Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Chuck Connerly, Urban & Regional Planning, Graduate College (pictured here) and co-director of the Obermann Graduate Institute, and Karla McGregor, Communications Sciences & Disorders, CLAS, and a Spring 2011 Obermann Fellow-in-Residence, have received Public Engagement Grants (PEG) via the Office for the Vice President for Research. These competitive awards, which are in their inaugural year, are designed to provide seed grants to UI researchers, scholars, and artists for limited term projects that promote collaboration between the University of Iowa and community partners.

Connerly's project, Hills, Iowa, Strategic Development Plan, is in conjunction with Judy Cambridge, Co-founder, Coalition for a Greater Hills Community. The purpose of this project is to employ two to three UI Urban and Regional Planning graduate students, under the supervision of Professor Connerly, to assist the Coalition for a Greater Hills Community (of Hills, Iowa) to build upon the Coalition’s earlier work by organizing and implementing a community wide meeting focused on community goals and needs. Results from the meeting will then be taken by the students for preparation of a Hills, Iowa Strategic Plan that will guide both the Coalition and the community in identifying projects and resources that will benefit the community over a time horizon of five to ten years. The Coalition was founded in Summer 2012, with encouragement and assistance by Professor Connerly and one of his graduate students. Since that time, the Coalition has demonstrated a high level of capacity for identifying key issues, such as the closure of the community school, and developing strategies for facilitating public participation in efforts to both protect and advance the community. Most recently, the Coalition completed a community wide survey that will be used to inform the strategic planning process as well as serve as the basis for making grant applications, including a recent one to Keep Iowa Beautiful.

McGregor's project, Promoting Language Acquisition in Youth, is in conjunction with Diane Dingbaum, Associate Director, Neighborhood Centers of Johnson County. Promoting Language Acquisition in Youth (PLAY) is a proposed partnership between the student speech-language clinicians enrolled in 003-206 and the early childhood teachers at the Neighborhood Centers of Johnson County. Each partner brings valuable skills to the other: the students bring expertise in language development and the teachers bring expertise in early childhood education. While learning from each other, these partners will address a vital community need: they will seek to facilitate language growth in the preschoolers who attend the Neighborhood Centers’ early childhood program for low-income families. Poverty is a major obstacle to optimal language development that has long-term academic and economic consequences. As the Neighborhood Centers’ target neighborhoods have become more impoverished and more diverse, promoting language development among the resident children has become increasingly difficult. To address this difficulty, we have designed PLAY, a service learning initiative that exploits play as a “classroom” and incorporates the agency of all learners, the student clinicians, the early childhood teachers, and the preschoolers themselves, as a guiding principle. PLAY stands to further all goals associated with the Provost’s initiative: It will address a community-identified need; deepen students’ learning; enhance community well being; and enrich the scholarship of the institution.