Next fall, the University of Iowa Office of the Provost will transition outreach and engagement programming to the colleges and departments. The decision follows a review of the Office of Outreach and Engagement last spring to gather information about current programming and determine the best way to encourage broader engagement university wide. The review highlighted dozens of successful community partnerships across Iowa, but also a desire by the college deans to grow their own engagement efforts.
“The faculty currently involved in this work will remain involved because they see how it supports student learning, provides research opportunities, and strengthens local communities,” says Executive Vice President and Provost Montserrat Fuentes. “This transition is a step toward greater engagement and Iowans who want to partner with the university should continue to reach out for expertise and assistance.”
Former Provost Barry Butler established the Office of Outreach and Engagement in 2013 to assist colleges and departments with the infrastructure necessary to boost community engagement across Iowa. The office provided funding, staff support, and training that led to positive outcomes across campus including:
- Awarding of the Carnegie Foundation’s Community Engagement Classification to the university
- Service learning projects (faculty and students engaged through the classroom with communities addressing local issues)
- 31 service-learning projects involving more than 4,000 UI students across Iowa during the 2018-19 academic year
- 132 service-learning projects across Iowa over the past 2.5 academic years
- Continued engaged scholarship from the Grant Wood Art Colony and Arts Share
“We owe much of this success to Associate Provost Linda Snetselaar, whose leadership has been instrumental in building relationships with community leaders across Iowa,” says Fuentes. “These partnerships have and will continue to make a difference for our students and the Iowans we serve.”
Fuentes says after six years, the programming has reached a level of maturity that allows it to be successfully transitioned back to the colleges. She says this will ensure efficiency and avoid duplicating efforts within other departments. The decision also reflects the university’s new budget model, which gives colleges and central service units greater control over their own budgets.
To ensure continuity, the Office of the Provost will coordinate with the deans, collegiate leadership, and Path Forward Engagement subcommittee members on faculty engagement and scholarship for the university. Snetselaar, a tenured faculty member in the College of Public Health, will remain engaged in through research, grant writing, and community initiatives.
“I am so proud of the work my team has done to support community-engaged learning across campus,” says Snetselaar. “These partnerships have provided students with real-world experiences, benefited local communities, and created new connections between the university and state we serve.”
Although the Office of Outreach and Engagement is relatively new in the history of the university, the UI has a long and proud tradition of serving the public through civic engagement. Faculty, staff, and students have long worked with communities across Iowa, the nation, and world to enhance educational opportunities and improve people’s lives.