Shivers: Campus community committed to making University of Iowa better

VP for Student Life Melissa Shivers told the DI the UI continues to make headway on issues of diversity, accessibility of resources for those with disabilities, and greek-community culture.


Katie Goodale

Vice President for Student Life Melissa Shivers sits down for an interview with The Daily Iowan in the IMU on May 9, 2019.

Marissa Payne, Managing Editor

In just over a month, Melissa Shivers can breathe a sigh of relief: She will return to having only one University of Iowa administrator role.

Since May 26, 2018, Vice President for Student Life Shivers has taken on the role of interim assistant vice president for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. By the end of June, TaJuan Wilson will come to the UI from the Medical University of South Carolina to assume that role on a permanent basis.

When she initially stepped into the interim role, Shivers had come to the UI not even a year prior — a fresh face to the Midwest hailing from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. But she said serving in her two roles has been a remarkable experience.

“No matter what community we may be talking about, the idea of student success and the importance of making sure that all voices heard and respected is core to what we do,” she told The Daily Iowan in a Thursday interview.

RELATED: 4 UI fraternities lose registered student org status, 6 on probation

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion paradigm shift

One of the key efforts she undertook with leaders across campus this past year was using the 2018 campus-climate survey data to inform the making of the UI’s 2019-21 Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Action Plan. The plan puts forth goals to broaden the scope of support for faculty, staff, and students of all backgrounds and identities.

It will be important to continue keeping the conversations surrounding diversity, equity, and inclusion going on campus, Shivers said, so momentum is not lost during the summer. She said members of the Path Forward strategic-plan implementation team focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion collaboration will help ensure critical tasks are accomplished.

To fully implement that plan on campus, Shivers said, people will need to understand the differences among diversity, equity, and inclusion.

“In order to really make a paradigm shift, there has to be a clear understanding of what that means and what it’s going to require for me to think differently or for me to do things differently,” she said.

Making resources for students with disabilities accessible

Students have been vocal throughout the year about the need to make disability resources more accessible, in particular pushing for the Student Disability Services office location being moved from its current spot in the basement of Burge Hall.

Shivers said university officials will continue thinking about finding the right space for the office, ensuring the new location is accessible and offers parking spaces.

External officials will conduct a program review in the fall, but starting later this month, Shivers said UI officials will take student recommendations and work with UI Students with Disabilities Advocacy & Awareness leaders to create a more equitable environment.

RELATED: UI unveils Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion action plan

Fostering a healthy culture in the greek community

Since four UI fraternities lost their registered student-organization statuses in the fall for violating UI alcohol policies and the fraternity/sorority life moratorium on events with alcohol, Shivers said, the UI has come a long way on improving the greek community’s culture.

UI officials have had conversations with greek leaders to learn more about the challenges students involved with Fraternity/Sorority life, she said, and to learn about opportunities for collaboration and growth.

Earlier in the academic year, Shivers convened student leaders and university officials to work on the Fraternity/Sorority Life Strategic Plan. She said this summer she will continue to have conversations with students, alums, advisers, and the national chapter offices to make a plan informed by feedback from relevant groups.

Through the issues Shivers has faced in her two administrative roles, she said the UI has created a great deal of space for many ideas and perspectives to be shared.

“We have a campus community who’s pretty committed and ready to make the University of Iowa better,” she said.