Graduate Engagement Corps logo

Goodbye, Gradate Institute. Hello, Graduate Engagement Corps!

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.
John Rapson

John Rapson's Communal Composition: Esteban and the Children of the Sun

In mid-June, a dozen musicians gathered in the basement of one of Iowa City’s oldest homes. There was a blues guitarist, a French mandole player, and a Celtic fiddler. The drummer was sequestered in the laundry room, and an electric guitarist’s amp was routed through a shower stall to limit distortion. In the midst of it all was John Rapson.
Asha Bhandary

The Kindness of Strangers: Philosopher seeks to make caregiving disparities and their effects visible

During the pandemic, many of us have relied on the kindness of strangers. The work of people we didn’t know—store clerks, nurses, childcare providers, delivery people, and warehouse workers—allowed many of us to stay home during the past year and a half. As in the case of Blanche DuBois—she of Streetcar Named Desire fame—this reliance may have helped us in the short run, but it’s not necessarily the best societal approach to receiving care. Frontline workers are inordinately female and people of color....
Andrew Boge

Andrew Boge Reflects on the HWW Career Diversity Workshop

Imagine yourself on the tree-filled University of Michigan campus listening to people with advanced degrees in the humanities talk about their workplaces and career trajectories. One person gives an overview of jobs in university presses, while the next describes her work as a consultant for non-profits. And your task is to soak up information, meet new people, and turn on your imagination.
Man in mask

Seeing Asian American Life through the Video Essay

As each of us ponders how to live and work in the face of growing challenges—from pandemics to racist violence to climate change—scholars and artists are reconsidering their research questions, expanding methodologies, and devising forms for varied audiences. This year, the Obermann Center is hosting a series of informal conversations on research. Artists, scholars, social scientists, and scientists will explore what, in this moment, research can be and can do. We were therefore delighted when Professor Hyaeweol Choi asked if the Obermann Center would join the Korean Studies Research Network in inviting filmmaker, critic, and video essayist Kevin B. Lee to share recent video essays. In this innovative form, Lee illuminates Asian American experience by juxtaposing personal history, popular culture, and journalistic accounts of violence against Asian Americans.
Old, rural public library with wooden door

Training Librarians to Preserve Community Memory

Over the past two decades, say Micah Bateman and Lindsay Mattock, recipients of a 2021 Obermann Interdisciplinary Research Grant, library and information science (LIS) graduate programs have privileged information science, data science, and computer science—at several universities even merging with computer science departments—over human- and community-centered practices central to the mission of library and archival sciences. One such practice involves the management of community memory records—everything from genealogical documents to newspaper archives to oral histories. Bateman and Mattock note that at small and rural libraries, these records often go “unmanaged and underused, and reflect only the narratives of majority or dominant populations” because the librarians working with those collections have been largely neglected by LIS training programs that privilege “big data” paradigms.

Apply for the Summer '23 Humanities Without Walls Predoctoral Career Diversity Workshop

Launched in 2015 as an initiative of the Humanities Without Walls (HWW) consortium, this annual workshop welcomes 30 participants each summer from higher education institutions across the United States. HWW Summer Workshop Fellows work in a variety of academic disciplines. They are scholars and practitioners who bring experience in community building, museum curation, filmmaking, radio programming, social media, project management, research, writing, and teaching....
Sharon Yam and Natalie Fixmer-Oraiz

A Project Postponed: Scholars Take Interdisciplinary Grant Project on the Road

When the pandemic postponed Natalie Fixmer-Oraiz (Communication Studies and GWSS, University of Iowa) and Shui-yin Sharon Yam's (Writing, Rhetoric, and Digital Studies, University of Kentucky) Obermann residency for their Interdisciplinary Research Grant project last summer, they decided to postpone their work until they could meet in person. Though the Center remained closed to faculty this...
John Rapson sitting at the piano

John Rapson: Looking Back at a Generous Collaborator

In the summer of 2014, it wasn't uncommon to find two faculty members padding around the Obermann Center in bare feet as they dashed from their upstairs offices to the downstairs library to watch movies. While it appeared to be a scholarly form of summer camp, John Rapson (School of Music) and Paul Kalina (Theatre) were deep in research as they broke down how music and movement interacted in old...
Virtual Reality Screenshot

Using Virtual Reality to Train Math Teachers

Most children in the U.S. struggle to learn mathematics, with 50 to 75% of students scoring below proficient on achievement tests in grades 4 through 12. Children with disabilities such as autism tend to fare even worse. Clearly, math teachers must be equipped to educate students who require varying levels of support—but, for the most part, they aren’t. Logistical issues inherent in conventional...