Institute for Youth Leaders

In 1989, the R. J. McElroy Trust awarded the University of Northern Iowa $500,000 to assist in the establishment of a Youth Leadership program. The funding has served as a catalyst for development and implementation of a multi-faceted academic program including an Institute for Youth Leaders.

The mission of the Institute for Youth Leaders is to provide leadership to the establishment of an intellectual foundation for the emerging academic discipline of youth development.



In fulfilling this mission the IYL serves as a catalyst for:

  1. Improving leadership skills of youth organization professionals.
  2. Developing opportunities for collaboration and communication among organizations.
  3. Providing access to research and literature about youth work/youth development to local Iowa communities.
  4. Linking student research to community needs.
  5. Linking faculty research and service to community youth services in Iowa.
  6. Linking youth development practice and research to public policy.
  7. Developing and nurturing the occupations of youth work and youth development.
  8. Promoting higher education curricula in youth work/youth development.

The Institute for Youth Leaders strives to provide leadership in research, development, and diffusion of knowledge to the youth development profession. The design, organization, and activities of the Institute are built on the concept of collaboration. Resources from the University and local community youth serving organizations are joined in a model partnership to creatively address the needs of youth professionals for education in leadership, youth development, and management.


Initial funding for the Institute for Youth Leaders was provided by the W. K. Kellogg Foundation. At the time, the $629,000 foundation grant was the largest received by the University of Northern Iowa. Subsequent funding has been received from the Lily Foundation, the Hershey Foundation and the Waterloo Community School District (21st Century Learning Grant evaluation component).


Annually, the Institute for Youth Leaders sponsors the R. J. McElroy Lecture Award. The presentation is designed as a community event aimed at stimulating interest in youth development.


The Institute for Youth Leaders is home to two peer-reviewed and refereed journals, with international subscription bases. Child and Youth Services is published by Haworth Press, based in New York, with two issues each year; it appears both as a journal and as a book series. Child & Youth Care Forum is published by Kluwer Academic Press, based in Amsterdam and New York, with six issues each year. Through these journals, the University of Northern Iowa receives recognition from institutions, researchers, and practitioners throughout the world.