Obermann Graduate Institute

Students at Obermann Graduate Institute
If you are a University of Iowa graduate student with an interest in expanding your research and teaching to the broader community, we encourage you to consider applying to the Obermann Graduate Institute. This is an intensive, one-week interdisciplinary seminar-cum-workshop that occurs each January. Graduate students from across campus and at any point in their graduate studies can apply. Recent Graduate Fellows have included students from across the College of Liberal Arts as well as Public Health, Business, Nursing, and Education. The Institute is co-directed by two faculty members who rotate each year; the directors have included some of the University's most celebrated faculty who have deep practice in public engagement.

Intensive Week Builds Relationships

It's often on Day 2 of the Institute, that students look around the room and say, "I've finally found my people." The Institute draws students who although passionate about their disciplines and areas of research share a longtime commitment to what some might call activist work or other forms of engaging with broader communities. The Institute helps students to see how they can do both -- be a scholar-teacher and work with and for the community. Often, students have not had role models or colleagues for this kind of work until they arrive at the Institute.

During the intensive week, participants explore how public engagement can enhance teaching, research, and creative work. We discuss theories of engagement and meet with experts, including former Obermann Graduate Fellows, faculty members, UI administrators, and potential community partners. Half of one of the days is dedicated to a site visit -- usually a community space that has collaborated with UI partners and that can suggest how to organize a successful partnership. On Friday, students present the project that they proposed in their application but that is now more deeply realized as a result of the readings, discussions, and visits. 

Graduate Institute Leads to Connections, Job Interviews 

Graduate Fellows tell us that participation in the Institute has been instrumental to getting job interviews as more colleges and universities are dedicated to offering public engagement opportunities and are seeking candidates who are intimately familiar with this practice. Our alumni are currently teaching at Vanderbilt University, the Medical College of Wisconsin, Monmouth College, and Florida International University, as well as working in museums and other non-profits. Some of our alumni also continue to work with each other and faculty they met during the Institute, sometimes collaborating across institutions and time zones.


The application process for the 2015 Graduate Institute will open in September 2014. Visit our website to learn more about the Institute and meet our Fellows.


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