The University of Iowa

Resource, Conservation & Development Partnership

Engineering students at a site visit in Dunkerton

The University of Iowa’s Resource Conservation & Development (RC&D) Partnership is a community engagement initiative that partners the University of Iowa with Iowa’s Resource Conservation & Development nonprofit organizations to help build strong, sustainable communities and improve the quality of life in Iowa. The UI works with the regional RC&Ds through a variety of projects, workshops, and grant collaborations that cover topics including environmental conservation, sustainable development, arts and culture, economic development, community health and wellness, and nonprofit development.

The RC&D Partnership provides many opportunities for students and faculty at the University of Iowa to connect with communities across the state, utilizing both student-led community engagement and community-based research. Students in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering completed several design projects across the state that addressed physical infrastructure challenges facing Iowa’s communities.

In the Department of Cinematic Arts, recent graduate Anna Swanson completed a promotional video in collaboration with Southern Iowa RC&D highlighting the Creston, Iowa Farmers Market and local farmers. The film showcases the value of farmers markets and local food to communities like Creston, as well as highlighting the important work of Southern Iowa RC&D and RC&Ds across the state in local foods. Please visit Southern Iowa RC&D’s YouTube Channel to view the video in full.

In addition to student-led projects, the RC&D Partnership sought to build capacity of our RC&D partners and communities throughout the state through grant collaborations and trainings. The Office of Outreach & Engagement and our RC&D partners submitted three federal grant applications this past year. The first grant is a re-submission of a National Institutes of Health (NIH) public health project that seeks to work with minority school children across Iowa to improve healthy eating habits. If funded, this project will be statewide and include hundreds of children from school districts ranging in size from the Des Moines Public School District to rural Iowa districts.

The second application submitted this summer is for a US Department of Agriculture Rural Community Development Initiative (RCDI) grant that aims to enhance community engagement and deliberative dialogue in rural community and economic development efforts. The project will be piloted in eastern Iowa in collaboration with Northeast Iowa RC&D, Iowa Valley RC&D, and Pathfinders RC&D, and Professor David Supp-Montgomerie in the Department of Mass Communications.

Finally, the Office of Outreach & Engagement was pleased to partner with Prairie Rivers of Iowa RC&D on an ArtPlace America grant that has reached the final round of funding. This grant seeks to integrate creative placemaking into the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway by restoring old gas stations, integrating renewable energy into the stations, and installing interpretative panels and public art. 

When asked to describe the impact of the RC&D Partnership to her region, Lora Friest, Executive Director of Northeast Iowa RC&D stated, “The RC&D Partnership with has helped Northeast Iowa RC&D build our capacity to help communities throughout the region. It has helped us provide technical assistance to our communities, including that associated with the work of the College of Engineering, and in doing so built our overall reputation as an organization that can help communities build their network of partners, develop innovative projects, and then secure funding for and implement those projects. The increased engagement, strategic planning and discussion that has occurred as a result of the projects we have been able to implement through the Office of Outreach and Engagement have changed the dynamics of our communication with communities. It has helped us give those communities a competitive advantage that allows them to secure grant funding and implement projects during a time when community project funding is very competitive.”   

For more information on Resource, Conservation & Development regions across Iowa, and the work completed by the RC&D Partnership, visit