2017 Interdisciplinary Research Grants

  • Avant- Garde in Iowa
  • The Intersection of Education and Health in Two Rural Immigrant Iowa Communities
  • Iphigenia: Story of a Refugee
  • Literacy Interventions in Individuals with Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities: A Meta-Analysis​​​​​​​

Iphigenia: Story of a Refugee


Iphigenia: Story of a Refugee is a culminating performance piece of The Iphigenia Project, multiyear trans-media collaboration between three award-winning artists from different countries. Filmmaker Irina Patkanian (Russia/USA), playwright/theatre activist Lisa Schlesinger (USA/Greece), and director/translator Marion Schoevaert (France, Korea, USA) join cultures, artistries, and different ways of seeing to bring the refugee crisis center-stage through film, theatre, and digital media. The project excavates the mythological character of Iphigenia from pre-classical history, through Euripides’ plays, into the twenty-first century. Iphigenia is portrayed as the first refugee of war and the central metaphor for questions of forced displacement in global conflict.

To date The Iphigenia Project has been presented, performed and published in various public venues, as performance, documentary film, text/film essay, and presentations. In residence at the Obermann Center the three artists will research and develop the performance text, edit film footage, and the launch the website for the New York City premiere of the performance, Iphigenia: Story of a Refugee, in 2018.

Avant- Garde in Iowa


Buckley and Tsai have begun working with faculty and staff across campus to lay the intellectual and logistical groundwork for a five-year program of interrelated exhibitions, performances, lectures, and courses across campus we are calling “Avant-Garde in Iowa.” Why did an artistic vanguard emerge in Iowa, and more specifically at UI, beginning at mid-century? What material and ideological relationships have existed between avant-gardes and institutions – including this institution? Why and how do the UI and other institutions document, preserve, and circulate vanguard art in every medium?

This initiative examines the longstanding commitment to avant-garde ideas and practices at the University of Iowa, evident in its rich pedagogical, artistic, and collections histories. Not only do Buckley and Tsai seek to alert students, faculty, and the broader community to the history of the interdisciplinary artistic vanguard in and around UI; they also hope that these activities will lead participants to excavate and activate the physical traces of that legacy in institutional repositories. Their project builds off of several events already being planned with significant commitments from several units, including the UI Libraries and UIMA.

During their residency at the Obermann Center, they will develop a publication strategy that would accompany these activities. In addition, we will use this time to pursue internal and external funding opportunities to support these initiatives. These activities will also contribute to curricular development that will help to amplify the impact of these events.

The Intersection of Education and Health in Two Rural Immigrant Iowa Communities


Nearly two-thirds of the United States’ (US) population growth through 2050 will be due to immigration (IOM, 2012). From 1990-2000, immigrants arriving in Iowa grew by more than 100%. Southeastern Iowa, in particular, has experienced a growing number of immigrants from Mexico, Central America, and Southeast Asia. Immigrant populations are among the most vulnerable groups in the US for incidence of health disparities. Part of this disparity can be attributed to low literacy skills. Literacy, as it relates to health issues, can be defined as the currency of being in charge of one's health and the ability to navigate the healthcare system with agency. While working on literacy initiatives (an adult literacy program, pre-school literacy program, and career education program) in two Southeastern Iowa communities, West Liberty and Columbus Junction, Colvin and Daack-Hirsch (both members of the Obermann Working Group) are increasingly aware of literacy and its relationship to health knowledge and health decisions among members of immigrant communities in rural Iowa. During their time at the Obermann Center, they will write a grant in response to the NIH January 2016 funding opportunity announcement (FOA) entitled Education and Health: New Frontiers.

Literacy Interventions in Individuals with Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities: A Meta-Analysis


Kaldenberg and Saletta are working on a meta-analysis about literacy in children, adolescents, and adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDD), including individuals with Down syndrome, autism spectrum disorders, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, or other disabilities that affect cognition. There is currently a gap in the literature regarding this topic. They will compile literature regarding the issue of text modifications. For instance, there is a dearth of reading materials which are appropriate for adolescents and adults with IDD. Most existing educational materials for these individuals either address issues which are only relevant for a younger audience, or are too complex at the word- and sentence- level to be accessible (Saletta & Winberg, in review).

Another example of literacy interventions for individuals with IDD involves illustration support. The addition of illustrations to text can enhance reading comprehension (Hibbing & Rankin-Erickson, 2003), in particular for individuals who struggle with reading (Levie & Lentz, 1982). The lack of recent meta-analyses in this area is problematic both clinically, in that it is unclear how to design therapeutic interventions for promoting literacy in children, adolescents, and adults with IDD, and theoretically, in that it is difficult for researchers to determine which issues to study.

They will compile both single-subject and group studies, and then use the Phi statistical method to analyze effect sizes from these published studies. Finally, they will write up their manuscript for publication in Exceptional Children