Reduced Legislative Support and New Interdisciplinary Collaborations: Development of Iowa State’s Hybrid Funding Model for Masters Program in Historic

Presented by: Diane Viegut, Al Shihabi

In an era of reduced legislative support for universities, academicians and administrators seek creative financial models to fund new interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary graduate programs in design disciplines. While in 2009, 32.7% of Iowa State University’s (ISU) revenues came from state appropriations and 1.3% came from federal appropriations, in 2014 only 23.5% of the University’s revenues were state funded and 1% were federally funded. Additionally, between 2012 and 2015 Iowa’s legislature imposed tuition freezes, further constricting the University’s budgetary resources. Within this monetary milieu, four departments in ISU’s College of Design - Interior Design, Architecture, Community and Regional Planning, and Landscape Architecture - collaborated with the University’s Provost, the College’s Dean, Iowa’s Economic Development Authority, and Iowa businesses to creatively visualize and finance a new interdisciplinary masters program in Historic Preservation. Phase One culminated with the selection of a five-person interdisciplinary committee to jointly determine the developing program and the implementation of the first new faculty hire, financed through an innovative hybrid-funding model that integrated external and internal capital, and contractually guaranteed funding for a decade. With successful execution of the program’s first phase, this study asks 1) How developing university programs in design disciplines can collaborate with regional businesses and existing governmental agencies to fund new interdisciplinary graduate programs of mutual interest without compromising academic freedom, and 2) What are the key characteristics and essential strategies of a successful contemporary interdisciplinary and cross disciplinary collaboration, within and beyond the institution? To address question one, the study’s methodology examined pecuniary and non-pecuniary strategies employed to initiate the new program, the benefits financiers envisioned for their organizations, and the mutually agreed upon terms of implementation. The study also examined the Historic Preservation Exploratory Committee’s (HPEC) feasibility study, which assayed interdisciplinary graduate programs that succeeded and failed within the College of Design and reviewed practices of successful interdisciplinary graduate programs in Historic Preservation across the United States. Among external programs analyzed were the University of Florida, Cornell University, and Ball State University. To address question two, the study analyzed HPEC’s collaborative process, from the perspective of the participants, and identified key stratagems, implemented and in process, designed to ensure an interdisciplinary model that allows all participants equal voice and equal opportunities. It also evaluated the alignment of university goals for new interdisciplinary programs with the faculty’s concern of promotion and tenure criteria. The study finds that equity of participants, transparency of information, efficiency of process, and prioritization of common goals were essential characteristics of the successful collaboration. The University’s High-Impact Hires Initiative, combined with funds from the Iowa Economic Development Authority, helped realize the first hire of the new Historic Preservation program, while HPEC’s involvement in contractual negotiations ensured execution of the program as envisioned by the founding academicians. Importantly, this study shows that a hybrid-funding model can serve as an important catalyst in the developmental process for a new educational initiative and that fully engaged interdisciplinary academicians can realize academic goals, even when a new program is substantially externally funded.


  • Iowa Economic Development Authority. Contract with ISU College of Design. Ames. 2014.
  • Iowa State University of Science and Technology. Financial Reports. Ames. 2005-2014.
  • Iowa State University. Minutes. Historic Preservation Exploratory Committee. Ames. Fall 2012-Fall 2015.
  • U.S. Department of Education. Annual Budget Tables. Budget Office. Washington D. C. 2005-2014.