Iowa State University’s new faculty learning communities seek to enhance interdisciplinary collaboration, research

By Paula Van Brocklin, Office of the Vice President for Research

Iowa State’s student learning communities have grown and thrived since their inception in 1995. Today, the university boasts more than 90 student learning communities focused on an array of academic and other topics as well as a 77% participation rate among first-year students. Now, Iowa State’s faculty are delving into the learning community arena for themselves.

A call for proposals

In April, the Center for Excellence in the Arts and Humanities (CEAH), in conjunction with the Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR), asked faculty members to submit proposals for new faculty learning communities focused on a particular topic. The ultimate goal is to lay the groundwork for long-term, collaborative and interdisciplinary research partnerships that address major societal issues facing Iowa, the nation and the world. In addition, CEAH and OVPR hope the learning communities seek answers to problems from different disciplinary perspectives and also work to improve the flow of information across academic disciplines.

Call yields five new faculty learning communities

As a result of the call for proposals, five new faculty learning communities were selected to receive $1,000 in seed funds to further develop their outreach beginning fall semester 2019. The focus areas and faculty leaders of the new learning communities follow.

  • Augmented Reality Enhancing Intercultural Competence and Second Language Learning
    Shenglan Zhang, assistant professor of world languages and cultures
    This community seeks to share information related to the application, language and culture of augmented reality (AR), and also explore funding opportunities that enhance students’ intercultural communication skills and second language learning.
  • The Crises of Contemporaneity
    April Eisman, associate professor of art and visual culture
    This learning community of interdisciplinary scholars will focus on some of the challenges that neoliberalism poses for the future of civilization, including current threats to democracy as well as the planet as a whole, and through readings and discussions explore possible alternatives to it.
  • Interdisciplinary Approaches to Research and Community Engaged Coursework in Perry, Iowa
    Megan Jeanette Myers, assistant professor of world languages and cultures
    The purpose of this learning community is to foster conversations between cross-disciplinary faculty members who are conducting research projects and designing community-engaged courses in Perry, Iowa.
  • Sustainable Peace
    Christina Campbell, associate professor of food science and human nutrition
    This learning community will explore, learn and discuss the meaning of peace, particularly positive peace, in the context of teaching, research and outreach. Positive peace means living in a world that is just and sustainable, including access to food and clean drinking water, education, security and other human rights.
  • Water Scholars Program
    Richard Cruse, professor of agronomy
    Water resource management issues touch all academic disciplines, making it a top priority for many interdisciplinary research teams. This learning community aims to banish the barriers between the arts and sciences to help campus researchers think creatively and work together to come up with novel water resources research.

Carlton Basmajian, director of CEAH and associate professor of community and regional planning, encourages interested faculty from all colleges to participate in the new faculty learning communities, or think about others they would like to initiate.

“The idea behind creating faculty learning communities to is develop an ecosystem of faculty collaborators who will eventually take their work and interests to the next level, such as publish articles, develop symposia, apply for grants, create courses or generate other scholarly output,” Basmajian said. “We’re hoping to provide opportunities for people from different sides of campus to make meaningful connections.”

More information about the faculty learning communities will be available on the CEAH website in the near future. In the meantime, please contact the faculty leaders to learn more about or join a particular learning community.