Community Partner Spotlight: Iowa Valley Resource Conservation & Development

In Summer 2019, three graduate students (Paul Schmitt, Marie Culpepper, and Kathleen Shaughnessy) completed eight-week internships at Iowa Valley Resource Conservation & Development (IVRC&D), as part of an opportunity to explore how their academic training might translate into a variety of professions and workplaces. You can read more about the internship here and their (and other summer fellows’) experiences here. Below, IVRC&D Executive Director Jessica Rilling shares a few details about the organization and its efforts to support the local community.

1. In the context of the internship, how would you define “public good”?

The interns’ efforts expanded social networks and elevated public awareness of existing resources. Each of their projects fueled local pride, generated unique content, and contributed to the complicated and layered network of community identity. All of the communities the interns worked with are navigating succession across many sectors and each intern played an important role in finding and highlighting uniqueness that should be preserved and celebrated. In this context I would describe public good as a shared benefit.

2. If you could do ANY collaboration—any project or initiative—with the University of Iowa, what would it be?

Our team would love to partner on a project that connects students with small Iowa towns in a way that gives an authentic experience to the student and lifts up the local community.

I think there is a niche here for individuals who are talented with writing/storytelling, marketing, or design. Perhaps an ongoing effort “20 Miles Out” that speaks to real interactions and exploration outside of Iowa City limits. Iowa Valley RC&D could facilitate the connections and have a curated list of quirky, traditional, and timely leads. I’d love for it to be creative and fun content presented in a fresh, modern way. We often find that the small communities don’t have the technical or artistic expertise so readily available in larger cities, but there is so much potential. I think a collaboration between urban and rural // university and nonprofit could produce something clever and valuable.

3. What one event or opportunity do you want folks to know about and participate in?

Iowa Valley RC&D’s Grow: Johnson County program cultivates thousands of pounds of fresh fruit and vegetables and distributes all of it, at no cost, to 13 hunger relief agencies in Johnson County. The volunteer opportunities are dynamic and hands-on. This is a great way for University Departments, individual students, or athletic groups to do something measurable and meaningful. And the farm site is within Iowa City limits so it’s not too far to travel. Contact Access & Equity Coordinator Michi Lopez at 319-622-3264 to schedule time for this fall or the 2020 growing season.

Written by Obermann Center

The University of Iowa’s Obermann Center for Advanced Studies in Iowa City, Iowa.