Regents approve new degree program, research center closure


Iowa State University President, Wendy Wintersteen, at Board of Regents meeting.

The Iowa Board of Regents approved new degree programs for Iowa State and the closure of four research centers at its meeting Wednesday and Thursday in the Reiman Ballroom of the Iowa State Alumni Center.

Research center closure

Iowa State requested the closure of four research centers: the Biobased Industry Center, the Center for Metabolic Biology, the Iowa Center for Advanced Neurotoxicology and the Center for Earthworks Engineering Research.

Senior Vice President and Provost Jonathan Wickert introduced this request as a housekeeping action associated with the typical lifecycle of research centers and institutes.

“We’re proposing to close these four centers, and any funds or projects that currently exist in them will be delegated down to the academic colleges or to the vice president or research office to administer. No students will be adversely affected by this action,” Wickert said

Agriculture communication

Ann Marie VanDerZanden, associate provost for academic programs, presented two new degrees, including a bachelor’s in agricultural communication offered by the department of agriculture education and an online master’s degree in accounting analytics offered by the Ivy College of Business.

“The discipline of agriculture communication has evolved from the simple dissemination of information to a more strategic role sharing technical information, with crop and livestock producers and policymakers as well as translating the impact of scientific advances to general audiences,” VanDerZanden said.

VanDerZanden said the existing agriculture communication track that is offered within the broader ag ed and studies major limits competitiveness for graduate students. She said most land grant institutions already have a full degree program in agriculture communications.

“As a result of this, we would expect the number of students in the program to grow from the 80 to 90 students that we currently have to 130 students by year seven, which would be a 50% increase over that time,” VanDerZanden said.

VanDerZanden said students will benefit from a more multidisciplinary approach through the new major with required courses in liberal arts and sciences, human sciences and business. She said no additional costs to offer the full degree program are needed for the faculty and curriculum which are already in place.

Diversity, equity and inclusion working group

President of the Board of Regents, Michael Richards, followed up on plans he initiated in March, establishing a working group to study diversity, equity and inclusion efforts at each of Iowa’s public universities.

This group will include Regent David Barker, Jim Lindenmayer and Greta Rouse. Richards said they have been working with the board office staff to develop a structure and a process for how the comprehensive review will proceed.

Richards said they also had conversations with the university presidents while this review has not begun, and the specifics are still being worked out.

“We expect the review to take several months and will likely stretch into the fall semester,” Richards said. “There will be multiple meetings. Faculty, staff and students from the university will be included in the process.”

Richards said there will be an opportunity for campus community members or the general public to provide feedback to the working group via a web-based format. He said when the working group has completed its review, it will present its findings and any recommendations to the full Board of Regents and one of the board’s public meetings.

“Tentatively, we have identified November 2023 as the meeting when the working group will make its presentation, but this could change,” Richards said.

Iowa State recent activity

Iowa State President Wendy Wintersteen presented the university’s recent activities to the board, including expanding the innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem through public-private partnerships.

“We recently announced a new partnership with Alliant Energy to build a multi-tenant collaboration facility at the Iowa State Research Park,” Wintersteen said.

Wintersteen said the Alliant Energy agriculture innovation lab will provide more than 85,000 square feet for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences digital agriculture innovation team. She added that space will also be available for agricultural base businesses that want to work with Iowa State on digital and precision agriculture.

“Over 70% of the building will feature high bay and lab space, which is a critical need for the research and development work being done by ISU’s digital ag innovation team,” Wintersteen said.

Led by Matthew Darr, professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering, Wintersteen said the team specializes in developing agricultural technology and products including smart sensors, controls and machinery electronics.

“The team holds 70 patents, and more than 30 technology sold worldwide contain intellectual property created by the digital [agriculture] team,” Wintersteen said. “Their work is responsible for supporting and creating more than 300 central Iowa-based ag technology jobs.”

In regard to the university’s partnership with Alliant Energy, Wintersteen said Alliant is now expanding to include the U.S. Department of Energy after receiving approval from the board in November 2021.

“Construction is starting on the Alliant Energy Solar Farm; […] the 1.35-megawatt farm is expected to generate enough power for 234 farms and provide electricity for our nearby farms,” Wintersteen said.

Wintersteen said this farm is not solely producing solar power in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy. She said the Iowa State research team will test whether the farm can also be used to grow produce planted among the solar panels.

Wintersteen said the project is being supported by a four-year $1.8 million grant from the Department of Energy.

Wintersteen discussed the university’s selection to host a site for the new soil technology center called SoilTech.

“It’s supported by a five-year $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF),” Wintersteen said. “The Center is part of a new NSF initiative to accelerate the application of basic university research to meet industry needs and enhance American innovation and develop a high-skilled, high-tech workforce.”

Wintersteen said Jonathan Claussen and Carmen Gomes, both associate professors of mechanical engineering, are co-directing the Iowa State side of the project.

“They’re developing sensors like these pictured here on the left to advance soil health plant nutrients carbon capture and pesticide mapping; SoilTech has signed on 15 industry partners, including John Deere, Corteva agriscience, NASA, the U.S. Geological Surveys National Innovation Center and three other universities,” Wintersteen said.

Wintersteen also discussed the sixth annual College-by-College pitch-off winners.

“The competition began with participants from all seven colleges,” Wintersteen said. “From there, 25 students qualified for the final round, having just 90 seconds to pitch their company or concept. Twenty-eight Awards were presented across all rounds of competition, totaling more than $30,000 in prizes.”

Accounting analytics

The second degree proposed is an online master’s in accounting analytics through the Ivy College of Business and the department of accounting.

VanDerZanden said all courses within the degree will be delivered in an asynchronous format, allowing students to work at their own pace from anywhere in the world.

“The demand for online graduate education continues to increase,” VanDerZanden said. “In particular, additional training in analytics is valued by the working accountants, and they work to diversify their skill sets and grow their careers.”

VanDerZanden said no additional costs will be required for this program either, estimating the program will begin with around 10 students and grow to approximately 25 students by its seventh year.

Remodeling, property and facilities updates

Shawn Norman, senior vice president for Operations and Finance, discussed three business transactions, including permission to proceed with project planning for Lied Recreation Athletic Center. This will include a remodel and 16,000 square foot addition and expansion project.

“This addition would expand our weight rooms, our locker rooms and our sports medicine area for our wrestling and track and field programs,” Norman said.

Norman said the proposed budget for this is about $23 million funded by athletics revenue and gifts.

“In addition to this expansion, athletics will also exchange space with the recreational service group to make sure that we keep the same allocation of the 66% that is going to record recreation and 34% that is going to athletics,” Norman said.

Norman presented the project description and budget for the Human Nutritional Sciences Building. Approval of the board was requested for a remodel of the research labs and the continuation of construction.

“[The] $2.1 million university-funded project budget for the remodeling of […] our Human Nutritional Science Building labs is to accommodate the research for the textile science in the department of apparel, events and hospitality from LeBaron Hall,” Norman said.

Norman said LeBaron Hall was decided to be a better location for the textile science area. He added that these research labs were originally part of the project to be temporarily located.

“When we looked at it, it was more cost-effective to permanently relocate to the human science building,” Norman said.

Norman said this project would address significant gaps in the textile science research space by expanding the protective clothing laboratory and adding lab space for mature material development. The scheduled date for this re-location is fall 2025.

Norman presented a revised project description and budget for the Curtiss Farm-Feed Mill and Grain Science Complex project.

Norman said this is a $35.2 million revised budget to accommodate the installation of a donated and discounted feed mill and grain processing equipment.

“This is a $3 million increase from the last time we got the approved budget,” Norman said.

Norman said this project has strong donor support, which will fund the increase. He said this 47,000-square-foot conflict would address the significant needs in Iowa agriculture, particularly the shortfall in grain and feed facility workforce.

“This complex will be fulfilled with new education programs and enhancing research and extension programs, so this is an excellent opportunity,” Norman said.

Student employment

Toyia Younger, senior vice president of Student Affairs, discussed student employment numbers and the impact of student employment on student retention.

“We were all experiencing dips in our student employment […] we’ve got to get together and come up with some ideas and strategies to increase that number,” Younger said.

Younger said shortly after she had been appointed to the board, the conversation of student employment arose. She said there was a drop in student employment rates during the COVID pandemic.

“Since then, we have seen our student employment numbers rebound back to numbers that were pre-pandemic,” Younger said.

Younger said despite the drops in the number of student employees at that time, the one thing that remained the same was the impact of student employment on student retention.

“Across all three recent universities, our goals have always been to help students feel engaged and connected to the campus, to arm them with the tools and the skills that they need for future employment as well as provide specialized training and professional development for both our student employees and their supervisors as well,” Younger said.

Younger said in 2019, approximately 24% of new students were employed on campus. She said 91% of those student employees returned for a second year, whereas only 87% of non-working students, unemployed students who live on-campus, returned for fall 2020.

“Within the Division of Student Affairs, we believe that every position can help students prepare for work once they graduate from our university,” Younger said. “As such, we adapted our career readiness competencies which come directly from NACE, which is the National Association of Colleges and Employers, and NACE believes that career readiness is a foundation to demonstrate core competencies that broadly prepare college students for success in the workplace.”

Younger said Iowa State’s career readiness competencies directly tie to academic programs as learning happens everywhere. She said career readiness plays an important role in sourcing talent and identifying those key skills and abilities across job functions.

Teacher education preparation programs

Larry Bice, director of Educator Preparation Programming, presented information on educator preparation programs at Iowa State.

“We’re very proud of our international student teaching; […] our student teachers, who do a 16-week student teaching [program], can do eight weeks internationally, and they really bring back a lot of great information that helps not only their teaching but their leadership as they continue on as teachers,” Bice said.

Bice said the university takes its mission as a land grant institution seriously. He added that ISU has many rural partnerships and is particularly involved in rural initiatives around administrator preparation and administrative support.

Bice said current student teaching opportunities are available in Poland, Taiwan, New Zealand, Ecuador, Germany and Norway.

“It’s a program that’s beneficial not only to elementary students but to our teacher candidates as well,” Bice said.

Bice said teacher education can always be updated and improved to prepare teachers, administrators and specialists to meet the needs of students from diverse backgrounds, such as non-English speaking learners and students with reading disabilities.

“We’re required to prepare our teachers to meet all of those [diverse] needs, and we take that very seriously and worked very hard to do that,” Bice said.

Bice said he feels the national teacher shortage will worsen as time passes.

“I’ve been looking at the data for 10 years. I used to work for the Department of Education. I think if it was just bringing in beginning teachers, I think we could keep up and we’d be OK, but what we’re battling is the people who are leaving,” Bice said. “With the natural retirement, the natural [amount] of people leaving, we could keep up with that, but people are leaving for a larger number of reasons.”

Bice said some Iowa districts have a 25% turnover rate, which is what educators are playing catch up with. He said there has not been enough research done on today’s population of teachers leaving the education system to understand why.

“There was a study done a few years ago that looked at why are our teachers leaving, and they would give a number of reasons why they’re leaving,” Bice said. “The salary used to be the number one reason why people are leaving, and now there’s the changing culture of teaching right now I think, although we don’t have data on it yet,” Bice said.

Audit Review

Debra Johnston, chief audit executive from the University of Iowa, followed up with internal audit reports at Iowa State. A building access audit was completed where processes differ between the academic and administrative buildings.

Johnston said the primary recommendations related to stronger centralized oversight. She said an example of this would be verifying Facilities and Planning Management’s data against the current student and current employee data and doing this periodically.

“We’d like to see enhanced reporting for building coordinators to use so that when they do their key audits in their areas, they have better information,” Johnston said.

Johnston said she would like to see a master key management and request policy put together and for the board to consider creating integrations with Workday from those students and HR systems to help with automation. She added this would solve many of the issues across all campuses if said automations are put in place.

“We would like to see the residence halls secure access to extra room keys and verify access more often than nearly due to the number of transfers that happen in those areas,” Johnston said.

Johnston said she also recommended improving controls related to contract or loan keys and cards and requested that business continuity and disaster recovery plans are ensured to be documented and current.