Friday, July 28, 2017

Over 150 University of Iowa students, faculty, and staff embraced challenging, high-impact projects in Winneshiek County and Decorah, Iowa, from 2014 to 2016, collaborating with community partners on a range of issues.

Through the Iowa Initiative for Sustainable Communities (IISC), University of Iowa professors and students help Iowa communities build a more sustainable tomorrow by addressing the economic, environmental, and sociocultural issues of today, according to the IISC website.

The IISC is a campuswide initiative housed in the Office of Outreach and Engagement in the UI Office of the Provost.

“Our goal is to participate at the very highest level in meeting the needs of our community partners while offering university expertise that coincides with the wishes of Iowa citizens,” says Linda Snetselaar, UI associate provost for outreach and engagement.

For two years, the Decorah and Winneshiek County project proposals carried city, county, and regional importance. Students worked on an economic-impact study of the frac sand mining industry, a design for a new Neste Park Recreational Facility and Nature Center, and a plan for storm water–management best practices in Decorah, including financing alternatives to pay for improvements.

“Some of the studies have had a long-lasting influence on public health, public safety, and quality of life for residents in Winneshiek County and its municipalities,” says Dean Thompson, a Winneshiek County supervisor.

Follow riders across the state—and learn about the University of Iowa’s impact all along the route—on social media by using #RAGBRAI and #forIowa.

Students in the Tippie College of Business’ Department of Marketing have worked closely with the Winneshiek County Conservation Board to create the development of a Friends Group, a collaborative team of nonprofits with similar missions of providing natural resource–based recreational and education opportunities in Winneshiek County and northeast Iowa.

Graduate students in the UI School of Urban and Regional Planning conducted an economic impact assessment for the Trout Run Trail in Winneshiek County and developed a recreational trails plan for the area. Additionally, a doctoral candidate in geographic and sustainability sciences completed geographic information systems (GIS) modeling to provide information for Winneshiek County’s Bluffland Protection Overlay District.

“We believe the students bring a fresh perspective to Decorah’s projects and offer keen insight into solving our issues in a positive and energetic way,” Decorah City Manager Chad Bird says.