Category Archives: Strategic Updates Archive

Drake names Leslie Maynes executive director of University Communications and Marketing

University Advancement is pleased to welcome Leslie Maynes as the new executive director of University Communications and Marketing. Leslie will begin her position Jan. 19 and report to John Smith, vice president of University Advancement.

Leslie has more than 15 years of experience in public relations and marketing. Most recently, she has been managing director at Two Rivers Marketing where she leads a team of 25 communications professionals to support and provide strategic marketing direction to a global client base.

She holds degrees from the University of Iowa in English and Journalism. Recent professional honors earned by Leslie’s marketing team include an American Marketing Association of Iowa’s People’s Choice Award and a National Content Marketing World Finalist designation.

Leslie succeeds Dave Remund and will continue to build off the momentum and success University Communications and Marketing has achieved under his leadership. Leslie’s professional, industry, and agency experience will be an incredible asset to the University. Her strong knowledge of brand development, creative vision, and passion for team member development will no doubt drive Drake forward.

Please help me welcome Leslie, her husband, John, and 12-year-old identical twin boys, Will and Sully, to the Bulldog family.

John Smith, University Advancement

Reminder: Microsoft Teams Calling to deploy Jan. 14

As previously communicated in OnCampus, ITS is upgrading the campus phone system and moving faculty and staff to using Microsoft Teams. On Thursday, Jan. 14, the Microsoft Teams client will replace traditional handsets and allow faculty and staff to make and receive telephone calls using their office extension from anywhere they are connected to the Internet. This change won’t affect physical phones in conference rooms, classrooms, or public areas.

ITS staff will be moving groups of phone extensions throughout the day, so you may not be on Teams calling until the evening. We will post progress updates several times during the day to our communication channels including our news feed at and on the IT Service Portal at

We distributed headsets to all full-time employees last year. If you experience any headset issues, please consult the user guides linked from ITS Recommended Phone Headsets (FAQ). If you need further assistance, please submit a Telephone Issue request.

On Jan. 14, you’ll receive an email outlining how to get started along with the first steps you’ll need to take to set up your voicemail and begin using Teams to make calls.

There are links to ITS-curated resources at Using Microsoft Teams for Phone Calls and Voicemail (How-to) and Using Advanced Calling Features in Microsoft Teams (How-to).

We’ve also created a FAQ page that we’ll keep up into the beginning of the spring semester at If you don’t see your question there, please share it with us at

— Chris Mielke, ITS

Front Row at Drake airs Thursday with Darian DeVries and Jennie Baranczyk

Don’t miss this week’s episode of Front Row at Drake featuring Drake head basketball coaches Darian DeVries and Jennie Baranczyk. Tune in at 7 p.m. on Drake’s Facebook page to hear how both the men’s and women’s basketball teams are embracing and finding success in this unusual season.

If you didn’t catch last week’s episode, you can still watch it on Facebook. Front Row at Drake will pause for winter break and return on Thursday, Jan. 7.

Upcoming Meeting-free days

On Nov. 3, for Election Day, the University held a meeting-free day, and it was a welcomed break. It enhanced the mental and emotional well-being of students, staff, and faculty. As a result of its resounding success, beginning in January, one day each month will be designated as a meeting-free day. Note: Only three meeting-free days are scheduled to occur during the spring academic semester. Faculty are encouraged to lighten the load for students on these days, and may choose to cancel class as appropriate within accreditation requirements, and at their discretion.

Upcoming meeting-free days:

  • Tuesday, Jan. 12
  • Wednesday, Feb. 17
  • Tuesday, March 16
  • Wednesday, April 14
  • Tuesday, May 25
  • Wednesday, June 23

— Drinda Williams, Office of the Provost

Front Row at Drake: Second episode to premiere Thursday

Don’t miss this week’s episode of Front Row at Drake featuring a conversation with two of Drake’s most prominent and successful alums Jonathan Azu and Louis Carr. Tune in at 7 p.m. on Drake’s Facebook page to hear how these Drake graduates rose to become top leaders in the music and entertainment industry.

If you didn’t catch last week’s episode showcasing a unique recording project by Drake’s Jazz Ensemble One, you can still watch it on Facebook. The episode reached more than 2,000 views in just four days.

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

Call for submissions: Front Row on Thursday Night

The first segment of Front Row will debut Thursday, Dec. 3, at 7 p.m. and feature Drake’s Jazz One ensemble. Be sure to tune in via Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube.

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.

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.

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

Community stadium construction to begin in November

There will soon be construction equipment on the site of the new community stadium. Demolition and excavation work is scheduled to begin the beginning of November. The Sprout Garden has been moved to a new location at 31st Street and Carpenter (south of Drake West Village). Work to complete the relocation will continue through Spring 2021. Parking Lot 2 (Shivers Parking Lot) to the east of Shivers, will be off-line coinciding with the start of construction. Lot 2 will be removed as part of the site preparation for the new stadium.

— Michelle Huggins, Facilities Planning & Management