Throughout its history, the Labor Center has served as a campus hub for innovative interdisciplinary research, teaching, and community engagement projects. As the sole unit specializing in workplace and labor issues in the Regents system, our staff members regularly mentor and advise undergraduate, graduate, and professional students who are pursuing labor and employment-related research and career interests. If you are a student who is interested in discussing your labor-related research, professional goals, and internship opportunities, don't hesitate to contact the Labor Center!


William E. Riley Workers Compensation, Graduate Research Assistant

Each year, the Labor Center administers a research grant funded by the Iowa Workers’ Compensation Advisory Committee (IWCAC) to honor the memory of William E. Riley, past Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner and Advisory Committee Member.

The fund supports a quarter-time graduate assistant to conduct research or other projects related to Iowa workers’ compensation. At the end of the academic year, the Riley graduate assistant is invited to present a summary of their project at the annual Iowa Workers' Compensation Symposium. Several Riley research assistants have had the opportunity to publish their findings.

In the past few years, for example, Riley research assistants have examined:

  • comparative state policy regarding the applicability of COVID-19 to workers' compensation laws
  • the experiences of migrant workers when navigating the Iowa Workers' Compensation system
  • the historical background of Iowa's workers' compensation law,  impetus for 2017 reforms, and the implications of changes in the law for Iowa workers and their families


Community Engaged Internships and Service Learning Projects

The Labor Center regularly collaborates with other academic departments to host student interns and connect them with community engaged learning opportunities. 

For the past several years, the Labor Center has hosted graduate students involved in the Humanities for the Public Good summer internship through the Obermann Center. One intern worked as a production assistant for a Speaking of Work labor history podcast, based on audio interviews in the Iowa Labor History Oral Project. Another intern interviewed tradeswomen involved in the Iowa Women in Trades Project and produced public education materials based on the interviews.

The Labor Center has also hosted law student interns involved in the Citizen Lawyer Program, connecting them with service learning opportunities and supervising their projects. Students involved in this program at the Labor Center have, for example: assisted a local workers' center in interviews with workers experiencing wage payment violations; produced a toolkit and member education workshop on wage payment rights; developed a pamphlet for meatpacking workers on their rights and responsibilities under Iowa workers' compensation law; and produced a brochure on OSHA protections regarding heat stress for construction and manufacturing workers. 

Innovative Interdisciplinary Research and Grant Projects

The Labor Center has a proud tradition of engaging in innovative interdisciplinary programming. A few recent examples include:

Neuropsychology study based on ILHOP interviews. A few years ago, a clinical neuropsychology team at the the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics realized that the vast collection of audio interviews in the Iowa Labor History Oral Project administered by the Labor Center offers unique potential for groundbreaking research on the relationship between changing speech patterns and the potential for early detection and treatment of Alzheimer's disease. The Labor Center has assisted the team in contacting past interviewees to invite them to participate in a follow-up study to shed light on changing speech patterns and memory.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant analyzing base building techniques used by a Midwestern workers' center. A few years ago, the Labor Center and the Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa were awarded a grant to document the organization's early history, develop a community archive, and prepare a report with case studies documenting base-building strategies used by worker leaders to assert the needs of low-wage and immigrant workers and advance their policy goals. Labor Center staff supervised the work of a Graduate Research Assistant who conducted oral history interviews, developed an archive, created a timeline and analyzed key findings.

Interested in becoming a student intern at the Labor Center?

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