Lightbulb with plant growing in soil inside it

Join us for transformative, place-based research collaboration in Spring 2024

This Spring 2024 series invites campus artists, humanities scholars, and researchers in the sciences and social sciences to imagine the many ways that our campus and connected spaces might serve as a living laboratory for environmental research.

The series includes visits from facilities and research leaders at other campuses who have developed transformative, place-based research collaborations that include students, staff, and faculty. It culminates in a Design Workshop for Environmental Studies Cross-Disciplinary Collaboration led by Lesley-Ann Noel, professor of design at North Carolina State University, who practices design through emancipatory and critical lenses, focusing on equity, social justice, and the experiences of people who are often excluded from design research, especially in educational settings.

These events are hosted by the UI Obermann Center for Advanced Studies and generously co-sponsored by the Office of the Vice President for Research.

What is a living laboratory for sustainability?

Our vision connects us with universities like MIT, Penn State, and Cornell University.

From Cornell: “Our campus envisioned as a living laboratory is one with a "revolving door" between research, the classroom, and campus systems. Our campus —including its buildings, energy, water, waste, grounds, people and transit—are systems for the exploration and demonstration of new solutions when utilized as a living laboratory for sustainability.”

Upcoming Events:

Kathleen Socolofsky and Bethany Wiggin

Environmental Education and Research—Inspiration from Leaders at Other Campuses

Friday, April 5 | 1:30–3:00 p.m. | Iowa City Public Library

Around the country, visionary faculty members and administrators are finding inspiring ways to engage students, artists, researchers, staff, and community partners in learning about and responding to climate change and its environmental effects through the very landscapes in which they live and work. As part of this year’s Obermann series, “Envisioning Interdisciplinary, Experiential Environmental Research,” we are thrilled to welcome two leaders whose brilliant cross-sectoral, cross-disciplinary collaborations offer inspiring ways to conduct research, teach classes, and connect campuses with their communities. Their work promises that through expansive, intentional collaborations here at the University of Iowa, we can leap over the usual obstacles to working together and design projects that will not only change hearts and minds, but directly address the impacts of climate change and environmental challenges.

Speakers:

Kathleen Socolofsky, Assistant Vice Chancellor and Director, UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden. AVC Socolofsky is the co-developer of three initiatives that are being used as models for universities and public gardens across the United States and beyond: (1) the UCD GATEways (Gardens, Arts, and The Environment) Project; (2) the UC Davis Living Landscape Adaptation Plan for climate change; and (3) the Learning by Leading™ Program Model for student experiential leadership for the environment.

Topic: "The UCD Arboretum and Public Garden as Interdisciplinary, Learning Laboratory—Connecting the Campus and Community Through Experiential Teaching, Learning, and Research on and in the Environment"

Bethany Wiggin, Founding Director of the Penn Program in Environmental Humanities and the My Climate Story and Ecotopian Toolkit projects and Professor of German at the University of Pennsylvania with affiliations in Comparative Literature, English, and International Studies. Wiggin’s collaborations include research across the arts and sciences and public engagement in the environmental humanities: including Timescales and An Ecotopian Toolkit. After the 2016 election, she played a pivotal role in launching #Datarefuge to address concerns about federal climate and environmental data. With Johns Hopkins engineering professor Peter DeCarlo, she researches and teaches summer research seminars to educate the public about the pollution of the Schuylkill River.

Topic: "Humanists at Work in the World: Campus-Community Partnerships for Environmental Justice"

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Lesley-Ann Noel

Prairie Lights Reading with Lesley-Ann Noel

Thursday, April 11, 7:00 p.m. | Prairie Lights Bookstore

Professor of justice-focused design at North Carolina State University, Lesley-Ann Noel practices design through emancipatory and critical lenses, focusing on equity, social justice, and the experiences of people who are often excluded from design research, especially in educational settings. She’ll be discussing her new book, Design Social Change: Take Action, Work Toward Equity, and Challenge the Status Quo (Ten Speed Press, 2023). In the book, Noel "shares the essential design strategies for making a lasting impact. This work starts with knowing yourself and builds outward into making change in your community and the larger world. Design Social Change gives you tools to tailor your approach to design, taking into account your history, personality, ethics, and goals for a better future."

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Recent books:

Design Social Change book cover

Design Social Change: Take Action, Work Toward Equity, and Challenge the Status Quo
Ten Speed Press, 2023
Lesley-Ann Noel and Stanford d.school

Book website

 

book cover

 

The Black Experience in Design: Identity, Expression, and Reflection
Allworth Press, 2022
Anne H. Berry, Kareem Collie, Penina Acayo Laker, Lesley-Ann Noel, Jennifer Rittner, and Kelly Walters

Book website

Lightbulb with plant growing in soil inside it

Design Workshop for Environmental Studies Cross-Disciplinary Collaboration—The Campus & Community as Environmental "Living Lab"

Friday, April 12, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. | Iowa City

Apply by February 27, 2024!

The Design Workshop for Environmental Studies Cross-Disciplinary Collaboration will be led by Lesley-Ann Noel, professor of design at North Carolina State University. Professor Noel practices design through emancipatory and critical lenses, focusing on equity, social justice, and the experiences of people who are often excluded from design research, especially in educational settings.

This workshop will prepare teams of artists, scholars, and researchers interested in designing environmental research projects that use the University of Iowa campus and surrounding community as a “living lab” for environmental research. We especially welcome teams of people who are already collaborating. Please note that one person on the team must be a faculty member with significant research responsibilities. Teams may comprise 1–5 people. Each team member awarded will receive a taxable $200 honorarium.   

Read more & apply