According to the University of Iowa’s Office of Community Engagement, community engagement describes the collaboration between institutions of higher education and their larger communities (local, regional/state, national, global) for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources in a context of partnership and reciprocity. Learning and research in collaboration with communities, nonprofits, and civic organizations has the following benefits:

  • Enriches scholarship, research, and creative activity
  • Enhances curriculum, teaching, and learning
  • Prepares students to be educated and engaged citizens
  • Strengthens democratic values and civic responsibility
  • Addresses critical societal issues
  • Enhances the quality of life

SJMC students apply media skills to real-world issues through community-engaged learning at all levels of the curriculum. Recent projects include: videos and infographics for a local nonprofits; strategic communication and social media marketing plans for organizations and businesses; and news reporting and photojournalism for Iowa communities.

Community-Engaged Courses

Community-engaged courses are offered in the journalism, strategic communication, and multimedia production and design curricula as well as in the event management and nonprofit leadership and philanthropy certificates. Projects are designed to foster community engagement skills and experience while meeting course learning outcomes.

  • Projects in entry-level classes may focus on (1) best practices in community engagement, (2) learning about the community, and (3) power and privilege in community-engaged work.
  • Projects in mid-level skills and conceptual classes may focus on (1) communication with community partners and (2) working in teams.
  • Projects in capstone classes may focus on (1) project management, (2) strategic planning, (3) professional quality media production in journalism and strategic communication; and (4) community engagement for social change.  

Every semester several SJMC classes receive the university-wide Community Engaged Course (CEC) designation from the Office of Community Engagement.

Graduate Student Community Engagement

Graduate students can pursue training and funding for community-engaged learning and research through several campus partners.

  • SJMC graduate students have participated in the Graduate Engagement Corps, run by the Office of Community Engagement. The GEC provides graduate students interested in community engagement with training, networking, and funding opportunities to elevate their research and increase their impact in local communities.
  • SJMC graduate students have also served as interns for the Humanities for the Public Good internship program, run by Obermann Center for Advanced Studies. The HPG program paired humanities and humanities-adjacent PhD students with community and campus partners for 8-week summer internships and professional development.

Faculty Community Engagement

  • SJMC faculty are have participated in the Faculty Engagement Corps, run by the Office of Community Engagement and sponsored by the Obermann Center. The FEC provides instructors interested in community engagement with training, networking, and project development to elevate their teaching and increase their impact in communities.
  • Faculty can also connect with other scholars, instructors, and practitioners committed to incorporating community partnerships into their research and teaching through the Community Engagement Network.
  • The Office of the Vice President for Research offers several funding opportunities for community-engaged research partnerships.