College of Liberal Arts and Sciences announces projects funded with strategic initiative resources

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Sara Sanders, UIowa
Interim Dean Sara Sanders

The University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has announced six projects that will receive financial support from money set aside by the college to fund strategic initiatives.

Interim Dean Sara Sanders said the funding will allow CLAS faculty and departments to pursue innovative projects that advance the college's and university's values and priorities.

"Our college's faculty and staff are brimming with excellent ideas that enhance our mission, but need a financial boost to get up and running," Sanders said.

"These strategic initiatives will have an important impact on our mission of conducting forward-looking research and providing a 21st-century, broad-based liberal arts education that includes and reflects the experiences of all members of our state and society."

—Sara Sanders, interim dean

"When we put out the call for submissions for this competitive funding process, we received outstanding proposals from all corners of the college, and I am grateful for, and impressed by, the response," Sanders added. "It was difficult to choose among the submissions, but we believe that the projects we've selected will have the most impact on our mission of conducting forward-looking research and providing a 21st-century, broad-based liberal arts education that includes and reflects the experiences of all members of our state and society. On behalf of the CLAS Senior Leadership Team and Executive Committee, I offer our heartfelt thanks to everyone who has worked to develop these innovative projects, and wish them great success."

CLAS issued the call for proposals in April 2020, outlining the evaluation criteria to be used, which included alignment with CLAS's strategic priorities; contribution to advancing the college; sustainability of the initiative post-funding; engagement with other departments and/or colleges; metrics of success; and the integration of diversity, equity, and inclusion. The following projects were successful and will receive funding.

  • Supporting Under-Represented Minority CLAS Undergraduates: Law School and Research Opportunities (submitted by Brian Lai, Department of Political Science, and Jennifer Glanville, Department of Sociology and Criminology).

Overview: The Departments of Political Science and Sociology and Criminology propose an initiative to increase post-graduate preparation for social science majors. This preparation will focus on two primary areas. First, we propose to expand a pilot project that the Political Science Department is doing now to support and encourage URM students to apply to law schools, help students understand what is required of the application process educate students about different aspects of law schools, and prepare them for what to expect in law school. The second is to increase research opportunities for social science majors on campus, with a focus on URM students. Both of these areas will increase student success, promote equity and inclusiveness for our diverse student body, expand research opportunities, increase career preparation, and serve students from multiple departments in CLAS. Combined, they have tremendous potential to position CLAS as a strong supporter of student success, particularly for URM students.

  • Supporting Undergraduate Education in Translation (Aron Aji, Division of World Languages, Literatures, and Cultures)

Overview: In AY 2019-20, the Division of World Languages, Literatures, and Cultures proposed a new BA in Translation with unanimous endorsement by its DEOs and Executive Committee, and the expressed support of a body of interdisciplinary faculty across the DWLLC departments and programs. DWLLC has also identified the new BA as a destination program, as well as a strategic priority. The proposal has been approved by the CLAS Undergraduate Educational Policy and Curriculum Committee and will be reviewed for approval by the CLAS Faculty Assembly on September 16, 2020. The new BA in Translation, the first of its kind and only the second bachelors’ degree in the US, aims to meet a pressing need for undergraduate training in translation. Institutionally, too, the rapid growth and success of our undergraduate minor in Translation for Global Literacy (which has graduated 31 students in just four years of its existence), gives us confidence that the BA in Translation will be highly attractive to our students and faculty; as importantly, the program will target a diverse body of students, including heritage speakers and first-year college students from Iowa and the region.

Our Strategic Initiative Proposal seeks funding to meet three objectives: (a) build instructional and curricular capacity for the new major, (a) develop co-curricular programs to support professional and community outreach experiences for undergraduates, and (c) build sustainable collaborations with area high schools that enroll significant heritage speaker populations. These objectives, we believe, will be crucial to rolling out and sustaining the new BA in Translation. While our proposal aims to increase instructional capacity to deliver the BA in Translation, it will also lend crucial support to our MFA in Literary Translation, providing palpable staffing relief for the MFA-LT by allowing the faculty currently teaching TRNS courses for both the undergraduate and graduate programs to redirect their effort towards teaching more graduate courses for the MFA program.

  • The Institute of Excellence and Impact in the Visual Arts (School of Art and Art History; UI Stanley Museum of Art; Iowa Writers' Workshop; Obermann Center for Advanced Studies; Center for the Book)

Overview: This proposal is to fund a pilot program that will establish an institute to focus on the initiatives put forth, reflecting both the strategic priorities and core values of CLAS and the University of Iowa. Our proposal is a highly interdisciplinary collaboration committed to DEI initiatives that expands opportunities for first-generation, BIPOC, and URM students that will lead to new sources of revenue for departments and enhanced career opportunities for students through advancing recognition and respect for CLAS on a national platform amongst peer institutions. Our approach is two prong. First, we propose to pilot an interdisciplinary BIPOC visiting artist and scholar program involving the School of Art and Art History (SAAH), the University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art, the Iowa Writers' Workshop, the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies, and the Center for the Book, with further university and community partners such as K-12 schools; P.S. One: Center for Afrofuturist Dream City; United Action for Youth; and other entities that serve our underrepresented community in Iowa City, Coralville, and Cedar Rapids. SAAH will cover travel and accommodations for visitors. The second part of our pilot is an Arts Summer Residency and Mentorship Program that will host post BA/BFA students of color and/or LGBTQIA students who are interested in pursuing an MFA or PhD in the visual arts, art history, and museum curatorial practices, as well as better understanding how those fields can be bridged to create community within academia and outside with the larger community.

  • Increasing BIPOC Student Inclusion and Belonging in the School of Social Work through Anti-Racist and Trauma-Informed Strategies (School of Social Work)

Overview: This proposal outlines the School of Social Work’s (SSW) plan to strengthen our anti-racist social environment by providing both new content and an enhanced process for faculty, staff, and students to support the educational development and cultural competence of each other, with an emphasis on BIPOC student inclusion. We will accomplish this by increasing faculty ability to anticipate, identify, and address threats to anti-racism in our policies, practices, and classrooms. We will use a trauma-informed lens to address anti-racism in our school, including our processes and policies. Results from this process will enhance the SSW and can be used by other CLAS departments; we will share the resources we collect and develop (including the multi-level case studies) through a new ICON toolkit. Advances will become part of the SSW culture by being institutionalized in our policies and procedures, thus ensuring continuation beyond the grant period. The SSW offers an undergraduate degree (BASW) and master’s degree (MSW), and has the only SW PhD program in the state. We have had an MSW distance education program in Sioux City, Des Moines, and the Quad Cities for over 40 years and recently initiated a new hybrid MSW program to serve the state. The SSW also administers three certificate programs for CLAS: Aging and Longevity Studies, Critical Cultural Competence, and Trauma Informed. The positive impact of the proposed enhancements outlined herein will be department-wide, college-wide, state-wide, and importantly, lasting.

  • Advancing Environmental Justice at Iowa (Marc Armstrong, Carly Nichols, and David Bennett, Department of Geographical and Sustainability Sciences; Bodi Vasi, Department of Sociology and Criminology)

Overview: The purpose of this Strategic Initiative Proposal is to advance instruction and research in the broad area of Environmental Justice at the University of Iowa. The proposed two-year Advancing Environmental Justice (AEJ) project will actively engage with environmental injustices and interrogate their root causes as they play out across human and natural landscapes at local, regional, and international scales. We begin by building on existing strengths in EJ in The Department of Geographical and Sustainability Sciences and The Department of Sociology and Criminology. The objective is to transform UI CLAS into a national leader in this area. The Department of Geographical and Sciences will lead, assume administrative responsibilities and provide expertise in the areas of geographical analysis as well as the study of environmental justice, food justice and insecurity, and human/environment interaction broadly defined. Sociology will provide expertise in environmental sociology, collective behaviors and social movements, social inequality, and sociology of race. Faculty in these departments will coordinate with faculty in other units in CLAS (e.g., School of Social Work, Department of Political Science) and beyond (e.g., College of Public Health) to leverage existing strengths and build new institutional capacities in teaching, research, and engagement. The proposed activities will: 1) promote student success, 2) contribute to scholarship in DEI, 3) expand research opportunities for first-generation and URM students, 4) prepare students for participation in a global society, and 5) strengthen interdisciplinary collaborations.

  • Civil Rights and Racial Justice (Venise Berry, African American Studies Program; Leslie Schwalm, Department of Gender, Women's, and Sexuality Studies; Landon Storrs, Department of History)

Overview: The Department of Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies (GWSS), the History Department, and African American Studies (AAS) propose a new opportunity for civil rights education and community-engaged learning, in the form of a summer Civil Rights and Racial Justice program for University of Iowa undergraduate and graduate students, as well as a small number of community members. The program will consist of an immersive, two-week tour of civil rights historic sites in the South, paired with a four-week public engagement learning experience at the Civil Rights Heritage Center in South Bend, Indiana. Many colleges and universities, predominately White institutions as well as historically Black colleges and universities, sponsor similar tours because of their deep impact on students. We wish to leverage the deep impact and success of site-specific civil rights education with an explicit understanding that humanities education (in the humanities, arts, and humanistic social sciences) is crucial to building more complete and accurate historical narratives. We propose this particular program because it will also help us prioritize curricular and co-curricular events that explicitly support the generation of just societies.

Our proposal extends the educational and experiential value of more typical civil rights history tours in two important ways. First, our program centers on the role and experiences of African American women in the civil rights movement. Our intention is for participants to engage with the explicitly intersectional experience and activism of Black female leaders, and to come away with a greater appreciation for the history and impact of Black women’s experience in social and racial-justice movements. We hope this focus will encourage among our participants a greater appreciation for, and willingness to reach for, their own leadership capabilities. Secondly, we will provide participants with the opportunity to learn how to put their new knowledge into action. Following the tour, participants will spend four weeks at South Bend, learning about racial justice community-engagement projects in South Bend, Indiana, with Assistant Professor Darryl Heller, who is also director of South Bend’s community-based Civil Rights Heritage Center. Undergraduate majors and minors in our respective departments, as well as graduate students in the Department of History and certificate students in GWSS and AAS, will return to Iowa with a new, deeply learned and deeply felt knowledge of the history of racial justice activism, as well as important new skills for translating that experience and knowledge into public-facing, community-engaged practices.


The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Iowa is a comprehensive college offering 73 majors in the humanities; fine, performing and literary arts; natural and mathematical sciences; social and behavioral sciences; and communication disciplines. More than 17,000 undergraduate and 1,900 graduate students study each year in the college’s 37 departments, led by professors at the forefront of teaching and research in their disciplines. The college teaches all UI undergraduates through the General Education Program, and confers about 70 percent of the UI's bachelor's degrees each academic year.