10th Anniversary of the Graduate Institute – A Working Symposium

A Working Symposium is organized at the discretion of the director to highlight emerging work at the University of Iowa, while also bringing in prominent outside experts to inspire University of Iowa participants to stretch their thinking and their networks. Ample opportunities are provided for participants to share ideas and action steps for greater collaboration on our campus. This year, a very special Working Symposium brought leaders in the publicly engaged arts and humanities to campus, including many Obermann Graduate Institute alumni!

Taking It to the Streets: Celebrating 10 Years of the Obermann Graduate Institute on Engagement & the Academy

When the Graduate Institute was formed ten years ago, its original co-directors, Teresa Mangum (now Director of the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies) and David Redlawsk (now a faculty member at the University of Delaware) weren’t certain who would apply. They were also challenged to find mentors and models because public engagement was just emerging as an option for scholars whose work bridged social activism and more traditional research and teaching.

Flash-forward a decade, and the highly competitive Graduate Institute has had nearly 200 participants, including students from every UI college except Pharmacy. Nine University of Iowa faculty members have served as co-directors. Of our alumni who are now in tenure-track positions, 50 percent have said that their participation in the Institute played an important role in helping them secure their jobs.

The work of the Graduate Institute is grounded in the following definition from Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life, a consortium to which the University of Iowa belongs: “Public scholarship is scholarly or creative work integral to a faculty member’s academic area. It is jointly planned, carried out, and reflected on by co-equal university and community partners. And it yields one or more public good products.”

The two-day symposium offered keynotes by visiting scholars and engagement experts Adam Bush, Provost of College Unbound, and Jennifer Scott, Director of the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum at the University of Illinois–Chicago. Roundtables featured alumni of the Obermann Graduate Institute, who presented their work and shared in conversations about sustainability, reciprocity, funding, collaboration, engagement versus outreach, and more.


  • Engagement in K–12 Education: Examples of working with K–12 schools — Featured Ted Gutsche (School of Journalism & Mass Communication, Florida International University), Heather Wacha (PhD candidate, History, UI), Janice Byrd (PhD candidate, Counselor Education & Supervision, UI), Michael Overholt (PhD candidate, Classics, UI), and Khirin Carter (UI Women’s Resource & Action Center)
  • Crossing Boundaries: Practicing engagement in communities outside your own — Featured Kate Kedley (PhD candidate, Language, Literacy, & Culture, UI), Héctor Efrén Flores (poet and activist, Honduras), Tala Al-Rousan (Lown Fellow, Harvard School of Public Health), and Jeannette Gabriel (PhD candidate, Teaching & Learning and Graduate Assistant in the Iowa Women’s Archives, UI)
  • Engagement and Writing — Featured Kate Kauper (Education, Cornell College) and Bridget Draxler (English, Monmouth College)


  • Valuing Community Partners in Publicly Engaged Scholarship — Featured members of the Scholarship & Public Engagement Working Group (led by Carolyn Colvin, UI College of Education) and several of their public partners from the West Liberty School District
  • Telling the Story of Engagement: How to document your engagement work and use storytelling devices to further a project — Featured Ted Gutsche (School of Journalism & Mass Communication, Florida International University) and Craig Eley (ACLS Fellow, Wisconsin Public Radio)
  • Un-ghosting Self and Space: Three art tactics in conversation — Featured Jessica Anthony (Dance, UI), Erica Damman (PhD candidate, Environmental Humanities, UI), and Jen Shook (PhD candidate, English, UI)

The celebration also included a month-long gallery installation at the UI’s Old Capitol Museum that gathered myriad artifacts that vividly demonstrated the creativity, variety, and impact of our Graduate Institute alumni’s engagement projects.