This old oak

View from sidewalk of man in hydraulic lift cutting tree limb

Photos by Christopher Gannon.

While team members look on from below, Kurt Garretson, a tree trimmer with the campus services team in facilities plannning and management, cuts limbs from a diseased red oak northwest of Curtiss Hall Monday morning, early in the process of removing it. The tree, more than 100 years old, was weakened by Ganoderma, an aggressive root rot fungus that impacts a tree's stability and kills limbs over time. Since it was in an area with high pedestrian traffic, the tree came down as a safety precaution. Smaller branches had begun to fall on their own.

According to records, the tree was part of a grove of eight oaks planted in 1917 to honor the memory of Seaman Knapp, who served as the first chair of the agriculture program (1879) and later, the second president of Iowa State College (1883-84). 

"We don't like to take down trees, but it's our job, especially when there's a potential danger," Garretson said.

The campus services team removes trees year round; the timing usually depends on the location and condition of a tree, said Barb Steiner, facilities maintenance manager. Winter break is an ideal time to remove trees -- foot traffic is light on campus -- but frigid temperatures and scheduled staff vacations stalled progress this year. Next on the team's removal list are trees in decline near the band practice field, by the Youth 4-H Building and on central campus.

Five questions with a chef who can compete

Josh Wilkins

ISU Dining chef de cuisine Josh Wilkins. Photo by Christopher Gannon.

ISU Dining's chef de cuisine -- or executive chef -- Josh Wilkins won the 37th annual Taste contest Jan. 22 hosted by the Iowa Pork Producers. Wilkins beat eight other chefs from across the state in a competition to see who could prepare the best boneless pork loin entrée. He won the competition -- and the People's Choice award -- for his pork braciole, an Italian dish featuring pork loin stuffed with parmesan spinach on a bed of parmesan polenta, a cornmeal-based dish with the consistency of porridge. Wilkins braised the pork loin in a tomato sauce and drizzled it with a basil pistou.

Name: Josh Wilkins

Position: Chef de cuisine, ISU Dining. He manages and directs the culinary program for the student dining centers.

Experience: Wilkins, a Des Moines native whose wife, Jules, works at the ISU Foundation, has worked in fine dining in New York, New Orleans, St. Paul and, before coming to ISU, as a corporate chef for K-12 private schools.

Years at ISU: 1

He talked with Inside about his victory and how ISU Dining strives to please thousands of students every day.

Why did you enter the contest?

I had never done a cooking competition, but my sister sent me an Instagram link and said I should do this. I have made the dish before in a couple of restaurants. When I lived in New York, I worked in a small Italian restaurant where the family did homestyle Italian food.

I had to do four plates for the judges and 300 one-ounce portions for the tasting reception on the same day. I was really proud of what I put on the plate, and as the tasting reception went on, I started to get some really good feedback and noticed people coming back a second and third time.

What does the victory mean for ISU Dining?

I think some peoples' perception of collegiate dining is not what it is nowadays. When I was in college it was very much cafeteria lines with chicken tenders and fries. I was happy to show that the quality of food we put out for the numbers we do is very chef-driven. The competition included some prestigious restaurants and smaller high-end restaurants, so it was nice to show we do high-quality food. I had a lot of support from ISU Dining to use Friley Hall on the weekend when no one was there. There also were members of ISU Dining at the reception to support me.

What is it like preparing menus for all those students?

When you're serving about 10,000 meals a day, you have to appeal to the masses. There are a lot of palates, and the cultural diversity on this campus is awesome -- so we get to do a lot of cuisines from all over the world. I menu plan by the semester, so it can be challenging, but I have a lot of information that I pull from. We also have several partnerships on campus and I build those options into my plans. Our turkey comes from campus and in the fall we get onions and peppers directly from the horticulture farm.

With the amount of options we have available at the dining halls, it's easy for students and other guests to self-manage. The menu management team does a great job when it comes to labeling and maintaining an online database for dietary needs like gluten free or allergies. We want it to be easy to manage your plate.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

When the dining room is quiet, there is an instantaneous sense of accomplishment because people don't talk when they like the food and are eating it. 

We also do special events in the dining centers, which are a lot of fun for me. For example, this fall we did one with a group of students from Africa. It was nice to use their recipes.

Could we see your winning dish on campus?

It is something we might use for catering or special events.


Josh Wilkins winning dish at the Taste competition was a pork braciole. Submitted photo.


Practice space helps advising, academic support staff prepare for go-live

Who doesn't appreciate a zero-risk place to practice a new skill, maybe even make a few mistakes? More than 1,300 staff and faculty with student advising or similar academic support roles received access this week to a Workday Student practice site -- essentially a Dec. 30 copy of the real one -- that lets them do just that. It will be available through August as a tile on their Sign On dashboard and remains independent of the actual Workday platform. Anything that happens in the practice site stays there.

The intent is that when Workday Student's third rollout goes live on Monday, March 4, this group will have kicked the tires on the practice site, become more familiar with the platform and gained confidence in their ability to assist students with fall course registration later in the month.

Need access to the practice site?

If you think you're one of the 1,300+ but didn't see an email invitation from WorkCyte on Feb. 5, email

"We think the dominos begin with them," said Diann Burright, co-lead on the academic advising workstream committee and director of undergraduate student services in the Ivy College of Business. "The timing of this rollout is just weeks before course registration begins. Advisors understand they really are the first line of support come registration time, whether they work with graduate or undergraduate students. So, it's key that those folks are somewhat comfortable with the essential registration processes."

She said advisors were asking for such a site, "a place where they could poke around themselves, so they feel more confident about what they're telling their students."

Workstream co-lead and assistant registrar Matt Dikeman said faculty and staff can return to the practice site even after the go-live March date.

"We thought they might like to practice other things, for example, some of the tasks and processes they'll need to know for new student orientation in June," he said.

Watch, then practice

Burright noted that faculty and staff have access to many self-directed training videos and how to articles on the WorkCyte training website for an introduction to processes and functions.

"We're encouraging them to combine those [training materials] with the practice site, where they can mirror what they saw and do their own clicks to see how it works without any worry about messing up their data."

Who gets to use the practice site?

No, Iowa State doesn't have 1,300 academic advisors. The group with access to the practice site includes about 365 undergraduate academic advisors and another 162 staff members in positions such as academic support, career services or study abroad who assist Iowa State's roughly 24,000 undergraduates. On the graduate education side, it includes 850 faculty who serve on graduate committees as well as directors of graduate education or certificate studies (346) and those in student support roles (79). Several hundred people have multiple roles, and sifting out that duplication provides the smaller number.

Other employees who work with student data and would like access to the practice site may send a request to Be sure to include your campus role in your request.

Automated in Workday: Course prerequisite check, course waitlist

While advisors and others in a student academic support role need to relearn processes in Workday and adapt to some new vocabulary, two registration processes have been automated in Workday, lightening their load a bit.

The first, confirming that course prerequisites have been met will be an automated process at the time of registration, before enrollment is confirmed. In the legacy system, it was a manual process completed closer to the first week of class -- and often inconsistently across departments and colleges. When students want to request an exception for a prerequisite in Workday, they'll initiate an override request, and authorized approvers -- assigned by departments and colleges -- will review the request.

The second automated process creates, for the first time, a waitlist for many courses (indicated in the course description). In the past, students interested in a class simply had to keep checking back to see if any seats opened. In Workday, students can add their name to a waitlist for a course section that has filled. If a seat opens in that section, the first student on the list receives a notification in their Workday inbox and has 24 hours to register or defer to the next person on the list. The waitlist process will close at the end of the first week of class.


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Nomination window is open for council seats

Nominations will be accepted online through Thursday, Feb. 29, for candidates for the Professional and Scientific (P&S) Council. This spring, terms expire for 20 of the council's 44 seats. Three of those council members are concluding their second terms and aren't eligible for reelection. The vacancies are distributed across the four representative divisions:

  • Academic affairs: 13
  • Student affairs: 3
  • Operations and finance: 2
  • President: 2

Any P&S employee who would like to serve on the council may seek a vacant seat in their division by completing the online nomination form. P&S employees also may nominate a colleague for service on the council using the same form, and a member of the council's governance committee will contact the nominee to confirm their interest. In either instance, the submitter provides information about the employee's qualifications or experience that would make them an effective council member and advocate for P&S staff. That information is used on the council's election website.

The election is held online in March and elected council members will be seated at the group's May 16 meeting.

Spreading out the meetings

To ease the time demand of monthly meetings on council members, president-elect Jason Follett shared several changes to the council's meeting schedule that lengthen the time between meetings. The group's constitution requires a meeting at least every 75 days. The revised schedule through the start of fall semester is:

  • March 7 (no change)
  • April 11 (no change)
  • May 2: moved to May 16
  • June 6: canceled
  • July 11
  • August: canceled
  • Sept. 5

More council business

When early bird registration closed Jan. 31, 237 non-presenters had registered for the council-hosted annual professional development conference for P&S employees on Wednesday, Feb. 28 (8 a.m.-4 p.m., Gateway Center). Registration ($160) remains open through Feb. 20.

Workday Student co-leaders Kristen Constant and Steve Mickelson presented an update on the multiyear implementation of student-related functions in the platform. Some highlights:

  • The third rollout of functions (March through June) is a big one. It includes 80% of the content in Workday Student.
  • The mock semester exercise (Jan. 29-Feb. 2) is going very well, and participants are sharing ideas for how to improve its usability. As the largest university to date implementing Workday Student, Iowa State is able to make modifications and make some "bold requests" of Workday, Constant said. The company has been responsive to Iowa State suggestions and requests, she added.
  • For privacy and compliance purposes, the goal is to minimize the Workday Student apps that employees see in their own portal. Just like human resources and finance apps in Workday, access is set according to employees' job responsibilities. Employee job transfers may create temporary lags in accuracy.
  • When Workday Student becomes available to students (March 4 is the anticipated date), college student services offices will set up staffed local "help rooms" for students (and employees) as they learn the new platform.
  • A new training website opening soon in WorkCyte will organize materials by position type.

AI can improve course accessibility

Instructors working to improve the learning experience for all of their students have another tool. They can use artificial intelligence (AI) as a jumping-off point to design a course to be accessible.

Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching instructional designer Jamie Niman said AI can be a brainstorming buddy on how to start alternative text -- those informative image descriptions or context -- and revise it. Students who use screen readers to listen to text read aloud on a webpage or in Canvas benefit from image descriptions that can be strengthened by AI.

Niman will demonstrate Microsoft Copilot during a virtual presentation, "Leveraging Generative AI for Accessible Education," on Feb. 20 (11 a.m.-noon, register online). ISU's license to use Copilot includes commercial data protection that complies with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, and others. The tool does not save any information input by the user and doesn't use the information to train its models.

Niman said instructors using Copilot can establish a baseline for making coursework accessible and remove or enhance the information they want for their course. Some of the topics to be discussed are:

  • Improving alt text
  • Ensuring greater accuracy with closed captioning
  • Creating consistent icons for online navigation

Niman said a benefit of designing courses for accessibility is that activities that benefit students with accommodations often enhance learning for all students.

"Instructors can modify coursework to meet the appropriate level of education, and they can go back to Copilot and work to condense or expand it as they need," Niman said. "It is a proactive approach for instructors."

Attendees will go through several accessibility exercises in breakout rooms and return to the larger group to discuss applications and help troubleshoot.

AI also can help instructors meet the university's digital accessibility policy implementation timeline. By July 1, 2026, all new digital content produced or purchased must comply with the policy.

Community draws people back to ISCORE

Two decades ago, a snowstorm threatened to upend the sixth Iowa State Conference on Race and Ethnicity (ISCORE). Japannah Kellogg, then the director of the TRIO Student Support Services office, had just received the baton to organize the annual event, and he was nervous. Would the keynote speaker make it to Iowa? Would anyone show up?

They did. Kicking snow off their boots and shedding layers in the Memorial Union, the speaker and more than 400 staff, faculty and students gathered to present and learn about new research, hear different perspectives and unpack complicated, sometimes difficult topics. Since then, the conference -- named the Thomas L. Hill Iowa State Conference on Race and Ethnicity in 2016 for the former senior vice president for student affairs -- has grown.

"Something that's been resonating with me is that people come to ISCORE for community. We have representation from all over campus, either through presenting or attending or serving on a committee. The Memorial Union, ISU Dining and Enrollment Services, which manages registration for ISCORE, play a big role as well," said Kellogg, who became the director of the NCORE-ISCORE Office in 2017.

Woman speaks with four female students about a research poster

Connie Hargrave (left), associate dean for equity and engagement in the College of Engineering, speaks with George Washington Carver Scholars during the lunchtime poster session at ISCORE 2023. Submitted photo.

Kellogg gave the analogy of a book club to describe how ISCORE adds meaning to the sessions. You can learn from reading a text, but discussing specific sections with others and hearing different perspectives enhances your understanding. Kellogg said he sees this happen organically at ISCORE between sessions, in hallways and during meals. Often, it's among people from different departments and units on campus.

"The feedback that I've received over the years from people who are new to Iowa State is that they're impressed, and those who have come back year after year are excited for it. They look forward to the conference," Kellogg said.

Two options

This year, the half-day preconference for Iowa State faculty, staff and graduate students lands on Wednesday, Feb. 28. It includes eight sessions and an afternoon speech by Amy Popillion, teaching professor in the human development and family studies department. Kellogg said the pre-conference offers a supportive environment for faculty and staff to share their experiences, as well as an opportunity for growth and connection.

The 24th ISCORE for faculty, staff, graduate students and undergraduate students is the following day, Thursday, Feb. 29. The full-day conference includes 26 sessions and morning speaker Tin-Shi Tam, Cownie Professor of Music and university carillonneur. Noelani Puniwai, assistant professor at the KamakakÅ«okalani Center for Hawaiian studies at the University of Hawaii, will give the keynote speech: "Re"story"ing our Relationships in Science for a Healthy and Abundant Future."

Registering for one or both days is free, but limited to 300 participants for the pre-conference and 1,200 for the full conference. As of Wednesday afternoon, registration numbers were at about 260 and 400, respectively.