International studies students learn to engage with international communities abroad and at home in respectful, ethical and productive ways, then apply that knowledge in varied kinds of engaged interaction. 

Such engagement follows the model of Community Engaged Learning (CEL) which combines academic coursework with the application of institutional resources to address challenges facing communities through:

  • engagement that addresses societal needs identified by a community
  • intentional integration of learning objectives co-created with community partner(s)
  • student preparation and ongoing critical reflection
  • clearly articulated benefits for students, community, and campus partners
  • opportunities to critically examine social issues and situate self within a community setting

For example, our IS:3012 - Community Engaged Learning with Immigrants and Refugees in Iowa course partners with the Refugee and Immigrant Association (RIA), an Iowa City non-profit created by refugees and immigrants from African nations. This group is committed to welcoming and supporting “new Iowans” as well as to connecting them, in various ways, to the Iowa City-Cedar Rapids area and its residents so that they feel a part of the wider community. Working with and for the RIA, and understanding the broad and specific issues at stake, students undertake and present research projects designed to help advance the organization’s mission. This collaborative approach offers a practical and mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge, experiences, and ideas.

International studies students also learn the skills needed to engage in ethical outreach and interconnection in our class IS:2009 - World Travel: Cross-Cultural Skills for International Business, Education, and Service. Students preparing for or debriefing from international experiences reflect on their own backgrounds and assumptions of others as they solidify skills for engaging meaningfully without stereotyping.

Our students apply such skills beyond the classroom by not only interning abroad, but also interning and volunteering in the local community with organizations such as Council on International Visitors to Iowa Cities (CIVIC), the Iowa City Foreign Relations Council (ICFRC), Iowa United Nations Association, Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa, and IC Compassion.

After graduation, IS students often continue such outreach by teaching English abroad with the Fulbright program or Peace Corps

Public Engagement in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

The University of Iowa’s core mission extends beyond the classrooms, laboratories, studios, and libraries where we educate students, conduct our research, and create new artistic work. Equally important is our engagement with communities throughout Iowa, across the nation, and around the world. 

Our faculty, students, and staff work to solve problems, imagine new approaches to challenges, and improve quality of life, often through service-learning courses in which students earn academic credit. 

It’s a virtuous circle: When UI expertise is harnessed to help a community or region improve the lives of its residents, the experience adds unique educational value to students’ academic journeys, and advances the research and creative production of our faculty. In turn, that new knowledge empowers us to help more communities, solve more problems, and improve more lives. 

The UI is not just the University of Iowa, we're the University for Iowa—and throughout the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, we are proud to serve.