receive the excellence of an Iowa State University education," she said.
Iowa State's participation in the Amazon Career Choice program was the culmination of about 18 months of preparatory work with several units on campus. Assistant provost and Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching executive director Sara Marcketti said the complex process will help develop pathways for other businesses looking to assist employees complete advanced degrees in the future.
Iowa State Online promotes and provides student support to the departments and colleges that offer three bachelor completion programs and more than 60 master, Ph.D. and certificate programs.
To better promote the program among Amazon employees, admissions assistant director for student recruitment Susie DeMoss and Iowa State Online staff will participate in a career choice school fair in Bondurant early next month.
"It will give us an opportunity to promote all of our online programs, answer questions and learn more about the workforce there," Arendt said.
CELT and Iowa State Online staff continue to work with colleges and departments to develop new programs in cybersecurity, digital health, game design and integrated health for the university's Degrees of the Future initiative. They also are helping refresh several other online programs such as agronomy, statistics and occupational safety.
The thorough process of developing a new online program can take a year. Iowa State Online staff can provide additional assistance after launch.
"It takes time to design, recruit students and get the marketing together. We have developed a launch process to make sure it is successful," Arendt said. "We are setting the expectations that this is a process, and it takes time to get through."
Once a college has an approved program to develop, college leaders and faculty meet with CELT to bring it to fruition through three phases:
- Documents of intention
- Design and learner support
- Launch and continuous support
The documents of intention begin a conversation between CELT, Iowa State Online, and the faculty and department to determine what needs must be met and the services to be provided.
Design begins by planning the content of courses and learning experiences. It includes assistance with marketing ideas and concepts, ranging from email templates to print materials and a website landing page. The design process also includes help with student recruitment.
"The process often begins with research into the feasibility and opportunities of an online program and then grows with instructional design support and services to help recruit to the specific student market," Marcketti said.
To assist incoming online learners, the application, admission and class registration process is the same all students at ISU use. Iowa State Online offers support to prospective students with questions and aids departments and faculty through orientation by designing modules that are customizable to each course.
Once the online course is launched, CELT and Iowa State Online have ongoing resources, one-on-one consultations, and technical and pedagogical support. They also provide analytics and assist with any changes considered through feedback.
"CELT is actively partnering with programs across campus, bringing together the specific skills of our units to help serve faculty and guide them through the stages of building or refreshing a program," said CELT communications specialist Kelly McGowan. "We're involved every step of the way, from forecasting program success with market research to walking with faculty through instructional design, multimedia content production, marketing, student support and more."
Senior vice president and provost Jonathan Wickert discussed the increased enrollment numbers and positive trends during the first Faculty Senate meeting of the academic year Sept. 12.
The overall student body of 30,177 was about 300 more students than the May projection, which was used to develop the institutional budget.
"We are positive in variance in terms of the budget enrollment, which is great to see after multiple years of decline since 2016," Wickert said.
He said one of the strongest indicators is the direct-from-high-school enrollees which climbed to 5,859, a 15% increase compared to 2020. Wickert said it indicates strength heading into future years. He also said the junior class is larger than last year's and the sophomore class rebounded a year ago.
"When we see our freshman class rebound for three years, our sophomores for two and the juniors this year that bodes well for the future," Wickert said.
The first-year retention rate of 87.5% is consistent with the trend over the past decade.
Graduate enrollment also increased by 116 students and international enrollment improved by 275 students over last year. Students are coming from a significantly broader number of countries compared to three years ago, he said.
Wickert also praised the faculty for their nimbleness in moving classes online after a fire at the power plant Aug. 24 affected building cooling systems.
"The ability to pivot quickly really did make the difference in having continuity in teaching our students," he said. "If there is any kind of silver lining with the pandemic, it's that everyone has become better in teaching virtually."
At their October meeting, senators will vote on:
- A proposed name change to the department of geological and atmospheric sciences, to the department of earth, atmosphere and climate. The change makes clearer to students, funding agencies and stakeholders what the department focuses on and follows a national trend at universities. The change was supported by department faculty 16-3.
Proposed name changes to three majors in the art and visual culture department. The changes are intended to make the majors more easily identifiable and discoverable to students. The changes would be:
- Bachelor of fine arts (BFA) in integrated studio arts to BFA in art
- Bachelor of arts (BA) in art and design (art and culture option) to BA in art
- BA in art and design (visual culture studies option) to BA in art history
- Adding an academic advisor as a non-voting member to the academic standards and admissions committee to ensure all proposals have input from an academic advisor. The proposed bylaw change would help reduce unintended negative consequences from new policies regarding degree audits, graduation timing, registration and other areas.
- Proposed changes to the schedule change policy. They would include adding definitions to schedule change terms, clarifying the time periods for periods 2 and 3 and define and provide criteria for approving out of term schedule changes.
- A change to scholastic recognition for undergraduates by discontinuing the Top 2 Percent and creating a President's List honor. The list recognizes students with at least 24 credit hours or satisfactory-fail courses and a 4.0 GPA for their two most recent semesters at the university (excluding summer sessions).
- Adding a course waitlist policy to the university catalog beginning in March 2024 (as students register for fall 2024 classes) to coincide with additional functions in Workday Student. Students are added to the waitlist on a first-come, first-served basis. If a seat becomes open, the first student on the list will be notified and has 24 hours to act. Students can join a waitlist and accept or decline a seat through the fifth business day of the fall and spring semesters.
A new academic year brings a new food option to the Memorial Union (MU). Sushi Do (doh), and its sushi-focused menu, opens at the beginning of October.
The menu features classic sushi rolls, such as California and shrimp rolls, and boba tea, a cold-served beverage with a tea base, milk or fruit flavor and edible pearls. Customers can order at the counter for freshly-made items or, to save time, grab-and-go options are available.
"We think the students will really like the boba tea, and Sushi Do currently is the sole provider of boba tea in the MU," said MU co-interim director Brad Hill. "I also am excited because the price points are very reasonable."
Hill said most of Sushi Do's sushi options range from $7 to $12. He said the addition of sushi was driven by student feedback and the success of Pono Poké, another food court option that sells deconstructed sushi in bowls.
Sushi Do is located on the first floor in the space previously occupied by a gelato shop just east of Panda Express. One of the biggest factors in choosing Sushi Do is the continued improvements it will allow at the MU.
"The partnership with Sushi Do is a profitable one for the Memorial Union that will allow us to continue to build opportunities to reinvest in the building," Hill said. New wayfinding and digital signage are recent examples of that reinvestment, he added.
Sushi Do primarily is located on the East Coast and includes 25 operations at universities, including University of Pennsylvania, George Washington University (Washington, D.C.) and Stony Brook University (New York). The MU location is its first in the state, and the company has an Iowa-based staff who will manage the space and prepare the food. Hill said Sushi Do will work to source fish and produce options locally whenever possible.
"This is part of an ongoing partnership between the MU and ISU Dining," Hill said. "Dining director Christian Wise has previously worked with these types of companies."
The contract was awarded at the end of July and the quick turnaround is possible, in part, because Sushi Do can use almost all the equipment in the space.
"ISU Dining did set us up for success in that space. The coolers they were using for gelato will be used for sushi, as well as several other things already there," Hill said. "The MU staff has been working to retrofit the space and all we really had to do was install a sink."