About Us

Who We Are

The Public Policy Center (PPC) is the only interdisciplinary research center in the central administration of the University (Office of the Vice-President for Research) with a large, intramural research program and a University-wide research development program, emphasizing but not limited to the social sciences. PPC researchers investigate some of the most important issues affecting our daily lives in Iowa and beyond. We also share the resources and expertise of the University with policymakers and the public through our engagement activities. Student involvement and training in research is emphasized, as is the development and support for interdisciplinary research across all Colleges.


Learn more from our 2020–2021 Annual Report


Our Mission

To provide policymakers and the public with information to make our lives and communities thrive in sustainable ways through academic research.

Four objectives support this mission:

  1. Conduct externally funded, interdisciplinary academic research
  2. Engage the public by sharing the expertise and resources of the PPC and the University of Iowa
  3. Support student success at graduate and undergraduate levels
  4. Stimulate and support interdisciplinary research on campus

Intramural Research

Rigorous, engaged research is at the heart of the Public Policy Center. Our policy programs include:

Faculty with joint appointments in other academic departments conduct our research, as do staff with primary appointments at the PPC, and graduate and undergraduate students. Their nationally-recognized research is often conducted with and for community partners (federal, state, and local agencies, school districts, etc.), and disseminated through journal articles, books, monographs, media appearances and policy briefs. Investigators also regularly interact with state and federal policymakers by providing evidence-based expertise, research support, and testimony/presentations on important policy issues. 

Public Engagement

IThe PPC makes its resources and research findings readily accessible through events such as symposiums, lectures, and panel discussions; online, self-published policy reports and  briefs, academic journal articles; and social media engagement. The Forkenbrock Series on Public Policy sponsors lectures and symposiums that bring together academic researchers, policymakers, other key stakeholders (business leaders, students, agency representatives), and the public to discuss the most pressing issues of our time. Forkenbrock events are often co-sponsored and planned with other campus partners. Likewise, the PPC regularly co-sponsors events hosted by other university departments.

Support Student Success

The PPC contributes to the educational mission of the University by offering applied research training opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students that relate to their career goals. Each year, the PPC employs about 100 students through internships, graduate research assistantships, and other opportunities to learn while assisting with research and other activities at the Center. Our faculty mentor numerous PhD candidates who matriculate to academic careers at the UI and other universities. The Center supports undergraduate success by offering coursework organized to help students discover what they are innately drawn to do (Life Design, CSI:1410), where topics include investigating different career paths, cultivating mentors, and the role of happiness in achieving excellence. Through the PPC's Passport Project course (CSI:1400), new students get an opportunity to explore their new community by attending concerts, plays, sporting events, and other activities to help them get connected. 

Interdisciplinary Collaboration

The PPC provides UI investigators with opportunities for collaboration on intramural research, and assists with grant identification, budget development and submission. Our researchers work with colleagues from almost every college and many centers on campus to strengthen both the substance of the research and the quality of the grant applications. Through the Iowa Social Science Research Center (ISRC), we offer pre-award grant assistance, methods support, and data collection services. The PPC sponsors Scholar-in-Residence and Summer Scholar programs to stimulate new interdisciplinary research and strengthen existing research through new collaborations.


The PPC was founded in 1988 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, and Human Factors and Vehicle Safety research.

In 2007, Professor Peter Damiano assumed the Directorship of the Center. Since then, the PPC has expanded its research programs from three to six, emphasizing the interests and strengths of faculty with policy-relevant research interests on campus. The Center’s engagement mission was added in 2008, followed by the campus-wide research support through the Iowa Social Science Research Center (ISRC) in 2010.  Research opportunities for students have increased significantly and support for undergraduate education began through the Big Ideas course on policy.