Aides hope the approach will counter the perception of entitlement that haunted Clinton's failed 2008 presidential bid and answer criticism that she is out of touch with the everyday concerns of voters.
Clinton's Iowa campaign manager, Matt Paul, told reporters they would see the candidate in much smaller settings than expected. "We want to listen," Paul said.
On Tuesday, that left Clinton sitting at a table, smiling and chatting with a small group of students, an instructor and the community college's president.
Clinton touted a four-part agenda to strengthen families, bolster the economy, improve U.S. security and resolve the political dysfunction of Washington, including removing anonymous big-money donations from the system even if that required a constitutional amendment.
Read MoreHillary Clinton takes early lead in key area
Afterwards, the former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state smiled cheerfully as students and teachers gathered around for a photo with one of the most recognizable women in the world.
Clinton rolled into Iowa after a two-day, 16-hour ride from her home in Chappaqua, New York. She managed to mostly stay out of the media glare during the trip in a converted van, accompanied by a few aides and a security detail.
But that changed once she reached Iowa, a political battleground that holds the first presidential nominating contest in early 2016. Her first stop was a coffee shop in Le Claire, Iowa, where journalists watched her order a masala chai tea.
She then spent an hour talking to a young mother, high school student and college student out of the earshot of journalists before taking a short walk with the local mayor.
Clinton returns to Iowa as the commanding Democratic front-runner and the only declared candidate for the party's presidential nomination in 2016.
But she will have to overcome memories of her losing campaign in the state in 2008, when she finished third behind then-Senator Barack Obama and former Senator John Edwards.
Clinton plans another campaign event with small business owners in Iowa on Wednesday.