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University of Iowa News Release


May 19, 2008

South Central Iowa showcased in annual UI faculty tour

The professors will become the students when a group of University of Iowa faculty members embarks on a three-day learning tour of South Central Iowa this month. The third annual Faculty Engagement Corps will visit Pella, Centerville, Ottumwa and Mount Pleasant May 29-31, where UI faculty will meet with business, education and civic leaders and visit schools, museums and the tallest working windmill in the country.

The trip allows faculty members to develop a clearer understanding of the cultural, historical, economic and educational underpinnings of the state, and introduces faculty to the communities from which their students come and in which the state taxpayers live.

"Often when our faculty and administrators visit Iowa communities, we are making presentations about an area of our expertise or sharing information about the university's mission, goals and achievements," said UI President Sally Mason. "This trip is different. It's a learning mission for our faculty -- an opportunity to find out how we can contribute to these communities' efforts and to learn from what they are already doing so well."

Wallace Loh, who will begin his job as UI executive vice president and provost Aug. 1, will make a special trip to Iowa to join the tour.

"Iowa opened its arms to me as a teenager immigrating alone to pursue my education," he said. "I now would like to return the favor as I begin my service to the state through the University of Iowa. I am eager to reconnect with Iowans, to hear what's on their minds and to seek opportunities for collaboration."

The group will start in Pella on Thursday, May 29, where it will meet with executives and UI alumni at Pella Corporation; visit the Vermeer Science Center at Central College, Iowa's first building to meet the high standards of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System; and tour the Pella Historical Village, including the authentic Dutch Mill.

The Central College and Pella communities, along with UI alumni and incoming students from the area, have been invited to a Story Swap at 7:30 p.m. May 29, at Central College's Graham Conference Center.

UI Art Education Professor Steve McGuire, a contemporary traditional storyteller who has performed across the United States, will tell some stories of his own and encourage others to share tales of Pella and coming to and living in Iowa.

"We'll invite the group to listen or to share their own stories or both," said McGuire, who has a joint appointment in the UI College of Education and the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. "I can't wait to hear these Iowa stories. It's amazing to hear something seemingly ordinary become extraordinary when we discover ways in which we are all connected as Iowans."

The tour's second day takes the group to Centerville and Ottumwa. The group will meet with community, business and educational leaders in Centerville and tour the high school. The focus turns to post-secondary education and training in Ottumwa with meetings and tours at Indian Hills Community College, including Iowa BioDevelopment, the college's industry training and education outreach program that offers training and support services for biotechnology, biofuel, and value-added agricultural companies.

The trip wraps up with a visit to the Old Threshers Heritage Museum and a discussion of economic development with business and community leaders in Mount Pleasant on Saturday, May 31.

Ken Brown, associate professor of management and organizations in the UI Tippie College of Business, participated in last year's trip to Northeast Iowa and said the experience far exceeded the expectations of both the faculty and community participants.

"We took advantage of the opportunity to get out of our offices and be with Iowans in their communities, and we got a sense of who these people are, and what they care about," he said. "People responded to the fact that we didn't just come out to tell them what we do, but rather we asked them about what they do and what they need."

The Engagement Corps was first funded in 2006 through a Year of Public Engagement grant and now is supported by the Office of the Provost.

"I am so gratified at the gracious and generous way the hosting communities have opened their doors to us," said Loh. "I truly believe the University faculty are the net beneficiaries of this important exchange of ideas."

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Mary Geraghty Kenyon, 319-384-0011,