The Black student population may be small at the University of Iowa, but Michael Warner-Craft makes sure to build a community where Black students at Iowa feel at home.
Warner-Craft, a junior at the UI majoring in ethics and public policy, serves as president of the Black Student Union and co-president of the National Pan-Hellenic Council. With a tumultuous summer of renewed calls for racial justice, Warner-Craft is passionate this year and every year about making sure they have a welcoming space.
Like many students, Warner-Craft has struggled with the transition to an online university structure. He said the lack of consistency in classes, such as lecture formats, makes it difficult to keep track of his responsibilities and schedule.
Warner-Craft also feels that professors are handing out a heavier workload because an online format demands less work. He believes professors think there’s fewer pressing matters when, in reality, many students are struggling to connect outside the classroom — especially students of color.
Warner-Craft believes the biggest problem Black students face at the university is a lack of representation on campus, and the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this issue.
He is tackling this through his leadership positions at organizations affiliated with the Afro-American Cultural Center, however.
Warner-Craft joined the Black Student Union during his freshman year. As a sophomore, he served as the treasurer before becoming president this year.
Prior to COVID-19, the Black Student Union hosted events such as a Gala, which he described as “a prom for Black students.” The National Pan-Hellenic Council emphasizes community service and volunteers at charities such as the Ronald McDonald Organization and food pantry.
While the organizations have limited options for events, the National Pan-Hellenic Council engaged with the community by hosting a panel on Black excellence and survival with six different Black alumni from the UI toward the end of Black History Month.
Ever Taylor, co-president of the National Pan-Hellenic Council, said Warner-Craft led the panel with conversations about imposter syndrome and addressing microaggressions in an appropriate way.
Taylor said she sees him as an inspiration for Black men — especially for underclassmen to look at as an example of what it’s like to be a student leader. She finds herself inspired by him as well. Taylor said she feels supported by Warner-Craft and he is always there for her, which is something she cannot find often on campus.
“If there was ever a man I could say inspires me the most, it would be Michael,” Taylor said. “His drive, his commitment, how strong he is, how much he cares, how loving and nurturing he is makes him a great leader and all-around great guy.”
ShirDonna Lawrence, associate director of Fraternity and Sorority Life Programs, said Warner-Craft’s leadership is exactly what the National Pan-Hellenic Council needed during the pandemic.
Lawrence said one of the key things Warner-Craft’s done is bring social justice to the forefront of the program. In addition, she believes his ability to effectively call out issues is what makes him a strong leader.
“I feel like he is able to advocate for his organization that is helpful and moves the conversation forward,” Lawrence said.
She also believes the National Pan-Hellenic Council became essential for students of color because the past year has proven the need for a supportive space for people with similar identities.
Warner-Craft’s experience with these organizations and values drove him to become a leader to provide a needed space for Black students, he said, somewhere they feel represented.
“I feel most represented and taken care of when I’m surrounded by people who look like me and are around me,” Warner-Craft said. “I’m really big on leadership, that’s a personal value to me so it was kind of natural for me to step up and lead the organizations.”