The year 2013 marks the 20-year anniversary of Iowa Resource for International Service (IRIS). However, today is particularly momentous day is IRIS’ history. On June 25, 1993, IRIS hosted its first exchange program. The exchange program hosted a group of 10 aspiring journalists from Ukraine, who lived in the Iowa community for nearly 3 months.
During their stay, the journalists worked with Iowa universities and colleges to learn more about the realm of journalism. The journalism students acquired many jobs and internships with local newspapers and other media outlets.
Journalism was an important start to IRIS’ mission to promote international understanding, diversity and peace, because founder and president of IRIS, Bob Anderson, majored in journalism at the University of Iowa. IRIS has come a long way since its origins. IRIS started in 1993. The collapse of the former Soviet Union inspired IRIS’ first program. “I wanted to create a program to help journalists from the Soviet Union,” Anderson said. The journalism directors at Iowa State University, University of Iowa and Drake University were on the board of directors for many of our journalist exchange programs.
“We were very proud to see the impact that this exchange program had on the bonds of the participants, so we decided to continue expanding our exchange programs,” Anderson said. Because of the first program’s inspiring role, IRIS continued to work on other exchange programs throughout the years.
After IRIS’ first few journalism exchange programs, IRIS decided to expand our programs to incorporate other adults and youth. “The expansions of our programs really made IRIS grow as an organization,” president and founder of IRIS, Bob Anderson said.
IRIS soon started another exchange, this time taking professors from Iowa and bringing them to other countries. University of Iowa professors were taken to Ukraine, and Iowa State University professors were brought to Bulgaria.
Through the multitudes of programs hosted by IRIS, the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program was born in 2003, which only makes this year more special. Not only does 2013 celebrate the 20-year anniversary of IRIS, it also celebrates the 10-year anniversary of the YES program.
“Since our first few programs, we have expanded the IRIS staff to different countries, which has forged more lasting bonds,” Anderson said. In IRIS’ mission to promote international understanding, diversity and peace, we have plans to continue expanding and improving this organization. We would like to thank everyone who has helped IRIS throughout these past 20 years to help us achieve our mission. If anyone is still contact with the journalists from our first group, urge them to contact IRIS. We are always delighted to hear about our alumni’s stories.