History

IISC was founded in 2009 in the School of Urban & Regional Planning (now called the School of Planning & Public Affairs) by Dr. Charles Connerly. Connerly is the former president of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning and served as the director of the University of Iowa School of Planning & Public Affairs for more than a decade.

Since its inception, IISC has worked with communities in Iowa to advance sustainability across the state. In fall 2012, due to the success of these projects and the recognition that sustainability in Iowa spans a variety of disciplines, IISC expanded to include courses and departments from across campus. 

 

Over a decade of service

The Iowa Initiative for Sustainable Communities (IISC) is an engaged-learning program at the University of Iowa that is widely admired as one of the leading programs in the country for partnership building between institutions of higher education and communities. Since 2009, IISC has brought faculty, staff, and students to urban and rural communities throughout the state. This work enhances the teaching and learning experiences on our campus, while providing a depth and breadth of services, expertise, and resources to Iowa.

By taking students out of the classroom and into communities to complete real-world projects through classes and independent studies, IISC accomplishes two university-wide goals: enhancing sustainability across the state and transforming teaching and learning at the University of Iowa.

IISC approaches the holistic nature of sustainability by drawing on many disciplines across campus, including  urban and regional planning, civil & environmental engineering, business and marketing, law, art and art history, cinema arts, and more. Students, faculty, and staff in these diverse fields bridge disciplinary boundaries to develop innovative approaches to complex challenges.

A unique model for engagement and learning

The magnitude and depth of an IISC partnership make it unlike any other resource or service at the University of Iowa. Whereas some community engagement might consist of single project, IISC full partnerships include a minimum of fifteen projects produced with and for a single community over the course of an academic year. Dozens of top UI students and award-winning faculty from various disciplines bring their talents, enthusiasm, and creativity to each partnership.

Our model results in profound, transformative impact for partnering communities. The power of an IISC full partnership lies not only in the number and quality of projects, but in the opportunity for local citizens and community leaders to coalesce around a shared vision and goals. 

IISC is a competitive application process that requires a considerable amount of time and effort from prospective community partners, as well as a broad vision for the future. By the time students arrive on campus for the start of a new semester, community partners are ready and eager to begin working on the collaboration.

IISC is also unique because our professional staff works to ensure excellent results for community partners. Final deliverables reflect not only high quality work from students, but the professional expertise of IISC staff. 

Our Staff

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Travis Kraus

Director

Travis serves as Director of the Iowa Initiative for Sustainable Communities, a community engagement partnership program housed in the School of  Planning and Public Affairs. Travis joined IISC in August 2016 and manages the day-to-day operations of the IISC and works with community partners and University of Iowa faculty, staff and students to facilitate engaged-learning projects that promote economic development, social justice, and sustainability. 

Travis holds an appointment as Faculty Fellow for Engaged Teaching and Scholarship with the UI Office of Community Engagement. He serves on the board of directors for EPIC-N, an international network of community engagement programs, and he also enjoys serving on the board of the local arts non-profit, Public Space One. 

Prior to joining the IISC, Travis led the Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development organizations in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, worked as a regional planner for the Southeast Iowa Regional Planning Commission, and was a successful small business entrepreneur for many years. Travis earned a Master's degree in Urban & Regional Planning from the University of Iowa, where he also earned a Bachelor’s degree in English and a secondary teaching certificate. 

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Jennifer New

Community Engagement Specialist

Jennifer New is a writer, business owner, and longtime University of Iowa administrator. For more than a decade, Jennifer served as the associate director of the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies, an interdisciplinary research center. She oversaw communications, public-facing programming, and community engagement training for graduate students. Jennifer has published three books and hundreds of articles. In addition to her work with IISC, she has a business called Hypha that is aimed at helping non-profits and community engaged organizations tell their stories and connect to potential collaborators via program development.

A graduate of the Iowa City School District, Jennifer has her BA from the University of Iowa and an MA from the University of Washington in Seattle. She has a K12 teaching certificate and multiple certifications in the areas of yoga and trauma. She serves on multiple local boards, especially in the area of the arts. 

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Benjamin Kruger

Graduate Research Assistant

Benjamin Kruger majored in Mathematical Methods in the Social Sciences at Northwestern University. After graduation, he worked in Chicago as an options trader. Currently, Ben is a second-year student in the Master's in Public Affairs program. His recent work has included time as a blackjack dealer, private tutor, college football data scout, and DoorDash delivery biker. He is currently interning for a sustainability nonprofit based in Boston. Outside of school and work, you can find him in the garden or on the basketball court. He loves crossword puzzles, skiing, the inter-library loan system, and political theory. 

IISC Faculty and Staff Network

Jerry Anthony

Jerry Anthony

Associate Professor, School of Planning and Public Affairs
Loyce Arthur

Loyce Arthur

Associate Professor, Department of Theatre Arts
Micah Bateman

Micah Bateman

Lecturer, School of Library and Information Science
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David Bennett

Professor and Department Chair, Geographical & Sustainability Sciences
Nick Benson

Nicholas Benson

Executive Director, Office of Community Engagement
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Jennifer Burek Pierce

Associate Professor, School of Library & Information Science
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Charles Connerly

Professor Emeritus, School of Planning and Public Affairs
Founder, Iowa Initiative for Sustainable Communities
Leslie Finer

Leslie Finer

Director, Arts Share
Arts and Humanities Director, Office of Community Engagement
Daria Fisher Page

Daria Fisher Page

Clinical Associate Professor of Law
Richard Fosse

Richard Fosse

Professor of Practice, Civil and Environmental Engineering
Megan Gilster

Megan Gilster

Assistant Professor, School of Social Work
Hannah Givler

Hannah Givler

Lecturer, School of Art & Art History
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Paul Hanley

Associate Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engeering
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Karen Heimer

Professor, Department of Sociology and Criminology
Ali Hval

Ali Hval

Visiting faculty, Art & Art History
Travis Kraus

Travis Kraus

Associate Professor, School of Planning and Public Affairs
Director, Iowa Initiative for Sustainable Communities
Lucie Laurian

Lucie Laurian

Professor and Director, School of Planning and Public Affairs
Kate Magsamen- Conrad

Kate Magsamen- Conrad

Associate Professor, Department of Communication Studies
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Sara Maples

Manager, Research Support and Sustainability and Adjunct Lecturer, Tippie College of Business
Phuong Nguyen

Phuong Nguyen

Associate Professor, School of Planning and Public Affairs
Maura Pilcher

Maura Pilcher

Director, Grant Wood Art Colony
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Haifeng Qian

Assistant Professor, School of Planning and Public Affairs
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Kevin Ripka

Lecturer, School of Journalism and Mass Communication
Michelle Scherer

Michelle Scherer

Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering
Carrie Schuettpelz

Carrie Schuettpelz

Associate Professor, School of Planning and Public Affairs
Adam Skibbe

Adam Skibbe

Senior GIS Administrator, Geographical and Sustainability Sciences
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Scott Spak

Assistant Professor, School of Planning and Public Affairs
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Steven Spears

Associate Professor, School of Planning and Public Affairs
Chris Stoakes

Christopher Stoakes

Associate Professor of Instruction, Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering
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Peggy Stover

Associate Professor of Practice and Director, Undergraduate Marketing Institute
Samantha Zuhlke

Samantha Zuhlke

Assistant Professor, School of Planning and Public Affairs