Strategic Plan 2022-2027

JULY 1, 2022 – JUNE 30, 2027

John F. Doershuk, Director and State Archaeologist


The University of Iowa Office of the State Archaeologist (OSA) is one of eight university-based state archaeologist research, archive, and curation facilities in the nation. As such, since inception in 1959 education and research have been central to the mission of the OSA. Staff members actively participate on campus and statewide as researchers and teachers who have special expertise in Iowa archaeology, bioarchaeology, and history; historic architecture, cultural landscapes, and planning; heritage education; and all phases of cultural resource studies. OSA annually conducts hundreds of cultural resource management projects of all sizes and complexity involving archival research, archaeological field investigations and architectural history studies, specialized materials analyses, and National Register and National Historic Landmark evaluations and nominations.


OSA aspires to national recognition for interdisciplinary excellence in archaeological research, preservation, and public engagement.


In addition to supporting the University of Iowa Strategic Plan for 2022–2027 and the UI core values of creativity, community, excellence, inclusion, and integrity, OSA is guided by the Society for American Archaeology’s Principles of Archeological Ethics. As we plan, set priorities, and make daily decisions about how to implement our vision and carry out our mission we seek to engage and support diverse constituencies while promoting a dynamic intellectual environment. We focus on advancing innovative research, creating transformative student learning experiences and societal impacts, and public engagement that inspires and improves the quality of life for all Iowans through education and support of sustainable infrastructure development. We actively contribute to the University’s mission and goals which recognize intellectual and cultural vitality is the foundation of a healthy, welcoming, and inclusive research organization.


Develop, disseminate, and preserve knowledge of Iowa’s human past through archaeological and related scientific research and discovery, fostering public stewardship of nonrenewable cultural resources, service, and education.

GOAL 1: Conduct high-impact research throughout Iowa and the surrounding region.
  • Engage in Iowa-focused archaeological, architectural history, bioarchaeological, and historical research that contributes to understanding Iowa’s past and present.
    • Focus research effort on topics reflecting core staff strengths.
    • Investigate and invest in emerging research areas to which staff may successfully contribute.
    • Broaden the range of contract and grant-supported research opportunities.
    • Display OSA’s excellence through peer-reviewed publications, large research projects, national and regional conference participation, social media and web features, and exceptional customer service.
    • Continue OSA’s national leadership role in the protection and respectful treatment of ancient human remains and burial sites.
  • Recruit and retain staff who possess the knowledge, skills, abilities, and diversity to enhance OSA's research activities while maintaining a high quality workplace environment.
    • Further develop a “people first” focus to increase staff awareness they are valued.
    • Improve project management and business practices to maximize support for research staff to conduct high quality investigations.
    • Develop additional means to recognize and credit staff for their achievements.
    • Enhance gender and ethnic diversity in staffing opportunities.
    • Provide an environment where innovation, flexibility, and collaboration are encouraged and rewarded.
  • Contribute to a campus culture in which UI faculty, staff, and students can expand their research productivity.
    • Creatively explore collaborative research partnerships with campus faculty and staff partners that complement and extend OSA’s areas of strength while contributing to a thriving university community.
    • Extend opportunities and reduce barriers for meaningful student participation in OSA research.
    • Direct resources to existing and emerging programs based on their centrality to UI’s mission and potential for sustained funding and excellence.
    • Encourage new and highlight existing research that illustrates the diverse peoples in Iowa’s archaeological record.
GOAL 2: Contribute in meaningful ways to educating UI students to be engaged citizens.
  • Increase the visibility and awareness of educational opportunities offered by OSA among the University undergraduate student population.
    • Enhance affordability and promote effective year-round learning opportunities by offering student ICRU-funded and other high impact internships, work-study, and summer work opportunities.
    • Provide undergraduates with high-quality learning experiences through independent study opportunities including leading to honors theses.
    • Offer specialized courses in archaeology and bioarchaeology through the Anthropology Department not provided by the regular faculty.
    • Provide field schools and hands-on laboratory research projects that incorporate interdisciplinary studies, international collaborations, and development of specialized technical skills.
  • Conduct archaeological projects with funded research opportunities for graduate and post-graduate scholars.
    • Participate in cross-disciplinary graduate degree programs with other University departments and programs.
    • Recruit graduate students from University departments and programs to work on OSA projects and provide high quality mentoring experiences to develop expertise and leadership abilities.
    • Provide research opportunities for graduate students through access to OSA’s extensive document and material collections, specialized staff knowledge, and mentoring by professionals.
  • Create learning experiences about the human past that enrich the lives of all students and helps them to become well-informed individuals, engaged citizens, and productive employees and employers.
    • Contribute to a more inclusive campus by educating faculty, staff, and students about diversity in the past.
    • Improve student critical thinking skills using archaeological data about past human adaptations.
    • Expand student appreciation for understanding culture change and appreciating the range of human cultural diversity.
    • Develop student awareness that valuing the human past improves quality of life for all in the present.
GOAL 3: Engage statewide with Iowans to support life-long learning about the past to improve the present quality of life and enhance responsible infrastructure development.
  • Strengthen and expand OSA partnerships with public constituencies to advance understanding and appreciation about the human past and stewardship of archaeological resources.
    • Expand partnerships with K–12 educators to promote learning about diversity in Iowa’s past.
    • Enhance lifelong learning opportunities and professional development on campus and via distance learning through partnerships between OSA, other University departments, and communities and individuals across the state.
    • Sponsor public field schools in conjunction with OSA research or projects conducted by other partners.
    • Fulfill statutory obligations on behalf of the public interest in protecting ancient human remains and burial locations in partnerships with Native nations and other descendant communities, maintaining and expanding the State Archaeological Repository, and providing improved digital access to the Iowa Site File.
  • Showcase the societal benefits of archaeological research and teaching for the citizens of Iowa.
    • Promote OSA’s public engagement programming, research, and educational opportunities through social media, radio, internet, and print media.
    • Engage external partners to enhance archaeological stewardship through conservation easements and foster economic development through heritage tourism.
    • Encourage the Regents’ institutions and private colleges statewide to use OSA resources in faculty and student research.
    • Support the Iowa Archeological Society in its efforts to encourage recording and preserving archaeological sites and artifacts and its other goals.
  • Support economic development by helping clients navigate complex federal, state, and local historic preservation legislation as part of infrastructure development projects statewide.
    • Expand use of digital technologies (e.g., high resolution mapping, drones, applications for mobile devices) to increase speed and quality of field data capture and accuracy and speed of reporting.
    • Lead the nation through respectful consultation with Indigenous people and tribes as well as other descendant communities.
    • Translate OSA’s intellectual work into publicly meaningful contributions to broad understanding of and appreciation for the past as part of sustainable and responsible infrastructure development.