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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — Near the end of the first full budget year since the University of Iowa initiated a $1.165 billion public-private partnership to operate its utilities system, campus administrators have identified seven projects to receive a total $12 million from the partnership-enabled endowment.
The approved projects — landing a range of $113,768 to $4 million over two to three years — focus on research endeavors, student success initiatives and equity issues.
“Each of these projects not only will advance the university’s strategic plan, but represents a collaborative effort unlike any we have ever seen at Iowa,” said UI Provost Kevin Kregel, who co-chairs a strategy team that evaluated, vetted and selected projects for funding. “Each project spans multiple colleges and units, and each project lead demonstrated a high level of dedication to ensuring their proposal would benefit as many parts of campus as possible.”
The total $12.13 million the UI is distributing from proceeds of its blockbuster public-private partnership — which it refers to as its P3 — is slightly below the $15 million officials said they expected to pull annually for campus-generated strategic initiatives when first announcing the deal in December 2019.
The arrangement started with a $1.165 billion upfront payment from a collaborative involving Paris-based Engie and investment firm Meridiam. In exchange for that lump-sum payment, the UI partner landed 50 years of secured income as the campus’ utility system operator.
The university agreed to pay the collaborative a $35 million annual fixed fee — plus the cost of utility expenses, employees, maintenance, upgrades, fuel and other expenses. The fixed fee is slated to increase at an annual rate of 1.5 percent.
The university expects to cover those costs out of a $985.9 million endowment it created with the upfront payment — after paying off debts, consultant fees and training.
UI officials also touted expectations of pulling $15 million annually from the endowment for campus-generated strategic initiatives.
In February, officials announced an initial $7.5 million would go toward initiatives similar to those unveiled this month — including efforts to develop new “interdisciplinary research teams” and deploying a “faculty support, retention, and recruitment initiative.”
That initiative sought to “enhance existing professional-development programs and implement new ones in order to increase faculty retention and the recruitment of other talented faculty.”
After unveiling those first initiatives, the UI in February issued a second campuswide call for letters of intent from faculty and staff wanting a cut of the upcoming first full year of P3 funding. The UI strategy team received 45 letters and picked 10 projects to submit full proposals, according to the UI Office of Strategic Communication.
The team in May vetted the pitches and recommended seven for funding. Interim UI President John Keller OK’d those recommendations, and a UI-created P3 board approved them June 1.
Funding totals and projects are:
- $4 million over two years for a project labeled “Seeding excellence: Strengthening the university as a Destination for Research and Scholarship,” led by Aaron Kline, director of the research development office in the UI Office of the Vice President for Research.
That program aims to encourage UI research expansion by offering “competitive pilot funding in areas across campus that will strategically advance institutional priorities.”
The project aims to propel opportunities for faculty collaboration and support endeavors contributing to faculty recruitment and retention. It will back interdisciplinary research grants; early faculty research; community-engaged scholarships; and “diversity, equity and inclusion funds” meant to supplement opportunities from students from underfunded groups.
- $3.6 million over three years for an effort to extend Iowa’s “success in space-based research across campus,” led by Department Chair of UI Physics and Astronomy Philip Kaaret.
The project aims to “strengthen the institution’s ability to successfully compete for NASA funding for space missions and instruments.” It includes a “space instrumentation summer program” meant to position the UI as “the destination of choice for students interested in space research.”
- $2.2 million over three years to establish an “Iowa Health Data Resource,” led by Boyd Knosp, associate director for biomedical informatics operations and associate dean for information technology, Carver College of Medicine.
The project aims to improve the UI research community’s access and use of health science data — considering “analyzing patient data plays a central and critical role in advancing research across the broad spectrum of health care.” The new Iowa Health Data Resource will support “future health informatics research.”
- $900,000 over three years for a campuswide “learning at Iowa framework” aimed at upping student success in the college setting.
Led by Psychological and Brain Sciences Chair Shaun Vecera, the program “will develop and implement the Learning@Iowa framework to transform the culture of learning throughout campus, spanning a variety of academic courses, residence hall settings, academic advising sessions and more.”
- $758,867 over three years for an “equity in health science and practice” initiative aimed at engaging a cross-section of campus and community constituents for “rigorous health equity research and the translation of research findings into community-based interventions.”
UI Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine Martha Carvour is leading the work.
- $540,000 over two years for a project aimed at “closing the gap” in experiential learning by providing more opportunities for all UI undergraduates.
“Experiential education provides students with opportunities to apply learning to real-world contexts, while also fostering career preparation and improving job placement rates,” according to details of the project, led by Pomerantz Career center Executive Director Angi McKie. “This project seeks to close gaps in student participation by assessing the landscape of experiential education and barriers to student participation.”
- $113,768 over two years for an initiative aiming to examine and enhance academic policies to better undergraduate student success and equity, according to UI officials.
“This project examines the impact of academic probation and course placement at the UI, with a goal of tailoring policies and practices to promote overall student success and to foster equity in student outcomes,” according to UI officials. “The project is expected to positively impact undergraduate student retention and graduation rates.”
Over the life of the P3 arrangement, the institution expects to allocate up to $735 million for initiatives. Campus community members can begin submitting proposals for next year’s round of funding in the fall semester. UI spokeswoman Anne Bassett said more details are coming.
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