Wednesday, March 16, 2016

We all know that the University of Iowa has rivals across the fields, courts, pools, and tracks of the Big Ten Conference, but lesser known is the long-standing, high-impact collaborations the UI has with these same universities.

Founded in 1958, the Committee on Institutional Cooperation is composed of the universities in the Big Ten Conference and the University of Chicago. Every year, CIC universities, including the University of Iowa, work together to save millions of dollars on joint purchases and contracts, access resources on other member campuses, and unite to solve problems faster.

“The University of Iowa benefits from being a member of such an outstanding group of universities,” says Barry Butler, UI provost and executive vice president.

CIC member universities, including the UI, together have a powerful voice in the academic conversation both nationally and globally. With annual research expenditures topping more than $10 billion (more than the Ivy League and the University of California system combined) and spanning 11 states from the High Plains to the Eastern Seaboard, the 15 universities of the CIC have an enormous influence on research and education far beyond their geographical footprint.

The newly released CIC Annual Report details the collective power and progress of this enterprise, highlighting:

  • The Health Disparities initiative between the state departments of health and the member schools
  • Faculty collaborations in theater, music education, and business
  • Data on the economic impact of the scientific workforce and funded research being done across the campuses

One particular project, the Big Ten Theatre Consortium, established a commission program to support female playwrights and provide female theater students and professional actors with strong roles. With a collaborative commitment to commission, produce, and publicize one play each year for three years and, as the project progresses, potentially commit to additional years, the consortium first commissioned playwright Naomi Iizuka. Her play, Good Kids, is being produced exclusively by Big Ten universities throughout 2014–16.

The 2015–16 season’s commissioned work is Baltimore, by playwright Kirsten Greenidge. Each commission will include the provision that any Big Ten university can perform the play royalty-free for up to three years.

“One of the pleasures of this initiative has been working with the chairs of the Big Ten theater departments and schools,” says Alan MacVey, director of the University of Iowa’s Division of Performing Arts and chair of the Department of Theatre Arts. “Alone, none of us could commission a series of plays, but collectively we’re making a real contribution to the theatre and especially to colleges that are looking for plays with excellent roles for women. We’re not competitive—we’re collaborative. It shows how much you can get done when you work together.”