Graduate Institute on Engagement and the Academy


The Obermann Graduate Institute is a 3 1/2-day interdisciplinary institute in which UI graduate students from across campus and at any point in their graduate studies explore how public engagement can enhance teaching, research, and creative work.

By the end of the Institute, participants will be familiar with the history of public engagement, current trends, and be able to both differentiate between and apply various modes of engagement to teaching and research projects.

Graduates of the program tell us that the Institute helped them to develop a cohort of like-minded colleagues and mentors while at the University of Iowa. Many have reported that the experience and familiarity with public engagement helped them to secure job interviews, some of which translated into positions that include strong engagement components. Selected students are named Obermann Graduate Fellows and earn a $400 stipend at the end of the Institute. 


Anna Swanson, former Obermann Senior Fellow and Cinematic Arts MFA, created the short documentary film below, Taking It to the Streets: 10 Years of the Obermann Graduate Institute. The film follows the 2016 Graduate Institute and checks in with co-directors and alumni about the power and value of the experience.


Recent Alumni 

Meet some of our recent alumni and read about their work by clicking on their names.

Heather Wacha is currently a Mellon-funded CLIR-DFL Postdoctoral Fellow in Data Curation at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She created Meet the Manuscript, a workshop that translates and digitizes a document from UI Special Collections and engages high school classes.

—Now an assistant professor of English at Southern Virginia University, James Lambert developed a program to teach Shakespeare to high school students in Kuwait.

—As a Lown Fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health, Tala Al-rousan created a program working with Syrian refugees in Jordan to co-create better public health protocol for them. 

—As a faculty member in Journalism and Mass Communication at Florida International University, Ted Gutsche has developed multiple community-based projects, including a partnership between his undergraduates and high school students in which they participate in measuring the rising water table and create ways to share this information and its consequences with the public.

Erica Damman is interested in games and play as a way to discuss difficult topics. She is completing an Interdisciplinary PhD in Environmental Humanities, an emerging field that seeks to capture relationships between environmental philosophy, cultural geography, cultural anthropology, ecocriticism, environmental history, and political ecology.

—As a graduate research assistant in the Iowa Women's Archives, Jeannette Gabriel has built the collection and presence of the Jewish Women in Iowa Project.

Learn More: — A site collecting stories of our alumni's work

View a list of all Graduate Institute fellows and co-directors since 2007


The 2021 Graduate Institute on Engagement and the Academy will take place the week before classes begin in January 2021, from Jan. 11 through Jan. 14. Details about the Institute are forthcoming. 

Applications will be due October 13, 2020 (5:00 p.m.). If you're interested in applying, we encourage you to attend an information session on Friday, September 11, 2020, from 9:00-10:00 a.m. at the Obermann Center library. It's free and open to all, and no registration is necessary.