AMES, Iowa – Timothy O. Borich is well-versed in Iowa State University’s engagement with communities throughout Iowa. He’s been involved in community outreach work at Iowa State for the past 36 years. Currently the director of the ISU Extension and Outreach Community and Economic Development program, as well as associate dean for extension and outreach within the ISU College of Design, he’ll be retiring from these administrative roles effective Sept. 3.
Borich will remain at Iowa State part-time as an associate professor in the Department of Community and Regional Planning.
From field specialist to program director
Borich started his career with Iowa State as a field specialist in Sioux City. Before joining the College of Design faculty in 1993, he was an extension liaison to the Iowa Department of Economic Development (now the Iowa Economic Authority), and then assistant director of North Central Regional Center for Rural Development while earning a PhD in sociology.
His education and experience have made Borich an exceptionally effective leader, according to Julia Badenhope, associate professor of landscape architecture.
“He’s walked the walk, and as a result, he understands the needs of field staff and faculty, and as an administrator he is able to communicate effectively across disciplinary boundaries,” she said.
During his tenure as Community and Economic Development program director, Borich has spearheaded innovative programs, many of which are based on both internal and external partnerships. For example, Communities to Community, known as C2C, is a two-year outreach program that brings the expertise of faculty, staff and students from multiple disciplines and offers bundled design, educational, business and leadership development services to client communities.
External partnerships initiated by Borich include a shared faculty position with the University of Wisconsin-Extension serving the Dubuque area, the first position of its kind, as well as community development specialist positions shared with Chambers of Commerce or local economic development organizations in communities across the state. These partnerships have leveraged millions of dollars in grants and contracts.
“When you think of Iowa State University and ISU Extension and Outreach Community and Economic Development, think cooperation, collaboration and partnerships. We are firm believers that in many cases we can accomplish more working together than separately,” Borich said.
ISU Extension and Outreach Community and Economic Development works with all levels of government, ranging from townships and local governments to regional and state government agencies. The program also is well aligned with numerous state and local organizations. For instance, since the CED program established a partnership with the Iowa League of Cities nearly five years ago, more than 9,000 government officials have been trained on topics including township trustee responsibilities, budget management, tax incremental financing and urban renewal reporting. In 2014, the CED program created a shared community development specialist position with the Iowa Association of Regional Councils.
“Some of these agreements allow us to provide more extensive research and outreach to local groups with specific needs. In other cases, we work with state agencies to provide outreach and research jointly to communities across Iowa. Still other agreements create joint positions that benefit each organization,” Borich said.
Community and Economic Development has been proactively engaging the growing Latino population in Iowa since 2007, when Borich hired ISU Extension and Outreach’s first Latino community development specialist, Himar Hernández, who has earned national recognition for his work with communities and businesses. Four more specialists who work with minority populations are now part of the CED program.
“Thanks to Tim, ISU Extension and Outreach has embraced the concept of outreach to immigrants and new Iowans,” Hernández said. “We were doing things that nobody else was doing. He took a leap of faith that shows real vision — not only within Iowa but nationwide.”
In addition, Borich has provided leadership in the documentation and reporting of CED program impacts at the state and national levels. He has helped develop multistate systems that are being adapted across the country.
Connecting students to communities
The relationship between ISU Extension and Outreach and the College of Design has grown significantly during Borich’s tenure, as has extension programming related to the college. For example, Borich is the co-principal investigator of the award-winning Community Visioning Program. For 19 years, this program has been creating synergies between a student internship with communities and private sector landscape architects. The line between teaching and outreach is becoming more blurred as outreach is integrated into a number of the design studios and courses, he said.
“In a typical year, we now engage more than 200 Iowa State students in our Community and Economic Development program,” Borich said. “We connect ISU students to work with Iowa’s communities for the benefit of both. Students learn. Communities learn. Staff and faculty learn. When it comes together, everybody wins.”
ISU Extension and Outreach Community and Economic Development is all about helping Iowans create better communities, Borich said.
“Iowa’s 947 communities are complex, with diverse social, environmental and economic systems. That’s why our educational programs and partnerships are wide-ranging — so we can better address needs and issues facing Iowa communities as they plan and act for their future,” Borich said.