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 nine Resource Conservation & Development non-profit organizations to help build strong, sustainable communities and improve the quality of life in Iowa. The RC&D Partnership provides numerous opportunities for students and faculty at the University of Iowa to connect with communities across the state. This includes opportunities for faculty to incorporate student-led community engagement projects into their academic courses.
During the fall 2015 semester, Assistant Professor Rachel Young in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications partnered with Pathfinders RC&D to create a student-led community engagement project within her Strategic Communication Campaigns course. A group of six University of Iowa students teamed up to conduct extensive market research on the Historic Hills Scenic Byway, managed by the Pathfinders RC&D. The students used their findings to create a comprehensive strategic communication plan with the goal of attracting more visitors to the Historic Hills Scenic Byway, thus supporting local businesses and communities. Community engaged learning projects allow students the opportunity to gain professional experience in their area of study while creating value for their community partners in the form of project deliverables. The Office of Outreach & Engagement provides infrastructure that ensures projects completed in partnership with RC&Ds are mutually beneficial experiences.
Diana Hughell, Pathfinders RC&D Byway Coordinator, commented, “The strategic communication plan created by the University of Iowa students has given us an opportunity to look objectively at our current communication strategies and areas of need. Through their extensive research and numerous interviews, the students were able to provide real world contacts and ideas for improvement in our use of social media and marketing. They established an Instagram account for Historic Hills Scenic Byway, made suggestions on website improvements, and created a timeline with recommended benchmarks for communication activities. The document created by the University of Iowa Strategic Communications class will continue to be valuable in guiding us in our ability to tell our story, and entice visitors to the Historic Hills Scenic Byway and southeast Iowa.”
This semester, Pathfinders RC&D is partnering with the University of Iowa on several student-led community engagement projects, including video projects completed by students in the Department of Cinematic Arts, a museum preservation workshop developed by students in the School of Library and Information Science, and a grant search project led by students enrolled in a Nonprofit Organizational Effectiveness course. Pathfinders RC&D is also working with UI Partners to develop a new website for their organization.