Wednesday, August 4, 2021
black and white image of Bill sackter, wearing overalls and an engineer cap, walking outside North Hall

Editor's Note: In our initial announcement, we were calling ourselves "Wild Bill's Workshop"--but, in consultation with our colleagues in the disability advocacy community, we have made the decision to drop “Workshop” from the name and simply call this new venture Wild Bill’s. This approach gives us more flexibility going forward as we develop the new format and adjust programming as we go.

For 46 years, Wild Bill’s Coffee Shop provided employment for persons with disabilities, while also offering the opportunity for UI students to gain experience and understanding working with persons with disabilities. “More than just coffee,” Wild Bill’s has always functioned as a learning lab for the University of Iowa School of Social Work.

Since former director Tom Walz created the North Hall establishment in 1975 to provide a vocation for Bill Sackter, the number of local coffee shops and kiosks has multiplied and people with disabilities have achieved fuller integration into all parts of the community. Because of this, the University of Iowa School of Social Work in recent years has initiated strategic discussions about how Wild Bill’s can best serve its students and the school’s mission.

As a result of these developments and conversations, Wild Bill’s will not reopen as a coffee shop.

Instead, the space is being reimagined as simply Wild Bill's, a community space, makers' space, and classroom where students will:

  • Learn hands-on social worker skills through labs, discussion groups, and practicum seminars.
  • Build community, advocacy skills, and leadership in a social-justice-focused meeting and event space, available to campus and community groups.
  • Create multimedia projects in a dedicated studio space, to advance understanding of social justice issues and advocate for the rights and inclusion of marginalized and oppressed people through storytelling. (A new podcast called Wild Bill's Cup of Social Justice is the first such project.)

The space also will accommodate CEU learning opportunities for social workers and an exhibit of Wild Bill’s artifacts and photos. UI Libraries Special Collections will ensure proper archiving of historical materials that won’t be on display.

While the space’s purpose is changing, the School of Social Work will continue to honor Bill Sackter’s memory, collaborate with the disabilities community to include people with disabilities in the school’s social justice advocacy, and carry on the legacy of innovative social work faculty who came before.

Additionally, Wild Bill’s is expanding its hours and will be open to the UI community and the public for meetings, study space, and other events 8-5, M-F, or by appointment, whenever classes are not being held in the space. The coffee shop had previously been open just three days a week.

For more information, please contact Jen Knights, Marketing and Community Engagement Specialist at the University of Iowa School of Social Work: