Sunny site

Two interns plant bell peppers between rows of solar panels

Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Jacie Legois (foreground) and Ray Wilmes, horticulture interns, planted bell peppers between rows of solar panels at the Alliant Energy Solar Farm at Iowa State University south of Ames last month. Their work is part of a multi-year, U.S. Department of Energy-funded, interdisciplinary project to study the emerging concept of agrivoltaics -- using solar power sites for agricultural purposes to make more efficient use of the land and create value for the communities where solar panels are located.

Four finalists named for operations and finance leadership post

Four finalists will interview on campus this month for Iowa State's next senior vice president for operations and finance post. The visit dates for the four candidates are:

  • Candidate 1: July 11-12
  • Candidate 2: July 15-16
  • Candidate 3: July 16-17
  • Candidate 4: July 22-23

The name and curriculum vitae for each finalist will be shared on the administrative searches website the business day preceding their visit. The candidates will meet with various campus and community leaders. The visits don't include a campus forum, but all operations and finance employees will have the opportunity to meet the finalists during division forums.

Vice president for extension and outreach Jason Henderson is chairing the seven-member search committee, assisted by Academic Search firm. David Spalding, Raisbeck Endowed Dean of the Ivy College of Business, is serving as interim leader of the division until the next senior vice president is on the job.

Internships, online courses define summer session

Iowa State enrolled 7,375 students in summer session opportunities this year, about 60% of them at the undergraduate level. Just under half (48%) of all summer students are enrolled in online classes only.

According to enrollment data collected by the university registrar's office, the summer student body features 4,666 undergraduates, 2,555 graduate students and the 154 members of the fourth-year Doctor of Veterinary Medicine class in their 12-month finale.


Enrollment: summer session 2024


or hybrid

Online only













Year 4 DVM











  • Experiential learning such as practicum, internship, student teaching or cooperative work
  • Independent study and research
  • Affiliate program: Courses in programs operated in conjunction with other universities or research laboratories at their sites, but ISU students register for credit through Iowa State

A winter impact on summer

The 2024 summer count is 1,093 (13%) fewer students than last year, nearly all the decline occurring at the undergraduate level and distributed across all six colleges.

Many factors impact summer enrollment, said associate vice president for enrollment management Laura Doering, and the biggest one has become winter enrollment. Iowa State's success at establishing an undergraduate-only winter session -- the fifth one is coming this winter -- gives students another opportunity to get ahead by a few credits -- or perhaps catch up in time for a May graduation. The most recent winter session enrollment was nearly 1,700, and juniors and seniors consistently account for two-thirds or more of winter session students.

Other factors include:

  • Students in many degree programs completing not-for-credit internships that are encouraged, though not required. While some students record these high-impact summer experiences through the university's 390 internship course series, hundreds did not.
  • The positive impact of initiatives in the last three years to improve the passing-grade rate in gateway courses with high occurrences of D or F grades and withdrawals. That success means fewer students need to retake courses.
  • As we move further away from the pandemic summers, increasing -- and more relevant -- opportunities for summer work, and students choosing to earn money rather than attend school.
  • Consistency with summer enrollments that have been declining since their 2017 peak.

Iowa State collects the student census on the 10th day (June 21) of the second summer session. The count reflects all registration through that day, so it includes classes that concluded prior to it as well as any that haven't begun yet.

Additional classrooms receive upgrades this summer

Summer is the busiest time for classroom renovations and technology refreshes across campus. This summer is no different.

Auditorium renovation

The W. Kiley and Marie Powers Auditorium – located in room 2050 of Agronomy Hall -- is a 117-seat tiered auditorium getting a complete makeover with new seats, lights, acoustic panels and removal of the stepped ceiling in favor of a flat ceiling to allow higher projector placement. The auditorium's capacity won't change, but the renovation creates space for height-adjustable tables to accommodate all individuals.

"It still will have fixed chairs for seating with accessible seating in the back," said classroom scheduling specialist Katie Baumgarn. "We gained some room by removing the old projection booth."

Mike Pedersen, information technology services' audiovisual experience team (AVXT) manager, said the auditorium will have new audiovisual technology, including a dual-projection system so instructors can share two things at once. The Level 1 room includes a pan/tilt/zoom camera, microphone and lecture-capture capability for hybrid courses. Extra monitors will be added near the back to ensure students can see the instruction.

"It is going to be one of the best equipped spaces on campus when it's done," he said.

The project began May 13 and is scheduled to be completed by Aug. 26 -- the first day of fall classes.

The process of renovation

Baumgarn, who leads a three-person team, has a plan for general university classroom renovations through fiscal year 2031 to prioritize efforts. In the last 10 years, about one-third of Iowa State's 209 general university classrooms and auditoriums had a full renovation or received upgrades.

Who knew? The chalk vs. marker debate

In their pre-renovation meetings with the primary users of a space, Baumgarn said a recurring debate is chalk versus dry erase markers. Classroom scheduling coordinator Elizabeth Salton surveyed a department last year to learn more about preferences. Of the 60 faculty members surveyed:

  • 13 strongly preferred chalk
  • 24 strongly preferred markers
  • 10 favored chalk
  • 9 favored markers
  • 4 had no preference

Some faculty shared reasons for their preference:

  • "Markers tend to get stolen and/or dry out. Nobody steals chalk and it always works."
  • "Chalk is cheaper, easier to get off your hands and clothes. It won't suddenly stop writing."
  • "Chalk is absolutely unhealthy with dust everywhere, including our clothes, hair and lungs."
  • "Marker boards and markers allow for better group engagement of students at boards."

"We do not receive enough funding ourselves," she said. "We receive funding from the provost office and once we make a determination we work with the colleges to see if they can add some money as well. AVXT also brings money to the table when it is involved with a project."

Baumgarn said anytime a significant project is considered, she invites primary users of the space to talk with her team.

"In the case of 2050 Agronomy, we contacted the department and had a faculty member meet with us as we went through the design process," she said. "This allows us to learn what people would like in the updated room and them to understand what is feasible for us to do."

Pedersen, who leads a nine-person team, communicates with Baumgarn throughout the year on projects. The process begins in September as plans for the next summer take shape to ensure both groups can work efficiently.

"I ask them what rooms they are renovating from a facilities perspective because we try to renovate the AV anytime they are doing a significant renovation," he said. "She usually gives me a two- to three-year outlook on the rooms they are going to attempt to renovate."

Pedersen has a detailed nine-year plan to refresh technology in general university classrooms. His team hopes to complete 28 room refreshes this summer, which does not include the Agronomy auditorium (handled by an outside contractor to save time).

"For us to finish the 28 rooms, we have to finish one every three days and the auditorium would be at least a two-week investment for us," he said. "We also do fee-for-service projects, and we also will take a couple of weeks this summer for work on the second and third floors of the Memorial Union as the remodeling project nears conclusion."

Right-sizing classrooms

As a result of a small classroom study by facilities planning and management, several with a capacity of 50 or less will have desks and chairs removed this summer.

"Right now, the space per student in these classrooms is somewhere between 15 and 17 square feet, but the study recommends 25 square feet per student," Baumgarn said. "Last fall, we removed the extra chairs and desks from a room in Ross Hall and did a survey of the faculty and students."

Results were overwhelmingly positive and will lead to 30 classrooms having some furniture removed this summer. The intent is to improve accessibility and make it easier for students to collaborate in groups. Baumgarn said there are enough spaces across campus to satisfy various teaching needs.

More AVXT projects

AVXT has several other projects beginning with an update to Lagomarcino room 2441 to address projection issues caused by vibrations and space constraints. To accommodate a new flat-panel screen but keep the chalkboards, Pedersen's team designed a rail system in front of the chalkboards, allowing instructors to move the screen as needed.

"It's the first room at the university to have this design," he said. "We will be curious to see what the faculty think, and we'll collect feedback throughout the year."

Nine rooms in the basement of Ross Hall heavily used by speech communications also will receive Level 1 technology to allow students giving speeches to record and review themselves.

Further investment in projects advances strategic plan goals

Iowa State's commitment to the goals of the 2022-31 strategic plan continues into the new fiscal year with $2.1 million in second-year funds for 12 projects selected a year ago for their potential to advance the plan. The 12 projects support student success, faculty research teams, Iowa communities and on-campus childcare facilities, among other priorities.

Learn more

Seven projects that are complete or nearly complete

Seven other projects that received strategic plan funds in FY24 either are complete or nearing completion. The foundation set by those initiatives is expected to have a lasting impact on the university community in areas such as student mental health, student food security and faculty expertise in targeted research areas.

"Innovation is at the core of everything we do at Iowa State, and these projects align with the vision of our strategic plan. They are our aspirational statements in action," said Sophia Magill, senior advisor to the president. "The determination and creativity of our project teams are inspiring. We appreciate their efforts, and we look forward to sharing more with the campus community about the impact of their work."

Building momentum

The new investment for FY25 marks the third year of support for initiatives selected for their innovation and capacity for excellence. A future call for proposals is anticipated for strategic plan funding in FY26, and details will be announced when they are available. Faculty and staff again will be invited to submit project ideas that align with the strategic plan's objectives.

Learn more

12 projects receiving Year 2 funds

These 12 projects received strategic plan funding support for a second year:

  1. Forging New Frontiers in Artificial Intelligence, Volker Hegelheimer, English, $59,645
  2. Project Management Support for Faculty Research, James Reecy, office of the vice president for research, $160,123
  3. Catalyzing Innovative Research Teams to Address Critical Opportunities, Peter Dorhout, office of the vice president for research, $300,000
  4. Center for Student Educational Success, Sharron Evans, office of the dean of students, $257,587
  5. Delivering Individualized STEM Instruction at Scale, Ben Van Dusen, School of Education, $30,780
  6. Enabling Healthier Communities Through Data-enriched Decision Making, Erin Olson-Douglas, community and economic development, ISU Extension and Outreach, $353,292
  7. Expanding Online Learning Across Iowa State's 99-county Campus, Constance Beecher, School of Education, $365,922
  8. Launching the Next Generation of Manufacturing Research, Mike O'Donnell, Center for Industrial Research and Service, $138,488
  9. Maintaining High-quality Childcare Environments, Ed Holland, university human resources, $125,000
  10. Student-focused Transformation of Testing Centers, Joel Hochstein, Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, $80,000
  11. Supporting Student Internships at Reiman Gardens, Sara Merritt, Reiman Gardens, $90,712
  12. Supporting University Undergraduate Internships in the Ames National Laboratory, Theresa Windus, chemistry, $200,296


Strategic plan: FY24 projects receiving Year 2 funds

Twelve projects with multi-year proposals received a second round of strategic plan funds for FY25. They are:

  • Forging New Frontiers in Artificial Intelligence, Volker Hegelheimer, English, $59,645 (FY24 funds: $78,476) 
    Organize a symposium for humanities and social sciences faculty on AI in the Humanities (March 2024) to explore directions for research and teaching curriculum. Efforts also include a faculty learning community and game competition for undergraduates.
  • Project Management Support for Faculty Research, James Reecy, office of the vice president for research, $160,123 (FY24: $155,750)
    Expand Iowa State's research project management infrastructure -- a full-time project manager and project management council -- to serve faculty leading large research projects. Develop best practices for all externally funded faculty.
  • Catalyzing Innovative Research Teams to Address Critical Opportunities, Peter Dorhout, office of the vice president for research, $300,000 (FY24 funds: $300,000)
    Use the Research and Innovation Roundtable model twice each academic year to assemble up to 10 team research projects and provide them seed grants as a process to grow external funding for research.
  • Center for Student Educational Success, Sharron Evans, office of the dean of students, $257,587 (FY24: $253,088)
    Create a center that focuses on helping first-generation and/or low-income undergraduates succeed and boost their retention and graduation rates.
  • Delivering Individualized STEM Instruction at Scale, Ben Van Dusen, School of Education, $30,780 (FY24: $80,291)
    Develop computer adaptive testing for introductory courses that provides real-time feedback on each student's understanding of core skills and need for additional instruction, ultimately to improve passing rates.
  • Enabling Healthier Communities Through Data-enriched Decision Making, Erin Olson-Douglas, community and economic development, ISU Extension and Outreach, $353,292 (FY24: $281,945)
    Enhance rural vitality by helping Iowa communities better use data to address their most pressing and unique challenges.
  • Expanding Online Learning Across Iowa State's 99-county Campus, Constance Beecher, School of Education, $365,922 (FY24: $434,187)
    In collaboration with Iowa State Online, research Iowans' preferences on virtual learning, technology and marketing to expand ISU Extension and Outreach's non-credit, nonformal offerings. Develop and pilot several modules for human sciences professionals.
  • Launching the Next Generation of Manufacturing Research, Mike O'Donnell, Center for Industrial Research and Service, $138,488 (FY24: $215,900)
    Grow applied research in manufacturing by linking faculty work to manufacturers' real needs, helping researchers manage portfolios of small projects and expanding opportunities for faculty to engage with industry.
  • Maintaining High-quality Childcare Environments, Ed Holland, university human resources, $125,000 (FY24: $415,800)
    Complete deferred maintenance projects in two campus child care centers to enhance the experiences of the children of faculty, staff and students.
  • Student-focused Transformation of Testing Centers, Joel Hochstein, Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, $80,000 (FY24: $550,000)
    Renovate and equip the testing center in 0060 Carver Hall to improve safety and security; meet the testing needs of students who need accommodations; meet vendor standards to host entrance, professional, certification and licensure exams; and achieve certification with the National College Testing Association.
  • Supporting Student Internships at Reiman Gardens, Sara Merritt, Reiman Gardens, $90,712 (FY24: $90,712)
    Continue the gardens' two-decade-old student internship program (semester and summer) while it recovers from several years of lost revenue due to the pandemic.
  • Supporting University Undergraduate Internships in the Ames National Laboratory, Theresa Windus, chemistry, $200,296 (FY24: $127,362)
    Create student internships (in both operations and research) at Ames National Laboratory to expand the state and nation's energy sciences workforce and recruit top students to Iowa State.

Strategic plan: FY24 projects that are complete or nearly complete

Seven teams that received strategic plan funds for the budget year that ended June 30 either completed their work or requested a time extension to wrap up their project. They are:

Complete or nearing completion

  • Creating a Strategic Approach to Support Students' Mental Health, Melanie Reed, student wellness, FY24 funds: $47,418
    Funds covered a four-year partnership with the national JED Campus program to collect data and create a comprehensive mental health promotion and suicide prevention plan for Iowa State students in 2024 (and implement, evaluate and improve in subsequent years).
  • Enhancing Student Academic Success in Gateway English Courses, Abram Anders, English, FY24 funds: $23,665
    A faculty team was able to adopt and pilot (fall semester 2023) a free online writing component to the curricula of ENG 150 and ENG 250 (ISU Comm foundation courses) aimed at retaining all students and particularly first-generation and multicultural students. In it, students read stories that emphasize the normal and temporary nature of common academic and social challenges and then complete writing assignments to internalize messages that they belong in college.
  • Enhancing Student Learning through Visual Literacy, Adrienne Gennett, university museums, FY24 funds: $13,123
    Funds supported museums staff efforts to explain and promote visual literacy among faculty as a learning method, including a part-time STEM faculty affiliate at the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, workshop series and introductory video series.
  • Strengthening Agriculture's Role in Addressing Carbon Issues, Lisa Schulte Moore, natural resource ecology and management, FY24 funds: $300,000
    Funds purchased four analytical instruments to replace aging equipment used in measuring biomass and biochar. They 're critical to three externally funded current projects at the Bioeconomy Institute and would support several pending research proposals.

Projects with a time extension

  • Enhancing Infrastructure to Address Students' Basic Needs, Brian Vanderheyden, student wellness, FY24 funds: $74,100
    Expand the size of the SHOP food pantry in Beyer Hall to address students' basic needs in a more coordinated and comprehensive way.
  • Expanding Support for Individualized Student Success, Adriana Gonzalez-Elliott, Academic Success Center, FY24 funds: $81,615
    Expand one-on-one academic coaching and peer-led accountability groups for neurodivergent students -- those whose brains process information differently than others.
  • Next-generation Battery Technology Research Education, Cary Pint, mechanical engineering, FY24 funds: $400,000
    Develop and equip a dry-room facility for fabricating and testing batteries for battery-oriented research and education that would establish leadership in the field.

Christine Prescott-Jacobsen named director of Reiman Gardens

Christine Prescott-Jacobsen, an Iowa State alumna, has been selected as the next director of Reiman Gardens, effective Aug. 1.

Blond woman in red blouse


Prescott-Jacobsen will provide strategic leadership and direction while overseeing daily operations of the 17-acre botanic garden. She also will work directly with key stakeholders to foster successful collaborations.

"Christine's strategic thinking and passion for connecting people with nature make her an excellent leader for Reiman Gardens," said Heather Paris, associate vice president for finance services who co-directed the search committee with alumnus Roger Underwood. "I am confident she will continue to grow the gardens' profile and impact."

Prescott-Jacobsen has served as director of education at Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha for the past six years. Her experience includes roles with the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District and volunteer positions at various organizations including the Audubon Society of Omaha and Fontenelle Forest, a nature preserve south of Omaha.

"I am thrilled to be given this unique opportunity. The chance to shape the garden's future while preserving its natural beauty and fostering a love for horticulture in visitors is incredibly rewarding and inspiring," said Prescott-Jacobsen.

Before completing a master's degree in public administration at the University of Nebraska, Omaha, Prescott-Jacobsen earned a bachelor's degree in animal ecology from Iowa State.

She succeeds Edward Lyon, who retired at the end of May after serving nine years as the director of Reiman Gardens.

Five questions with a coach who helps build strong Cyclones

Ben Durbin

Ben Durbin is in his sixth season as Olympic sports strength and conditioning coach. Durbin's primary sport assignments are wrestling, gymnastics, men's and women's cross country, and track and field middle distance. Photo by Christopher Gannon.

It was quite an end to the season in several Olympic sports at Iowa State. The wrestling team had its best finish at the national tournament since 2010. The men's track and field team earned its best point total at the outdoor national meet since 1996, while the women had their strongest showing since 2017. Under the direction of a first-year head coach, the gymnastics squad enjoyed a 15-spot improvement in the national rankings over last year, marking the largest turnaround in program history.

Ben Durbin

Years at ISU: 6

Position: Olympic sports strength and conditioning coach

Education: Bachelor's degree in psychology, University of Wyoming; master's degree in higher education, Iowa State; Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist; Registered Strength and Conditioning Coach; and USA weightlifting certified

Ben Durbin, a former football player at the University of Wyoming and Iowa State, played a part in all those strong showings. The Olympic sports strength and conditioning coach focuses on wrestling, gymnastics, cross country, and track and field middle distance student athletes. He talked with Inside about his work, how he tries to aid athletes and what experience has taught him.

Campus gets quieter during the summer. Is that the case for you?

Different sports have different training cycles during the summer to get them quality development when their other demands are a little less. We can really intensify their bodily development. Depending on the demands of the sport, student athletes could be lifting two to four times a week. Some athletes may be with me every day for an hour or two and others maybe just a couple times a week.

For some athletes, we want to get them stronger but without the undesired muscle mass gain; others, we want to get them stronger and bigger. I can be working with athletes throughout the day, but try to schedule as many in the morning as possible so they can be college kids and enjoy their summer.

You are the connection to the program for the athletes during the summer. How do you maximize that relationship?

I look to build confidence because it's such a big component. It's all about what building consistency, discipline and strategy can do for them. If we build that in the offseason, hopefully that carries on when they get into their sports schedules.

I have learned being yourself with the athletes is important. When I first started, I had a military mindset with the athletes: I am the coach and you are the athlete. I wasn't getting much buy-in. When I started just being myself and earning their trust that way, I quickly realized you can't be someone you're not. 

How do you know what each athlete needs?

Each of the about 100 athletes I work with has a personalized program I develop based on a strength profile. Their strength levels, skill set and prior exposures dictate what their training regimen looks like with me. I find their absolute strength, speed and power output in a variety of different movement patterns, and I use that to more accurately develop their training. It's a year-round process that's always changing. As I get feedback from the athlete, there are changes in schedules and changes in their strength sets.

Has technology changed the work you do?

We want to maximize power output while minimizing fatigue. We want to target just enough intensity so we are getting stimulus and growth, but not having a detrimental effect on their effort in subsequent days or weeks. We have technology that sees asymmetries in strength capacity from the right to left leg. We can monitor bar speed based on any load that is on the athlete, we can monitor grip strength. A software system monitors all our practice and weightlifting time. Any technology that's available in the strength and conditioning world now, we have it.

Where did this training make a significant impact in the sports you oversee?

One that sticks out is the cross country teams. A lot of times you have cross country athletes who have no prior exposure to strength and conditioning. Getting them excited about the weight room and seeing how strength levels there translate to three to five miles has been a process. Members of the men's team had second- and fifth-place finish at nationals and the women achieved two top-25 finishes.

Two humanities faculty receive Fulbright awards

Two Iowa State faculty, both working in the humanities, have received a Fulbright U.S. Scholar fellowship for the 2024-25 academic year from the U.S. Department of State and the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board. They'll join hundreds of other U.S. citizens who will teach or conduct research abroad through the program. They are:

White man with glasses in tie and navy jacket

John Levis

John Levis, professor of English and founder of "Journal of Second Language Pronunciation," will spend February-June 2025, at Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey.

Levis' current research focuses on suprasegmentals -- the intonation, stress and rhythm of words and sentences that make a language easily understandable. In Ankara, he'll lead a course for future teachers of English as a foreign language, to observe:

  • What kinds of things language learners acquire by studying suprasegmentals.
  • Whether this learning leads to changes in their own pronunciation.

He'll use content from his forthcoming book, "Suprasegmentals: Research and Pedagogy for English Pronunciation" (to be published by Cambridge University Press), to guide what the teachers study in the course.

Woman with curly black hair and black tank shirt

Elisa Rizo

Elisa Rizo, associate professor of world languages and cultures, will spend February-May 2025, at the Milá y Fontanals Institution for Research in the Humanities (part of the Spanish National Research Council), Barcelona, Spain.

Most of Rizo's time will be spent on research in the city's archives of newspapers, advertisements, festival reports and plays from the time period 1808-1978 and particularly 1939-75 (during Francisco Franco's dictatorship) and 1976-78 (Spain's transition to democracy). Her research explores how "Spanishness" made Black people invisible in the Spanish empire, and how some Black communities resisted this by publishing their own materials. Rizo also will lead a workshop on research methodologies for researchers in the social sciences and humanities associated with the research council.

Next application window closes in September

Since 1946, the Fulbright Program has been the U.S. government's flagship international academic exchange program. It's funded through an annual federal appropriation to the state department, whose Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs directs the program. Participating governments and host institutions, corporations and foundations in foreign countries provide additional funding.

The application period for the 2025-26 Fulbright competition is open through Sept. 16. An information webinar on the application process will be held Wednesday, Aug. 14; learn more.


Additional shows announced for Goldfinch Room series

The Goldfinch Room concert series at Stephens Auditorium will feature several local acts during July and August. The summer series returns indoors to the Celebrity Cafe on Stephens' ground floor.

Two Des Moines singer-songwriters will perform on Tuesday, July 16 (7 p.m.) when Andrew Hoyt and Andersen Coates step to the mic. Fellow Des Moines-based blues band The Buckmiller/Schwager Band performs on Tuesday, Aug. 20 (6:30 p.m.). Tickets are $5 online in advance or $10 at the door on the day of the show.

Hoyt is a grade school vocal music teacher trying to inspire the next generation through his use of the Hawaiian KoAloha ukulele. The instrument has become his signature and allowed him to sign with the indie label, Golden Bear Records.

Coates is creating contemporary folk rock in the vein of Tom Petty and John Mayer, blending intelligent lyrics, gritty baritone vocals and blues-soaked guitar. He is an alumnus of ISU jazz bands and combos and developed his sound through Iowa State events like "Cyclone Voice" and "CyFactor."

Winners of the 2021 Iowa Blue Challenge, the Buckmiller/Schwager Band went on to represent Iowa at the 2022 International Blues Challenge, reaching the semifinal round.