Iowa State University Human Sciences Extension and Outreach Staff answer Iowan’s calls for fact-based information

By Allison Martyr


As the public’s need for factual information about COVID-19 skyrockets, four Human Sciences Extension and Outreach employees who specialize in family life have pivoted in their positions to answer Iowan’s questions about symptoms, testing availability, rent assistance, unemployment, economic stimulus payments, stress, farm-related financial concerns and succession planning, and more.   

“I am so proud of these Human Sciences Extension and Outreach staff members,”said Debra Sellers, associate dean in the College of Human Sciences and director of Human Sciences Extension and Outreach. “We realize that it is our time to serve as Iowans are greatly in need of the education we can provide in family life, family finance, and nutrition and wellness. These staff members have answered the call in a unique and impactful way.”

Tammy Jacobs, the hotlines coordinator in ISU Human Sciences Extension and Outreach, helped train and prepare the new team to answer phone calls within days. 

“Using Zoom [videoconferencing service], I was able to do a training session — and record it  — with two of the three specialists. I was then able to share this with the other specialist and Sellers research assistant,” Jacobs said. 

Jacobs taught the professionals how to use a new web-based phone system, allowing calls to be answered remotely while practicing social-distancing. They also learned how to document calls within the web-based reporting system. 

Joy Rouse, Rosa Gonzalez, Cheryl Clark, and Peggy Lockhart are now focusing on answering Iowa 2-1-1 calls. All of the information they provide comes from the Iowa Department of Public Health. 

Jacobs is thrilled with the work of the staffers which helps meet the needs of Iowans in a timely manner during the challenging pandemic. 

“Since training these staff members, our wait time for callers has been incredible and they have all been amazing assets to have,” Jacobs said. “It just amazes me at how quickly and readily these team members have stepped up to the plate and jumped into a totally new and unfamiliar area.”

With a toll-free phone number, live chat capabilities, and a website, Iowa Concern services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at no charge. Iowa Concern provides access to stress counselors and an attorney for legal education, and offers information and referral services for a wide variety of needs.

Iowa Concern aims to answer all incoming calls within two minutes, while ensuring that callers are greeted with a friendly voice and assistance in answering their questions. Over the past month the average wait time has been 1 minute and 23 seconds. 

Common inquiries both hotlines are receiving include questions about agriculture — specifically regarding financial concerns, stress, and succession planning.  

To reach Iowa 2-1-1, dial 2-1-1. To reach Iowa Concern, call 800-447-1985. Language interpretation services are available for both. 

For more information on the Iowa Concern hotline and Iowa 2-11 hotline, check out their websites. 

Iowa Concern:

Iowa 2-1-1:


Key contacts

Debra Sellers, Director of Human Sciences Extension and Outreach,

Tammy Jacobs, Human Sciences Extension and Outreach Hotlines Coordinator,

By Allison Martyr