The Obermann Graduate Institute on Engagement and the Academy was started fourteen years ago at a time when public engagement was not a well-known practice on university campuses. More than 200 University of Iowa graduate students have participated in this program, many of them going on to lead or participate in community engaged projects. We count the alumni of this program as friends, many of whom have shared with us the exciting work they are doing in other locales—including in Philadelphia, the Black Hills, and Boulder—and with other organizations, such as NPR, the National Park Service, and our own Center for Teaching. The Institute has also had 11 faculty co-directors who have shared their expertise from fields as disparate as dance and engineering, and with project expertise that ranges from working with incarcerated populations to directing a camp for deaf teens.
While it is hard to let this beloved program go, we are equally excited to pass the baton to our colleagues in the Office of Community Engagement. As public engagement becomes ever more part of the fabric of the graduate school experience, a new and broader program will take the place of the Institute. The Graduate Engagement Corps (GEC) shares the aims of the Institute: namely, to offer introductory training for developing and implementing publicly engaged teaching and research. It remains open to all UI graduate students, welcoming participants from across colleges and at any stage of their graduate career. The notable difference is that there is now a shorter and—we hope—more accessible three-day orientation (each is a half day) that does not have a competitive selection process. This orientation will be offered twice a year, with 25 spaces available each time. Once the orientation is completed, a student is then able to participate in workshops offered by GEC throughout the semester. After completing two workshops, GEC students can apply for funding toward a community-partnered project.
This January's GEC Orientation is January 10, 11, and 12 from 8:30 am to 12:30 pm each day. The first two days will occur on Zoom; the third day will be spent with community partners. The GEC Orientation has been planned by Nick Benson, Director of the Office of Community Engagement; Jennifer New, Associate Director of the Obermann Center; and Noel Mills, an MA student in Public Affairs and a Graduate Assistant in the Office of Community Engagement. Experts from across campus and the community will join panels on each of the three days, sharing their experience with research, teaching, and collaborative work. Participants will also have a chance to meet with potential community partners in spaces off campus.
Registration for the January 2022 GEC Orientation is now open: https://uiowa.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_3OG7Ttp9f0nErKm.