The Office of Community Engagement supports University of Iowa graduate students through the Graduate Engagement Corps (GEC). 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. Publishing, conferences, and professional development workshops further enhance the graduate student experience.

Graduate Engagement Corps 2024 Cohort 

2024 Graduate Engagement Corps Cohort Logo

The Graduate Engagement Corps (GEC) program provides graduate and professional students with training in critical areas of community engagement, including community-engaged teaching, community-engaged research, and building community partnerships.

OCE held the Graduate Engagement Corps Orientation earlier this January for the 2024 cohort of students - learn more about them below! The Orientation offered a three-day introduction to the pillars of community-engaged learning and research, with visits with local community partners So.6 Business District, Dream City, Coralville Community Food Pantry, and Greater Iowa City, Inc.

Students in the GEC will now begin to deploy community engagement best practices and connect with community partners across the state and beyond!


2024 Graduate Engagement Corps (GEC) Members

Degree program

Abigail Lee

Community & Behavioral Health

College of Public Health



Ashby Martin

Psychological & Brain Sciences

Graduate College

Interdisciplinary Graduate Program - Neuroscience


Blessing Alabi

Pharmacy Practice & Science

College of Pharmacy

PhD - Health Services Research


Christina Montilla

Iowa Writers' Workshop

Graduate College



Corinne Watts


Graduate College

Department of Anthropology


Erdoo Ankwagh

School of Journalism & Mass Communication

College of Liberal Arts & Sciences

PhD - Mass Communication


Ezinne Okey

Higher Education & Student Affairs

College of Education

Masters - Arts


Francisco Espinosa


School of Art & Art History



Jake Harrison

Management & Entrepreneurship

Tippie College of Business

PhD - Management (Organizational Behavior)


Jasmin Msuya

Teaching and Learning

College of Education

PhD - Literacy, Culture, & Language Education


Lily Kraft

Civil & Environmental Engineering

College of Engineering



Mackenzie Cross


College of Liberal Arts & Sciences

PhD - Biological Anthropology


Molly Higgins

School of Planning & Public Affairs

Graduate College

MS - Urban & Regional Planning


Nanle Gusen


College of Nursing

PhD - Nursing


Nicholas Goergen


School of Art & Art History

MFA - Sculpture & Intermedia


Samantha Rose

Communication Studies

College of Liberal Arts & Sciences

PhD - Interpersonal Communication


Sophia Wilson

School of Planning & Public Affairs

Graduate College

MPA - Housing & Education Policy


Stephen Ogunnubi

Educational Policy & Leadership Studies

College of Education

Higher Education & Student Affairs


Uchenna Oluchi Eze

School of Journalism & Mass Communication

College of Liberal Arts & Sciences



Yetunde Mabadeje

Psychological & Quantitative Foundations

College of Education

Learning Sciences & Educational Psychology

Why Students Have Joined the GEC

Conner H. GEC Pic

Conor Hilton

Mavis Gyesi GEC Pic

Mavis Gyesi

Yuchen Liu GEC Pic

Yuchen Liu

Grad students walking downtown

Graduate Engagement Corps connects grad students to funding, community partnerships, and professional development

The Graduate Engagement Corps (GEC) is an opportunity for students seeking advanced degrees to learn about and receive support for community-engaged teaching, learning, and research. Members of the GEC are also part of a network of like-minded, community-engaged students that can provide friendship and connection throughout their time at the University of Iowa.

"This is a community of students looking for the opportunity to make an impact in the world through research and teaching," said Nick Benson, executive director of the Office of Community Engagement." The GEC will give you training, resources, and a community to join to advance those causes." 

The GEC was born out of the sunset of the Obermann Center's Graduate Institute on Engagement and the Academy. Benson and Obermann Center leadership worked over the summer to transition the program and make it more accessible and practical for participants. 

The GEC offers graduate and professional students training, support, and financial resources to help impact their communities through engagement. The orientation and workshops will provide the training, the GEC network will provide support, and grants launching spring of 2023 will provide the financial resources through grants for which GEC members can apply.

Grad students in a meeting

Graduate student finds her target research population, grant support, and more in Graduate Engagement Corps

Originally from China, Yuchen Liu, a Ph.D. candidate in Foreign Language and ESL Education, came to the University of Iowa after receiving an offer to join the Ph.D. program in 2016 after spending two years in Kentucky pursuing a master's degree.

Now in the sixth year of her program, Liu is in All But Dissertation (ABD) status after completing all doctoral degree requirements except for writing a dissertation.

In 2021, Liu joined the Graduate Engagement Corps (GEC), which introduced her to the concept of community engagement. 

"I had never done anything like it," Liu said. "I had engaged with local communities as a volunteer at locations like the food bank, crisis center, and some other nonprofit organizations around Iowa City, but that was all I knew." 

The GEC was launched by the Office of Community Engagement to connect University of Iowa graduate students with training and partnerships to advance their research in collaboration with Iowa communities.

"I gained a lot by joining the GEC, including how to find resources and support for my research," Liu said. "I recommend it to graduate students looking for a welcoming and open-minded program that helps connect research with communities through engagement."



Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa-sponsored events. If you have a disability and require a reasonable accommodation to participate in this program, don't hesitate to contact Nick Benson at 319-384-3464 or