Image of Urban and Regional Planning students touring an Iowa City building.

Understanding Engagement

The University of Iowa follows the Carnegie Foundation’s definition of Community Engagement. This definition helps guide the work of the Office of Community Engagement and lays a foundation for understanding and communicating engagement work across campus and with community partners.   

Defining 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.

Community engagement:

  • 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

The University of Iowa has a long and proud tradition of serving the public through community engagement. In fact, many of the buildings on campus are named after scholars deeply committed to serving the public good.  Today, community engagement takes on many forms at the university, from service-learning courses, to faculty, staff, and students conducting research that is engaged with community partners across the state and beyond.

The Carnegie Engagement Classification

In 2015, the University of Iowa applied for and received the elective Engagement Classification from The Carnegie Foundation. This award recognizes the university’s commitment to engagement within all aspects of its operations, while also providing a framework for the university to continually evaluate and improve upon its engaged work. The Carnegie Engagement Classification also signals to communities, external funders, and other partners of the institution that community engagement is a strategic priority woven into Iowa’s mission of teaching, research, diversity, equity, inclusion, and service.

This commitment to community engagement is reflected in the University of Iowa's Strategic Plan, with an overarching goal to "...engage with Iowa and the world to broaden education, improve health and enhance economic development."

Carnegie Seal

Types of Engagement

A sustained collaboration between institutions of higher education and communities for the mutually beneficial exchange, exploration, and application of knowledge, information, and resources.  

EX: research, capacity building, and project development and execution around shared goals like economic development, environmental conservation, or cultural vitality

A pedagogical approach that connects students and faculty with activities that address community-identified needs through mutually beneficial partnerships that deepen students' academic and civic learning.  

EX: service- learning courses or service-learning clinical practicums

The creation and dissemination of knowledge and creative expression in furtherance of the mission and goals of the university and in collaboration with the community. Community-engaged scholarship addresses community needs through research, teaching, and service in a mutually beneficial partnership. The quality and impact of CES is determined by academic peers and community partners. 

A collaborative process between the researcher and community partner that creates and disseminates knowledge and creative expression with the goal of contributing to the discipline and strengthening the well-being of the community.