University of Iowa Tippie College of Business creates new DEI position

Michele Williams, University of Iowa Assistant Professor and John L. Miclot faculty fellow in entrepreneurship, is taking on a position that will focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion among the business college’s staff and faculty.


Raquele Decker

Tippie College of Business Building is seen on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020.

Mary Hartel, News Reporter

As a part of its action plan and diversity, equity, and inclusion initiative, the University of Iowa Tippie College of Business created a new faculty fellow position and named Michele Williams as the first person to take on the role.

Williams, an assistant professor of management said she’s excited about the new position as it will allow her to bring more inclusion into the classroom.

The professor has been at the UI since 2017, and said she specializes in trust and relationships, stereotyping across categorizations, and intersections in entrepreneurship.

“Looking back, I can kind of see a whole trajectory of experiences I’ve had that lead to this role,” Williams said. “At the time I wasn’t as aware of it.”

Interim Tippie Dean Amy Kristof-Brown said the position is a course release, meaning Williams will focus on a project to progress the college’s DEI initiatives during a one-year appointment.

“I’m really excited about her role in this,” Kristof-Brown said. “I think that she has a great deal of expertise in this area to bring, and with a focus exclusively on faculty, and what’s going on in the classrooms and in our majors, I think we’re going to be able to move the curricular side of DEI forward.”

Kristof-Brown said the position is part of an ongoing effort within the business school that also promoted Gabriela Rivera to new Associate Director for DEI with a focus on students.

“I think this commitment to having staff focusing on moving the student experience forward and then a faculty member working on moving the faculty forward,” Kristof-Brown said. “Those two things will be a powerful combination.”

Williams said she is looking forward to working alongside Rivera and Ken Brown, associate dean of undergraduate programs at Tippie, to determine what training and resources the faculty needs to make the school feel more inclusive.

Increasing staff and faculty diversity retention will be one of the goals of the team, Williams said, making sure that they more accurately reflect the student population.

“I’m really excited about working with the other faculty and building these strong relationships across the different departments,” Williams said. “I think we’re looking at inclusion as not only as looking at traditional demographic categories, but also looking at the integration that we have across the departments in Tippie and the work that we have in making connections with for instance the medical school, and the school of pharmacy and the school of public health.”

Williams said this kind of work is especially important when training students who are going to enter the business world.

“What we’re doing at Tippie by making our classes more inclusive is giving students an experience that they can bring forth into the business world to help their companies become more inclusive,” she said.

Jessica Padilla, program coordinator at the Women’s Resource Action Center, said Williams has been involved with two programs Padilla oversees: the Iowa New Leadership Institute and the Womxn of Color Network.

Padilla said Williams has been a driving force in these programs, and for the UI Tippie College of Business to acknowledge her as a DEI fellow, speaks volumes.

“I hope that has maybe a domino effect on campus,” Padilla said, “Or maybe something that other colleges on campus can look to create and do to recognize these faculty that sometimes go above and beyond.”

The program coordinator added that she appreciates having a figure such as Williams within the community, because there are not many women of color in business.

“I hope that we can continue to value faculty like her,” Padilla said. “So that we can continue working to not only recruit but retain the faculty that are making a difference not only in the classroom, but outside of the classroom experience.”

Kristof-Brown said she is excited for what Williams has to bring to the table for DEI within the business school.

“She’s just already provided great insights in terms of moving toward more inclusion in our classrooms,” the interim dean said. “I look forward to what she can do over the next year to really increase to that effect.”