Annual Report 2023


Kristen Constant

Department Values

  • Innovative
  • Respectful
  • Dependable
  • Customer-focused
  • Campus partner

See our work accomplished during the 2023 fiscal year to advance the ITS strategic plan. The strategic plan outlines four primary objectives in relation to education, research, the customer experience and enterprise services.

Message from the CIO

Our mission in Information Technology Services is to connect people with the tools needed for excellence – in education, research, outreach and university operations. Every day we continue to build a technical infrastructure supporting world-class innovation.

From enhancing classroom technology to guarding against cyber threats, our teams help make Iowa State the student-centric, research-oriented and inclusive university we strive to be.

Many ITS team members are also with the WorkCyte Phase II project to implement Workday Student and Receivables. The three-year project will modernize student information systems and offer student Cyclones an intuitive, cloud-based experience to manage their educational journey – from tracking their application for admission to planning for classes, accepting financial aid and more.

Digital accessibility remains a foundational aspect in our work to provide secure, relevant and sustainable technology services and solutions. To help campus achieve the benchmarks set forth in the Digital Accessibility policy, team members evaluate new software purchases for accessibility and support tools like Siteimprove and Canvas Anthology Ally. ITS teams also released new website templates with updated branding and built-in accessibility.

In addition to these technologies, we reconsidered how the framework of the department might better serve the university. As a result, the department updated its organizational structure with added leadership roles. The restructured positions include chief information security officer, chief technology officer and a team of senior managers.

I encourage you to engage with our teams to help you find solutions to your challenges. Working collaboratively, we can foster innovation that reaches across disciplines, departments and to the world beyond. 

Kristen Constant

Vice President and Chief Information Officer 

Objective I: Enhance the comprehensive educational experience.

New Student Technology Committee Provides Feedback

To more effectively engage with students about technology needs, a new student committee has been established. With a multi-department focus, the Student Technology Advisory Committee will meet twice a semester to gather student feedback about technology needs that support learning. This diverse group of 20+ students will weigh in on technology functionality and the use of technological fees.

This new committee replaces the former Committee on the Advancement of Student Technology for Learning Enhancement, otherwise known as CASTLE.

Migrating Student Email to Outlook

Beginning in summer 2022, Iowa State student email migrated from CyMail (Gmail) to Microsoft Outlook. The ITS Identity Services team moved more than 20,000 Net-IDs to the new platform in a 4-month time span. As a result, students have access to additional features such as inbox rules and message quick parts that allow for better email organization and efficiency.

In addition, Outlook offers easy integrations, or “add-ins,” with other enterprise tools such as Webex and Adobe Acrobat Sign. The effort unified students, faculty and staff under one email and calendaring system, which also simplifies issue management and resolution.  

Audiovisual Enhancements Across Campus

To provide more unified guidance on installing audiovisual equipment, the Audiovisual Experience team instituted new AV standards for campus. Reviewed and rewritten in 2022, the standards offer more instruction on installing audiovisual solutions. The team published the new standards with four primary areas of audiovisual focus: institutional standards, infrastructure standards, leveled room configuration, and contractor standards.

The guidelines help empower AV users to be confident using audiovisual equipment in various room on campus. In addition, the team supported 50 “Level 1” and 161 “Level 2” classrooms during the academic year for a high-quality learning experience.

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Increasing Print Credit Balances for Students

ITS facilitated a pilot for increased print credits to make printing on campus easier for students. During the pilot, students received double the allotment of base credits – from 500 to 1000 – for summer and fall sessions. Funded by student technology fees and supported by university Student Government, increased balances provided opportunities to print more materials for courses.

The effort contributes to an equitable student technology experience and promotes university sustainability goals as well. The pilot was successful and approved for future semester use.

Ensuring Course Content Accessibility in Canvas

The ITS Digital Accessibility team introduced a new accessibility tool for students to use alongside their courses in Canvas. Anthology Ally, the new tool, provides six alternative accessible formats to any added page or document in Canvas. With Ally, students have access to format options such as HTML, a tagged PDF, an MP3 audio file and electronic Braille.

These formats make course content more accessible to all students including those with learning differences or disabilities. Twenty courses were piloted with Anthology Ally in fall 2022. The feedback given from the pilot helped bring the new accessibility tool to all Canvas courses at the start of the 2023 semester. With this in place, the university is better able to meet the goals set by the Digital Accessibility Policy instituted in 2022.

Transferring Digital Accessibility Equipment for Student Access

In spring 2023, the Digital Accessibility team increased student accessibility resources by transferring accessibility equipment to Tech Lending in Parks Library. Students in need of accessibility resources such as C-Pens, braille displays, speech recognition software and more can check them out at no cost.

With the physical location of the Digital Accessibility Lab in Durham Center closed, members of the Digital Accessibility team are establishing a virtual lab for Cyclones. The new online presence will help students work through training using Workday Learning and explore a Digital Accessibility Toolkit currently in development, and check equipment out much more easily and use it anywhere.

Objective II: Enable our partners in research.

Increasing Research Computing Support

In spring 2023, ITS assembled a short-term task group for enhancing research computing support across the university. Members represent various units and departments campuswide. The group will convene during the next fiscal year to advance and improve the research computing experience on campus.

The collaboration will produce a roadmap for future research computing development as well as recommendations that continue to ignite innovation.  

Merging Cluster Resources for Greater Computing Power

Students and faculty now possess access to enhanced high performance computing resources for high-speed computation. The HPC team, beginning with an approved funding initiative in early 2022, worked to combined and share computing infrastructure between different clusters. Since then, the merging process has been completed.

HPC clusters are composed of interconnected computers called “nodes.” Nodes are similar to a traditional desktop or laptop ­­­with CPU cores, memory and disk space ­­but possess much more computing power. With the merger, faculty and student researchers benefit from more effective and efficient data processing. New, advanced nodes were also installed during the merger. The nodes are ideal for innovative projects such as automated technology, crop simulations and cell biology.

Updating Data Center Fire Protection 

ITS installed a new fire suppression system in the Durham Data Center to ensure the safety of user data. The new system uses NOVEC 1230, a clean agent gas that does not consume oxygen. This update provides the highest level of safety to customers and their data as well as employees in the building. The three-year effort was support with department funds.

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Collaborating with Oklahoma University on OURRstore

Iowa State University collaborated with Oklahoma University to join the advisory board for the OU & Regional Research Store (OURRstore), a bulk data archive project for regional research developments. Through OURRstore, students, faculty and staff have access to over 100 petabytes of storage for building and sharing large datasets for research.

The opportunity for board membership came about, thanks to the state’s participation in the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, or EPSCoR. The ITS High Performance Computing team has elected a team member for the board position.

Empowering Future ITS Professionals

In November 2022, High Performance Computing team member Dr. Marina Kraeva led the Early Career Program at the annual supercomputing conference in Dallas, Texas. To empower and inspire the next generation of IT leaders, the conference showcases the latest HPC advancements. The Early Career Program of the conference features many professional skill-building sessions such as interview training, mentorship insights, networking strategies and more.

Additionally, with over 350 exhibitors, more than 70 group discussions, and numerous workshops, attendees engaged with ever-growing opportunities in high performance computing careers.

Objective III: Deliver and support high-quality enterprise services.

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Beginning the Implementation of Workday Student and Receivables

As an integral member of the Iowa State University WorkCyte program, ITS is engaged in large-scale projects to modernize university systems. The WorkCyte Phase II project now underway will result in the implementation of the Workday Student and Receivables software. Workday Student will replace student information systems like AccessPlus that are ready to retire.

Icon portraying the WorkCyte project

The project benefits from the contributions of over 680 team members, many of which are ITS employees. During the fiscal year, the project team completed much of the configuration needed to do business the Iowa State way. Milestones included:
 - Project team and campus testing.

 - Training material development and review.

 - The first of six phased launches.

Throughout the year, more than 10,000 process scenarios were created and tested by the project team. By March, testing expanded in an activity called User Readiness Review. Faculty and staff piloted the training materials and provided feedback on accuracy and helpfulness.

In addition, the project team hosted nine readiness workshops that shared a first look at the new software. Over 1,100 Iowa State employees attended the workshops in real time and 2,673 reviewed the webinar at a later date. For training, 62 how-to articles were published in the ISU Service Portal and several digital learning courses were developed.

When the first phased launch – also called “rollout period” – arrived in June, select campus employees began using Workday Student for recruiting and admissions business processes, including undergraduate admissions applications processing. Looking ahead, rollout periods two and three are set for fiscal year 2024, and periods five and six after that.

Upgrading Wireless Infrastructure to Wi-Fi 6

To continue modernizing IT infrastructure, ITS replaced over 5,000 wireless access points across campus. Access points boost signal to the surrounding area that provides better connection to Wi-Fi. The new access points upgraded campus wireless networks to Wi-Fi 6, to improve network efficiency in high density areas.

The access points are three times more efficient in busier areas, benefiting classrooms and crowded public areas the most. Better network infrastructure allows Iowa State to handle greater network traffic and better serve the campus community.

Implementing Tool for Managing Non-credit Courses

During 2022, the ITS Distributed Systems Services team implemented Canvas Catalog, or “Canvas 2,” for administering non-credit courses offered by the university. In comparison, the primary Canvas application lets students manage and participate in for-credit classes.

With the tool rolling out in phases, Canvas Catalog successfully became a part of the ISU Extension Store in spring 2023. The Extension Store allows people across Iowa and beyond to enroll in fee-based non-credit courses like the Master Gardener Training.

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Migrating Atlassian Software Tools

University project and technical teams operate with Atlassian software tools such as Jira and Confluence for information and task management. In spring 2023, Jira and Confluence migrated to virtual cloud-based servers thanks to the combined efforts of ITS teams. By moving from on-premise servers to cloud platforms, campus users benefit from increased security and the latest feature updates.

This change adjusts responsibilities for server maintenance from university technicians to Atlassian. As a result, university IT employees can redistribute effort across other strategic initiatives.

MyFiles Data Synced to New “Files” Platform

In continuing efforts to manage enterprise file storage tools, ITS led file sync efforts from MyFiles to the new Files service. The Files service replaces MyFiles as an on-premises solution to store computer backups or archive data. The university also successfully stabilized storage costs, by reducing Google Drive use. After Google implemented a storage quota, ITS assisted campus in moving overflow data from Google Drive to an alternative solution.

IT professionals for campus units helped lead the effort to reduce data from 1700 TB to 140 TB within a year. Files stored on Google Drive became read-only in January 2023.

Objective IV: Enrich the ITS employee and customer experience.

Designing New University Web Templates

ITS implemented a new website theme to align with the new Iowa State University site. The effort was a cross-functional project between the ITS Web Development and Digital Accessibility teams along with the University Strategic Relations and Communications unit. The new theme within the Drupal web management platform includes several web page templates available for all campus departments to use.

After the templates were released, ITS became one of the first departments on campus to launch a redesigned website that coordinates with updated university branding. Because the templates were designed with accessibility in mind, the department site successfully met the 2024 benchmark outlined in university Digital Accessibility Policy.

Collecting New Ideas for Call Center Technology

The ITS Collaboration Services team administered a survey to various campus call center supervisors to collect new ideas for updating ISU call center technology.

From the survey, the team identified that call center screen recording, live statistics and reporting, and digital engagement with email, chat and SMS are desired features. Together, the team is developing new solutions that allow Iowa State call centers to be even more successful.

Establishing New Committees

ITS formed three new internal committees to enhance culture and recognize work of employees. The professional development and awards committee develops a program for professional development and create awards to recognize outstanding employees. The innovations committee promotes a culture of innovative thinking within ITS and provides an outlet for employee input. The architecture committee ensures enterprise projects are properly vetted and provide input on other major projects and the design process.

To better connect employees, these committees provide an opportunity for staff to work together who don’t usually collaborate.

Helping to Develop the New Parking System

ITS teams collaborated with the ISU Parking Division to develop a new system that allows students, faculty, staff and guests to purchase parking permits with ease. Teams from three enterprise operational areas assisted with the parking portal’s development, which allows commuters to conveniently purchase virtual permits and pay fines. Virtual permits eliminate the need for physical hangtags and stickers.

This change increases efficiency of checking for permits across campus and decreases time appealing incorrectly displayed permit tickets.

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Providing On-campus Tech Support

The IT Solution Center is the go-to resource for providing unparalleled technology support to all students, faculty and staff of Iowa State University.

In the last year, solution center team members have worked through and resolved a total of 47,622 help tickets for campus customers. This means, team members resolved:

  • 3,968 tickets per month
  • 915 tickets per week
  • 134 tickets per day...which ultimately equals...
  • 1 ticket every 4.5 minutes

Developing Department Intranet

To better connect department employees, ITS has kicked off a project to create an intranet. The intranet will highlight resources, link to training, share timely messages and provide a collaboration space, all with ease of access.

The intranet creation team is leveraging SharePoint as the tool of choice, as it integrates well with other Microsoft products already in use. The endeavor will add to the community-building goals within the department.

Refining ServiceNow Knowledge Management

Several enhancements to the ISU Service Portal refined the self-service customer experience for students, faculty and staff. With the ISU Service Portal, users have access to how-to articles, service request forms, and IT support tickets. The ITS Systems Infrastructure team released new ServiceNow features that enhance the portal’s search and filter capabilities.

The collection of filter options gives a more customizable browsing experience. Users can narrow down the set parameters while searching for a specific article topics.

Dynamic and driven by the university community, the updated ISU Service Portal interface prioritizes popular search terms across campus to keep information relevant. Plus, knowledge and service requests are now categorized together, not separately.

The back-end interface of ServiceNow also received an update. Called the “Next Experience” interface, the platform view where ITS team members work is more user-friendly with intuitive menus.

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ITS Awards and Recognition

Student Employee Supervisor of the Year, Iowa State University

Linda Deshane, IT Solution Center

Higher Ed AV Team of the Year

Audiovisual Experience team

25 Years of Service, Iowa State University

Zak Bell, Web Development team

Dan Black, Web Development team

Dustin Evermore, Systems Infrastructure team

Darrin Fischer, Campus Technology unit

Craig Rannells, Business Systems and Archival Services team

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Nomination, Higher Ed AV Professional of the Year

Dan Brauer, Audiovisual Experience team

Nomination, Higher Ed AV Architect of the Year

Dan Brauer, Audiovisual Experience team

Emerging Leaders Academy

Connor Kuehl, Physical Infrastructure team

Cardinal Women

Julie Kirts, Budget and Finance team

Jenni Markham, Reporting and Analytics team

Brittni Wendling, Digital Accessibility team

P&S Council Representatives

Mike Fischer, Strategic Communications team

Megan Jensen, Identity Services team

Brittni Wendling, Digital Accessibility team