University Innovation Alliance

Our Numbers

  • 19.1

    Million Dollars in Grant Funds

  • 30

    Percent increase in degrees awarded to low-income students across the UIA

  • 13,841

    Students have graduated to date

  • 90,000

    Students on track to graduate by 2025

Overview of the UIA

The University Innovation Alliance is the leading national coalition of public research universities committed to increasing the number and diversity of college graduates in the United States. Fifteen member institutions work together to develop, scale, and share innovative solutions that help students overcome academic, financial, and personal obstacles to success and earn a high-quality college degree from a major research university.

As a member of the UIA, Iowa State University is preparing students to graduate with the advanced skills necessary to thrive in the contemporary workforce. In a global economy that values applied knowledge, students from every background can benefit from the opportunity to learn from professors at world-class research universities who are advancing

Watch this short video or check out the UIA website to learn more.

In September 2014, Iowa State University officially joined the University Innovation Alliance (UIA). ISU’s participation in the UIA advances the university's statement of aspiration "To be the most student-centric leading research university" related to goal A1. Retention and graduation rates "Iowa State will monitor graduation and retention rates for our students, with goals to increase first to second year retention for all students and to close the gaps of graduation rates for traditionally underrepresented students." 

UIA Projects at Iowa State University

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 spaces, which are highly digitized. Chatbots provide students answers to questions and they 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.

Chatbot Graphic

Since the Completion Grant project began in 2017, Iowa State has issued nearly $400,000 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. Over $1.25 million was awarded to 700+ students in 2021-2022.

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 the Office of Student Financial Aid. 

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.

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.

Graduation ceremony

Processing Mapping

University Innovation Fellows have the opportunity to participate in process mapping training during their fellowship which can be used to support offices throughout their institutions.  The purpose of process mapping workshops is to begin redesigning processes at Iowa State in order to reduce inefficiencies and remove obstacles for students. Like many large higher education institutions, several processes at Iowa State are still cumbersome and confusing for students, faculty, and staff. These workshops allow teams to map out the current processes and identify steps that can be updated or in some cases, eliminated altogether.

By the end of the process mapping workshops, teams will be able to complete a draft of a new process, began redesigning new processes, or identify a need to expand their team and continue working over the process. To learn more about process mapping or the University Innovation Alliance, contact UIA Fellow Nicole Bartolozzi (

Iowa State UIA Team

  • Headshot of Wendy Wintersteen

    Wendy Wintersteen


    UIA Board Member

  • A headshot of Dr. Toyia Younger wearing a red blazer

    Dr. Toyia Younger

    Senior Vice President for Student Affairs  


  • Headshot of Nicole Bartolozzi

    Nicole Bartolozzi

    University Innovation Alliance Fellow

  • Headshot of Thiago Nogueria

    Thiago Nogueria

    Data Analyst