Volunteers help light up Winter Wonderscape


Volunteers and ISU retirees Bob Catus (construction services), right, and Diane Meyer (grants hub) work to prepare sections of a large holiday tree they'll assemble for Winter Wonderscape at Reiman Gardens. Photos by Christopher Gannon.

Winter Wonderscape has become an Ames holiday tradition, and Dec. 1 marks the start of its fourth year at Reiman Gardens. The lights, decorations and festive feel are hallmarks of the event, but none of it would be possible without the hard work of volunteers.

Winter Wonderscape

Time-reserved tickets may be purchased for shows every Thursday, Friday and Saturday in December, beginning Friday, Dec. 1. Tickets ($15 general admission, $13 for members and ISU students, $7 for those 2-12 years) can only be purchased online. Entry times start at 5 p.m. and the show closes at 9 p.m.

A small army of volunteers work throughout November to decorate Reiman Gardens' grounds. And more help ensures every Thursday through Saturday evening in December is a success. Finding 336 volunteers is not always easy but volunteer coordinator Kimberly Hope said this year the holiday spirit seems to be carrying from season to season.

"Because of all of the Halloween events we have during October, we had a lot of community engagement -- and it carried over to Winter Wonderscape," she said. "We also have really good success with the athletic teams who enjoy volunteering."

Hope said the Cyclone swimming and diving and soccer teams have volunteered for several shifts. Volunteers commit to two-hour shifts and receive weather-related training.

"They build their own community and a lot of them have become very close friends," Hope said. "We have multigenerational friendships being made because we have a lot of retirees, but also we have Iowa State students and students from Ames High School."

Transforming the gardens

Planning for Winter Wonderscape begins before all the decorations are put away the previous year in January.

"During the show this year, we will be looking to see what works and what doesn't," said Reiman Gardens horticulture director Sarah Rummery.


Student employees at Reiman Gardens install a fountain light display for Winter Wonderscape.

Members of the horticulture department meet with Reiman Gardens staff to discuss what will remain, what will change and what new things may be added for next year. Monthly meetings with horticulture staff follow to generate ideas leading up to October. Supplies and decorations are taken out of storage from the old ice arena once flower bulbs are planted and irrigation pipes are cleared. The focus is on the more intricate decorations.

Five members of the horticulture department worked on the project this month along with eight student gardeners, who provide about 100 total hours of labor each week. They are joined by numerous community volunteers, transportation services and facilities planning and management (FPM) staff. FPM has individuals with tree climbing certifications to reach the tallest points at the gardens, and community volunteers must pass a safety course to climb up the 10-foot ladders used to hang decorations.

Horticulture staff determine the installation timeline, mapping each step on a giant whiteboard. Rummery said beginning Nov. 1, assembling Winter Wonderscape takes four to six hours of staff time each day. Small teams work morning and afternoon, but they caught a break with above-average temperatures throughout much of November.

"We can feel our fingers," Rummery said with a laugh. "We use a tremendous amount of zip ties to keep everything together and secure. They don’t work as well when your fingers are numb, so I think we have been getting it up faster because we don’t have to take breaks to warm up."

The Design Social Club creates motion graphics and animations for projection onto the multitiered wall on the west side of the gardens.

"The students use a variety of different tools to create these animations, but the overall idea is that they are fun, visually engaging and bring a sense of warmth and activity to the location," said graphic design associate professor Alex Braidwood.

Rummery said she's impressed by the support Reiman Gardens receives for its events with proceeds making improvements possible. Electrical infrastructure has increased over the years to support the impressive power needs, and the concrete sidewalks have been improved for accessibility and safety.

New for 2023

Rummery said many favorites return this year, but there are some new additions. Tulip flowers with four- to six-foot petals will make their debut in a field giving off impressive light, and the lake display will add lights. The disco balls hanging from trees have been moved to a new location because their previous location was planted as a woodland garden this summer.

Faculty, staff are testing Workday Student processes prior to spring rollout

Students aren't the only ones with tests on their mind this month. As part of the phased implementation of Workday Student and Receivables, thousands of transaction scenarios, featuring hundreds of simulated student personas, are being tested this winter in preparation for rollout No. 3 this spring.

Beginning on March 26, students registering for fall 2024 classes will complete the task in Workday. The final round of course registration in AccessPlus also will occur in March, by students enrolling in the 2024 summer session.

This course registration rollout follows the first rollout last June, when the university began accepting applications from prospective undergraduate students using Workday Student software. The second rollout, in September, extended the application process to include prospective graduate students.

Learn more: Two 2-minute videos

Getting Started with Workday (how to access, navigate and use Workday)

Types of training for Workday Student (three formats and where to find them)

To arrive at this point, project team members have converted student historical records spanning 91 years. The team is conducting tests, reviewing training feedback and leading workshops to begin transferring knowledge about new Workday Student processes and operations to campus partners. These activities will continue through 2024 to support and provide training opportunities to every employee who serves an Iowa State student or customer.

"We are grateful for the dedication and tireless efforts of the project team to make each rollout period as smooth as possible and support the overall success of this transformation," said President Wendy Wintersteen. "While change of this magnitude is not easy, we know this project is critical to enhance the student experience and the work of our excellent faculty and staff."

Campuswide testing continues

More than 200 faculty and staff, selected for their expertise in the relevant functional areas, are testing hundreds of new processes and procedures. To design the tests, the project team created many personas to test nearly all possible student profiles. They then developed more than 50,000 scenarios for those personas: student tasks such as registering for classes or signing up for commencement; staff tasks such as creating a financial aid package or registering a student organization; faculty tasks such as pulling a class list, editing courses or recording grades. This testing will continue through January in anticipation of moving data into the new system in February, ahead of the March rollout. At launch time, apps will be added to Workday homepages for faculty, staff and students based on their role and responsibilities.

Where to get help

Many training resources have been created for faculty and staff and students to help navigate the transition to Workday Student. For help, support or training information, access the Get Help page on the WorkCyte website, where there's an overview of upcoming changes, links to previews and training materials, and the implementation timeline. Employees are invited to review any of the general materials. In addition, selected faculty and staff will receive invitations to training for tasks and processes they'll need to become familiar with.

"We ask that faculty and staff do their part to stay informed of the changes and utilize the resources and training available through the Workcyte website," Wintersteen added. "The team appreciates your patience and support as together we bring the system online."

Modernizing Iowa State systems

Implementing Workday Student, which will continue through seven rollouts into January 2025, is the next step toward replacing the university's legacy computer networks and modernizing its administrative systems. It follows the 2019 implementation of Workday human resources, payroll and finances.

Soupir named to Graduate College post

Professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering Michelle Soupir, who has served in an interim role with the Graduate College leadership since April 2022, has been appointed associate dean for operations in the college, effective Jan. 1. It's a 50% appointment for three years.

Michelle Soupir head shot


Over the last 20 months, Soupir worked on modernizing Graduate College operations to strengthen the experience of graduate students and faculty and postdoctoral scholars. Soupir will continue this work in the new position. She'll also have oversight for Graduate College staffing and office operations, and onboarding and administrative support for graduate students funded through external fellowships.

"Dr. Soupir skillfully led efforts to improve operations in the Graduate College during her interim appointment. I am grateful for her accomplishments and pleased that students, staff and faculty will continue to see the impacts of her work," said William Graves, dean of the Graduate College.

Soupir earned a bachelor's degree from Kansas State University, Manhattan, and master's and doctoral degrees from Virginia Tech University, Blacksburg, all in agricultural and biological systems engineering. She has received numerous awards for her work in equity, diversity and inclusion, as well as for her research focused on the impacts of agricultural practices on water quality, and designing conservation practices to reduce pollution in downstream waters.


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Tips for when the snow starts to fly on campus

With the calendar about to turn to December and significant snow yet to fall on campus, it may be hard to believe -- but winter is coming.

Knowing where to park when lots are covered in the white stuff will help you -- and the facilities planning and management (FPM) crews that clear lots. Drivers are asked to not park in their usual parking lots until they have been cleared of snow. Several lots are designated where all parking permits are honored:

  • Iowa State Center commuter lots C and D (avoid CYTown construction)
  • North of Molecular Biology (lots 29 and 30)
  • North of General Services Building (lot 41)

Anyone parking at the Iowa State Center can ride CyRide to campus. The free #23 Orange route runs at five- to 10-minute intervals. During significant weather events, CyRide adds buses to routes to assist the campus community. The MyState app allows users to track their CyRide bus and limit time spent outdoors.

FPM crews follow six priorities for clearing snow and ice:

  • Roadways serving university facilities
  • Parking lots: Accessible spaces, then permit spaces and general spaces
  • Main walkways traversing campus and leading to main building entrances
  • Main building entrances and accessible entrances
  • Secondary sidewalks (those not in the primary route to campus facilities but instead leading to side or back doors)
  • Secondary building entrances, including side and back entrances and limited-access exits

Employees may use the online report a problem form or call 4-5100 to let FPM know about spots where ice or snow are a concern.

Safe travels

Environmental health and safety (EHS) staff developed posters (PDF format) and a video on walking safely in winter conditions. EHS offers five tips for walking on snow or ice:

  • Plan ahead to give yourself time
  • Wear shoes or boots with good traction
  • Use special care when entering and exiting vehicles, entering or leaving buildings and climbing or descending stairs
  • Walk on designated walkways
  • Use short steps or shuffle for stability

In addition to proper footwear, dressing for the weather is important. Dress in layers with a first layer that can wick wetness away from skin quickly. Wearing a hat and gloves also keeps heat from escaping your body.

Employees and students may use the salt/sand shakers located in many building entrances to treat problem areas. If more salt/sand is needed, call 4-5100.

Warm start to November

Mild November weather gave FPM staff time to prepare for the first significant snowfall. Campus services senior manager Barb Steiner said blades and brooms were checked and attached to equipment, and sanders are ready and inspected. The extra time allowed new staff to familiarize themselves with the buildings and routes they'll be responsible for clearing.

When the weather cooperates, she said crews also will continue to work on campus landscapes for their spring debut, including removing and mulching leaves from shrub beds. Crews also are cutting back perennial gardens and moving trees from the nursery and horticulture farm to campus locations. This fall, holiday lights went up on the tree east of Beardshear during 60 degree weather, saving a few fingers from the bitter cold of previous years.

Step away from your routine for WinterFest fun


student string quartet performs at Beardshear open house

The President's annual holiday open house (4-6 p.m., ground floor of Beardshear Hall) kicks off an evening of WinterFest activities on Dec. 1. Photos by Christopher Gannon.

Join students taking a break from their preparation for final exams at the annual WinterFest celebration on Friday, Dec. 1. Most events are at the Memorial Union or on central campus. Here are a few highlights:

Join President Wendy Wintersteen and her spouse, Robert Waggoner, for an open house in Beardshear Hall (ground floor, 4-6 p.m.). Enjoy live music and seasonal foods, beverages and ISU Creamery ice cream.

Trigg Watson's tech-infused magic show has been seen on The CW channel's "Masters of Illusion" and "Penn & Teller: Fool Us," and he was a semifinalist on the season of NBC's "America's Got Talent" that concluded in September. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. for his 7 p.m. free performance in the Durham Great Hall. The show is appropriate for all ages.

And take advantage of three opportunities to pick up one-of-a-kind gifts by fellow Cyclones:

  • Handblown glass ornament sale, by members of the ISU Gaffer's Guild, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., atrium of the Student Innovation Center
  • Jingle and Mingle holiday market, a trove of unique, handcrafted gifts, food and art created by student and alumni entrepreneurs, central campus, 3:30-7:30 p.m.
  • Art Mart: pottery, blown glass, jewelry, décor, accessories, paintings and more; purchases support individual artists, The Workspace and ISU's Gaffer's Guild; 11 a.m.-7 p.m., first floor art gallery, Memorial Union.

WinterFest is open to the public. All activities are free and while supplies last, unless otherwise noted. The end-of-semester event is hosted annually by the WinterFest student organization with support from student government, many units at the Memorial Union and Discover Ames.


WinterFest schedule (events are at the Memorial Union unless noted)

  • 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Glass ornament sale, ISU Gaffer's Guild, atrium of Student Innovation Center
  • 11 a.m.-7 p.m., Art Mart holiday sale, first floor art gallery (same time and place on Nov. 30)
  • 3:30-7:30 p.m., Jingle and Mingle holiday market, central campus
  • 4-6 p.m., President's WinterFest open house, ground floor of Beardshear Hall
  • 4-7 p.m., Airbrush tattoos, Room 3560
  • 4-8 p.m., Holiday crafting, make your own snow globe, The Workspace
  • 4-9 p.m., Photo booth, West Lounge
  • 4-9:30 p.m., Chair massages, Room 3580
  • 4 p.m.-midnight, Bowling and billiards, CyBowl and Billiards
  • 5 p.m., Cookie decorating and hot chocolate, food court commons, while supplies last
  • 5-7 p.m., Campanile tours, central campus, hosted by the Student Carillonneur Leadership Council
  • 5-7 p.m., Andy Albright Jingle Jog, campanile south lawn, fun run in memory of the former Freshmen Council member, proceeds support a scholarship in his name, $20, register via the Student Organization Marketplace
  • 5-8 p.m., Caricatures by speed sketchers, Room 3560
  • 5-8 p.m., Yuletide open house, Farm House Museum, central campus, enjoy Victorian yuletide-themed activities, crafts and holiday treats (continues Dec. 2, 1-4 p.m.)
  • 5-9 p.m., Bingo, Sun Room
  • 6 p.m., Chili and cornbread, Pine Room (off the food court), while supplies last
  • 6 p.m., Tree lighting ceremony, east of Beardshear Hall, central campus
  • 6-9:30 p.m., Horse-drawn wagon rides, loading in the west driveway, take a ride past Lake Laverne
  • 6:30-9:30 p.m., Silent disco, Campanile Room
  • 7 p.m., (doors open at 6:30 p.m.), Magic show with Trigg Watson, Durham Great Hall
  • 7:30-10:30 p.m., Ice skating, Ames/ISU Ice Arena, free admission and skate rental for the first 800 participants
close-up of lights on central campus holiday tree

Holiday tree on central campus.