University of Iowa diversity, equity, inclusion committee embarks on forming next strategic plan

The UI Faculty Senate met to discuss DEI updates including the new strategic plan. Executive Director of DEI Liz Tovar shared her goals going forward for the UI.


Jenna Galligan

The Old Capitol is seen on Thursday, March 12, 2020.

Sabine Martin, News Reporter

As the University of Iowa’s diversity, equity, and inclusion two-year action plan wraps up this year, campus officials are gathering campus input for a new roadmap for diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. 

Newly appointed UI Executive Officer for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Liz Tovar told the Faculty Senate on Tuesday that her goal is to visit all UI colleges and units to listen to faculty, staff, and students this semester to aid in creation of the campus’ next plan.

“I will say that this is just the start of more dialogue,” Tovar said. “Overall, I would say that the University of Iowa really is a place where people do feel valued as members of our community.”

Tovar said there are a number of things that the UI needs to improve on. She said accountability for people in leadership positions across campus and having DEI initiatives as a priority are two of those items. 

As previously reported by The Daily Iowan, the UI faculty and staff DEI campus climate survey found that a third of the respondents said there is an overemphasis of diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts at the UI.

“Like the rest of our country, we are very divided on campus in terms of where we are at in terms of accepting diversity, equity and inclusion efforts,” Tovar said. “The strategy moving forward is we need to sit down, we need to listen, we need to create spaces where people can have conversations regarding difficult dialogue, where people feel like their voices can be heard.”

RELATED: Liz Tovar to assume permanent role as executive officer for diversity, equity, and inclusion

Dean of the UI College of Nursing Julie Zerwic, who is also the co-chair for the path forward for the diversity, equity inclusion committee, told the Faculty Senate that the committee was tasked with implementing the campus diversity, equity, inclusion strategic plan.

Zerwic said the committee did not accomplish every DEI related item from the strategic plan. 

“There are some things that probably we were not able to tackle at all, and other things that will continue to be a work in progress for years,” Zerwic said. “I think what we’re really excited about now is this period of transition where instead of the strategic plan being at the university level, it’s really now moving down to the unit level.”

The 2016 to 2021 DEI strategic plan will be rethought with ideas and presentations from units and colleges at the UI in February and March, Zerwic said.  

“I also think that there’s increased ownership around diversity, equity, and inclusion,” Tovar said. “Now, more than ever, I’m seeing more colleges say, we within our strategic plan, we have an area that is exclusively dedicated to diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.”   

Tovar said the UI’s DEI priorities from two years ago may now be different for the next strategic plan. 

She said extensive DEI training will be held during the summer 2021 months for a “mix of different leaders across campus.” 

“We still have our challenges that we need to overcome, but I think we’re headed in a really positive direction,” Tovar said.