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Travis Kraus prioritizes community needs in Iowa while developing resources and teaching courses

Travis Kraus

Iowa Initiative for Sustainable Communities,
University of Iowa

Favorite Place

Public Space One! This is a local arts and artist-led nonprofit. It’s a very unique a community-oriented space that offers arts programming, workshops, and more. I’m happy to be a board member of the organization.

What was your first interaction with a school-community partnership project? 

My own graduate capstone project was a study of the intersection of housing policy and student outcomes. We worked with a community with a neighborhood school model (and wildly varying FRL rates and reading/math proficiencies). The city council wasn’t all that receptive to our findings and recommendations at the time, but I’ve recently learned that it has resurfaced and is part of the community discussion about addressing inequity. That’s pretty satisfying!

How did you first learn about EPIC-N?

Our program, the Iowa Initiative for Sustainable Communities, was an active member when I took the job.

What are some of the top priorities you are working on this year?

Ah, so many things. Meeting the needs of our community partners is always a top priority (two partners this year and 35+ projects), developing student resources, advising projects, teaching a new class, website update…

In what ways are you looking to engage, or work with others, either from within the EPIC-Network, or in general?

We’re a pretty well-established program at our institution, but I really love hearing about and adopting new ideas coming out of the network. We’ve had some big changes in the last year, which has meant less time for participating in all that EPIC-N has to offer. I’m grateful, though, to have strong relationships with several EPIC-N programs and to know I can reach out.

Why do you think the EPIC-Network is important?

Those of us involved in community-engagement programs understand how valuable they are. For example these types of programs:

  • Create more sustainable communities,
  • Provide unique learning opportunities for students,
  • Advance new ideas, etc.,

But our EPIC Model and other community-engagement programs are often up against budget issues, insufficient resources, leadership changes, and other challenges.

EPIC-N advocates for our programs and helps demonstrate the value of our work.

What are you hoping attendees will take with them after attending your presentation?

During the EPIC-N Resilience Webinar Series featuring our Iowa EPIC Model program, I want attendees to learn about how partnerships built around the EPIC-N model concentrate complex, multi-faceted, and multidisciplinary collaborations into a relatively short period- a whirlwind of activity that often starts all over again the following year in another community. In the years following a partnership, take the time to check back in with community partners, faculty, and students to appreciate and understand the impact of these transformative collaborations. Learn more about this recent webinar featuring Travis.


Travis Kraus is an Associate Professor in the University of Iowa School of Planning & Public Affairs and is the Director for the Iowa Initiative for Sustainable Communities, a community engagement program that helps create more sustainable futures while enhancing teaching and learning at the University of Iowa.  Travis works to enhance the capacity of rural and urban communities in Iowa to address the environmental, equity, economic, and cultural issues they face today.

Prior to joining the University of Iowa in 2016, Travis led the Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development organizations in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, worked as a regional planner for the Southeast Iowa Regional Planning Commission, and was a successful small business entrepreneur for many years. Travis earned a masters degree of Urban & Regional Planning from the University of Iowa, where he also earned a bachelor’s degree in English and a secondary teaching certificate.

Travis is involved in the Iowa City arts scene as both an artist and a board member for the local arts nonprofit Public Space One.

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