Higher Education Dialogue on Race

A conference on race and ethnicity has become a hallmark program at our midwest research university. For the past decade, the Iowa State Conference and Race Ethnicity, or ISCORE project, has been our flagship program on all things affecting diversity, inclusion, and persons of color in higher education. Based upon the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education (NCORE), ISCORE celebrated it’s 10th anniversary in March. It has become a model program for other campus CORE programs. I wrote here about about this year’s keynote, Michele Norris.

The Iowa State project sponsors a team of students, staff and faculty to travel and participate at NCORE each summer. Information gathered from that experience is reviewed throughout a fall semester course: Forum on United States Race and Ethnicity. Students then submit individual and group presentation proposals for ISCORE. Hundreds of Iowa State students and staff have been the beneficiary of this project grant. Thousands of students, faculty, staff, and community members have attended the campus conferences. Through lean financial times in higher education, ISCORE has continued to thrive.

Washington Post columnist and editor, Eugene Robinson, suggested in an MSNBC segment this morning that recent discussion on race in America is good for the country, but we rarely see it happen in the classroom. His comments were in reference to the arrest of an African-American Harvard professor by a white police officer that made national news. Robinson’s column this week highlighted the incident and questioned the still very common racial double standard.

For at least one university, the discussion and dialogue on race and ethnicity is alive and well, and continuing.

What is your campus dialogue on diversity, race and ethnicity?

Take your Vitamin C’s

Today was the 10th Annual Iowa State Conference on Race and Ethnicity (ISCORE). I have been on the planning committee for this conference since year two, and it has been amazing to see our growth each year. We welcomed more than 800 faculty, staff, and student participants to this 2009 event.

Our conference keynote speaker was NPR’s Michele Norris. In her SRO presentation, Race, Gender, and the Future of Leadership in America, Ms. Norris engaged us with observations of a year of political change through the storytelling for which she is known. She addressed our students directly by encouraging them to remember their Vitamin C’s.

Collaboration. Change happens when individuals lock arms together and march forward. Engage those around you to follow your dreams and beliefs and be supportive of what they bring to the effort.

Cut. Eliminate one activity, one committee, one obligation. Build an hour back in your day. College students today do too much with too little time. Cut back and make time for yourself.

Camaraderie. Don’t forget about your friends, they are the ones to get you through your day and your life. It’s easy to become so focused on goals and outcomes that you forget the people that you really need.

When asked whether our country is capable of moving toward a post-racial society, Ms. Norris shared that recent political events lead some to believe we have already achieved a post-racial place in America. Norris said this compares to riding an express elevator to the top of a skyscraper. You have a great ride and get out on the observation deck where the view is wonderful. But you fail to stop at the floors on the way up where the view is not so great.