Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Jill Smith is an associate professor of instruction through Management and Organization at the Tippie College of Business. With a masters in urban and regional planning and a PhD in management and organization, Jill has been gearing up to do exactly what she does at the University of Iowa, and that’s build the capacity of nonprofit organizations. 

“What’s so promising is that I get to teach here at a University that values community engagement. It’s pretty exciting, not every educational institution, not every department, not every college values that community engagement.”  

Smith instructs a Distance & Online Education course that challenges the taboos of online learning by incorporating engagement projects. The course, Nonprofit Organizational Effectiveness, facilitates what Smith refers to as “radical learning” by teaching students about nonprofit management through traditional and experiential practices. After acquiring a fundamental understanding of how community organizations function, student teams are paired with nonprofits across Iowa to aid in grant research. Students are gaining hands-on experience with nonprofit organizations while providing expertise and institutional resources to communities who can benefit from them. 

“Nonprofits play a vital role in Iowa communities, but I wonder if people understand how much students play a role in Iowa communities.”

In the 2017 spring semester, Smith’s students identified $10,859,500 of funding for nonprofits in Iowa. Many of these grant opportunities have been realized, leading to success stories like the North Bend Elementary School’s new playground, engineered to be accessible for students with disabilities. Recently, a team of Smith's students worked with the Office of Community Engagement's 2018-2019 community partner, Webster City; more specifically, they collaborated with All Cultures Equal, a nonprofit which seeks to empower minority cultures through classes, events, services, and spaces. In their research, students found seven different grants specifically tailored to the mission of All Cultures Equal. 

“What is amazing is that every day I receive support of staff, faculty, and students who provide me with opportunities and resources to guide students - well, radically impact student learning as well as the very communities, organizations, and people that we work with throughout Iowa. The net positive difference that results from this support is evident every semester.”

Jill Smith with students in the field