International Programs supports eight faculty-led academic centers, programs, and networks that exist to create opportunities for faculty to contribute to the global mission of the University of Iowa. This is accomplished by advancing research and teaching through a focus on collegiate issues and perspectives, providing opportunities for faculty and students across disciplines to interact and collaborate, and developing public engagement projects to benefit communities in Iowa and abroad.
“The University of Iowa has always encouraged interdisciplinary collaboration,” explained Russ Ganim, associate provost and dean of International Programs. “We [International Programs] provide a mechanism for faculty who share similar areas of expertise to get together and organize conferences, cultural events, and bring in speakers. The centers, programs, and networks provide opportunities for faculty to develop original programming alongside other faculty and graduate students regardless of their discipline.”
The centers, programs, and networks supported by International Programs include the African Studies Program, Center for Asian and Pacific Studies, European Studies Group, Iowa Global Health Network, Jewish Studies Network, Korean Studies Research Network, Latin American Studies Program, and the South Asian Studies Program. Each group consists of faculty members from across campus who collaborate to host public lectures, workshops, and symposia on a range of topics each year.
The Jewish Studies Network, co-directed by Lisa Heineman, professor of modern history and gender, women's, and sexuality studies, and Ari Ariel, associate professor of instruction in history and international studies, is wrapping up its first year of existence. The network has operated alongside the new Obermann Center Jewish Studies Working Group to develop ways to engage in diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts at the UI and to bring larger questions related to ethnicity, race, religion, and the diaspora before the campus community.
“Next year, we hope to formally initiate a Jewish Studies certificate program and begin to reach out beyond our network to engage other scholars, teachers, and students on campus,” said Ariel and Heineman.
While the Jewish Studies Network makes plans for their work in their second year, the South Asian Studies Program will continue its work devoted to the enhancement of instruction, research, and the dissemination of knowledge about India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. Notably, the program supports the BA in Asian languages and literature (Chinese, Japanese, and Sanskrit) offered through the Department of Asian and Slavic Languages and Literature.
Partnering alongside departments and colleges at the university is a fundamental part of the work the eight centers, programs, and networks engage in. The African Studies Program, established on campus in 1979, continues to promote the interdisciplinary study of Africa at the university.
“The African Studies Program members are faculty from several departments of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, including history, anthropology, English, and the Division of World Languages, Literatures, and Cultures,” said Jim Giblin, professor of history and director of the African Studies Program. “In the recent past, the African Studies Program concentrated efforts on organizing appearances by visiting speakers and other events. For example, we collaborated with the International Writing Program to sponsor group discussions by visiting African writers.”
In addition to collaborating with the International Writing Program, the African Studies Program has organized an annual “Swahili Nights” event in coordination with the Swahili program in the UI Department of French and Italian. This event brings together undergraduate students of Kiswahili and community members who have an interest in the Swahili language and culture.
Similarly, the Korean Studies Research Network was established to facilitate collaborative and interdisciplinary research among scholars and graduate students in the state of Iowa and throughout the Midwest. This work has played out through their involvement in major programs, including public lecture series and conferences hosted for the public that offer insight into the latest developments in Korean politics, films, arts and media, and social movements.
“The Korean Studies Research Network is playing an important role as a bridge in introducing cutting-edge research related to Korea and fostering interdisciplinary collaboration,” said Hyaeweol Choi, Stanley Family and Korea Foundation Chair in Korean Studies and director of the Korean Studies Research Network. “The field of Korean studies has been transformed in the past few decades, making significant impact on various disciplines in humanities and social sciences, including history, gender studies, literature, anthropology, sociology, political science, film, media/communication, arts etc.”
" The academic centers, programs, and networks have significant impact on the institution. We are able to show that the University of Iowa is a player, and a leader, when it comes to international education."
In its own pursuit of establishing a global connection at the university, the Latin American Studies Program fosters cross-disciplinary teaching and research on Central and South America, Mexico, and the Caribbean. Through the Charles A. Hale Lecture, the Latin American Studies Program has brought distinguished scholars from a range of disciplines to the university to share their knowledge and research in the field of Latin American studies, and build connections among faculty, students, and community members interested in Latin America.
“The academic centers, programs, and networks have significant impact on the institution,” said Ganim. “Through the audiences we generate for the various events that are organized, we are able to heighten the awareness of global education and international activity not just for our campus, but for the larger community too. We are able to show that the University of Iowa is a player, and a leader, when it comes to international education.”
In September 2021, the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies spearheaded a global webinar, “Protests, Military Coup, and Burma’s Future.” The webinar was a collaborative effort for the community’s benefit hosted by UI International Programs, the Iowa City Foreign Relations Council, the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies, the UI Center for Human Rights, and the UI departments of anthropology, political science, and religious studies.
“Over the past two years, there have been various political uprisings in Asia,” said Cynthia Chou, professor of anthropology, C. Maxwell and Elizabeth M. Stanley Family Chair of Asian Studies, and director of the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies. “The Center for Asian and Pacific Studies has been on the forefront of bringing these issues to the global stage. Examples include bringing in domestic and international scholars to give presentations on Asian studies at the University of Iowa and local communities, as well as providing funds to Asian programs for language, content area studies and cultural activities, such as language learners’ speech competitions, writing publications, and K-12 teachers’ professional development and field trips.”
Likewise, the European Studies Group coordinates research projects, lectures, and panel discussions focusing on European issues. They seek to understand aspects of Europe through trans-historical, trans-national, and multi-disciplinary teaching, research, and the exchange of ideas. In April 2022, they hosted a two-part virtual webinar series with guest lecturer, Professor Esther Peeren of the University of Amsterdam. While the COVID-19 pandemic restricted travel for international guests, International Programs and the centers, programs, and networks have adjusted to continue to provide programs virtually with partners abroad. During the height of the pandemic, the Iowa Global Health Network, an interdisciplinary group of scholars at the university whose research and interests lie in the study of real-world health problems and challenges, facilitated timely discussions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic in partnership with campus and community partners.
“Now as we emerge from the pandemic, we are in a position where we can start to resume more in-person programming that the academic centers, programs, and networks have been noted for, and part of that in-person activity includes the ability for faculty and graduate students to collaborate and network with others in their field,” said Ganim. “New faculty members joining the institution often are seeking community on our campus; we help provide that for them.”