Blake Rupe (BA International Studies, 2010; MA International Studies, 2014), originally from Ottumwa, focuses on changing the ways that communities engage with environmental issues. Her determination in following her passion through educational, professional, and personal avenues identifies her as a Hometown Hawkeye, while also highlighting her entrepreneurial spirit. Rupe currently works at the University of Iowa College of Engineering as the Sustainable Water Development Program Coordinator for IIHR Hydroscience and Engineering.
During her MA in International Studies at the University of Iowa, Rupe became involved with the University of Iowa John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center (Iowa JPEC). She was studying garbage and marine debris policy and recognized the need for a company to enter this realm. She then launched Re-APP Inc., a company that encourages people to live more sustainable lifestyles. Rupe grew her business in the Bedell Entrepreneurial Learning Laboratory (BELL), a business incubator for UI students. The mentors at the BELL connected her with the University of Iowa Venture School, a six-week program that emphasizes real-world entrepreneurship and innovation-based, leading edge curriculum taught by serial entrepreneurs.
The startup’s first mobile application, Re-APP, gave people the power to measure and track their recycling efforts over time. Shortly after its release, Re-APP was featured on the App Store’s best new apps list and also received attention in USA Today, NPR, and Iowa Public Radio. Rupe wanted to test whether sustainability apps were a viable path, and when she discovered that they were, she created a new application, Sift, to provide a platform for community members to share tips on sustainable living.
Rupe’s passion for educating the UI community on sustainability also led her to pursue a job as a professor. She is an adjunct global health instructor, teaching courses that focus on global health issues and how to solve them. This position allows her to shape students’ awareness of environmental issues and empower them to act on these problems.
In addition to this role, she conducts research on the different human drivers behind waste proliferation and marine debris presence. While many researchers focus on these issues in coastal states, Rupe hopes to redirect the spotlight on states in the Midwest. Rupe has pledged herself to promoting her passion for environmental sustainability as a program coordinator, instructor, and community advocate. Her academic, professional, and personal dedication to this cause sets her apart as an entrepreneur worthy of being named a Hometown Hawkeye.