Board of Regents approves new program request

Iowa States Campanile photographed after a heavy snow.

Iowa State’s Campanile photographed after a heavy snow.

The Iowa Board of Regents heard reports from Iowa State administration on a variety of topics Wednesday during a meeting in their Urbandale office.

New Program Request

The academic committee recommended the approval of a new major in biomedical engineering.

Senior Vice President and Provost Jonathan Wickert also explained Iowa State’s new program request to establish a new bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering. He said the degree would be administered in the existing department of chemical and biological engineering.

“Biomedical engineering today is a very established and recognized discipline within engineering,” Wickert said. “It began to be developed in the 1980s. At that time it was known as bio-engineering, but today the field of biomedical engineering has really evolved to become an important part of a comprehensive college of engineering.”

Wickert said biomedical engineering is the sixth most popular engineering degree offered in the United States. He said regardless of whether an institution — private or public — has a human medical college or not, biomedical engineering has grown to become an important discipline.

“It incorporates trends in technology such as material innovations, miniaturization [and] additive manufacturing,” Wickert said. “Biomedical engineers do not perform health services, but they collaborate with medical professionals to design devices: wearable and implantable devices, robotic-assisted surgery, virtual reality for surgical planning, microparticles which encapsulate drugs and sensors on a chip.”

Wickert said there is also strong employer demand for biomedical engineering. He said over 50 employers come to Iowa State’s career fairs to recruit students in biomedical engineering or health engineering-related fields.

Wickert said the university has already developed some experience in the area, having offered a minor in biomedical engineering since 2009. He said Iowa State has a team of 18 faculty members who are prepared to start developing the curriculum, utilizing Iowa State’s existing facilities.

Center Termination

The Board of Regents heard a request to terminate two centers at Iowa State: the Center for Plant Genomics and the Plant Transformation Center.

Wickert said both centers are part of the larger plant sciences institute and that the work of the two centers will only be incorporated into the existing work of the plant sciences institute to streamline the organization.

He said the closures will have no impact on students or faculty.

Honorary Degrees

The Board of Regents heard Iowa State’s requests to offer two honorary degrees. The first was an honorary doctor of science degree for Temple Grandin, a distinguished professor of animal science at Colorado State University. 

Wickert said Grandin is a world-renowned individual for her accomplishments and for her advances in animal welfare.

“[She is] truly a pioneer for improving the welfare of animals and also a pioneer in supporting individuals with autism, having served on the board of directors for the Autism Society of America,” Wickert said. “She has been recognized as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.”

Iowa State’s second proposal was an honorary doctorate of humane letters degree to Trudy Huskamp Peterson, an Iowa State alum and the first women archivist in the United States.

“She began working at the U.S. national archive and had a very successful career there,” Wickert said. “Subsequently, she accepted a position where she serves as the archivist for the United Nations high commissioner for refugees in Geneva, and she has been active in preserving documents following the collapse of the Soviet Union in Eastern Europe.”

Distanced Education Report

Susan Arendt, director of ISU Online, gave the annual distanced education report, explaining the launch of Iowa State Online, which took place on Jan. 23. 

Arendt said the Iowa State Online unit was developed in response to the Board of Regents’ Distanced Education Task Force as well as a recommendation from the Iowa State University Online Learning Strategy Task Force.

“Embracing the fact that there has been a blurring between the various delivery modalities, whether it be face-to-face, hybrid or online, the implementation committee recommended positioning Iowa State Online as a unit within our Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching,” Arendt said.

Arendt said by centralizing the unit, Iowa state’s goals include growing its market share in the online learning environment, promoting a consistent unified brand and entry portal for Iowa State’s online programs, focusing on program innovation and market development tailored to Iowa businesses and priorities, creating a seamless university-wide unit for online course design and delivery and creating greater support for students.

“Given the centralization of our online support talent pool, we are now well positioned to provide university-wide support,” Arendt said.

Arendt said the unit has taken on a number of pilot projects during the spring semester, spanning several colleges and programs including food science, cybersecurity and a master’s in agronomy.

Arendt said the unit has implemented a new budget model that incentivizes growth with changes to allocated costs. She said they have decreased the allocated cost by 80%.

Over the coming months, Arendt said the unit is focused on developing new processes to increase efficiencies for faculty, staff and students that are involved in Iowa State Online.

Financial Aid Report

The Board of Regents heard the student financial aid report from representatives of the three regent universities.

Division Administrator for Research and Communications at Iowa College Aid, Meghan Oster, explained some changes in the financial aid students would receive. The change comes because of a transition from the Expected Family Contribution model to the Student Aid Index, which aims to simplify the process of students receiving financial aid.

Director of Financial Aid operations at Iowa State Chad Olson said it is exciting to see pell grant utilization will increase for the majority of students. He said one major change that will have an effect on Iowans regards the inclusion of family farm income and small business income into FASFA. 

Olson said there will be changes to the student aid index that will affect pell grant eligibility. He said because the university does not currently collect data on family farms and small businesses’ income, it is not yet possible to model changes to current pell grant recipients in the institution’s current cohorts.

Institutional Head Report

Iowa State University President Wendy Wintersteen pointed out that the university celebrated the first George Washington Carver Day of Recognition after Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a proclamation making Feb. 1 the day of recognition.

“We had just a phenomenal evening; over 600 individuals attended the program,” Wintersteen said. “We had speakers from all over Iowa and the nation celebrating the history, really recognizing George Washington Carver for the great agricultural scientist and humanitarian he truly was.”

Wintersteen said the university will celebrate again on Feb. 1, 2024.

Wintersteen also said the university welcomed Shawn Norman, the university’s new senior vice president for operations and finance, on Wednesday morning. She said in April, the university will also be welcoming Jason Henderson, the new vice president for extension and outreach.

Wintersteen said average grades have increased in the university’s foundational and gateway courses due to new investments in supplemental instruction, tutoring and peer mentoring.

She said Iowa State truly is a national research powerhouse. She said in looking at institutions without medical schools and the amount of research dollars they bring in, Iowa State is ranked number 17 in the nation. She said the university had a record $284 million in the fiscal year 2022 in research funding, a 23% increase from the previous year.

Wintersteen said the university is proud of the fact that the state of Iowa’s public universities is rated number three in the nation on student return on investment.

“The ranking was done by comparing tuition and other financial factors to the increase in lifetime income that graduates earn from their degrees,” Wintersteen said. “We were very pleased to see the report specifically highlighting Iowa State University; it mentioned our highly valuable mechanical engineering program, which graduates nearly 500 students every year and has a median return on investment of nearly $925,000.”

Wintersteen said the university is also proud of the national and global recognition it has received as it has infused innovation and entrepreneurship across all of its colleges. She said for the third year in a row, Iowa State ranks number 11 in the nation for undergraduate programs by the Princeton Review.

“We won the 2022 Innovation and Economic Prosperity award from the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities,” Wintersteen said. “We placed first place in the innovation category last year, and it’s our first award in six years in the category of innovation.”

Wintersteen also mentioned that Iowa State was recently named a top producer of Fulbright Scholars. She added that three faculty members were named as fellows for the American Association for the Advancement of Science: Josh Rosenbloom, professor and chair of economics, Aaron Sadow, professor of chemistry and Ames National Laboratory scientist and Yanhai Yin, professor and chair of genetics, development and cell biology.