Monday, May 6, 2024

During showcase events held in Bondurant and Dubuque this spring, the UI's Initiative for Sustainable Communities recognized the outstanding efforts of UI faculty and students. It also acknowledged the exceptional learning opportunities provided for UI students by the two cities and their dedication to collaboration.

Outstanding Student Awards


Melanie Comer

Melanie Comer (Urban & Regional Planning, 24) was recognized for her leadership of the Parks, Trails, and Greenways Master Plan for the City of Bondurant. Her teammates credited Comer as being "quick, thorough, efficient, and an excellent communicator." City Manager Marketa Oliver remarked that the plan was as professional as any the City has received from professional firms and will be put to use almost immediately. 

Hannah Lyons

Hannah Lyons (Sustainable Development, 24) distinguished herself for her dedication to Dubuque's Affordable Housing Action Plan. As part of a four-person team, Lyons focused on how to thread sustainability into affordable housing development to help achieve the city's climate action goals without increasing housing cost burdens for homeowners and renters.

Outstanding Faculty Award 


Daria Fisher Page

Daria Fisher Page (Law) was recognized for leadership of the Community Empowerment Law Project (CELP), a frequent collaborator with IISC and its partners. This year, Fisher Page's students worked in Bondurant to analyze funding resources and legislative approaches for redeveloping a grain silo "campus" that sits in the middle of the town. A second group performed research and synthesized information related to severe truancy among Dubuque's Marshallese population. Her students credit Fisher Page with helping them see community applications for their legal training.

Eric Gidal

Eric Gidal (English) received an Outstanding Faculty Award for his class "Bioregionalism in History, Theory, and Practice," which paired UI graduate students in the arts and humanities with the Bondurant Historical Society. The students did archival research into historic buildings in Bondurant, created a StoryMap, wrote curriculum for the elementary schools, and devised a walking tour. While many IISC-related classes focus on planning practical infrastructure, such as parks systems or trails, Gidal helped his students apply the tools of the humanities toward Bondurant's goal of maintaining its "hometown feel" in the midst of a period of phenomenal growth. 

Outstanding Community Partners


A woman speaks into a microphone while a man listens.

The City of Bondurant was acknowledged for providing learning opportunities for more than 80 UI students this year. Via its relationship with IISC, Bondurant helped UI students address issues ranging from stream buffer mapping to public safety feasibility. As one of the fastest growing cities in the state, Bondurant provided unique challenges for UI classes, which benefit from hands-on learning projects. City Administator Marketa Oliver and Mayor Doug Elrod accepted the award on behalf of the City of Bondurant.


One woman hands an award to another woman.

The City of Dubuque was acknowledged for providing learning opportunities for more than 100 UI students this year. With its focus on climate action, the projects offered by Dubuque included a climate newspaper insert that's been developed by students in Journalism and Mass Communication; an assessment of a largescale green alleyways project; and a plan to accelerate alternative transportation. Gina Bell, Director of Sustainble Dubuque, and Mayor Brad Cavanagh accepted the award on behalf of the City of Dubuque.

About IISC

IISC brings UI students to communities across the state to collaborate with local leaders on real-world problems. The program, which is in its 14th year, offers essential, energizing, and applicable learning experiences to graduate and upper-level undergraduate students, while simultaneously providing valuable services to communities. An IISC partnership includes multidiscplinary expertise focused on a specific community or geographic area, yielding deep and substantial outcomes.