Education

UI reports progress on diversity goals

Office takes on expanded vision and title

Melissa Shivers, the University of Iowa’s vice president for student life and interim chief diversity officer, speaks Sept. 22, 2017, at The Gazette’s Iowa Ideas conference in downtown Cedar Rapids. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Melissa Shivers, the University of Iowa’s vice president for student life and interim chief diversity officer, speaks Sept. 22, 2017, at The Gazette’s Iowa Ideas conference in downtown Cedar Rapids. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — The University of Iowa is making progress on its diversity goals to increase underrepresented populations on campus and promote their success — but still has work to do, according to an annual update Wednesday.

Melissa Shivers, vice president for student life and interim chief diversity officer, announced a redefined and expanded vision for the office and title for the leader the UI is seeking to hire this spring. The associate vice president would lead the newly-defined division of “diversity, equity and inclusion.”

The semantic shift is indicative of a national trend toward not only increasing minority representation on campus, but making sure underrepresented populations have equal access to campus opportunities and feel broadly included.

“This shift in paradigm can’t just exist by adding a couple of layers,” Shivers said. “ ... “We will no longer be able to sit on the sidelines and say, ‘That’s their job,’” Shivers said. “This work is the responsibility of every single person who is a part of this community. The chief diversity officer has the responsibility of helping to guide. But the work actually happens through and with all of you.”

She noted past and present UI goals to, among other things, improve the campus climate for minority students, increase their graduation rates, strengthen recruitment and retention of underrepresented faculty and staff and enrich campus education and training.

She reported progress in those areas, noting the university’s undergraduate underrepresented minority enrollment has nearly doubled from 5.6 percent of the student body in 2008 to nearly 11 percent in 2018. The undergraduate underrepresented minority four-year graduation rate has increased from about 29 to 47 percent — although it still remains below the 54 percent average rate for all students.

Underrepresented UI staffers and faculty each make up 7.6 percent of their respective totals, up from 2014 percentages of 5.8 percent for staff and 6.9 percent for faculty.

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Shivers said the university is actively pursuing methods to increase those percentages at a quicker pace, launching a three-year “distinction through diversity” pilot program last July funded by the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics, the Office of the Provost and the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

The program supports recruitment and retention of tenured and tenure-track faculty in undergraduate departments. So far, the “distinction through diversity” program has helped hire or retain three faculty members.

“The focus on creating a diverse, equitable and inclusive campus increases opportunities for collaboration, extends the openness and importance of discussions that include divergent

points of view, highlights the importance of (diversity, equity and inclusion) work as everyone’s responsibility and helps us eliminate barriers that hinder the success of our campus

community,” Shivers said.

l Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

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