A fortnight for spring flowers

Mother and four children picnic next to large tulip beds

The Easton family of Elkhart enjoys a picnic and some sketch time Monday at Reiman Gardens, surrounded by blooming tulip beds. Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Starting today (April 18), Reiman Gardens will offer extended hours Thursday-Saturday during the last two weeks of April. Visitors may enjoy more than 50,000 tulips, hyacinths and other spring blooms until 8 p.m. those evenings (gift shop open until 7:30 p.m.). Check the gardens' social media sites for more details on peak bloom times. Regular gardens admission rates are in effect.

Cyclone 101 aims to boost new student retention

In the continuing effort to boost new student success and retention, all incoming, direct-from-high-school students will take part in Cyclone 101, a five-part, summer onboarding course. In Canvas, Iowa State's learning management system, students will complete activity-based lessons in topics such as academic success, help-seeking behaviors, personal wellness and responsible financial decisions.

The modules integrate other required training for students, including AlcoholEdu for College, First Amendment, sexual assault prevention and mental well-being.

Development of Cyclone 101 began in 2018 before a pandemic delay, but it will roll out this summer with the help of strategic plan funds and coordinated through the office of the senior vice president and provost.

"Cyclone 101 is designed to get students started out on the right foot when they get to campus," said Clayton Johnson, director of the College of Human Sciences student services center. "We tell them about these resources during orientation and other formats, but we know the more times we get this in front of students -- in a variety of ways -- the more likely they are to engage with the resources."

He said some students who think they have to withdraw from school or find themselves on academic probation often didn't use the resources available to them early enough.

Johnson said the course's five modules -- released weekly beginning in mid-July -- help fill the gap between June new student orientation and mid-August when students arrive on campus for Destination Iowa State and the start of classes.

"The modules provide an overview of a lot of resources on campus and some good academic habits we want students to be aware of and practice before starting," he said. "Students interact with each module in an activity, like short quizzes or matching exercises. This is meant to be an engaging experience."

The course

Johnson said the five modules are released weekly, though students can progress at their own pace. Each takes no more than an hour or two to complete. Once students have completed the modules the information will remain in Canvas for them to refer to at any time. Johnson said another benefit is Cyclone 101 gives students a chance to use Canvas -- some for the first time -- before beginning classes.

He said Cyclone 101 could expand in future years to include information for transfer, nontraditional and other students.

Town halls

Four campus town halls are scheduled for faculty and staff to learn more about  the development of Cyclone 101, preview the content and explore the different modules.

"We encourage people who work with students during orientation, or have orientation-type courses during students' first year, to attend a town hall," Johnson said. "The content will help inform them so when they are talking to students they can reinforce what was presented in Cyclone 101."

  • April 26, 3:10-4 p.m., 3204 Student Innovation Center
  • April 30, 2:10-3 p.m., virtual (Microsoft Teams)
  • May 6, 1:10-2 p.m., 3204 Student Innovation Center
  • May 16, 11-11:50 a.m., 3204 Student Innovation Center

The April 30 town hall will be recorded and posted online for those unable to attend.

Micro-credentials beginning to take shape on campus

A campuswide effort to explore and implement micro-credentials is based in the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT). You may have heard of micro-credentials, but what are they and how can they help students and employers?

"Micro-credentails are bite-sized chunks of knowledge and skills that can be showcased to employers," said CELT micro-credentials program specialist Tanya Austin. "This can help learners be competitive and showcase in-demand employment skills that may be invisible on a traditional transcript."

Austin will help colleges, departments and units develop these credentials in her role, which was created from recommendations at the conclusion of a task force convened last spring by the office of the senior vice president and provost.

"CELT is proud to be involved in micro-credentialing and excited about its innovative and student-centered approach," said assistant provost and CELT executive director Sara Marcketti. "This is another way Iowa State is staying competitive, building strong partnerships with industries and empowering lifelong learning within a rapidly changing workforce and higher education environment."

The flexibility of micro-credentials is a draw: They can be for credit or not for credit, standalone or stacked, and correspond to a badge that can be shared on social media or elsewhere as a digital verification of skills.

Austin said micro-credentialing is gaining traction in industries and institutions as a valuable and customizable way to showcase knowledge, skills or abilities achieved in short-term learning modules or co-curricular activities.

"Iowa State wants to ensure consistency in the marketing and brand quality of micro-credentials so learners and external audiences can identify them with Iowa State's reputation," she said.

Making micro-credentialing a reality at Iowa State

Austin brings experience to Iowa State's micro-credentialing effort. Prior to joining CELT, Austin helped develop the Gerdin Leaders Academy in the Ivy College of Business. The program piloted micro-credentials, and Austin saw firsthand the benefits for students and employers.

Micro-credentialing at ISU

  • Tuesday, April 23, 2:30-3:30 p.m.
  • 2206 Student Innovation Center
  • Host: CELT micro-credentials program specialist Tanya Austin

Austin is leading a work group that will determine Iowa State's guidelines around micro-credentialing practices, procedures and governance as well as badge design, technology, awarding and marketing, and how those ideas will be consistently applied across the university. The work group includes staff, faculty, stakeholders, and career services and ISU Extension and Outreach professionals. 

Four pilot programs could help develop a proposed model for use across the university. The projects are in the Ivy College of Business, CELT's Course Design Institute, the College of Engineering (cybersecurity) and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (Pathways to Innovation and Leadership program).

To share information about micro-credentialing opportunities, Austin will host an open forum Tuesday, April 23 (2:30-3:30 p.m., 2206 Student Innovation Center). Participants can ask questions and contribute ideas. 

She said opportunities for micro-credentialing exist across campus. Micro-credentials could be implemented to help learners be competitive, whether you are faculty, career services, student affairs, campus student employment, a student organization or other student-facing unit on campus.

Those interested in developing micro-credentials should contact Austin at celt@iastate.edu or tjaustin@iastate.edu to begin a conversation. 


Ben Withers on Catt Hall porch

Photo by Christopher Gannon.


Benjamin (Ben) Withers began serving as dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (LAS) and professor of history on April 15. (But he has been visiting campus since earlier this semester to meet with university and LAS leaders and alumni.)

Withers comes to Iowa State from Colorado State University, Fort Collins, where he served for eight years as dean of that land grant's College of Liberal Arts and professor of art history. Notable accomplishments achieved during his leadership at Colorado State include tripling the college's external research funding, achieving a 30% increase in first-year student enrollment, increasing faculty positions and establishing a universitywide thematic program for 2023-24 focused on democracy and civic engagement.

Previously, Withers served as a department chair, honors program director, dean of undergraduate studies and associate provost for undergraduate education at the University of Kentucky, Lexington (2004-16), and as a faculty member and later, assistant dean for the Raclin School of the Arts at Indiana University, South Bend (1994-2004).

Withers completed a bachelor's degree from Carleton College, Northfield, Minnesota; and master's and doctoral degrees from the University of Chicago, all in art history.

Withers' office is in 207 Catt Hall. He can be reached at 515-294-3220 or email, bwithers@iastate.edu.

Faculty promotions, diversity updates on regents' agenda next week

Meeting next week at the ISU Alumni Center, the state Board of Regents will elect board leaders to two-year terms and receive updates from the three university presidents on their campus' response to the board's November directives on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). Board committee meetings are scheduled for Wednesday, April 24, with the full board convening on Thursday, April 25. The agenda is online, as is a livestream option for all public portions of their meeting.

New terms for the board's president and president pro-tem begin May 1 and run through April 30, 2026. Regents Sherry Bates and Greta Rouse have been serving in the two positions since the board's February meeting.

Board members will receive the presidents' DEI directive updates, including implementation timelines; no board action is required. The presentations are scheduled for early Thursday afternoon. Each university developed its own process to respond to the directives. At Iowa State, President Wendy Wintersteen established a 14-member focus group -- faculty, staff, students and administrators -- to provide feedback on how to comply with the board directives while supporting the educational success of all students and maintaining a welcoming environment for all members of the ISU community. Senior leaders held a series of meetings with the focus group and received additional feedback from senior vice president for student affairs Toyia Younger's student advisory group.

Faculty promotion and tenure

The board will be asked to give final approval to faculty tenure and promotion requests for the 2024-25 academic year. Iowa State's request contains 66 cases: 24 requests for promotion to associate professor with tenure, and 42 requests for promotions for previously tenured faculty.

New degree programs

Iowa State leaders will seek final approval for two new degree programs: a Master of Digital Health in the kinesiology department and a Bachelor of Arts in sports media and communication in the Greenlee School. The digital health program would be the first approved from an initial six "degrees of the future," a 2022-31 strategic plan-supported initiative to create degree programs that address workforce and student demands. If approved, both programs would be implemented this fall.

Final approval: Parking permit, residence and dining increases

Following a first reviews at its February meeting, approval of increases to parking permits, campus dining rates and student housing rates are in the board's consent agenda. Iowa State seeks a 3% increase to campus parking permits for the year that begins July 1. The Memorial Union manages its parking ramp separately from ISU parking but has requested the same increase to its various permits.

Iowa State is asking the regents to approve room rate increases of about 6.5% and meal plan and flex meal package increases of 5% for next year. Rate increases averaging 1.6% since 2020-21 have not kept pace with inflation in nearly every expense category -- wages, fringe benefits, utilities, insurance and food.

Presentations during the meeting

The board, or its various committees, are scheduled to hear these presentations next week:

  • Remarks from faculty and staff leadership groups in advance of a FY 2025 salary policy, board of regents, Thursday, 10:15 a.m., by leaders of representative employee groups, including Patrick Wall, P&S Council; and Sarah Bennet-George, Faculty Senate
  • Annual report on faculty tenure, academic affairs committee, Wednesday, 12:45 p.m., by board staff
  • High-impact educational practices, academic affairs committee, Wednesday, 12:45 p.m., by administrators from the three universities
  • Regents' biennial free speech survey, free speech and academic affairs committee, Wednesday, 1:45 p.m., by board staff
  • Programming and services provided for ISU military veteran students, free speech and student affairs committee, Wednesday, 1:45 p.m., by Rita Case, director of the Military-Affiliated Student Center
  • Biennial review of the Regents Admissions Index (RAI), academic affairs committee, Wednesday, 12:45 p.m., by board staff
  • Faculty research project: Using discarded plastics as feedstocks for manufacturing valuable chemicals and liquid fuels, board of regents, Thursday, 10 a.m., by Aaron Sadow, David C. Henderson Professor in the department of chemistry, senior scientist in the U.S. Department of Energy Ames National Laboratory, and director of the Institute for Cooperative Upcycling of Plastics based at Ames Lab


Chad Garland in front of the Memorial Union

Photo by Christopher Gannon.


Chad Garland began serving as director of the Memorial Union (MU) on April 15. With ISU Dining and the residence department, the MU makes up the campus life unit in the division of student affairs.

Garland will provide strategic oversight and oversee operations and student programming. The facility is undergoing its second renovation project in four years to upgrade office, programming and lounge spaces for students and student service units.

Garland joins the MU staff from the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs campus, where he had led the University Center since 2015.

He brings to Iowa State nearly 25 years of experience in higher education, including significant time in various areas of campus life. Prior to Colorado, he served as associate director of the student center at Miami University, Oxford, Ohio (2013-15) and as University Center manager and assistant director of conference services at Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant (2011-13). Other roles at Central Michigan included residence hall director and assistant director of the office of Greek life and student organizations.

Garland completed a bachelor's degree in zoology from Ohio Wesleyan University, Delaware, and a master's degree in college student affairs leadership from Grand Valley State University, Allendale, Michigan. He has completed coursework towards a Ph.D. in higher, adult and lifelong education at Michigan State University, East Lansing.

Garland's office is in 3644 Memorial Union. He can be reached at 515-294-0988 or garlandc@iastate.edu.

Council reviews compensation/benefits draft report

In its annual review of compensation and benefits for professional and scientific (P&S) employees, the P&S Council has recommended a dedicated salary pool not dependent on state or departmental funding and a comprehensive approach to salaries that budgets not only for annual increases but increases necessary for promotion or market competitiveness. The council also recommends an evaluation of the P&S pay grade structure in 2024 and an additional P&S member on the university's employee benefits advisory committee to reflect the distribution of faculty, merit and P&S staff at Iowa State.

The council's compensation and benefits committee members drafted the report, and the full council had its first look at the draft during its April 11 meeting. Changes to the draft and a vote on a final compensation and benefits report are scheduled for the May 16 meeting.

Among other recommendations, the draft calls for:

  • Centralized, one-time discretionary increases that bring all employees to their market level based on experience and proficiency.
  • Supervisor training around a) the importance of competitive pay and advocating for it year-round, not just once a year, and b) best practices for salaries at hire time, including above the first third in the pay grade if the candidate's experience warrants it.
  • Consideration of additional voluntary benefits, for example, insurance for long-term care, short-term disability or pets. The premise is that employee premiums would pay for these options.
  • A review by university human resources to identify departments that systemically underpay their employees (according to market midpoints) and strategies to help them correct this.
  • Quality performance reviews for all employees; consistency in what those look like, including a core skill set; and accountability for supervisors of P&S staff who don't consistently complete meaningful employee reviews.

Committee chair Steve Couchman, university human resources, said the drafters also want to educate P&S employees about factors that impact compensation. For example, the draft report defines costs of labor, living and market, and notes that cost of living is not a variable in compensation decisions at Iowa State. Rather, expected market movement helps set salary policy annually. (The projection estimates that the market will move 2%-3% each year.)

The draft report also notes that, on average, Iowa State P&S salaries were at 96% of the market midpoint in January, down slightly from 99% of the median in 2020.

"This decrease is likely because the university has stayed committed to being market competitive by making shifts to the pay grade structure and properly aligning job profiles to grades based on market shifts," it reads. "However, further action is necessary to address individual employee pay."

March elections

During the annual P&S Council online election March 25-27, 29 employees were elected or reelected to council seats. Their terms, some two-year and some three-year, take effect July 1. The council's governance committee will slot the new councilors into committee assignments by then.

Operations and finance division

  • Kimberly Hope, Reiman Gardens
  • Rachel Jones, procurement
  • Kasi Province, facilities planning and management
  • *Melissa Warg, facilities planning and management

President's division

  • Jordan Curzon, environmental health and safety
  • Stacy Dreyer, ISU Research Park
  • Alan Hulsebus, IT services

Student affairs division

  • *George Loper, Memorial Union
  • Sam Shelton, student wellness
  • *Leah Weeks, residence department

Academic affairs division

  • Chad Arnold, horticulture farm
  • Amy Carver, College of Engineering student services
  • Emily Dougill, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences student services
  • *Paul Easker, Virtual Reality Applications Center
  • Sarah Freestone, student financial aid
  • *Kate Garretson, University library
  • *Taylor Gerdes, chemistry
  • Snow Gray, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences student academic services
  • Sara Harris-Talley, electrical and computer engineering
  • Laura Kilbride, College of Human Sciences student services
  • Steve Kopecky, College of Human Sciences administration
  • *Heidi Nye, Veterinary Diagnostic Lab
  • Deanna Powell, food science and human nutrition
  • Christine Reinders, Ames National Laboratory
  • Brooke Rogers, Bioeconomy Institute
  • *Julieanne Rogowski, Iowa State Online
  • Brian Rowe-Barth, veterinary clinical sciences
  • Adam Wade, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences student academic services
  • Jason Wiegand, Translational Ai Research and Education Center

*incumbent council member

Industry assistance grows local economies


Editor's note: This feature is the fifth in news service's 2024 Innovation at Work series of stories, photos and videos that highlight economic development and the impact of Iowa State's contributions across the state. A new entry will post every Tuesday through April 23.



Stellar Industries started with three employees and an idea. With support from CIRAS, the Garner-based company has grown to more than 800 employees with an extensive product line. Photo by Dave Olson.

Lunch break is ending and the rhythms of the manufacturing floor at Stellar Industries begin to pick up as forklifts deliver materials from one point of assembly to the next and welding sparks illuminate the frames of service truck bodies.

The individual rhythms are distinct and yet flow together in a way that maximizes efficiencies and ultimately contributes to Stellar's double-digit growth year-over-year for the past two decades. Stellar president David Zrostlik credits a long relationship with Iowa State's Center for Industrial Research and Service (CIRAS) for helping orchestrate the rhythm of the company's success.

"Stellar was founded in 1990 with three employees. It was an idea. There were no designs, just a thought in our designer's head about how to build a hooklift," Zrostlik said. "CIRAS was very instrumental in making sure that those very first products that we designed and built at Stellar Industries in the early '90s were solid products that we could be proud of years down the road."

Nearly 35 years later, the Garner-based company has grown from that initial idea for a hooklift to a global manufacturer of mechanic trucks, service cranes, hooklifts, tire service trucks, trailers and service truck accessories. Zrostlik said whenever they have questions about workforce issues, international sales or production flow, no matter the topic, CIRAS is always there with an answer.

"We wouldn't have made the strides and the growth we have today without the guidance from CIRAS," Zrostlik said.

Proven track record

The value of working with CIRAS is reflected in Stellar's growth, but it also extends beyond the company's bottom line. CIRAS was created in 1963 to improve the quality of life in Iowa by supporting business and industry and in turn helping communities grow and prosper. Over the past six decades that mission has not changed.


Iowa business turns to CIRAS for resources it needs to grow.

"We're here to make industry better through research, education and technical assistance and over 60 years we have built a track record of making things better," said CIRAS director Mike O'Donnell. "Making a difference for a manufacturer, makes a difference for the entire community."

That's especially true in rural Iowa, where 26% of all jobs are in manufacturing, O'Donnell said. Over the past five years, CIRAS and its partners have helped more than 4,600 businesses across Iowa add or retain more than 38,000 jobs, creating an economic impact of more than $3.1 billion.

In the Mitchell County town of Osage, the ripple effect of that economic impact is felt by local schools, community organizations and visitors to a 34-acre prairie park. Jiri-Rita Prairie Park was developed by Valent BioSciences, a global manufacturer of biorational products, with support from CIRAS. Valent BioSciences worked with a small team of Iowa State students in agricultural and biosystems engineering to restore the prairie as a native habitat for wildlife and incorporate a walking path for community members.

"It was a great experience. The students provided us with an idea for a trail map to maximize the space, and had great ideas for trees and other plants that would do well in the prairie," said Zoe Dinges, food safety coordinator for Valent BioSciences. "It was fantastic to see how they helped us with our prairie and how the work contributed to their final project."

Valent BioSciences, which opened its Osage manufacturing plant in 2014, recently completed an expansion to meet the increasing demand for its microbial insecticides and nematicides often used on fruit and vegetable farms as an alternative or complement to conventional pesticides. The facility employs more than 120 people, contributes millions to the local economy annually and utilizes raw materials from Iowa suppliers.

Facility manager Brian Lynch said the prairie provides an ideal plot for Valent BioSciences to collaborate with Iowa State agronomists analyzing soil samples and testing new products as part of an ongoing research initiative facilitated by CIRAS. Lynch said ISU researchers also helped Valent BioSciences measure the value of a byproduct from its manufacturing plant that Iowa farmers can use as a fertilizer alternative.

"The solids in the byproduct are loaded with nutrients, and we knew it was valuable," Lynch said. "Rather than putting it in a landfill, we're working with area farmers to apply to their fields. The research from Iowa State provided validation of the benefit. By using the byproduct on a field for two years, yields increased by 24 bushels an acre."



Iowa State postdoc Meyer Bohn (front right), undergraduate research assistant Sabrina Becker (left) and Ph.D. student Derrick Platero (center) collect soil samples at Jiri-Rita Prairie Park in Osage. Photo courtesy of Valent BioSciences.

Network of experts

Over 60 years, CIRAS has built a vast network of partnerships with Iowa State faculty and staff, Iowa-based companies and economic groups along with federal extension and accelerator programs. This network supports the nearly two dozen programs and services that CIRAS offers, including the Iowa Lean Consortium.

The strength of the consortium is driven by its member businesses and industries across the state. Together, they explore strategies and best practices for continuous improvement within their organizations.

Agri-Industrial Plastics, a manufacturer of large-scale industrial parts in Fairfield, is a member. Chris Meyers, director of quality and continuous improvement at Agri-Industrial, said the consortium provides tremendous value including opportunities for training, facility tours and networking.

"A lot of manufacturing companies don't have enormous continuous improvement networks, so it's great to have these connections," Meyer said. "There are opportunities to learn from one another. We're not competing and we're all willing to help."

Lessons learned boost engagement

Out on the plant floor, Agri-Industrial now shares daily updates on safety and customer returns with employees. The information is posted on the company's performance action center board -- a tool that was implemented following a consortium training session at Pella Corp. The real-time data motivates employees and increases engagement.

"A lot of the benefit CIRAS provides is intangible," said Geoff Ward, director of engineering and strategy at Agri-Industrial. "On some projects, we bring ideas out to the plant floor to show our operations team solutions to make their jobs easier. That helps morale and communication -- they know we're listening and trying to improve the process."

Like many Iowa manufacturers, Agri-Industrial works with Iowa State researchers on developing prototypes and testing new design concepts. Lori Schaefer-Weaton, president of Agri-Industrial, said this work wouldn't be possible without the connections made through CIRAS.

"Our team is busy with day-to-day customer projects, and to have concentrated time for R&D is challenging. To have an outside resource help move a project along has a great deal of value," Schaefer-Weaton said. "CIRAS brings a different perspective. It's hard to challenge yourself to try something different and that is a huge part of the value CIRAS provides."

CIRAS mission still matters

To remain relevant, O'Donnell said CIRAS constantly is evolving to address the needs of manufacturers and prepare them for the future. In 1967, that meant providing a computer service to help industry discover publications based on key words. In 1981, it was helping companies understand pricing strategies in response to global competition.

Today, workforce challenges are a top priority. For some companies, that means improving efforts to recruit and retain employees, for others it's automation. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. O'Donnell said that's true for every CIRAS project -- it all depends on the client.

"Our job is to understand the problem, work on a solution and make sure it gets embedded in the business and works for the long-run," O'Donnell said. "We ask a lot of questions throughout the process and sometimes the answer is not to do something, and that's OK."

For example, O'Donnell shared a story of a company considering the purchase of a 3D printer. After understanding the company's needs and the potential for return, CIRAS recommended outsourcing the service rather than making an investment that wouldn't yield a positive return.

It's that type of guidance Iowa manufacturers have come to depend on from CIRAS. It's also knowing they have a trusted partner to help their companies grow and develop innovative solutions when challenges arise.

"It is amazing to have the resources CIRAS offers for Stellar Industries and other manufacturers like us throughout the state," Zrostlik said. "Especially for an entrepreneurial enterprise just starting up, you're always looking at how to do this or how to do that. CIRAS is the one resource statewide that can provide that help for startup companies or mature companies like Stellar."


ISU Theatre doubles up productions

Double feature

Submitted graphic.


Did you study "The Crucible" in high school English class? This month, you can see the American classic in a new light when ISU Theatre presents it in repertory with the critically acclaimed contemporary play "John Proctor is the Villain."

With separate casts and creative teams, the shows will share a two-weekend run (April 18-28) as Fisher Theater's stage crews will hustle to turn the sets over six times, giving audiences an option to see each show on the same weekend. While repertory sometimes refers to a shared cast, in this case it means the opportunity to experience two productions in combination and conversation with the other.

"The Crucible" show times are 7:30 p.m. on April 18-19 and 27, with a 3 p.m. matinee on April 28. "John Proctor is the Villain" will run April 20, 25-26 at 7:30 p.m. A matinee performance on April 21 starts at 3 p.m. This play contains adult language and content.

Each show's ticket is general admission ($20 for adults, youth and Iowa State students are free) and can be purchased at the door or the Iowa State Center ticket office. For ticket information, visit theatre.iastate.edu.

70 years later, "The Crucible" still has plenty to say

Based on the Salem witch trials of 1692, Arthur Miller's "The Crucible" tells the story of a village embroiled in a witch hunt. As accusations of witchcraft escalate and neighbors testify against one another, the community lives in a constant state of fear.

Cason Murphy, assistant professor of theatre and director for the production, remembers first encountering the play as a student in an AP English class. While his teacher led the class through a rich analysis, Murphy said he was always a bit ambivalent about the play as an adult.

"I hadn't encountered it in my theatrical life since then and certainly never planned to direct it," he said. "However, when our season advisory committee suggested that ISU Theatre produce the very popular 'John Proctor is the Villain,' I had new life breathed into my interest around 'The Crucible.'"

"The Crucible," the 1953 Tony Award winner, arose from Miller's desire to write about the Red Scare, a period of anti-Communist hysteria in the 20th century United States. Miller used the setting of  "The Crucible" as a mirror for his own time.

Michael McAuliff, who plays the role of John Proctor, a farmer, husband and father, said the play shows there's more to every story.

"I hope people think about how the play still is applicable and relevant to today's world," he said. "Even in the present, people are far too quick to blame others and vilify members of an 'out' group before actually hearing the full story, and I think that, despite the Red Scare being over, that kind of feeling is still very prevalent."

Gen Z's voice elevated 

Alongside "The Crucible," ISU Theatre will present "John Proctor is the Villain," a contemporary play by Kimberly Belflower. As a high school class explores "The Crucible" in present-day Appalachia, scandal begins to swirl in their community, and the assignment leads to an examination of power, love and sex education.

Belflower wrote her new play inspired by the #MeToo movement, giving Miller's timeless themes an emotional and thought-provoking spin.

Tiffany Johnson, co-founder of the Des Moines-based Pyramid Theatre Company and the show's director, said the play allows students to examine power dynamics and discuss important topics like consent, agency and accountability. With its expressive, Gen Z-specific dialogue, the show also resonates personally for students.

"In essence, 'John Proctor is the Villain' offers these students a mirror to their own lives, creating a powerful and transformative educational experience that goes beyond the classroom walls," Johnson said. "The play's ability to connect with the students on such a personal level underscores the enduring relevance of theatre as a medium for social commentary and change."

Cyntechy Boduo plays high school student Nell, and while the role of a 21st-century teenager may seem more accessible for an Iowa State student than that of a Puritan farmer, Boduo said the cast spent a lot of time researching the world of their characters.