Working Groups

Obermann Center Working Groups provide space, structure, and discretionary funding for groups of faculty and advanced graduate students with a shared intellectual interest. Groups have used this opportunity to explore new work, to share their own research, to organize a symposium, and to develop grant proposals. In 2016–17, the Obermann Center hosted 20 Working Groups.

Select Working Group Highlights

Personalization Algorithms and Bias in Social Media Working Group

Co-directors: Tim Havens (Communication Studies and African American Studies, CLAS); M. Zubair Shafiq (Computer Science, CLAS) [Members of this group are pictured above.]

  • Refined methods for studying how social media activity affects Google search results
  • Experimented with a number of different iterations and failures, finally arriving at a workable model
  • Presented preliminary findings at the International Communication Association conference in May.

Place-Based Inclusion Working Group

Director: Megan Gilster (School of Social Work, CLAS)

  • Continued efforts to understand and advocate for university attention to affordable housing in the Iowa City community
  • Secured funding to conduct a mixed-methods research study to examine the experiences of finding affordable housing among those at risk for housing instability
  • Wrote several grants for internal funding and secured funding from the Office of Outreach and Engagement’s Community Impact grant ($10,000) to conduct a study of housing instability
  • Robin_Bachin.jpgBrought Dr. Robin Bachin, Assistant Provost for Civic and Community Engagement and Associate Professor of History at the University of Miami, to Iowa City in April to present on her work connecting university resources to the problem of affordable housing in Miami

Comparative Ethnic Studies Working Group

Director: Deborah Whaley (American Studies and African American Studies, CLAS)

  • Hosted Joseph Heathcott, Associate Professor of Urban Studies at the New School, in September. He presented a workshop with graduate students and faculty on crafting portfolios, non-traditional dissertations, and alternative careers. He also gave a standing-room-only public lecture titled “A Tale of Two Projects: Race, Neighborhood, and Design in the Twentieth-Century Post-Industrial City.”
  • Lam-PalgraveBrought Kevin Lam, Assistant Professor of Urban and Diversity Education at Drake University to campus to give a talk based on his book Youth Gangs, Racism, and Schooling: Vietnamese American Youth in a Postcolonial Context.

Contemporary Literary and Film Theory Working Group

Director: Kathleen Newman (Spanish & Portuguese and Cinematic Arts, CLAS)

This long-term working group read and discussed seven books. Members reported that the ideas raised by the group contributed to the creation of new courses and also contributed to book, article, and lecture content, including Elke Heckner’s (German, CLAS) book manuscript, Thinking Memories of Futurity: Holocaust, Genocide and 9/11, and Kathleen Newman’s (Spanish & Portuguese, CLAS) conference paper, “Transnational vs. Peripheral Modernity: Argentine Cinema in the 1920s,” which she delivered at the Latin American Studies Association International Congress in Lima, Peru.

Fossils and Farmland Working Group

Co-directors: Clar Baldus (Teaching & Learning, College of Education); Deanne Wortman (College of Engineering)

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Using Cornell University mathematician Daina Taimina’s book Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes, members of this group started a project to crochet Iowa’s extinct fossil past. The finger crochet technique can be done by children and is being developed by the group as a project that will combine art, math, and science to teach about geology and global warming.

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About Obermann Center

The University of Iowa’s Obermann Center for Advanced Studies in Iowa City, Iowa.