December Highlights

Student in a tree

The University of Iowa was designated the state of Iowa’s first Tree Campus USA institution for its excellence in tree stewardship, as well as student and community involvement in its efforts. The award, given by the Arbor Day Foundation and Toyota Motor North America Inc., recognized the establishment of a Campus Tree Advisory Committee, Campus Tree Care Plan, and an Arbor Day 2009 student service learning project where Facilities Management Landscape Services staff and 19 student volunteers teamed to install 500 seedlings around campus.

A $1 million gift to the University of Iowa Foundation from two UI graduates enabled the University to continue the pioneering work of the late Ignacio Ponseti in countries around the world. The gift, from Bob Whitmore and Molly Osterhaus Whitmore of Minneapolis, provided funding for the Ponseti International Association (PIA) at the University. The goal of PIA is to train health care professionals in every nation to use the clubfoot treatment known as the Ponseti method.

Mary Jo Small, longtime University of Iowa associate vice president for finance and university services and recognized human rights advocate, died of complications from a stroke on Dec. 25, 2009, at the age of 72 at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

University of Iowa researchers showed that a protein channel helps nerve sensors in blood vessels keep blood pressure in check. Without the protein channel, known as ASIC2, the sensors are unable to send the brain the signals it needs to properly control blood pressure. The finding, which was based in animal models, could be used to create new treatments to prevent high blood pressure.

University of Iowa researchers found a new, rare inherited retinal disease and launched the search for a genetic cause, which investigators hope will increase understanding of more common retinal diseases. “It is rare to find a new inherited eye disease that affects the macula. We thought we had seen them all,” said the study’s lead author Vinit Mahajan, assistant professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences in the Carver College of Medicine.

Tysen KendigThe University of Iowa named Tysen Kendig, formerly associate vice chancellor for university relations at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, vice president for strategic communication. In reestablishing and redefining the VPSC role, The University of Iowa joined its Big Ten peers, each of which has appointed a vice president to focus on communication, external relations, and marketing.

The 2009-10 “Best Doctors in America” database recognized 294 physicians from University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and University of Iowa Children’s Hospital. Of the 294 UI physicians, all are members of University of Iowa Physicians, the faculty group practice of the UI Carver College of Medicine, which provides clinical services at UI Hospitals and Clinics and UI Children’s Hospital.

An international team led by University of Iowa researchers identified a gene that plays a major role in cleft lip and cleft palate. The research team included scientists and study volunteers from four continents. The findings, which appeared in the Dec. 15 issue of the journal Human Molecular Genetics, could improve genetic counseling and potentially lead to prevention or improved treatment of this type of birth defect.

Student collecting air samples.Two University of Iowa researchers may have found a likely source of a polluting substance, a polychlorinated biphenol called PCB11, that they previously identified in air samples throughout Chicago. The pigments in some indoor and outdoor paints contain PCB11, according to a University of Iowa study. Keri Hornbuckle, professor, and Dingfei Hu, postdoctoral fellow, in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering conducted the study as a follow-up to their 2008 research that found PCB11 in 91 percent of 184 Chicago air samples.

The University of Iowa awarded an honorary doctorate to UI alumnus and benefactor Henry B. Tippie as part of December commencement ceremonies. Tippie was honored at the undergraduate commencement for the Tippie College of Business at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, with UI President Sally Mason, Tippie College of Business Dean Curt Hunter, and Graduate College Dean John Keller presenting him with his degree.

Abbie Gruwell

Our People

Student’s passion for the environment prompts her to attend global climate change conferences and plan events on the UI campus to raise awareness of sustainability issues.

Think global, act local. Chances are everyone has heard that slogan before, quite often in the context of protecting the environment. Abbie Gruwell, a University of Iowa senior studying political science and international business, is no exception.

Gruwell’s also familiar with “actions speak louder than words”: she recently traveled to Copenhagen, Denmark, to gain insights on climate change, and has organized events on the UI campus to raise awareness of sustainability issues.

During the 2009–10 winter break, Gruwell and other UI students landed in Copenhagen to attend the second week of the U.N. Climate Change Conference. The discussions taking place at the conference centered on a holistic approach to climate change, which she found especially interesting.

“It wasn’t just talk about carbon footprints—they discussed climate change’s effect on public health, the economy, migration,” she says. “They don’t have the ‘Is it real?’ conversation like we have in the United States. They have the ‘What are we going to do about it?’ conversation.”

Eventually the Copenhagen Accord was reached. Although not legally binding, it provided goals to which nations could be held accountable. “What was accomplished in Copenhagen results in a domestic issue for all of us,” Gruwell says. “If the United States can do this, if the European Union can do this, if other countries can do this on a domestic level, it will set a global standard.”

Selling these ideas back home on the UI campus might seem relatively easy; one could argue that this current generation of college students is attuned to environmental issues. But, as Gruwell points out, “We’re also at a more crucial time than most generations. We’re getting involved, but we seem a step behind where we should be.”

In Gruwell’s case, it’s not for a lack of trying. In 2008, she assisted the public dining services in the Iowa Memorial Union on a couple of eco-friendly projects. She’s planned small projects on campus, and eventually spearheaded the Green Summit, a large conference held on campus in April 2009 and repeated in 2010. The speakers at the inaugural conference discussed practical aspects of careers in sustainability. The 2010 conference focused on entrepreneurship and international law; the latter is an area Gruwell hopes to explore in the near future.