Iowa State Daily editors sat down with Iowa State President Wendy Wintersteen and other administrative leaders on campus to discuss goals, upcoming projects and continued initiatives for the new school year.
Student Innovation Center
Wintersteen said she is excited about the new Student Innovation Center located between Sweeney Hall and Hoover Hall. The Student Innovation Center will be opening in time for the spring 2020 semester.
All students will have access to the facility. The facility will be a place where students from different areas of study can work together in an inclusive environment. Some student clubs and organizations have already gotten involved by applying for designated space in the Student Innovation Center.
“Some universities have innovation centers, but they are much smaller," said Jonathan Wickert, senior vice president and provost. "This is going to be something campus-wide.”
The $84 million funding for the Student Innovation Center came from the state legislature and private donors, such as families and business partners.
“[The donors] saw this as something that would make a difference for our students,” Wintersteen said. “That’s another example of great collaboration, to have these alum and donors come together with the state legislature to allow us to build this facility.”
The facility features media centers, classrooms, test kitchens and laboratories to encourage interdisciplinary cooperation.
“It’s really going to differentiate Iowa State University from many of our peer institutions that don’t have a facility like this in any way, shape or form,” Winterseen said.
At the June Board of Regents meeting, the regents voted to raise Iowa State tuition by 3.9% for resident students and 4.9% for nonresident students.
“The arrangement with the state legislature was that the cost [of functioning] continues to rise—like they do at any business—and that if we received our full funding we would have a smaller tuition increase, and if we didn't, we would have a larger tuition increase,” Wintersteen said.
Due to the rising cost of tuition, the need for scholarships is also rising. Last year, more than $18.5 million was given out to 6,700 students across Iowa State from private, Iowa State scholarships, and more was given out from public funding. 74% of Iowa State’s students receive some sort of financial aid, and the need for it is growing.
“We know that it is an expensive thing to come to college, and that we want to continue to have conversations on how to make that be affordable,” Wintersteen said.
Wintersteen also talked about the importance of students becoming financially literate. She highlighted the Student Loan Education Office’s “Live Like a Student” award and the CyCash course that Iowa State offers as ways to encourage students to learn about loans, finances and other financial aid issues.
“We know the majority of our students have to borrow money, but last year 41 and a half percent of our students were able to graduate debt-free, and that was a combination of all the things we've already talked about, and certainly the jobs that students had while they were here,” Wintersteen said.
With violent incidents like the recent mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, increasing in frequency, there is a concern about safety from violence on campus. Wintersteen referred to the Iowa State Police Department’s chief of police, Michael Newton, and his team, which lead the Violent Incident Response Training (VIRT).
Wintersteen has participated in VIRT and encourages student organizations and departments to schedule training with campus police. According to the Iowa State Police website, the training teaches a set of principles trainees can adapt to any violent encounter: avoid, deny and defend. Just as society teaches us to react to fires, floods and tornadoes, this program seeks to educate on successful — and unsuccessful — techniques to defend yourself in a violent situation.
Any department or group on campus is able to schedule a VIRT session by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wintersteen cited diversity as something she plans on continuing to grow at Iowa State this year. She said diversity is important to all aspects of the campus, and that every voice adds something to the greater conversation.
“We know that whether it be race, ethnicity or sexual preference, diversity brings strength, new ideas, creativity and innovation,” Wintersteen said.
Wintersteen said faculty and staff all across Iowa State’s campus are focused on making Iowa State one of the most welcoming and inclusive land grant universities in the nation. This includes the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and other campus entities like Student Counseling Services and the Division of Student Affairs. One initiative out of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion is the Campus Climate Response Team, which focuses on solving day-to-day incidents that students face at Iowa State that can range from verbal to physical violence.
“I realize that everyday something difficult happens for an individual,” Wintersteen said. “Somebody says something to them that is inappropriate, it's always shocking to me that individuals are very mean to each other. If we can ask everybody to uphold our principles of community then I think we will go a long way to making a difference at Iowa State.”
Wintersteen also said the deans of the colleges, department chairs and leaders in Student Affairs, as well as herself all want to hear what is going on when it comes to these types of incidents to ensure that Iowa State is the best it can be.
“We always want to be hearing and listening for individuals’ experiences and validating those experiences,” Wintersteen said.
When asked about greek life at Iowa State, Wintersteen said the greek community is an important part of the university’s culture.
“The [greek community] have a set of commitments to their own principles and are oftentimes in many of the leadership positions around campus, so they are deeply engaged at Iowa State University, so we’re proud of our greek community,” Wintersteen said.
Iowa State’s greek community participates in National Hazing Prevention Week, Sept. 24 through 28, which brings events and awareness about hazing prevention to campus.
Wintersteen said throughout the community, hazing is not a constant problem, and there is a high expectation against hazing on campus.
“For the most part we don’t see [hazing] as a regularly occurring situation, instead we see a pretty strong commitment against it,” Wintersteen said.
Wintersteen expressed surprise during the August Board of Regents meeting at the number of Iowa State international students dropped last year. Wintersteen called that a “real loss” Thursday.
“[W]e want everybody to welcome those students to come here, and study here. So we’re going to keep that as a priority, because for the students from Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Texas, California—you know, it’s a chance to build a lifelong friendship with somebody from China, India, Africa, and that’s really how the world has changed,” Wintersteen said. “So we’re going to have that continue to be a priority.”
Voter turnout among student-aged populations is the lowest of all eligible voters, with only 30% of “Gen Z” voters turning out to vote in the 2018 midterm elections, according to a Pew survey. Wintersteen was asked what efforts the university is undertaking to ensure students can exercise their right to vote.
“[S]tarting next fall the ISUCard will be issued with an expiration date of ‘none,’ and then that makes the card compliant with new voter ID law, so you’ll be able to use your ISUCard as a part of the ID requirement for voter registration and to vote, so that’s a big deal,” Wintersteen said.
The Iowa General Assembly passed a law in 2017, signed by then-Gov. Terry Branstad, requiring voters to have valid photo ID at polling stations in order to vote. ISUCards were not included among valid photo ID to vote by the state government. The Iowa Secretary of State’s website lists Iowa voter identification cards, Iowa driver’s licenses, Iowa non-operator IDs, U.S. military IDs or veteran IDs, U.S. passports and tribal ID cards and documents as valid forms of ID.
The ISUCard — lacking an address — by itself will not be enough to vote, however, Iowa State students can visit the “Voter Reg Address” page in AccessPlus, which students can show on their phone to election officials to prove their residency, and thus eligibility to vote.