Association welcomes new faculty, staff


Jonathan North/Iowa State Daily

Attendees of the Black Faculty and Staff Association’s welcome reception visit with one another Sept. 17 after the meeting. The reception was in the Multicultural Center of the Memorial Union. The association is a support system for all staff members, not just people of color, and it works to help faculty and staff connect with the ISU community.

Caeona Krivolavy

Just as freshmen and transfer students search for a community on campus, so do faculty and staff.

The Black Faculty and Staff Association, a group that serves as a support system for staff, hosted its third annual meeting where it welcomed guests and returning members, providing an important sense of community Sept. 17 at the Memorial Union.

The Black Faculty and Staff Association welcomes all staff members, regardless of race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, national orientation, age or marital status. It’s an open-minded environment, inviting everyone to be a part of its network.

“The big thing is to build community,” said Audrey Kennis, staff chairwoman and multicultural liaison officer.

Kennis has been a part of the Black Faculty and Staff Association by relaunching the program in 2012, after a few years of the association not meeting because she recognized the need for this sort of community on campus.

Of the more than 6,000 faculty and staff on campus, 124 are African-American, according to the ISU fact book.

“I found it amusing, especially when people came to a meeting and they’re white and they feel uncomfortable,” said Cameron Beatty, who has a doctorate in philosophy and higher education. “I just want to say, ‘Well this is my daily life on campus. I sometimes — often — feel uncomfortable being the only person or not the majority.”

The Black Faculty and Staff Association creates a supportive atmosphere where ethnically diverse people like Beatty can come and feel welcomed. It’s that type of environment that helps create a productive workplace. Jonathan Wickert, senior vice president and provost, said feeling comfortable with coworkers and welcome in the workplace is an important part of the job.

“Being involved with [the association] and interact[ing] with folks across campus … is part of networking,” Wickert said. “It’s part of developing relationships with people across campus, getting outside your own office and your own department and making connections.”

The association has monthly meetings, where it addresses issues throughout campus and the world. However, these meetings extend beyond just office work. The association has hosted holiday parties and football game socials to further deepen that connection members can have with one another.

Tom Hill, vice president for student affairs, also said he thinks having a connection with coworkers is important.

“It’s really nice to see everybody come together and kind of in a fellowship,” Hill said. “The one thing I will ask of you though: Do not let this be the last time you see these people in this room. You need to be very deliberate and work on it.”

The association works to create a network for faculty to make new relationships at the beginning of the school year. Jeff Johnson, president of the Alumni Association, compared it to a freshman’s experience coming into college his or her first year.

“Everyone should care that people are feeling connected,” Johnson said. “Just as we wanted our freshmen who go through Destination Iowa State. The first thing we really want for them is to feel connected.”