The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Iowa has announced three winners of its 2019 Outstanding Outreach and Public Engagement Award: Associate Professor Loyce Arthur of the Department of Theatre Arts, Professor John Rapson of the School of Music, and Professor Bonnie Sunstein of the Department of English, with a joint appointment in the College of Education.
The award honors faculty members who have engaged in activities that bring the university to broader communities in significant and sustained ways.
Interim Dean Joseph Kearney said the awards reflect the professors' dedication to the University of Iowa's mission of public service.
“These professors are outstanding teachers and researchers who excel at using their expertise to engage with individuals, families, and communities beyond the university walls,” Kearney said. “This is an essential mission of a public research university, and we are proud of the innovation that Professors Arthur, Rapson, and Sunstein bring to their work.”
Associate Professor Loyce L. Arthur of the Department of Theatre Arts began public engagement and professional costume design work after earning her MFA in Design from New York University. This focus has continued during her academic career, which began at SUNY Stony Brook before she joined the University of Iowa faculty in 1998. Arthur earned a special Obie award for a Brooklyn, New York, community production of Black Nativity that she designed, as well as a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Partnership grant for youth programs in Philadelphia. A collaboration with the UI Center for Teaching and the Obermann Center for Advanced Research led to further noteworthy work. With grants from the UI's Arts and Humanities Initiative (AHI) and International Programs, she established the Iowa City Community Carnival Arts Education Project and an annual Caribbean-style Carnival parade. In 2016 she, the UI, Summer of the Arts, the Iowa City Dream Center, and the City of Iowa City received an NEA Our Town grant to expand arts opportunities for at-risk youth.
Professor John Rapson of the School of Music, who joined the Iowa faculty in 1993, has been a ceaseless ambassador for the School of Music to communities in Iowa and around the country. Most recently, he has embarked on a project that combines that advocacy with a powerful creative production that speaks to the history of immigration in the United States. The production, Hot Tamale Louie, is based on a fantastical but true story published in The New Yorker magazine in 2016 about a young Afghani—Zarif Khan—who left his home in 1909 and ended up settling in Sheridan, Wyoming. Khan, who became known as “Hot Tamale Louie” after he opened a tamale shop in Sheridan, was adored by his community. He raised a large family; made, lost, and re-made a fortune in the stock market; gained, lost, and regained his U.S. citizenship; and lived in Sheridan until his death in the 1960s. Rapson adapted the story and created a production about immigration and citizenship with lilting Western ballads, gentle Mexican waltzes, folk songs and melodies from the East, evocative tone poems, raucous ragtime, spoken word, and visual imagery, all melded together by jazz. Rapson has used grants from the Iowa Arts Council and Humanities Iowa—and partnered with numerous state and local not-for-profit groups—to take Hot Tamale Louie to communities across Iowa and Wyoming. By the end of April 2019, it will have been performed for more than 6,000 people, all for free.
Professor Bonnie Sunstein of the Department of English, who holds a joint appointment in the College of Education, joined the UI faculty in 1992. She has served as director of the graduate Nonfiction Writing Program (NWP) and the undergraduate writing program in the Department of English, as well as program chair of the English Education program in the College of Education. Throughout her career, she has focused on using writing as an avenue for engaging with young people and their communities. Among the most notable of her projects has been the Lloyd-Jones Residency for Versatile Writing, which she designed and directs. Named for a former colleague, the late Professor Richard "Jix" Lloyd-Jones, and funded in part by his wife, former Iowa Senator Jean Lloyd-Jones, the program is a partnership among the NWP, College of Education, and the Office of Outreach and Engagement. The residency brings high-school students and their teachers from underserved schools around Iowa for an intensive, college-level writing experience, led by UI undergraduate and graduate student writing fellows, and then returns to their schools to work again with more students. Other innovative programs that have brought local attention to Sunstein's work are the "Writers Gone Public" series of readings each semester since 2002, the "Writing Tailgates," at the public library on football Saturdays, and ten years of free community Masterclasses twice a year, work with the Latham Fellows in Science, graduate students at the Business College, and International Writers. With the other NWP faculty, she's developed a five-year partnership with the Buckley School in Los Angeles bringing high school students and their teachers to the UI campus to study with the NWP. Internationally, she has established nonfiction writing partnerships in Newfoundland, Australia, Vietnam, and Cuba. She authored four editions of FieldWorking: Reading and Writing Research, which models outreach practice and the kinds of writing that results from it.