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. 

Jen New

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. 

IISC Faculty and Staff Network

Jerry Anthony

Jerry Anthony

Title/Position
Associate Professor, School of Planning and Public Affairs
Loyce Arthur

Loyce Arthur

Title/Position
Associate Professor, Department of Theatre Arts
Micah Bateman

Micah Bateman

Title/Position
Lecturer, School of Library and Information Science
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David Bennett

Title/Position
Professor and Department Chair, Geographical & Sustainability Sciences
Nick Benson

Nicholas Benson

Title/Position
Executive Director, Office of Community Engagement
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Jason Brummond

Title/Position
Adjunct Professor and Publisher of The Daily Iowan
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Charles Connerly

Title/Position
Professor Emeritus, School of Planning and Public Affairs
Founder, Iowa Initiative for Sustainable Communities
David Cwiertny

Dave Cwiertny

Title/Position
Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering
Frank Durham

Frank Durham

Title/Position
Associate Professor, School of Journalism and Mass Communication
Leslie Finer

Leslie Finer

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

Daria Fisher Page

Title/Position
Clinical Associate Professor of Law
Richard Fosse

Richard Fosse

Title/Position
Professor of Practice, Civil and Environmental Engineering
Claire Frances

Claire Frances

Title/Position
Director, Center for Language and Culture Learning
Eric Gidal

Eric Gidal

Title/Position
Professor, English
Megan Gilster

Megan Gilster

Title/Position
Assistant Professor, School of Social Work
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Paul Hanley

Title/Position
Associate Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
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Nic Hartmann

Title/Position
Assistant Professor
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Kylah Hedding

Title/Position
Assistant Professor — School of Journalism and Mass Communication
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Karen Heimer

Title/Position
Professor, Department of Sociology and Criminology
Ali Hval

Ali Hval

Title/Position
Visiting faculty, Art & Art History
Travis Kraus

Travis Kraus

Title/Position
Associate Professor, School of Planning and Public Affairs
Director, Iowa Initiative for Sustainable Communities
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Zack Kucharski

Title/Position
Professional Advisory Board and Executive Editor, The Gazette
Phuong Nguyen

Phuong Nguyen

Title/Position
Associate Professor, School of Planning and Public Affairs
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Haifeng Qian

Title/Position
Assistant Professor, School of Planning and Public Affairs
Michelle Scherer

Michelle Scherer

Title/Position
Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering
Carrie Schuettpelz

Carrie Schuettpelz

Title/Position
Associate Professor, School of Planning and Public Affairs
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Alex Scott

Title/Position
Assistant Professor, School of Journalism and Mass Communication
Christine Shea

Christine Shea

Title/Position
Associate Professor
Adam Skibbe

Adam Skibbe

Title/Position
Senior GIS Administrator, Geographical and Sustainability Sciences
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Scott Spak

Title/Position
Assistant Professor, School of Planning and Public Affairs
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Steven Spears

Title/Position
Associate Professor, School of Planning and Public Affairs
Chris Stoakes

Christopher Stoakes

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

Title/Position
Associate Professor of Practice and Director, Undergraduate Marketing Institute
Rachel Young

Rachel Young

Title/Position
Associate Professor, School of Journalism & Mass Communication
Samantha Zuhlke

Samantha Zuhlke

Title/Position
Assistant Professor, School of Planning and Public Affairs