Iowa State University is investing more than $ 10 million into a series of projects to kick off the university’s vision of itself over the next decade – a vision that includes better retention of underrepresented students, renovated child care facilities and a unified structure for online programs.
Iowa State President Wendy Wintersteen earlier this month presented the university’s strategic plan covering the years through 2031 to the Iowa Board of Regents.
The university has also announced funding for nine “jump-start projects” ahead of the first planning process set to begin this fall.
The $ 10.5 million for the projects – paid for mostly by gifts from private donors – does not establish a timeline for the work, but university spokesperson Angie Hunt said the projects will be implemented over the next three years.
The largest share, $ 3.5 million, is allocated to “support faculty hires in key areas that track with Iowa State’s research strengths and emerging degree programs,” according to a news release.
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Hunt said those strengths include science, technology, engineering and math fields. Another $ 1.5 million is allocated toward starting “Degrees of the Future,” including in climate science, cybersecurity and health care management.
The university also wants to invest another $ 1.5 million into launching an initiative to increase retention and graduation rates among first-generation or Pell grant-eligible students, as well as students whose academic progress was most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
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More specifically, within the next five years, Iowa State wants to reduce the gaps in one-year retention for underrepresented students by 40% – with the gaps in retention last fall between underrepresented and other students being between 2.5% and 6.3%.
In the same time frame, the university would also like to see a 2% increase in the rate of underrepresented students who graduate – with gap of between 3.7% and 17.3% last fall in graduation rates between underrepresented and other students.
Hunt said the university is already working this summer toward those goals, by “broadening access to tutoring services, focusing academic advisors on at-risk students, developing initiatives to foster students’ sense of belonging on campus, and increasing participation in learning activities (study abroad trips, research opportunities, learning communities, internships, etc.) outside the traditional classroom. “
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Online learning to be ‘under a single umbrella’; improvements to two of three campus child care facilities
The nine jump-start projects also include $ 1 million each in funding for more effective recruitment of freshmen and transfer students, and upgrades to equipment and infrastructure in laboratories.
The university wants to spend $ 600,000 to “develop Iowa State Online, a university-wide brand and support structure that will bring online education programs under a single umbrella.”
Hunt said online programs are currently structured by colleges or partnerships among colleges, but the university expects a more centralized, consistently branded structure would better serve students, faculty and employers’ needs, and “ensure a consistent level of quality based on best practices in online and hybrid course development and delivery. “
Last fall, 657 students were enrolled online, and the university wants to increase that number by 30% within five years while also offering two to four new programs or sets of credentials that students can earn.
Donors ‘$ 600,000, plus another $ 442,000 in university funds, will be used to renovate two of campus’ three child care facilities – at the College of Veterinary Medicine, and another located on North Stange Road at the university’s Family Resource Center.
The renovation priorities include the facilities’ heating, ventilation and cooling systems; flooring; counters; grading of playgrounds; and windows at the Veterinary Medicine facility, according to Hunt.
The university’s third child care facility – the Child Development Laboratory School, located in the heart of campus on Osborn Drive – has been in operation the longest, since 1924, but the school’s current home, the Palmer Building, opened in 2000.
Hunt said the three facilities together serve approximately 330 children each year.
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Phillip Sitter covers education for the Ames Tribune, including Iowa State University and PreK-12 schools in Ames and elsewhere in Story County. Phillip can be reached via email at [email protected] He is on Twitter @pslifeisabeauty.