University of Iowa

IISC Community Partners

Keokuk has been chosen as the 2019-2020 IISC community partner!

What does it mean for the community and the University of Iowa? Read all about it!

What is IISC?

Located in the Provost's Office of Outreach and Engagement at the University of Iowa, the Iowa Initiative for Sustainable Communities (IISC) is a campus-wide effort to enhance the capacity of rural and urban communities in Iowa to address the environmental, equity, economic, and cultural issues they face today and to help them plan for a sustainable future.  Through enhanced community partnerships, IISC invests University of Iowa faculty and student time to increase the capacity of Iowa communities to accomplish meaningful projects.  By taking students out of the classroom and into communities to complete real-world projects, IISC accomplishes two university-wide goals: enhancing sustainability across the state and transforming teaching and learning at the University of Iowa.

IISC was founded in 2009 in the School of Urban & Regional Planning by Dr. Chuck Connerly.  Since 2009, IISC has worked with small and medium-sized communities in Iowa to advance sustainability across the state.  In fall 2012, due to the success of these projects and the recognition that sustainability in Iowa spans a variety of disciplines, the IISC expanded to become a campus-wide initiative.  To continue growing campus-wide partnerships, the IISC joined the Provost's Office of Outreach and Engagement in fall 2014.  To date, more than 130 projects in 16 Iowa communities have been completed through IISC partnerships.

The magnitude and depth of an IISC partnership make it unlike any other resource or service we offer.  Whereas some partnerships might consist of single project, IISC partnerships bring together faculty, staff, and students from across campus to complete 10-20 projects with the selected IISC community over the course of an academic year.  More than 100 students from various disciplines will bring their talents, enthusiasm, and creativity to the partnership.

Focusing concurrent projects in one geographic area results in a profound, transformative impact not only because of the number and quality of projects, but also because citizens coalesce around a shared vision and shared goals in order to make the partnership successful.   Building sustainable communities requires a collaborative spirit and desire to partner with a diverse array of community actors, including local governments, non-profit organizations, local businesses, and educational institutions.  We believe these connections are the heart of this work. 

Thanks to feedback from past applicants, we've moved to a quicker, easier application. It will enable us to work with you and guide you through the selection of becoming an IISC community partner. We relied on Request for Proposals for the past 10 years and recognized it's time for this new, less time-consuming approach. To apply, communities will first submit a Letter of Interest (LOI). The IISC Advisory Board will then invite communities to submit a full proposal, inviting those communities that are the best fit for an IISC partnership. We'll provide support throughout the entire process. We accept Letters of Interest from July 1-September 1.  

To learn more about the application process and timeline, click here. The 2020-2021 IISC community partner will be announced March 1, 2020.

For more details on the IISC partnership, including community expectations, please read through Frequently Asked Questions, or contact us anytime if you have questions.


Is the IISC partnership for only one year?

The initial IISC partnership contract will last for one academic year (August – May). IISC works hard to ensure that local organizations, schools and colleges are involved in IISC projects, increasing the likelihood that the work completed during IISC’s partnership year will be sustained after the partnership is finished. In addition, IISC is open to working with a partner community beyond the first year in order to maximize the impact of the partnership. In the past, partnerships have been extended for a second year.  Work beyond the initial partnership year is subject to IISC capacity and will entail a separate contract.


How many projects are expected to be completed per each community partner throughout the year?

IISC encourages applicants to propose at least 20 – 30 projects in their proposal, with the expectation that at least 10 – 15 projects will come to fruition per community per academic year. Please note that most projects will be one semester long and occur in either the Fall semester (August – December) or Spring semester (January – May), depending on course availability. A few projects may span both semesters, particularly projects related to urban planning or marketing.


Should we propose projects from a variety of academic disciplines?

Yes! IISC approaches sustainability from a holistic perspective, and highly encourages applicants to propose projects from a variety of disciplines, including urban planning, engineering, geoscience, public health, communications and public relations, law, business and marketing, arts and music, and library and information sciences. Additionally, proposing projects across multiple disciplines increases the likely number of projects that IISC staff will be able to match with UI courses, leading to a higher number of projects completed by the end of the partnership.


Does the University of Iowa have a School of Architecture? Should we propose projects related to architecture and landscape architecture?

The University of Iowa does not have a School of Architecture. In general, IISC’s ability to complete architectural projects is limited. However, if architectural design elements exist in a project related to urban planning or engineering, IISC may have the capability to complete these projects and encourages applicants to include them in their proposed projects. If IISC cannot address these portions of the project, we will work with community partners to evolve the goals of the project and assist communities in making connections with faculty and staff in the University of Iowa and Iowa State University who may have the capacity to do so.


I’m a small community and I’m concerned about the financial contribution requirement. If we have little or no money to contribute, should we apply?

Yes! The financial contribution is just one factor amongst a variety of factors that are evaluated in choosing an IISC partner community. We also encourage small communities to apply as part of an application through a regional Council of Government, county governments or other regional entities. If you need assistance connecting with regional partners, please contact Travis Kraus at and we will provide you with information on your regional entities.

Past and Current Partners

IISC Previous Community Partners

IISC Advisory Board

The IISC Advisory Board helps review proposals from applicants for the IISC partnership and provides insight on how the Office of Outreach and Engagement can best serve campus and communities.