Within the time span of a month, the Eastern Iowa region has had several conferences dedicated to diversity in higher education institutions, acknowledging the continuously changing demographics of our community. In fact, recently the Pew Research Center, published an engaging website about the Next America. I recommend that you take a quick glance at this site to help you understand at least one possible reason for these conferences.
Friday, March 28, 2014 – Indian Hills Community College
A couple of weeks ago, Wilson Rojas and I attended Indian Hills Community College’s Diversity Conference, and we were surprised to learn that they had about 700 people in attendance. The picture below was taken as the conference was still filling up.
We enjoyed hearing the stories from both keynote speakers, Joe Torrillo, whose website I recommend you visit, and Nicole Kelly, Miss Iowa 2013. Joe shared his experiences of being perceived as a hero when he wears his firefighter’s uniform and as a possible Italian mafioso when he wears his normal street clothes. Nicole shared her experiences of winning the Miss Iowa crown with the mass media focusing on the absence of her left forearm, something that she admittedly did not focus on as intensely as she perceived as a unique ability and not a disability.
Wilson & I also attended several breakout sessions between and after the keynote presentations. We were surprised by the diversity of topics, such as Latino leadership at community colleges, religious tolerance, racial microaggressions, and human trafficking. Some of the presenters and participants came from all parts of Iowa and neighboring states to this conference in Ottumwa.
Thursday, April 17, 2014 – University of Iowa College of Education
Next week, I will be presenting with Kirkwood faculty, Natalia Cherjovsky and Juanita Limas, at the University of Iowa College of Education’s Beyond Tolerance Diversity Conference about KCELT’s Culturally Responsive Classroom initiative, which was piloted last fall and is nearly completed with its first series this spring at the Iowa City Campus. Margaret Jensen Connet, the Equity Consultant for the Iowa Department of Education, will be the keynote speaker. Please visit the conference’s webpage to learn more about the offerings there.
Friday, April 25, 2014 – Hawkeye Community College
The following week, Hawkeye Community College will be hosting the Diversity in STEM Conference: Building Pipelines to Access and Inclusion. Juanita Limas will also be attending that conference as diversity in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) is one of her biggest passions. Dr. Randal Pinkett, author of Campaign to Redefine the Game, will be the keynote speaker. Please visit Hawkeye’s conference page at http://www.hawkeyecollege.edu/calendars/campus-events/2014-stem-conference.aspx?=go to learn more about the conference.
These three conferences are just a small sample of the conferences in our area throughout the year. Through the Culturally Responsive Classroom initiative, I have met many faculty who are passionate about diversity and the intercultural competence of our students, faculty, and staff. What more can we do, through faculty collaboration, instructional excellence, and integrated support services, to improve the learning experience for each and every student? How can we better show the community that Kirkwood is a welcoming and inclusive institution? Perhaps we do not need a conference for this, but how can Kirkwood Community College make its mark in Eastern Iowa as an institution that embraces diversity?