UI opens new outreach office

BY CASSIDY RILEY | MAY 07, 2013 5:00 AM

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The University of Iowa wants to call more attention to its efforts to work with groups both inside and outside the university community.

The UI Office of the Provost announced on Monday the establishment of the new Office of Outreach and Engagement to promote the collaboration of UI faculty, staff, and students and communities across the state. 

The new office is part of the “Better Futures for Iowans” element of the university’s strategic plan.

UI epidemiology Professor Linda Snetselaar will act as the interim associate provost for the office, beginning on June 1. The search for a permanent associate provost will begin later this year.

Provost P. Barry Butler said the cost to the university will be very small. By becoming a member of his office, Snetselaar will receive a small administrative stipend in addition to her regular salary as a professor.

“We have a lot of things going on in terms of community engagement right now,” she said. “Some of that, I think, could maybe be better showcased if it were somehow listed, on a website for example, in one central place. That’s one of the things that will happen.”

Snetselaar said she envisions her job to be a mix of promoting what is already going on and encouraging more community engagement.

“It’s going into a community and finding out what the community wants and what would be of most value to them,” she said. “The more we can do to engage citizens of Iowa if we’re doing research in their communities the more that we can be sustainable.”

Butler said the idea for the new office came out of a Faculty Senate retreat last summer.

Regent Robert Downer said he thinks public universities across the state have been talking about implementing similar offices, and he believes it is a smart idea.

“I think it’s incumbent upon the institutions and on the Board for Regents to be better connected with the public,” he said. “I think that this type of outreach is frankly overdo.”

He said it is important for the universities to communicate with Iowans because they have a right to be aware of how the schools affect them.

Downer often hears complaints from citizens about not receiving much from the government into which they pay. But he says it’s only a misconception because they aren’t truly aware of how universities such as the UI benefit them.

“They shouldn’t have to do an in-depth study to find out — at least in a general way — what types of things are going on,” he said. “Those of us who’ve been strong advocates for public education just haven’t closed the sale with the populace. The fault for them not knowing is on the institutions and those who are advocates for the institutions.”

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