VISIONS Winter 2017: Inside Academics


The big flip: New ways to learn

If your memory of attending classes at Iowa State was to drag yourself to class, plop down in your seat, and let the knowledge wash over you, you’d be in for a shock in many of today’s classrooms.

New ways of teaching – flipping the classroom, team-based learning, and innovative uses of technology – have changed the way students learn.

“Students like to be engaged,” says Ann Marie VanDerZanden, director of the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT). “They like to be doing something other than just sitting there.”

As a result of ISU’s Presidential Flipped and Hybrid Course Initiative and the faculty’s Team-Based Learning (TBL) Community, students are engaging in the classroom like never before.

In the old model, students would learn curriculum content through a lecture and then do homework outside of class. The benefit of flipping the class, according to VanDerZanden, is that now when students have a question, the faculty member and their peers are there to help guide the learning. The result: significant learning gains and a deeper understanding of course content.

Here’s an example of both the “flip” and TBL: In Peter Savolainen’s Civil Engineering 453 Highway Design class, students are arranged into teams in one of the newly renovated Marston Hall classrooms. The team approach, he says, eliminates the problem of providing one-on-one consultation to students in a large classroom.

“By arranging the students into teams, I am able to more effectively interact with the entire class over the duration of the semester. I am also able to provide more challenging problems, which are well-suited for teamwork,” he said.

And here’s where the “flip” comes in: The prerequisite course, CE 355 Principles of Transportation Engineering, was a flipped class. So instead of reviewing that material at the beginning of CE 453, Professor Savolainen is able to refer his students to the YouTube site where the CE 355 lectures reside, allowing students to catch up on topics they may not remember while allowing him to keep pace and cover new material.

Online/distance learning has also expanded in recent years. Thousands of Iowa State students enroll in online classes today for a variety of reasons.

“Some academic departments are offering undergraduate courses that are part of a sequence of courses that students have to take, so they’re offering an online version of the course as a means to allow students to make progress toward their degrees,” VanDerZanden explained. “Sometimes it’s a bottleneck class, so the online (option) is relieving a little bit of pressure as our enrollment has grown. Other departments are thinking about attracting new audiences who might be looking for graduate programs
or professional development.”

In fact, 28 ISU degrees and 22 graduate certificate programs can be completed entirely online.

VanDerZanden says some faculty members at Iowa State are eager to integrate new uses of technology, new methods of teaching, and expanded undergraduate student research into their classrooms.

“Where it works in the discipline, I think more and more people are looking for different ways to teach,” she said. “It’s kind of that crest of the wave, right? I mean, there are the early adopters who will do a whole range of different things in their classes and be willing to take that risk.

And then, as there are more successes and positive student feedback and acknowledgement that this can be effective in the discipline, others start to join along.”

What is it? Defining the trends

  • Flipping the Classroom: A teaching model that “flips” the traditional instructional format. Students view lectures and other academic content, mainly online, prior to class. Class time is used for active learning activities such as discussion, problem solving, projects, and further explanation of materials.
  • Team-Based Learning (TBL): An increasingly popular form of flipped-classroom, small-group learning that provides students with an intimate, collaborative, active experience even in a large class.
  • Online/Distance Learning: Classes are offered online both to resident students and distance students for convenience, to make progress toward a degree, or for professional development.
  • Hybrid Course: A portion of the course’s meeting time is replaced by online instruction.

Hottest majors on campus

Some of today’s most popular majors have been around for years: Think animal science and mechanical engineering. Others are new to the mix. Here are the top undergraduate degrees conferred in 2016:

  • Mechanical engineering (358)
  • Kinesiology / health (282)
  • Supply chain / management information systems (274)
  • Apparel, events & hospitality management (267)
  • Animal science (232)



This article was originally published in VISIONS magazine. To receive the full issue delivered to your mailbox four times per year, become a member of the ISU Alumni Association.

Five Things

Happy 2017, Cyclones!

Here are five things to put on your Cardinal & Gold radar this week:


1) School is back in session today as Iowa State’s record-sized student body returns to campus for the spring semester. The ISU Alumni Association offices in the ISU Alumni Center also return today to their regular 8 a.m.-5 p.m. office hours after three weeks of operating on a winter break schedule. Most campus units will do the same. Happy spring semester!


2) Iowa State will kick off its annual celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day this Wednesday with the “Let Freedom Ring” carillon concert, which will be available via live stream. Among the other King celebration events on the schedule will be a community birthday celebration on Monday. Jan. 16 (a university holiday; our offices will again be closed and classes recessed), the university’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Legacy Convocation on Thursday, Jan. 19, and the lecture “A Deeper Black: Race in America” by Ta-Nehisi Coates on Monday, Jan. 25 at 8 p.m.


3) This week the Christian Petersen Art Museum in Morrill Hall will open “Red,” an art exhibition that explores the cultural and aesthetic diversity of the iconic, vibrant color. An opening reception will be held Thursday from 4:30-6 p.m. — wear your favorite red outfit!


4) Thanks to a recently-announced grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the ISU Library will soon serve as the host of the Avian Archives of Iowa Online (avIAn) — an archive of more than 100 years of bird study in Iowa. Approximately 13,600 documents, 2,124 images, 14 field journals, and seven audiovisual recordings will be freely accessible as part of the completed project.


5) We’re counting down one more month until the sixth-annual Cardinal & Gold Gala in Des Moines — Feb. 10 at the Veterans Memorial Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center. Tables and individual tickets can still be purchased on our website; deadline is Feb. 1. Hope to see you there as we raise money for first-generation student scholarships and student/alumni programming — oh, and have a roaring good 1920s-themed time.


2017: A snapshot

Another year, another record-breaking student enrollment. And now, a historic fundraising campaign, changes all across campus, and a new strategic plan.Welcome to Iowa State University in 2017.


Where we are; where we’re headed
Maintaining quality amid growth. That’s one of President Steven Leath’s top goals for this academic year.

It’s a tall order, given the fact that student enrollment has grown 44 percent in the past decade (to last fall’s high-water mark of 36,660) but state funding has continued to decline.

In 2008, Iowa State received about $12,700 in state funding per resident student. At that time, nearly 50 percent of the university’s operating revenue came from the state; the other 50 percent came from tuition and fees. Today, ISU receives about $9,400 from the state per resident student, shifting the budget revenue ratio to approximately 30 percent from the state and 70 percent from tuition and fees.

Meanwhile, the Regents have held the line on resident undergraduate tuition, freezing or making only minimal increases over the last five years.

“We’ve been unable to make meaningful improvements in our national ranking and our student-to-faculty ratio because of the tremendous growth we’ve seen,” despite hiring more than 400 new faculty over the past five years, Leath said during his annual address last fall.

But progress is being shown in a number of areas:

  • Iowa State continues to offer the lowest tuition and fees of its peer institutions, and student debt has declined 8.5 percent, due in part to Leath’s Moving Students Forward campaign to raise $150 million in private gifts for student financial aid over five years. That campaign has now raised nearly $190 million, and so far more than 23,000 students have received support from the fund.
  • A number of facilities to enhance academics and student life have opened in the past few years, and more are in the works, including two biosciences facilities, improved classroom spaces, new residence halls and apartment communities, and a cutting-edge student innovation facility.
  • Iowa State is becoming a more inclusive community. With the hiring of Reginald Stewart as the university’s first vice president for diversity and inclusion, Leath says he believes Iowa State can become a model of diversity. Last fall the university hired project directors for diversity and inclusion in LGBTQA+ Affairs and in Hispanic/Latinx Affairs and will soon create a new position to oversee sexual misconduct prevention.
  • The ISU Research Park continues to expand, and the new Economic Development Core Facility that opened last summer will greatly enhance the positive impact the university will have on the state’s economy.
  • A new strategic plan was rolled out last summer, with four key objectives to take Iowa State well into the next decade.
  • An administrative team that features familiar faces, as well as key leaders new to campus, has been put in place.
  • The ISU Foundation announced in September the launch of Forever True, For
    Iowa State, a landmark initiative to raise $1.1 billion for the university, the largest goal ever for an Iowa State comprehensive campaign.

Forever True: Iowa State launches historic $1.1 billion campaign
On Sept. 30, Iowa State University announced the launch of the Forever True, For Iowa State campaign, a historic initiative to raise $1.1 billion for the university by June 30, 2020. The goal is the largest ever for an Iowa State comprehensive campaign.

forevertruelogo1With a name inspired by the Iowa State Fight Song, the campaign will rally support for scholarships, faculty support, facilities, and programs. It will help ensure access to an exceptional education, advance Iowa State expertise in key areas that address global challenges, and enhance the university’s impact on the economy and quality of life in Iowa and around the world.

“I invite everyone whose lives have been touched by Iowa State to consider what it means to be Forever True to this university,” said Jon Fleming (L)(’75 meteorology). “With the help of our extended Iowa State family, I know we can make this the most transformative campaign in Cyclone history.” Fleming serves as campaign chair and is a former Alumni Association Board of Directors chair.

Larissa Holtmyer Jones (L)(’91 marketing, MBA ’03), president and CEO of the ISU Foundation, announced that since the campaign began its quiet phase in 2012 more than $551 million has already been raised. “This goal stretches us,” she said, “but there is so much to be gained in meeting it for our students’ and for our children’s futures.”

For more information, visit To learn about the Iowa State University Alumni Association funding priorities within this historic campaign, visit the ISU Alumni Association’s website.

By the numbers
Iowa State’s fall 2016 enrollment…and other fun facts

  • 36,660: Iowa State’s total student enrollment for fall 2016
  • 44: The percentage of student population growth in the past decade
  • 20,713: The number of Iowans attending Iowa State
  • 23.9: The percentage of U.S. multicultural and international students enrolled
  • 64: The percentage of Iowa State classes that have 29 or fewer students
  • 2 million+: The number of visitors to the Iowa State Library last year
  • 65: The number of new student organizations added last year, for a total of 850+ organizations on campus
  • 5: The number of wireless devices, on average, that students bring with them to campus. Iowa State has installed 9,300 wireless access points to accommodate all that digital traffic.

The class of 2020
A look at Iowa State’s fall 2016 entering freshmen

  • Total freshman class: 6,325
  • Total Iowans: 3,380
  • U.S. multicultural enrollment: 946 (15% of new freshmen)

Who’s counting?
10 years of enrollment growth
2006: 25,462
2007: 26,160
2008: 26,856
2009: 27,945
2010: 28,682
2011: 29,887
2012: 31,040
2013: 33,241
2014: 34,732
2015: 36,001
2016: 36,660



This article was originally published in VISIONS magazine. To receive the full issue delivered to your mailbox four times per year, become a member of the ISU Alumni Association.

Club Volunteer Spotlight January 2017: ISU Alumni of Omaha/Council Bluffs


Omaha skyline. Via

Each month in 2017 the ISUAA will be recognizing remarkable alumni volunteers serving in ISUAA club leadership roles. There are countless alumni across the country doing extraordinary things for the alumni in their area, possibly in a town near you. Click here to see if there is an ISUAA club or gamewatch site in your area.

For the month of January, we would like to recognize Amanda Loomis (’16) and Celia Bravard (’15) for the outstanding work they are doing to engage alumni in the Omaha / Council Bluffs area. Both Amanda and Celia stepped into their volunteer roles with the ISUAA in the summer of 2016 and have been outstanding in their pursuit to provide interactive programming for Iowa State alumni, family, and friends.

Recently, Amanda and Celia hosted an ISUAA volunteer recruitment and operations meeting to begin planning for the ISU basketball season and various upcoming spring / summer events (you can click here to view their currently scheduled events). In addition to planning, the two were able to enlist the help of five additional alumni (Jeff McClenathan ’82, Jennie Rush ’04, Adam Reinert ’11, Sabrina Ebbing ’09, Reagan Huber ’16, and Jen Cross ’09) who will be able to provide invaluable insight and assistance.

Be sure if you’re in the area during football or basketball season to stop by their gamewatch locations, Saint’s Pub + Patio (120 S 31st Ave.) and Pizza West (12031 West Maple Rd.) to cheer the Cyclones on in good company!

Want to learn more about what’s going on in the Omaha area or how to get involved? Below are a few ways to get in touch with Amanda, Celia, and the Omaha group.

Email Amanda and Celia
Iowa State Alumni of Omaha Facebook

A little more about Amanda and Celia:

Amanda (’16 economics)

loomis-amandaHometown: Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Favorite ISU Tradition: Jingle Jog and the lighting of the Christmas Tree on central campus!
Favorite ISU Memory: I was invited to teach Zumba at Dance Marathon. Nothing surpasses teaching Zumba to hundreds of people in the middle of the night!
Personal Fun Fact: I teach dance to show choirs across the Midwest.

Celia (’15 food science)

bravard-celiaHometown: Granger, Iowa
Favorite ISU Tradition: Never walking across the Zodiac in the Memorial Union! Wouldn’t want to fail your next exam!
Favorite ISU Memory: Planning and coordinating the Institute of Food Technologists Student Association meeting at Iowa State. We hosted students from the universities of Minnesota, Nebraska-Lincoln, Wisconsin, and North Dakota State. During the meeting, our FSHN department showcased our facilities, staff/faculty, the town of Ames, and of course the beautiful ISU campus!
Personal Fun Fact: I love running! To date, I have completed 8 half marathons. Planning to do a full marathon on the future and will be sure to sport ISU gear along the way!

Something to share about the Iowa State Alumni of Omaha group: We are honored and so excited to spread the Cyclone Spirit in Nebraska! It is great to create connections, build friendships, and be a part of the Cyclone family in the Husker State. We bring a bit of Ames to each event!