On March 7, 2022, The Staff Council DEI Committee held its 4th UI Staff Council DEI Annual Celebration Event. The event celebrates Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion on campus and the efforts of all who work tirelessly answering that test by making our campus and community the best it can be. Due to limitations brought about by the pandemic the last celebration event held was in 2019.
The DEI committee was both eager and a bit nervous about jumping back into things. Committee co-chairs, Matsalyn Brown and James Jorris, shared the challenges that arose in the planning process. Jorris described that coordinating took months and was a group effort by all committee members. In the middle of planning, the team was hit with the Omicron wave and the committee was left to decide how to move forward. Everyone was enthusiastic and engaged in the face of obstacles and determined to put on a successful event. Not wanting to cancel they shifted their efforts to a hybrid format. Large events always take a lot of time and attention, the new hybrid format added an additional layer to their planning this year.
The new plan was able to safely accommodate up to 50 people in person while offering an online option to all university staff members. About 130 people attended via zoom webinar, including several campus deans and lots of folks working on the DEI efforts across campus. “We were happy with the attendance, and we received lots of positive feedback from all across campus” Brown said. Hybrid was a new experience and proved to be a great way to engage folks across the university. The committee plans to continue this format for future events.
Previously, a large proportion of the event focused on work being done on the academic side. The committee made additional efforts this year to include things happening within healthcare and partner with the Elections and Awards committees to highlight upcoming award nominations and the staff council elections
Dr. Barbara Wilson, President, University of Iowa
Dr. Maurine Neiman, Professor and Provost Faculty Fellow for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Dr. Nicole Del Castillo, Director of the Carver College of Medicine Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Dr. Theresa Ho, Associate Research Scientist and Course Lecturer, Ellermeier Laboratory and co-recipient of the 2021 Staff Award for Distinguished Leadership in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
In addition to planning the co-chairs described a learning opportunity that they were thankful was brought to their attention. Advertising for the event included a quote from Mahatma Gandhi. At the time of choosing the quote the group was not aware of the controversy around Gandhi’s history and how it is perceived by certain communities. A UI staff member took the time to email the group and share why the quote maybe wasn’t an ideal choice. “We brought that staff member’s concern to the DEI committee members and turned it into a learning opportunity for us” said Jorris. They invited emeritus professor, Dr. Paul Greenough, to lead a discussion and learning session on the topic. “DEI is a relatively new concept to a lot of people. It doesn’t matter if you’re on a DEI committee there is still the opportunity to learn from others” said Jorris. Brown added “I'm so glad for the opportunity on campus for all of us to be more open and talk about DEI matters. Truthfully, we're all still trying to figure it out”.
WorldCanvass: Gandhi at 150