Graceland Takes the Lead in Promoting Iowa History

By Rick Morain | October 28, 2013

A college-level course in Iowa history, to be offered during an eight- week period next spring, will be available for college credit for any student in an Iowa private college or university. The first-of-its- kind online course, spearheaded by Graceland University, is a collaboration of the Iowa Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (IAICU), the University of Iowa, University of Iowa Press, the State Historical Society of Iowa, Iowa Public Television and the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs.

Dr. Tom Morain of Lamoni, director of governmental relations at Graceland, developed the curriculum for the course and will teach one section. Dr. Morain's brother, Dr. Rick Morain of Jefferson, will also teach the other spring section. Both Morains are graduates of Graceland and of the University of Iowa's American Civilization program. Tom Morain is former director of research and development at Living History Farms in Urbandale and former administrator of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and has taught Iowa history at Iowa State University in Ames. He also teaches with Graceland's Honors Program. Rick Morain, who earned his doctorate at Yale University, retired last year after 45 years as editor-publisher of the Bee and Herald newspapers in Jefferson.

The unique course was announced jointly Oct. 24 on the campus of the University of Iowa in Iowa City by Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds, UI President Sally Mason, and IAICU President Gary Steinke.  After their remarks, Tom Morain explained how the program would work and what the course would cover.

Parallel to the course offered for academic credit, a new outreach arm of the University of Iowa is exploring the possibility of making the course available free for no credit to anyone who wants to take it whether enrolled in higher education or not. The UI Digital Studio for Public Humanities, directed by Professor Jon Winet, will create an online Iowa History Resources website for Iowa history educators and the general public, including the Iowa history curriculum developed by the Morains.  The website will include university materials and provide links to other resources, such as Iowa Public Television, University of Iowa Press, Iowa Public Radio, and the State Historical Society of Iowa.  The University of Iowa is funding the project for its first two years.

At the Oct. 24 news conference in Iowa City, Gov. Branstad stated, "Anyone who knows me knows I love Iowa history." He commended the course as a "wonderful project," and said he was pleased at the collaboration that brought the project to fruition. Lt. Gov. Reynolds echoed the governor's enthusiasm, and said the need for an Iowa history course has existed in the state for several years. "As a state we're proud of Dr. Tom Morain for his deep interest in Iowa history," she added.

Gary Steinke, President of IAICU, said the new course will lead to stronger communities. "Honest pride is a key component in the civic strength of a town or a state," said Steinke. "People who know the history of their community have an appreciation for the hard work done by those who came before them. That's a powerful motivation for citizens to not only preserve what's already good about their community but to build an even stronger one." Steinke added that he was very proud of all partners in the jointly developed course, specifically praising Dr. Morain and Graceland.

The collaboration "is very different from the tone in Washington," Steinke said. "It's all about Iowa cooperation."

UI President Mason commented at the news conference, "Providing high- quality, accessible higher education opportunities for the citizens of our state is the University of Iowa's most important goal. The world is swiftly changing, both in its technology and in the way students of all ages and backgrounds seek an education. We are excited about this partnership with the Iowa Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, and we seek additional opportunities to collaborate."

Graceland President John Sellars attended the news conference and met with state and university officials.  “We are very proud to be part of Graceland’s early role in promoting a creative and effective partnership to use resources efficiently,” President Sellars said. “This is indeed a win-win situation for everyone.”