Community Engagement allows students to see what the field is like. Iowa is an amazing state. There are so many stories throughout the state to tell. I'm the first one to jump into any car to travel to any community to hear what their story is, in order to see how I can connect students with that story so they can help tell those stories.
Heidi Lung, University of Iowa Museum Studies Lecturer
University of Iowa Museum Studies lecturer, Heidi Lung, stepped onto the University of Iowa campus in 2015 knowing she wanted to connect students with community engaged learning. She quickly sought out the Office of Community Engagement and has successfully combined online learning with community engagement, simultaneously embracing both emerging trends for higher education.
Lung was awarded the 2018-2019 Faculty Excellence and Service Award from the Office of Community Engagement for the outstanding work she's done for students and communities.
"She gives to her students what they need to succeed," said Nick Benson, executive director for the Office of Community Engagement. "She provides the resources they need to make sure the projects are successful and the students are successful. That translates into great work."
Lung believes successful museums offer more than an opportunity to view artifacts in a display case – they engage their community through storytelling and education, help define community identity, offer space for social gathering, and can even drive economic development. Museums are strong contributors to sustainability in communities.
"Particularly in small rural Iowa communities, effective museums connect the community's heritage to its future, with an increasingly important focus on inclusivity that incorporates the stories of new residents and families into an ever-evolving community narrative," Lung said.
Lung has partnered with the Iowa Initiative for Sustainable Communities (IISC) on a variety of projects, including working with Webster City's Kendall Young Library and two projects in 2018-2019. Her Museums in the Digital World courses developed social media and digital engagements to increase public awareness of Webster City's Kendall Young Library special collections in the fall semester.
In the spring, students created an interpretive plan and exhibit for the library's special collections. Several years ago, Lung worked with students to develop a recommendations for the Edgewood Historical Museum in Edgewood, Iowa, as part of the IISC’s 2016-17 partnership with the East Central Intergovernmental Association. Students developed a social media communication plan that includes how to communicate with community members who are not tech savvy. They also recommended a collection management system based on needs of the museum.
"Museums are a foundational organization where sustainable communities can tell stories, help place us where we are now and where we're going in future," Lung said. "They reach out to communities to stay connected with groups of people and stay relevant."