UI Public Policy Center celebrates anniversary with event conceptualizing sustainable communities

The University of Iowa Public Policy Center celebrated 30 years of research by hosting “Visualizing Equitable and Sustainable Communities in Iowa” to showcase its research in the community.


Roman Slabach

The Graduate Hotel as seen on April 23, 2019 in Iowa City. (Roman Slabach/The Daily Iowan)

Noelle Hass, News Reporter

The University of Iowa Public Policy Center was welcomed by a large crowd at the Graduate Hotel on April 25 for its 30th-anniversary research presentation event. The center dubbed the event “Visualizing Equitable and Sustainable Communities in Iowa.”

The event provided space for UI researchers to present their studies to the public in an interactive manner. The presentations included posters for audience members to observe as well slideshows and graphs.

Iowa City Mayor Jim Throgmorton spoke about the importance of public policy in the community before researchers presented their findings. He has been closely involved with the Public Policy Center for some time, he said.

“Our plan is to foster a more sustainable city, address racial inequity, have affordable neighborhoods, allow for immigrants and refugees to better adjust, address climate change, and revise some of our city codes to help with sustainability and bring more diversity to the community,” he said.

Throgmorton said it is vitally important to prioritize sustainability in Iowa City and it is necessary to prepare for an unpredictable future.

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“Cities are problems in organized complexity … the future of [Iowa City] cannot be planned or predicted, but it will unfold,” Throgmorton said. “Which way will we choose to unfold?”

After the researchers completed the presentations, the community was given the opportunity to speak to them, ask questions, and share what issues they believed to be the most important locally.

People wandered around the space, going from group to group and hearing their unique ideas. Posters were placed at the front of the room and audience members had the chance to write what issues were important to them. 

The presentations were meant to act as conversation starters for community members in the audience, said Professor Peter Damiano, the director of the Public Policy Center.

David Cwiertny, a professor of environmental engineering, acknowledged the importance of community interaction and said, “The community inspires [researchers] and gives us things to pursue [in the community].”

Researchers with the Public Policy Center addressed numerous local problems, including water quality, access to mental and physical health care, climate change, minimum wage, among other items.

The Public Policy Center comprises many areas, including crime and justice, environmental, health, politics, social and education, and transportation and vehicle safety. These different academic programs joined together for the event to report on how improve sustainability in the community in more ways that just one.

With many opportunities for involvement, Damiano said, the Public Policy Center is available for students of any education level, from undergraduate to Ph.D. The field of study allows for UI students of any education level to participate in research.

“The primary mission [of the Public Policy Center] is dealing with policymakers, sharing research, our student impact, and support for social science research,” Damiano said.