The University of Iowa has invited students who participated in the Student Experience in the Research University survey last spring to participate in diversity, equity, and inclusion listening sessions to gather more information on the students’ experience.
Assistant Professor Sarah Bruch, the faculty co-chair of the University Charter Committee on Diversity, spearheaded the effort in collaboration with the Chief Diversity Office, headed first by former Chief Diversity Officer Lena Hill and now Student Life VP Melissa Shivers.
Bruch will lead the meetings alongside student co-facilitators, and sessions will last 90 minutes and will take place over the next several weeks. The committee and Diversity Office said they expect at least a few hundred students to participate in the listening sessions.
“The strategic listening sessions for the students will follow the same basic approach that was used in the faculty and staff listening sessions,” Bruch said in an email to The Daily Iowan. “The idea is that we want to gain additional insight into student experiences to help us understand the quantitative data that was obtained from the survey.”
Bruch said in her email that the Charter Committee and Diversity Office added 40 additional items to last year’s survey that allowed them to gather more detail about students’ experiences with identity on campus.
“We are also conducting the sessions because we want to include the voices of faculty, staff, and students in the conversations about what we can do better to enhance diversity, equity, and inclusiveness on campus,” Bruch said in her email.
An email was sent out from the Student Life VP’s Office to university students informing them of the sessions. According to the email, the sessions will be held in both small- and large-group settings. Students can RSVP to the session of their choice through the Diversity at Iowa website.
“The purpose of these listening sessions is to provide an opportunity for students to reflect on the experiences reported in the survey and to gather stakeholder input regarding specific strategies for improving our campus climate,” the email said.
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Angela Lamb, staff co-chair of the Charter Committee, said in an email to the DI that she believes the sessions will have long-term benefits for the campus community.
“These listening sessions provide students with a unique opportunity to participate in development of an action plan that will foster diversity, equity, and inclusion on our campus,” Lamb said in the email. “This is a meaningful chance for their voices to be heard in this process, and I hope students know how much we value their input as we seek to create a pathway that will contribute to sustainable, positive systematic change. The University of Iowa has a lot to celebrate in this area, but we also have some real work that needs to happen, and students are a critical component of that work.”
UI undergraduate Seth Moffitt, who took the spring survey, said he was grateful for the opportunity that the listening sessions will provide.
“Whether or not these talks will create actual change, I don’t know,” Moffitt said. “I’m glad, though, that they are giving students a voice to talk about their experiences on campus.”