All posts by Ashton Hockman

ICYMI: Employee benefits info: Tips, Reminders, & Thanks

The following message was sent to faculty and staff by Venessa Macro, chief administration officer, on Monday, Nov. 23.

With one week of benefits open enrollment remaining, I wanted to highlight a few things about this year’s enrollment process. I also want to take this opportunity to express my thanks to the Human Resources team, as well as the University Benefits Committee for their respective roles in monitoring and administering the Drake University benefit plans. 

Drake University Health Plan – Adopting a New Network of Providers (Wellmark Blue Choice)

First, some key information about changes for those participating in the Drake Health Plan. While many features of the plan remain unchanged, the plan will use a new network of medical providers effective January 1, 2021. 

You will be asked to designate a network primary care physician and see that provider for your annual preventative exam/wellness visit. For all other covered services, participants continue to be able to choose providers—regardless of whether the provider is on the Blue Choice network. If you choose to see an out-of-network provider, consider increasing contributions to the Medical Flexible Spending Account plan to further reduce the impact of higher costs applicable to out-of-network services. Be sure to review the difference between in-network and out-of-network cost share amounts on the summary of benefits

Other key features of the Drake Health Plan are staying the same. Co-pays, deductibles, prescription drug benefit levels, out-of-pocket maximums, and monthly premiums all remain unchanged for 2021. You also may continue to obtain immunizations from a network pharmacy, as well as your medical provider. 

Tips for Making the Primary Care Physician Designation During Open Enrollment 

A very important step that everyone who participates in the health plan must take this year is to designate a primary care provider. When you enroll, you must enter the name and provider number for the primary care provider for you and everyone in your family who is on the Drake Health Plan. For step-by-step instructions on how to find your primary care physician in the directory, we have prepared a tutorial for your easy reference.  

Here are some things I found helpful when completing this process: 

  • Check to see if your provider participates in the Blue Choice Plan by searching for them by name in the Wellmark directory.  
  • Skip the request for a three-letter prefix when accessing the directory and browse by plan, using the Blue Choice POS plan.  
  • If the provider number does not show on the directory screen for your provider, try clicking on their name and then on “more information” link associated with the location for their offices on the right side of the screen. 
  • You can also always contact Wellmark directly to get the provider number at 800-362-2230.
  • Members who wish to designate an obstetrician or gynecologist as a co-care provider can contact Wellmark Customer Service at 800-362-2230 after January 1, 2021.

Please review carefully the information provided by HR in myDrake. Issues like how to ensure out of state dependents elect a primary care physician properly and what to do if you need care outside of Iowa, are all addressed in that document. Also, for additional enrollment instructions, check out this helpful video created by Anthony Leto, HR Systems and Recruitment Coordinator.
The Commitment to Employee Benefits   

Medical and dental rates will remain unchanged for 2021. In the current health care environment, where annual increases nationwide are trending at about 6%, this is certainly good news. Human Resources and the University Benefits Committee deserves thanks for making key changes over the past several years resulting in a more stable plan with less volatility and greater predictability. The change to the Blue Choice network is one example of this type of change. While changes are sometimes difficult, benefit plan design decisions balance the pressures of rising costs with the aim of providing competitive, quality benefits. 

We are mindful now more than ever of the importance of benefits protections. We hope that the efforts to review benefit plan design annually, coupled with competitive market pricing, and ongoing communication, will increase your awareness of the benefits offered and the University’s commitment of resources to provide those benefits for you and your family. For the key core benefits of health, dental, flex, life insurance, and disability benefits, the open enrollment platform guides you through coverage and the dollars dedicated to these benefits on your behalf. Even if you are not making changes to your coverage, I hope you will spend some time reviewing each benefit summary. 

As always, if you have questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to me or the HR team and remember to enroll by November 30. 

 — Venessa Macro, Chief Administration Officer

Building hours post-Thanksgiving break

With the transition to full virtual delivery of classes, campus building hours will be adjusted from Nov. 30–Dec. 11. Students will be able to access academic buildings and Old Main with a Drake ID from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Faculty and staff will still be able to utilize their authorized access plans and enter their office buildings 24/7.

Please contact Public Safety (515-271-2222) if you have a door access emergency during this time. Feel free to email if you have a general (non-emergency related) card access question or concern.

Cowles Library open hours/after-hours are listed on their website.

Drake University presents ‘Front Row on Thursday Night’

In an effort to stay connected with our Bulldog community while we are working and learning remotely, Drake is excited to announce Front Row on Thursday Night, a weekly virtual presentation to highlight the many aspects of our community. This weekly showcase will feature faculty, staff, and students from all colleges, departments, and talents on Drake University’s social media channels (Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube).

To produce content each week, we are putting out a call for recorded video submissions from any member of the Drake community. Videos can include athletic, academic, and artistic components, and should focus on members of the Drake community. Videos can be submitted from any college, school, or department, and showcase anything from a research project, to a fine arts performance, to an athletic event. Videos should be between 5 and 30 minutes long, and if filmed on a phone, must be recorded horizontally. Student extracurricular groups are also encouraged to apply, but must comply with the DrakeTogether COVID-19 guidelines.

Please submit your video using Upload and send your file for free to Ashton Hockman, assistant director of communications, at Submit your video at least one week prior to when you want it to stream.

The first segment of Front Row will debut Thursday, Dec. 3, at 7 p.m. Be sure to tune in via Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube.

Although COVID-19 has presented many unanticipated obstacles this school year, we are proud of what our Drake community has accomplished during these challenging times, and we look forward to seeing the many talents of our faculty, staff, and students.

Employee mail delivery

Postal Operations has made some adjustments to its internal processes. Read the announcement below for info on when to expect your mail and the department’s holiday hours.

Process updates: Due to changes at our local Post Office, mail has been arriving to campus later in the day then has traditionally been the case. This has caused us to adjust our daily delivery schedule, and we have been completing our morning mail route later in the day (closer to lunch hour). We will continue this schedule through the remainder of the academic year to ensure you are getting the majority of the mail that arrives each day. We appreciate your cooperation as we adjust to this new flow. Mary Cecil normally completes the morning route, and Christian Law normally completes the afternoon route. Please feel free to work with them directly if you have questions about when to expect your mail daily, and we will work to communicate with our building contacts if schedules are drastically off the daily norm.

Thanksgiving break: Mail will be delivered Monday and Tuesday of Thanksgiving week (Nov. 23 and Nov. 24), but Postal Operations will be closed for the holiday break (Nov. 25–Nov. 29). Mail delivery will resume on campus the week of Nov. 30.

Remainder of the semester: Students living on campus through the end of the semester can pick up their mail at Postal Operations between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m., Monday through Friday, on days that the mailroom is open. We will continue our normal campus mail delivery through the remainder of the semester.

Winter break: The mailroom will close during the University break (Dec. 19–Jan. 3), and deliveries to campus buildings will resume on Jan. 4.

Thank you for your support and partnership this year, and feel free to contact us at if you have any specific questions or concerns regarding the upcoming schedule.

— Sara Heijerman, Student Services Center

Celebrating first-gen students

Nov. 8 was National First-Generation Student Day! First-generation college students are an important part of the Drake community—about 14% of our campus community are first-gen students. This week we want to celebrate and recognize the achievements and experiences of first-gen students at Drake.

Read about six current Bulldogs who are the first in their families to pursue or earn a college degree. Learn why they chose Drake, and what inspires them.

— Marina Verlengia, Academic Excellence and Student Success

Join a Campus Climate Assessment small group discussion

A series of small group discussions will be held from Nov. 11–20 for students, faculty, and staff to brainstorm ideas and action steps in response to the Campus Climate Assessment. Sign up for a small group discussion.

The Campus Climate Assessment survey, implemented in November 2019, was designed to learn about the experiences and attitudes of current faculty, staff, and students. The public forums held on Nov. 9 and 10 provided our community with the survey data. Through the small group discussions, our goal is to begin the process of coming up with actionable next steps for campus. Our purpose is to identify specific actions that respond to the report’s findings.

— Erin Lain, Campus Equity & Inclusion

University Communications and Marketing responds to survey feedback

Thanks to all faculty and staff who responded to this year’s Administrative Services survey. Feedback provides helpful perspective and particularly so during these challenging times. By necessity, COVID-19 has been top priority for University Communications and Marketing (UCM) for nearly nine months. We have been helping address day-to-day issues and needs, on top of managing the COVID-19 website and issuing an average of 3-4 updates per month to keep campus well-informed. Additionally, UCM has pivoted time and again to create virtual experiences for commencement, admission visits, donor recognition, and other programs that would traditionally be held on campus and in person. All of these efforts have been on top of the team’s normal workload. To call this an extraordinary year would be a gross understatement. 

Despite the many challenges posed by COVID-19, survey feedback signals solid satisfaction with UCM. On a scale from 1 to 5, with 5 being highest, campus colleagues rated UCM as 3.77. While that’s a decrease from 3.98 in 2019, the score is still above average and higher than years prior to 2019. And as has been the pattern for several years now, campus colleagues ranked UCM well above average for being courteous (4.42), professional (4.36) and knowledgeable (4.29). We are especially proud of these scores, and we appreciate the support and affirmation.

Survey respondents ranked UCM highest for campus communications (4.11) and branding (4.10). Alumni/donor communications (3.76) and student recruitment marketing (3.75) were perceived as the next-highest areas of strength. Still, UCM has room to improve. Colleagues ranked UCM lowest for responsiveness (3.84), compared to the very high marks for courteousness, professionalism, and knowledge. Some other general areas of desired improvement include better understanding audience needs (3.74), creating unique solutions to challenges (3.60) and making more of a significant impact (3.54). Specific areas of concern are strategic planning (3.38) and unit-level support, particularly in the area of public relations (3.65). Despite these criticisms, it’s worth sharing that UCM came in under budget for FY20 and improved in 15 of its 17 continuous improvement measures, including double-digit percentage gains in performance across platforms—i.e. paid media (advertising), earned media (PR), shared media (social media), and owned media (website and other digital assets). 

Still, we will take some time before winter break to reflect on this past calendar year—from the caucus season to COVID-19—and talk through how UCM might make even more of a positive impact in 2021. In addition, I will reach out to a cross-sample of campus partners in the next few weeks, to try to better understand how they define the main areas of criticism (e.g. “responsiveness”) and to gather more robust feedback on these concerns. Finally, the search for my successor has begun and a new UCM executive director should be in place by the time spring semester gets underway. She or he will have access to the survey feedback and my notes from campus partner follow-up discussions. No doubt this new leader of the UCM team will bring fresh insights and ideas on how to effectively support the University and its many needs.

— Dave Remund, Executive Director, University Communications and Marketing

Uganda travel seminar planned for May 2021

We are optimistically planning for a return to Uganda in May and would be delighted to have you join us in 2021.

BUS 067–Sustainable Development in Sub-Saharan Africa is six credits, three weeks in May, meets the Engaged Citizen AOI, and can be a great elective course.

A virtual information session is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 11, at 5 p.m. Bookmark the Zoom link and feel free to share it with anyone who may be interested. Also, please post or share the image above.

For questions, contact Professors Jimmy Senteza or Deb Bishop.

— Jimmy Senteza, College of Business & Public Administration

United Way Campaign generates approximately $27,000

Our 2020 United Way Campaign wrapped up at 3 p.m. Friday, Oct. 16. With 146 participants we raised $27,307. Thank you for your consideration and generosity. Your financial support will help meet the needs of our neighbors, many of whom are facing new and exacerbated challenges as a result of the pandemic. If donating to the United Way remains a consideration for you and your family, please know you can do so year around at:

Ryan Arnold, Community Engagement

“Meeting-free day” Nov. 3

On Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 3, we are all called upon to do our civic duty and vote in our national presidential election. Drake recognizes that this responsibility poses some challenges for employees who are juggling competing personal demands and, depending on where you live, a time commitment that can feel restricting. So, the University is declaring Nov. 3 a meeting-free day to eliminate any time sensitive job responsibilities and give faculty and staff the freedom to take the time to vote without consequence. In the coming days, watch for an organization-wide calendar hold to be sent for the entire day, restricting any conflicting meetings to be scheduled and serve as a reminder for us all to make our vote count.