Iowa City Better Bridges


In response to the 2015-2016 World Café climate sessions, University of Iowa and Iowa City community members partnered to increase education and training for downtown businesses to become more culturally intelligent.

The Iowa City (I.C.) Better Bridges Institute is a day-and-a-half event designed for business owners and managers to learn more about identity, bias, and strategies to have inclusive customer service. The inaugural Institute was held January 10 – January 11, 2017.

More than 20 participants spent the first day in a National Coalition Building Institute (NCBI) training session on Leadership for Equity & Inclusion. This training was conducted by members of the UI NCBI affiliate. The second day was a discussion-based review of implicit bias, microaggressions, and case studies related to customer service. Each participant also received a “Diversity and Inclusion” toolkit booklet and had the chance to apply for a Micro Grant to support diversity and inclusion initiatives at their organizations.

“Diversity and inclusion are crucial concepts for owners, managers, and the general business person. Working with a diverse team means new ideas, innovation, and (ultimately) increased profit, but only if that team is well supported and different experiences are acknowledged and valued. This institute provided a wonderful opportunity to discuss those experiences, and receive informative training on best practices,” said Brianna Marcelo, the UI Diversity Resources Director. “We appreciate all who participated, and we look forward to continuing to work together with our partners to talk about and implement steps we can all take to continue to improve the climate both on campus and in Iowa City for all members of the UI community.”

Key partners in the initiative are the UI Chief Diversity Office, Iowa City Downtown District, UI Tippie College of Business, UI Office of Outreach and Engagement, City of Iowa City, Iowa City Chamber of Commerce, and UI Student Government.

For any questions or concerns regarding this initiative, please contact

Spring 2017 Cohort

Spring 2017 attendees - group

Representatives from the following businesses/organizations received their certificates:

Beadology Iowa
City of Iowa City
Cole's Quality Foods
Englert Civic Theatre
High Ground Cafe
Hills Bank and Trust company
Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce
Iowa City Downtown District
JMI Laboratories
Johnson County
Leepfrog Technologies, Inc.
Prince International
The Java House & Heirloom Salad Co.
Yotopia Frozen Yogurt
Zion Lutheran Church