UIA Projects at Iowa State

Initiated in 2018

Chatbot Technology

Students who are enrolled on college campuses today overwhelmingly report a preference for personalized, real time, and on demand experiences. In order to expand connections with students at Iowa State University, we must meet them in their native spaces, which have become highly digitized. While common in other industries (like retail and finance), chatbots have only recently made their way into higher education, where they are primarily programmed with automated answers to repetitive or common questions, and students are able to receive immediate responses around the clock. The chatbot project is made possible by a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, funded through the University Innovation Alliance. Iowa State’s chatbot, named Cy, launched in February 2020 on Financial Aid, Registrar, Accounts Receivable, Housing, and Veterans Center websites. Iowa State partnered with Ocelot to deliver chatbot services.

Chatbot Graphic


Initiated in 2017

UIA Completion Grants

Since the Completion Grant project began in 2017, Iowa State has issued over $380,000 in Completion Grants to more than 650 students. Due to the impact of the UIA Completion Grants, additional completion grant awards have been secured through the support of donors and made available through the Cyclone Success Grant and the Troxel Award.

The UIA Completion Grant program provides critical assistance to students who are approaching graduation but face financial hurdles restricting their ability to complete their postsecondary education. Funding for this grant is provided by The Great Lakes and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with matching support from UIA institutions.

Information about Iowa State’s completion grants can be obtained from Roberta Johnson, Director of Financial Aid.


Initiated in 2016

M.A.A.P.S. (Monitoring Advising Analytics to Promote Success)

In September 2015, the University Innovation Alliance was awarded an $8.9 million grant to engage a four-year study evaluating the effectiveness of proactive advising in increasing retention, progression and graduation rates for low-income and first-generation students. The grant was funded through the U.S. Department of Education’s First in the World competition, which encouraged innovation among institutions of higher education.

The M.A.A.P.S. grants allowed Iowa State to implement an academic coaching intervention with low-income and first-generation students. In partnership with Iowa State’s Academic Success Center, two Cyclone Success Coaches worked with students to:

  • Develop and track progress using individualized academic maps;
  • Monitor and track student success using data analytic systems; and
  • Provide timely, targeted interventions to assist students in staying on track for success and graduation

The M.A.A.P.S. grant ended in September 2019, and data collection and analysis is currently underway to determine the effects of the interventions.


Initiated in 2015

Data Analytics using the Educational Advisory Board (EAB) Student Success Collaborative Campus System

EAB is Iowa State’s Student Success platform designed to bring software, data and technology to academic advising and degree planning in new and exciting ways. More specifically, it provides academic advisers with a dashboard of information about students’ current progress toward degree completion, as well as a centralized communication, scheduling and a documentation system to support academic advising, tutoring and other support services. Moreover, the platform:

  • Provides real-time information about students’ academic risks;
  • Matches sophisticated predictive analytics with historical performance benchmarks; and
  • Provides tools to help academic advisers lead efficient and productive discussions with students.

After a successful pilot across several academic departments/units, training was offered to all academic units in August 2016. Since then, hundreds of advisers/staff members have been trained and granted access to the EAB platform in addition to several units within the Division of Student Affairs.