As DEI work continues across campus, these five strategies help address improvement areas revealed in campus climate survey
Monday, January 25, 2021

In order to continue improving diversity, equity, and inclusion across campus and address specific areas outlined in the 2020 Campus Climate Survey results released earlier this week, the University of Iowa will implement five new initiatives. They include:

  • Increased engagement between the Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and faculty, staff, students, alumni, and the community;
  • Mandatory DEI training for all senior-level administrators;
  • Naming two DEI faculty fellows who will spend the next year focusing on strategies to support faculty DEI, with the work guided by the DEI strategic plan and the results of the recently completed Campus Climate Survey;
  • $500,000 from the Office of the Provost Investment Fund allocated to DEI initiatives during 2021; and
  • Diversity Catalyst Seed Grant funding.

1. Increased engagement

The Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DDEI) will increase its engagement with students, faculty, staff, alumni, and the community. Under Liz Tovar’s leadership, the division will embark on listening and content-development initiatives to better understand our campus climate, tell our DEI culture’s stories, recognize our people and achievements, and promote campus events throughout the year.

  • Listening sessions: DDEI will conduct small listening sessions (about 15 people) with faculty, staff, and students beginning this spring. These sessions are a continuation of the insightful voices from the Journey to Unity video. The goals of the listening sessions include:
      • Bringing a personalized approach to hearing from our campus community members regarding their views about DEI efforts on campus;
      • Providing campus with updates about current DDEI initiatives; and
      • Enabling Tovar, as the associate vice president for diversity, equity, and inclusion, to learn more about the campus community.
  • DEI storytelling: DDEI will continue the effort started with the Journey to Unity video by producing video stories each month that highlight the challenges and opportunities of uniting and respecting each other. DDEI also will look to capture stories that reflect our efforts, challenges, opportunities, and the extraordinary work of our campus. These will live on university and DDEI websites and social media channels.
  • Notes from Liz” blog: Tovar will write a blog hosted on to promote our people, events, and great stories she sees throughout our campus and community.
  • Event promotion: The division will continue to promote DEI events and programs on its website and social media accounts.

2. DEI training

All senior-level administrators will participate in mandatory DEI training led by UI alumna Nancy “Rusty” Barceló.

Throughout 2021, Barceló will provide DEI training and consultation for senior-level administrators, departmental executive officers, shared governance members, and DEI leaders. The training will include learning content such as readings, activities, and accountability measures to deepen knowledge and build university-wide DEI leadership skills. She also will develop workshops for specific group needs and offer one-on-one coaching.

Barceló, a UI alumna who held various positions at Iowa from 1975 to 1996, including assistant provost and assistant dean with the Office of the Provost, is a known nationally for her DEI work. She is a respected speaker and workshop leader, and is a highly sought-after consultant on equity and inclusion in higher education.

About 150 UI administrators, DEOs, shared governance leaders, and DEI leaders will take part in the training beginning later this month.

3. DEI faculty fellows

The Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost named two faculty fellows for diversity, equity, and inclusion who report to Associate Provost for Faculty Lois Geist and Interim Associate Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Liz Tovar. The appointments constitute a 25%-time commitment for the spring 2021 semester, and their efforts will focus on strategies to support faculty DEI on our campus, with the work guided by the DEI strategic plan and the results of the recently completed Campus Climate Survey.

The DEI faculty fellows are Maurine Neiman, associate professor in the Departments of Biology and Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality studies, and Bradley Cramer, associate professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences.

Maurine Neiman

Neiman has provided meaningful service to a number of anti-racism and DEI-focused committees, including her selection for and continued service on the foundational DEI committee at the Society for the Study of Evolution; three years of service as treasurer of the UI Council for the Status of Women; three years of service on the UI’s Charter Council on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; and service on the Department of Biology’s new DEI committee.

Maurine Neiman
Maurine Neiman

“By taking on this substantial service, I hope to be able to leverage my position of privilege to ease some of the burden that this type of work all too often imposes on people from historically oppressed groups,” Neiman says of the reasons she applied for the fellowship. “I also hold as a core value the idea that promoting DEI-focused and anti-racist strategies will elevate us all by creating opportunities for all people to reach their full potential.”

Neiman says she sees opportunity within the campus community to improve current systems, such as challenges faced with recruitment, retention, and success of Black, brown, and indigenous scholars, so they work to fully support all students, faculty, and staff.

“Our academic, scholarly, and clinical achievements are simply not as impactful as they would be if we did a better job of serving all people,” she says. “DEI and anti-racism-focused work also represents a way to address a fundamental human rights issue that I believe is ultimately more important than our work as scholars and academics.”

Bradley Cramer

Cramer is currently chair of the DEI Committee in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. He also is a member of the Math and Sciences DEI committee within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and serves as a mentor for Shamar Chin, who is a provost’s postdoctoral faculty fellow. Cramer is currently in the process of organizing a campus chapter of the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science.

Bradley Cramer
Bradley Cramer

“My experience as a project leader of UNESCO-sponsored global research initiatives demonstrated the critical role of diverse voices, visions, and opinions in crafting novel solutions to problems,” Cramer says of the reasons he applied for the fellowship. “I want to be part of the movement here at Iowa as we strive to make campus a more inclusive and equitable environment to meet the challenges of the 21st century.”

Cramer says he looks forward to working with faculty, staff, and students in colleges and departments across campus to help organize the many initiatives and opportunities being developed in order to improve Iowa’s path forward.

“I want to take action and not simply continue to talk about problems and philosophical possible solutions,” he says. “It is time to move forward with concrete steps toward providing a better future for us all.”

4. Provost Investment Fund

The Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost identified $2 million to be allocated in FY21 to strategically invest in areas linked to the university’s strategic plan, including

$500,000 for efforts that recognize, reward, and support research, service, and teaching efforts that contribute to DEI and efforts that support the recruitment and retention of underrepresented minority (URM) faculty and/or provide a pipeline for diversity within a college.

  • Recognize, reward, and support research, service, and teaching efforts that contribute to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Initiatives include:
    • Faculty and/or student research that can be used to support and expand the UI Build training program;
    • Funding to attend leadership trainings or conferences that emphasize diversity, equity, and inclusion;
    • Funding to support service projects and research that impact URM populations; and
    • One semester teaching stipend to promote coursework that emphasizes diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • Efforts that support the recruitment and retention of URM faculty and/or provide a pipeline for diversity within a college. Initiatives include:
    • Postdoctoral opportunities intended to increase diversity at the collegiate level and
    • Summer programs to recruit students from marginalized groups.

5. Diversity Catalyst Seed Grant

The Diversity Catalyst Seed Grant supports new initiatives that contribute to a DEI-related strategic goal either at the departmental, college, or university level. The selected initiatives hold promising potential for an immediate positive impact on campus community.

Translating collection guides into Chinese

The objective of this effort is to translate the most popular collection guides from the UI Libraries' Special Collections and University Archives into Chinese (traditional). Collection guides, also known as finding aids, are the online gateway to the Special Collections’ manuscript collections, as they inform patrons of the contents of the collections in order to assist them with their research and scholarly needs. Currently, Special Collections’ finding aids are only listed in English, and translating these guides into Chinese will help bridge language barriers that continue to occur with Chinese patrons, especially international students enrolled at Iowa, therefore creating a more inclusive and welcoming environment.

Surveying Louis Scarborough

Louis Scarborough was a Black animator, character designer, and storyboard artist who was active from the late 1970s through the 1990s. His collection, now at Special Collections and University Archives, will be inventoried in preparation for archival processing and description of the materials. This project will result in another collection from a historically underrepresented voice to be accessible, available, and represented in a field where such voices often are left out.

Student Legal Services (SLS) Immigration Clinic

The objective of this initiative is to provide free, high-quality legal advice on immigration issues to students in order to ease the stress and distraction these legal concerns can cause. Licensed attorneys will provide legal consultations on issues including, but not limited to, family-based immigration, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and F-1 visa restrictions.