University of Iowa

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The University of Iowa
University of Iowa seal.svg
Officially the State University of Iowa
TypePublic flagship research university
EstablishedFebruary 25, 1847; 174 years ago (February 25, 1847)
Academic affiliations
Endowment$2.53 billion (2020)[1]
PresidentBarbara J. Wilson[2]
ProvostKevin Kregel[2]
Administrative staff
Students31,206 (Fall 2021)[3]
Undergraduates21, 608
Location, ,
United States

41°39′42″N 91°32′11″W / 41.66167°N 91.53639°W / 41.66167; -91.53639Coordinates: 41°39′42″N 91°32′11″W / 41.66167°N 91.53639°W / 41.66167; -91.53639
CampusCollege Town, 1,880 acres (7.6 km2)
NewspaperThe Daily Iowan
Colors  Black
Sporting affiliations
NCAA Division I FBSBig Ten
MascotHerky the Hawk
University of Iowa logo.svg

The University of Iowa (UI, U of I, UIowa, or simply Iowa[5]) is a public research university in Iowa City, Iowa. Founded in 1847, it is the oldest and the second-largest university in the state. The University of Iowa is organized into 12 colleges offering more than 200 areas of study and seven professional degrees.[5]

On an urban 1,880-acre campus on the banks of the Iowa River, the University of Iowa is classified among "R1: Doctoral Universities – Very high research activity".[6] The university is best known for its programs in health care, law, and the fine arts, with programs ranking among the top 25 nationally in those areas.[7][8] The university was the original developer of the Master of Fine Arts degree and it operates the Iowa Writers' Workshop, which has produced 17 of the university's 46 Pulitzer Prize winners.[9][10] Iowa is a member of the Association of American Universities, the Universities Research Association, and the Big Ten Academic Alliance.

Among public universities in the United States, UI was the first to become coeducational and host a department of religious studies; it also opened the first coeducational medical school.[11] The University of Iowa's 33,000 students take part in nearly 500 student organizations.[12] Iowa's 22 varsity athletic teams, the Iowa Hawkeyes, compete in Division I of the NCAA and are members of the Big Ten Conference. The University of Iowa alumni network exceeds 250,000 graduates.


Founding and early history[edit]

Iowa Old Capitol Building, Iowa City, 1855

The University of Iowa was founded on February 25, 1847, just 59 days after Iowa was admitted to the Union. The Constitution of the State of Iowa refers to a State University to be established in Iowa City "without branches at any other place."[13] The legal name of the university is the State University of Iowa, but the Board of Regents approved using "The University of Iowa" for everyday usage in October 1964.[14]

The first faculty offered instruction at the university beginning in March 1855 to students in the Old Mechanics Building, located where Seashore Hall is now. In September 1855, there were 124 students, of whom forty-one were women. The 1856–57 catalog listed nine departments offering ancient languages, modern languages, intellectual philosophy, moral philosophy, history, natural history, mathematics, natural philosophy, and chemistry. The first president of the university was Amos Dean.

The original campus consisted of the Iowa Old Capitol Building and the 10 acres (40,000 m2) (4.05 hectares) of land on which it stood. Following the placing of the cornerstone July 4, 1840, the building housed the Fifth Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Iowa (December 5, 1842) and then became the first capitol building of the State of Iowa on December 28, 1846. Until that date, it had been the third capitol of the Territory of Iowa. When the capitol of Iowa was moved to Des Moines in 1857, the Old Capitol became the first permanent "home" of the University.

In 1855, the university became the first public university in the United States to admit men and women on an equal basis. In addition, Iowa was the world's first university to accept creative work in theater, writing, music, and art on an equal basis with academic research.[15]

The university was one of the first institutions in America to grant a law degree to a woman (Mary B. Hickey Wilkinson, 1873), to grant a law degree to an African American (Alexander G. Clark, Jr. in 1879), and to put an African American on a varsity athletic squad (Frank Holbrook in 1895). The university awarded its first doctorate in 1898.[15]

20th century–present[edit]

Schaeffer Hall, location of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Old Capitol Museum

The university was the first state university to recognize the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Allied Union (in 1970).[15]

The University of Iowa established the first law school west of the Mississippi River. It was the first university to use television in education, in 1932, and it pioneered in the field of standardized testing.[16] Also, the University of Iowa was the first Big Ten institution to promote an African American to the position of administrative vice president. (Phillip Hubbard, promoted in 1966)

Under the leadership of Carl Seashore in 1922, Iowa became the first university in the United States to accept creative projects as theses for advanced degrees. Traditionally, graduate study culminates in the writing of a scholarly thesis, but Iowa accepted creative works including a collection of poems, a musical composition, or a series of paintings to be presented to the graduate college in support of a degree. In so doing, Iowa established a creative standard in qualifying for the Master of Fine Arts degree and secured a place for writers and artists in the academy. The university's Program in Creative Writing, known worldwide as the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, was founded in 1936 with the gathering together of writers of both poetry and fiction. It was the first creative writing program in the country, and it became the prototype for more than 300 writing programs, many of which were founded by Workshop alumni. The workshop remains the most prestigious creative writing program in the country and one of the most selective graduate programs of any kind, typically admitting fewer than five percent of its applicants.

A shooting took place on campus on November 1, 1991. Six people died in the shooting, including the perpetrator, and one other person was wounded. This was one of the deadliest university campus shootings in United States history.

In the summer of 2008, flood waters breached the Coralville Reservoir spillway, damaging more than 20 major campus buildings.[17] Several weeks after the floodwaters receded, university officials placed a preliminary estimate on flood damage at $231.75 million. Later, the university estimated that repairs would cost about $743 million.[18] The reconstruction and renovation work took a decade, but the university has recovered and taken several preventive measures with the hope of avoiding a tragic repeat of the event.[19]

In January 2009, UNESCO designated Iowa City the world's third City of Literature, making it part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.[20][21]

In 2015, the Iowa Board of Regents selected Bruce Harreld, a business consultant with limited experience in academic administration, to succeed Sally Mason as president. The regents' choice of Harreld provoked criticism and controversy on the UI campus due to his corporate background, lack of history in leading an institution of higher education, and the circumstances related to the search process.[22][23][24][25] The regents said they had based their decision on the belief that Harreld could limit costs and find new sources of revenue beyond tuition in an age of declining state support for universities.[24]


General Hospital's collegiate Gothic tower is prevalent on the west side of campus
Seamans Center for the Engineering Arts and Sciences

The University of Iowa's main campus is located in Iowa City. The campus is roughly bordered by Park Road and U.S. Highway 6 to the north and Dubuque and Gilbert Streets to the east. The Iowa River flows through the campus, dividing it into west and east sides.

Of architectural note is the Pentacrest which comprises five major buildings—Old Capitol, Schaeffer Hall, MacLean Hall, Macbride Hall, and Jessup Hall—at the center of the University of Iowa Campus. The Pentacrest reflects the Beaux-Arts in addition to Greek Revival architectural styles and the Collegiate Gothic architecture, which is dominant in sections of the campus east of the Iowa River. The Old Capitol was once the home of the state legislature and the primary government building for the State of Iowa but is now the symbolic heart of the university with a restored ceremonial legislative chamber and a museum of Iowa history.

Also on the east side of the campus are six residence halls (Burge, Daum, Stanley, Currier, Mayflower, and Catlett), the Iowa Memorial Union, the Women's Resource & Action Center, the Pappajohn Business Building, Seamans Center for the Engineering Arts and Sciences, the Lindquist Center (home of the College of Education), Phillips Hall (the foreign language building), Van Allen Hall (home to physics and astronomy), Trowbridge Hall (home to Earth & Environmental Sciences, as well as the Iowa Geological Survey), the English-Philosophy Building, the Becker Communication Building, the Adler Journalism Building, Voxman Music Building, and the buildings for biology, chemistry, and psychology. The Main Library can also be found on the east side.

The Colleges of Law, Medicine, Nursing, Dentistry, Pharmacy, and Public health are on the west side of the Iowa River, along with the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, and the Theatre Building. Additionally, five residence halls (Hillcrest, Slater, Rienow, Parklawn, and Petersen), Kinnick Stadium, and Carver-Hawkeye Arena are located on the west campus.

The campus is home to several museums, including the University of Iowa Museum of Art, the Museum of Natural History, the Old Capitol Museum, the Medical Museum, the Athletic Hall of Fame and Museum, and Project Art at the University Hospitals and Clinics.

A flood of the Iowa River in 2008 had a major impact on several campus buildings, forcing many to temporarily or permanently close. The Iowa Memorial Union was closed for some time while its lower level was renovated. The arts campus, which included Hancher Auditorium, Voxman Music Building, Clapp Recital Hall, and the Theatre Building, sustained significant damage. Hancher Auditorium was rebuilt near its current site on the West bank of the Iowa River, and Voxman Music Hall was constructed adjacent to downtown Iowa City and the main campus on South Clinton Street. The new Hancher Auditorium and the new Voxman Music Building opened in 2016.

The Oakdale Campus, which is home to some of the university's research facilities and the driving simulator, is located north of Interstate 80 in adjacent Coralville.

Campus Public Art Collection[edit]

The University of Iowa holds and continues to commission an extensive collection of public art. The program began under the Iowa State 'Art in State Buildings Program,' one of the first percent for art programs in the United States[26] since repealed in 2017. The collection includes many important works, including works by artists: Sol LeWitt (2-3-1-1, 1994); El Anatsui (Anonymous Creature 2009); Dale Chihuly (Forest Amber and Gilded Chandelier, 2004); August Rodin (Jean de Fiennes, draped, 1889); Peter Randall-Page (Ridge and Furrow, 2011).[27]


The University of Iowa is one of the EPA's Green Power Partners,[28] burning oat hulls instead of coal and reducing coal consumption by 20%.[29] In May 2004, the university joined the Chicago Climate Exchange,[30] and in April 2009, a student garden was opened.[31]

The university also offers a Certificate in Sustainability through the Office of Sustainability (OS).[32] The OS recently coordinated the University's first sustainability plan: "2020 Vision UIowa Sustainability Targets," proposed by UI President Sally Mason on October 29, 2010.[33]

Organization and administration[edit]

College/school founding
Year founded

Carver College of Medicine[34]
College of Dentistry
College of Education
College of Engineering
College of Law
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences[38]
College of Nursing
College of Pharmacy
College of Public Health
Graduate College
Tippie College of Business
University College

The Iowa Board of Regents, a statewide body, governs the University of Iowa, as well as the state's two other public universities (Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa), along with certain other institutions. Created by the Iowa General Assembly in 1909, the Board of Regents is composed of nine volunteer members appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Iowa Senate to serve staggered six-year terms.[42] The Iowa Board of Regents hires the president of the University of Iowa, and the university president reports to the Board.[43] The 21st and current president of the University of Iowa is Bruce Harreld, who has served since November 2, 2015.[44]


The Old Iowa State Capitol sits at the center of The Pentacrest

The University of Iowa is regularly recognized as one of the top institutions of higher learning in the country, and over 5,000 courses are offered at the university each year. Iowa is one of 61 elected members in the Association of American Universities. The university is home to ISCABBS, a public bulletin board system that was the world's largest Internet community before the commercialization of the world wide web.

The Iowa Writers' Workshop was founded in 1936. Since 1947 it has produced thirteen Pulitzer Prize winners. Twenty-five people affiliated with the Writers' Workshop have won a Pulitzer Prize. The Hanson Center for Technical Communication was founded at The University of Iowa and named after a 1960 graduate, Thomas R. Hanson, who funded the institution with $800,000.[45]

The university has educated many of the state's professionals, including 79% of Iowa's dentists, 50% of physicians, 48% of pharmacists, as well as many teachers and administrators in each of the state's K–12 school districts.[5]

University of Iowa Libraries[edit]

The University of Iowa library system is the state's largest library and comprises the Main Library, the Hardin Library for the Health Sciences, five branch libraries, and the Law Library. The University Libraries' holdings include more than five million bound volumes, more than 200,000 rare books, and 1000 historical manuscript collections. Significant holdings include Hardin Library's John Martin Rare Book Room, the Iowa Women's Archives,[46] the Louis Szathmary culinary arts collections, the Ruth and Marvin Sackner Archive of Concrete and Visual Poetry,[46] science fiction collections, and works of Walt Whitman. The comic books collection in the Special Collections contains original art for 6,000 cartoons, film and television scripts, magazines and other underground or amateur publications, as well as mainstream books from throughout the 20th and 21st centuries.[47][48]


Academic rankings
ARWU[49] 66–94
Forbes[50] 160
THE/WSJ[51] 162
U.S. News & World Report[52] 88
Washington Monthly[53] 76
ARWU[54] 201–300
QS[55] 420
THE[56] 201–250
U.S. News & World Report[57] 160

In 2021, the University of Iowa tied for 88th among national universities, tied for 34th among public universities, placed 108th among "Best Value Schools," tied for 77th among "Most Innovative Schools," and tied for 353rd in "Top Performers on Social Mobility" by U.S. News & World Report.[58]

In graduate school rankings for 2021, U.S. News & World Report ranked Iowa's Carver College of Medicine tied for 20th in the U.S. for primary care and tied for 34th for research. Its College of Public Health tied for 19th, its College of Pharmacy tied for 18th, its College of Law tied for 27th, and its Nursing School tied for 21st.[59] U.S. News & World Report also ranked 9 University of Iowa graduate programs among the top 25 in the United States for 2021.[59]

According to the National Science Foundation, Iowa spent $511 million on research and development in 2018, ranking it 51st in the United States.[60]

Research Institutes[edit]

  • Institute of Agricultural Medicine. The Institute of Agricultural Medicine was established in 1955 to study rural public health issues with a grant from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation.[61] It was later renamed the Institute of Agricultural Medicine and Occupational Health.
  • IIHR–Hydroscience & Engineering (Iowa Institute of Hydraulic Research). IIHR—Hydroscience & Engineering is a world-renowned center for education, research, and public service focusing on hydraulic engineering and fluid mechanics. Based in the C. Maxwell Stanley Hydraulics Laboratory, a five-story red brick building on the banks of the Iowa River, IIHR is a unit of the University of Iowa's College of Engineering. Because of its contributions to water's study and use, the American Society of Civil Engineers recognized the Stanley Hydraulics Lab as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark. The ASCE distinguishes the lab as the "oldest university-based hydraulics laboratory in the nation continuously focusing on research and education in hydraulic engineering."[62]
  • Public Policy Center. The Public Policy Center (PPC) is an interdisciplinary academic research center investigating six policy areas: Environmental, Health, Housing & Land Use, Human Factors & Vehicle Safety, Social Science, and Transportation. The University of Iowa Public Policy Center (PPC) was founded in 1987 by David Forkenbrock, Professor of Urban and Regional Planning, as a freestanding unit in the Office of the Vice President for Research. The PPC's original focus was Transportation Policy research, followed by Health Policy research (1990) and Human Factors and Vehicle Safety research (1996).[63]

Student life[edit]

There are also over 500 student organizations, including groups focused on politics, sports, games, lifestyles, dance, song, theater, and a variety of other activities. The University also tries to sponsor events that give students an alternative to the typical drinking scene.[64] In 2004 the University established an annual $25,000 contract with the newly reopened Iowa City Englert Theatre to host concerts and performances for as many as 40 nights a year.[65] Students participate in a variety of student media organizations. For example, students edit and manage The Daily Iowan newspaper (often called the DI), which is printed every Monday through Friday while classes are in session. Noted pollster George Gallup was an early editor of the DI. Daily Iowan TV, KRUI Radio, Student Video Productions, Off Deadline magazine, and Earthwords magazine are other examples of student-run media.


The University of Iowa has 22 varsity athletic teams, known as the Hawkeyes. All teams are members of the Big Ten Conference in the National Collegiate Athletic Association's Division I. There are 10 men's teams and 12 women's teams. Four of these teams - men's gymnastics, men's and women's swimming and diving, and men's tennis - will be eliminated after the 2020–21 academic year to help address a projected $60–75 million deficit related to the COVID-19 pandemic.[66]


Iowa's most successful team is men's wrestling, which has won 24 of the school's 26 NCAA championships. Fifteen of those championships occurred during Dan Gable's 21-year tenure as head coach (1977-1997). It has 35 Big Ten titles, 81 individual NCAA Titles, and has graduated 17 Olympians.[67] The team is currently coached by alumnus Tom Brands.


The facade of the west stand of Kinnick Stadium

Iowa's football team is one of the most financially valuable college programs in the country.[68] They have won 11 Big Ten championships and claim a share of the 1921 and 1958 national championships. The program has produced 10 members of the College Football Hall of Fame, 27 consensus first-team All-Americans, 5 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and 245 NFL Draft Picks.[69] The team is currently coached by Kirk Ferentz, who has completed his 21st year following coach Hayden Fry, who coached the previous 20 seasons.

Field hockey[edit]

Iowa's field hockey team is the most successful women's team at the university, winning the 1986 national championship. They have won 13 conference titles and have made 11 Final Four appearances in the 33-year history of the NCAA tournament, despite field hockey not being a high school sport in Iowa.[70] The program has produced 85 All-Americans and 13 Olympians.[71] The program is currently coached by Lisa Celluci.

Other sports[edit]

Other sports at the university include basketball, soccer, baseball, softball, gymnastics, golf, swimming and diving, tennis, track and field, volleyball, cross country, and rowing. Most of the school's athletic facilities are located on the west end of campus.[72] The largest venue is the 70,585-seat Kinnick Stadium, home to the football program.[73] Opening in 1929 as Iowa Stadium, it was renamed in 1977 after Nile Kinnick, winner of the 1939 Heisman Trophy. The basketball, wrestling, gymnastics, and volleyball teams play at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, which seats 15,400.[74] Other venues include the Beckwith Boathouse, Duane Banks Field, and the old Iowa Fieldhouse.

Notable alumni and faculty[edit]

Among the thousands of graduates from the University of Iowa, especially notable alumni include George Gallup, founder of the Gallup Poll (BA, 1923); Tennessee Williams, author of "A Streetcar Named Desire" and "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" (BA 1938); Gene Wilder, comedic film and television actor (BA 1955, Communication and Theatre Arts); Andre Tippett, NFL Hall of Fame linebacker; James Van Allen, world-famous physicist and discoverer of two radiation belts (the Van Allen Belts) that surround the earth, Emeritus Carver Professor of Physics at the University of Iowa (MS 1936, PhD 1939, Physics); Mauricio Lasansky, Latin American artist known as the father of modern printmaking, founder of the University of Iowa’s ‘Iowa print group’; Albert Bandura, one of the most cited psychologists of all-time as originator of social cognitive theory (MA 1951, PhD 1952); (Mary) Flannery O'Connor, novelist and author of numerous short stories (MFA 1947, English); Sarai Sherman, a twentieth century modernist painter whose work is in major national and international collections; John Irving, novelist who wrote The World According to Garp, A Prayer for Owen Meany, and several others (MFA 1967, English); and Jenny Zhang (writer), a modern writer and poet.[75] [76] Jewel Prestage, the first African-American woman to earn a Ph.D. in political science, graduated with a master's and a doctorate in 1954. Tom Brokaw, Mark Mattson, and Ashton Kutcher also attended the University of Iowa.

See also[edit]


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Further reading[edit]

  • Lena M. Hill and Michael D. Hill, Invisible Hawkeyes: African Americans at the University of Iowa during the Long Civil Rights Era. Iowa City, IA: University of Iowa Press, 2016.

External links[edit]