Work is underway to repair the damage caused by a fire in Marston Hall on Oct. 20. Wendy Kisch, interim associate vice president for facilities, planning and management, said she expects the first, second and third floors of the building will be closed for six to eight weeks.
The fire, which started in a third floor storage area, was quickly extinguished, but there is smoke and water damage on several floors. Contractors are removing damaged walls and carpeting that must be replaced. The Ames Fire Department says it appears accidental, but an exact cause remains under investigation.
"We appreciate the quick response from Ames Fire and the tremendous team effort from our campus partners," Kisch said. "We are working to reopen the building as soon as possible, but the timeline will depend on availability of materials to make repairs."
Classes relocated for the rest of fall semester
Katie Baumgarn, classroom scheduling specialist, and the room scheduling team worked over the weekend to relocate more than 60 classes either directly or indirectly impacted by the fire, along with 37 special events, five night exams and 25 finals scheduled in Marston Hall.
Baumgarn said she is thankful for the flexibility of several departments that offered space and moved classes to make it all work. To limit disruption for instructors and students, she said classes will meet in their alternate locations for the remainder of the semester.
In addition to classes, several College of Engineering units in Marston Hall have relocated:
- Student advising, Durham Center third floor
- Career services, Durham Center first floor
- Student recruitment, Student Innovation Center
Faculty and staff with offices on the fourth floor are working remotely until they can return to their offices on Monday, Oct. 30.
Marston Hall, which underwent a major renovation completed in 2016, features several works of campus art, including The Fifth Muse by artist Norie Sato. The sculpture installation resembles a mobile with more than 100 hanging objects that depict various aspects of engineering.
The day after the fire, Lynette Pohlman, director and chief curator with university museums, and a team of staff and volunteers removed the sculpture from the east entry ceiling, along with two paintings exhibited on the third floor. A conservator will assess the works of art this week. Pohlman said she is hopeful they won't need major restoration work, but just "an old-fashioned" cleaning with thousands of Q-tips and water.
"The response over the weekend was really a divisional effort with everyone pitching in," Pohlman said. "That's the great thing about Iowa State, everyone just steps up and helps out."
Front page photo: Teams from SERVPRO are on site to clean the smoke and water damage in Marston Hall.
The benefits open enrollment period for university employees begins Wednesday, Nov. 1, and closes at 5 p.m. CST Friday, Nov. 17. It's the annual window during which employees can change their health, dental and life insurance; and sign up for flexible spending accounts or the vision discount plan. During the rest of the year, a qualifying life event -- such as a marriage or birth of a child -- is necessary to alter your benefits plan.
Benefit selections take effect Jan. 1 for calendar year 2024. As occurs each year, the new payroll deductions for everything except flexible spending accounts begin with the December payroll.
Generally, services covered in the medical, dental and pharmacy plans aren't changing in 2024. Medical and dental premiums are going up, and employees' share of costs for nonpreventive medical services is increasing in both the HMO and PPO plans. Because of these notable changes, university human resources (UHR) shared information about these changes much earlier this fall. A 2024 highlights document summarizes the medical plan changes and why they're necessary to stabilize the university's self-funded plan for the long term. An ISU slide show with audio summarizes all 2024 benefit options.
Summary of changes
Iowa State is introducing cost-sharing features like deductible and coinsurance. For the first time, HMO policyholders and covered family members will have a $250 per person deductible each year, the amount you pay before ISU cost-sharing kicks in. After an individual's deductible is met, HMO plan members pay 10% coinsurance until their personal out-of-pocket costs reach $1,500 ($3,000 for a family). Current PPO policy holders are accustomed to coinsurance and an out-of-pocket maximum. In 2024, in-network care through the PPO plan will introduce a $400 deductible per person ($800 for a family) and the coinsurance percentage rises to 20%. The $2,000 annual cap per person ($4,000 for a family) isn't changing in 2024.
Express Scripts' prescription plan isn't changing in 2024. Employees should note that the medical and pharmacy out-of-pocket maximums are separate. The pharmacy out-of-pocket cap is staying at $2,000 ($4,000 for a family) in 2024. Express Scripts is implementing several cost-saving initiatives in 2024, including discount programs such as GoodRx. Previously, if employees took advantage of such discounts, that purchase wouldn't count toward their out-of-pocket maximum.
Premiums and coverage in the optional Avesis eyewear program also aren't changing in 2024. This benefit provides discounts on eyeglasses and contact lenses once per calendar year for each member. Eye exams are covered under the medical plan.
Where to enroll
Employees will complete their benefits enrollment in Workday. Look for the open enrollment link in the announcements section of your home portal, or head to the "benefits and pay" app in the left menu. Benefits-eligible employees will receive an email prompt from the UHR benefits team on Nov. 1.
Employees are encouraged to review all their 2023 benefits elections and make changes as needed. If you don't change anything -- or if you don't even review your current benefits selections -- your plan selections will stay the same for 2024. The exception is flexible spending accounts (FSA), which need to be reset annually.
These pre-tax deferments, which help pay for medical/dental/eyewear care or dependent care costs, will stop on Dec. 31 unless you select an FSA and a contribution per pay period. The Internal Revenue Service, which sets the range on these accounts, hasn't announced 2024 limits yet. If they're announced in time, Iowa State will implement the new limits. The health care flexible spending account allows you to carry over up to $610 of unused funds into the next year; the dependent care account doesn't provide this option.
Before you enroll
UHR's benefits team encourages employees to take time, prior to enrolling, to review the changes, the impact to their family or their situation and to consider all their options. The benefits open enrollment website summarizes all the 2024 benefits options. (The information on the main employee benefits website will continue to feature 2023 plan information through December.)
Another good option is to use ALEX, an interactive virtual benefits counselor that's free, confidential, available 24/7 and updated with 2024 plan details. ALEX asks about your medical services and prescriptions in the past year, household coverage needs, age, risk aversion and financial status. Using that data and other analysis, it provides personalized recommendations -- including which insurance plan seems to be the best fit and estimates for anticipated out-of-pocket costs and worst-case scenarios. Remember, they're just suggestions. In some cases, employees may want to review other coverage options for their dependents that better suit their needs and circumstances.
If you still have questions, a conversation with a benefits specialist might be helpful. Schedule a virtual or in-person meeting with a counselor via the Microsoft Bookings app (scroll to the bottom of the open enrollment website for Bookings links to the four benefits counselors), or call the UHR service center at 515-294-4800.
Customer service specialists at Wellmark also can help with medical plan questions, for example, comparing how a medical service was actually paid in 2023 and how Wellmark anticipates the same service would be processed in 2024. Wellmark staff also can answer questions about the list of preventive services, which by federal law carry no cost-sharing. Call the number on the back of your Wellmark member ID card for help.
If you missed it, the Oct. 12 edition of Inside focused on practical information to help employees review medical shared costs and payment options such as interest-free payment plans with providers or calculating how much to put into an FSA. Earlier editions included these Q&As:
- Why health care will cost employees more, Sept. 28
- Employee questions answered at the Oct. 4 town hall, Oct. 5
UHR benefits team
UHR enrollment information
Open Enrollment website
Oct. 4 benefits town hall (recording)
Wellmark website, 800-494-4478
Delta Dental of Iowa website, 800-544-0718
Express Scripts website, 800-987-5248
Flex savings accounts: health care,
ASI Flex website, 877-879-9038
Providing security for 90,000-plus devices on the Iowa State network is a challenging daily task for information technology services (ITS). Employees can take steps to recognize potential problems and limit risk.
By the numbers
Number of harmful emails automatically caught and blocked by Microsoft during September.
Number of total security reports triaged by the IT security team since the start of the semester.
Number of security reports that were submitted through the Outlook "Report Phishing" button since the start of the semester.
Number of times a scammer tried to impersonate a member of ISU to run a financial scam since the beginning of the semester.
October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, and Rich Tener, chief information security officer for ISU, reminds everyone the best way to protect information is to:
- Use strong passwords and multi-factor authentication (MFA).
- Recognize and report phishing.
- Update technology software when it becomes available.
"One of the things we are stressing most right now is that ITS will never ask for your password or text you to ask for your MFA code," Tener said. "If this happens, email email@example.com."
The ITS security team also tries to find stolen passwords before they are used. Microsoft provides a service where it constantly monitors the dark web for lists of compromised emails and passwords. If it finds one with an "@iastate.edu" domain, it checks the password for the Iowa State account and notifies ITS if the two match, Tener said.
"If people reuse their Net-ID password on a different site and it gets hacked, Microsoft will notify us that it needs to be changed. We will scramble that password and tell the individual," added Tener, who said this occurs 10-20 times each month on campus.
Protect your computer
Many employees have shared work spaces or are in areas open to the public. Tener said anytime someone is away from their computer or laptop they should lock the screen. Users can adjust their screen saver settings to begin running after a certain number of inactive minutes and require a password to log back in after the screen saver begins or the display is turned off.
Users also can quick-lock their computer anytime they are going to be away.
- On a Windows computer, click the "Windows" + "L" keys.
- On Macs, click "Control" + "Command" + "Q."
"[Locking your screen] prevents people from being able to steal your data, for example by uploading it to a cloud storage site or plugging in a USB key," Tener said.
Tener said many scams are directed toward students on campus, but there is growing concern that
cybercriminals may or already have targeted faculty and staff.
"If anyone ever poses as IT and asks for a security code, please contact us and let us know," he said. "With employees and researchers, the stakes can be much higher than students. They may try to target faculty members or those doing sensitive research."
Tener said if an employee is scammed, report it as soon as possible. ITS still may be able to limit the damage and help going forward.
Small but mighty team
Tener oversees the ITS security team -- a group of six other employees who work to eliminate or limit threats. Three information security analysts and a manager are dedicated to incident detection and response. Once a possible phishing message is received, an analyst searches to see who else received the message and emails a warning to each recipient to let them know that it was a phishing message.
Email questions or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.
"People are so good at reporting phishing we are actually getting overwhelmed, so we're shopping for technology to make the phishing response process more efficient," Tener said. "We’ve had over 2,000 phishing reports since the start of the semester. We encourage everyone to keep reporting them and we are going to use technology to automate and scale our response activities."
Another team member spends most of their time working with IT teams to protect systems, and another's job is security compliance. That includes ensuring rules are followed for the 45 business units on campus that accept credit cards. That person also handles research security to make sure ISU's research data is adequately protected.
Iowa State employees or campus units receiving a notice about a tax refund credit (above image) should not respond and instead route the information to the university's tax office.
Bonnie Whalen, associate vice president for financial planning and analysis, said most notices are sent by mail -- though individuals may receive an email or phone call -- and look like legitimate IRS documents for Employee Retention Credit claims.
In response to issues nationally, the IRS put a moratorium on any new applicants to allow time to develop safeguards to prevent future abuse. Whalen said it's not clear how widespread the notices may be on campus, but wants employees to be aware of this potential scam.
If you receive a notice, Whalen asks that you send it through campus mail to 2423 Administrative Services Building or forward emails to email@example.com.
Employees with questions about their retirement planning have a convenient option for a personalized financial check-up. TIAA financial consultants offer a regular schedule of on-campus meetings.
During a one-on-one consultation, employees meet with either Jay Albrecht or Paige Philips. Meetings are available in these campus locations:
- 3680 Beardshear Hall, second Tuesday and third Thursday of each month
- 1014 Communications Building, third Tuesday of each month
- 128B General Services Building, second Wednesday of each month
Appointments for any of these days can be booked online.
TIAA consultations are available to all benefits-eligible employees, even those who selected IPERS as their retirement plan. Consultants can review an employee's financial and savings plan to ensure it's on-track to meet long-term goals.
"Carnival and Gold" is the 2023 homecoming theme. Events begin Sunday, Oct. 29, and conclude with the tailgate and football game against Big 12 Conference opponent Kansas on Saturday, Nov. 4; start time is pending.
Student co-director Adam Wolf, a junior in construction engineering, said homecoming is about creating the broadest reach possible to celebrate what makes Iowa State University a great place.
"Students have been working on this since November, and we really would love to see as many people as possible get involved in some piece of homecoming," Wolf said. "Come out and enjoy the week."
Below are a few suggestions for faculty and staff to join the celebration. Events are free and open to the Ames community unless noted. A complete homecoming schedule is online.
For updates on weather-related changes for outdoor events, follow @isuhomecoming on social media.
The kickoff event is Sunday, Oct. 29 (noon-2 p.m., lot A-4 outside the Alumni Center). Enjoy stage performances and displays by student clubs and groups, free popcorn and cotton candy, a petting zoo and the ISU scale model carillon. Food will be available for purchase from three food trucks.
Food on campus (FOC)
Homecoming week lunch will be served on central campus Monday through Thursday (11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., while supplies last). A faculty-staff line will be open from noon to 1 p.m. daily. Leave your business card each time you attend for a chance to win a prize prior to the Friday evening pep rally (must be present to win). The Friday meal will be at the Alumni Center during the pep rally.
You'll need a homecoming button to eat. Buttons are $5 and can be purchased at the ISU Book Store or at the lunch tent. This year's caterers are:
- Monday: Jimmy John's
- Tuesday: Grilled hot dogs
- Wednesday: Hickory Park
- Thursday: Tropical Smoothie Café
- Friday evening: Pizza Ranch
Your homecoming button also will get you a 15% discount at the 1858 Innovate shop, Student Innovation Center, Oct. 30-Nov. 3 (10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily).
Yell Like Hell skits
The student spirit competition featuring original cheer skits and gallons of body paint opens Monday, Oct. 30 (4 p.m., central campus). Fifteen teams will compete in the first round (minus the paint), which is narrowed to eight teams for the second elimination round on Wednesday, Nov. 1 (6 p.m.), also on central campus. Finally, three Yell Like Hell finalists will perform at Friday's pep rally.
Honors and awards
The 92nd annual honors and awards ceremony, at which the ISU Alumni Association, Memorial Union and colleges will recognize the service of 40 alumni and university friends, is Friday, Nov. 3 (1:30 p.m., Stephens Auditorium, a dessert reception follows). It's open to the public and will be livestreamed.
Bags for scholarships
Faculty, staff and alumni are invited to compete in a bags tournament on Friday (3:30-5:30 p.m., outside the Alumni Center). The entry fee is $20 per team (cash or check, payable at the door). Proceeds support the Cardinal Court scholarships, which recognize two Iowa State seniors with a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 who have shown high character and dedication to the university and city of Ames. Register your team online.
Celebration and pep rally
Homecoming happy hour on Friday (4:30-5:30 p.m., Alumni Center) features drink specials and light snacks. From 4 to 4:30 p.m., all ISU faculty and staff are invited to the second-floor Reiman Ballroom for a free drink ticket and the prizes drawing using the business cards collected during the week at FOC. After the drawings, faculty and staff in attendance who are ISU Alumni Association members will receive an exclusive winter beanie.
At 6 p.m. outside the Alumni Center, pizza will be served to all with a homecoming button and the pep rally begins, emceed by alumni association president and CEO Jeff Johnson. It will feature the Cyclone marching band, Yell Like Hell finals and Cardinal Court presentation. Senior vice president for student affairs Toyia Younger will recap the university's Jack Trice commemoration year.
Inside the Alumni Center, find giveaways, kids activities, a cash bar and merchandise sale by the ISU Book Store.
ExCYtment in the Streets
This homecoming spirit competition in the Greek area south of campus has returned to Friday evening (8-10 p.m.) at the request of alumni who couldn't enjoy its Thursday slotting last year. In 15 teams, 41 Greek organizations will present four lawn displays and skits, repeated at intervals during the evening. Another 11 "pomping" 2D displays can be viewed in the 200 block of Ash Avenue. Sandwich boards in the neighborhood will direct visitors to the four display/skit lawns. Enjoy free food and carnival games at the "Greek triangle" where Sunset Drive meets Pearson Avenue.