Diversity reached through openness

Sara Purvis

Increasing talk of diversity on the Iowa State campus has prompted several Iowa State offices to participate in a series of seminars called “Dialogues on Diversity” in order to build a welcoming climate for diversity on campus.

The series is being offered by the Office of Training and Development, Minority Student Affairs, the Office of International Students and Scholars and the Center for Teaching Excellence. It is open to all Iowa State faculty, staff and graduate students.

John Stein, a training specialist from the Office of Training and Development, said he has participated in the sessions before. He described them as a time to share ideas in a conversational setting, where the emphasis is on listening and skilled discussion instead of debate.

“Although people think that they don’t need to participate, after participating in these sessions, they realize that they were most in need and learned just as much as anyone else there,” Stein said.

He said, “Although it isn’t a cure-all, it is an opportunity for growth and development and a time to express one’s views on diversity against the views of others.”

The series will discuss the central Dialogue question: “What is the future of Iowa State in local, national and global environments that are rapidly becoming more diverse?”

This question will be examined in the light of weekly themes including a discussion of the past, present and future of Iowa State.

The Dialogues series is not new to Iowa State. It was started two years ago, but did not continue, Stein said.

The revitalization of this program, in order to help faculty, staff and administration understand the factors that must be considered when working with students of ethnic minority and international cultures, was prompted by a May 1996 recommendation from the Diversity Steering Committee that was endorsed by President Martin Jischke.

Last semester’s Dialogues program had about 25 participants, most of whom were professional staff at Iowa State. Stein said he hopes more faculty will participate in this semester’s sessions.

“It is a humbling experience,” Stein said. He said he believes there is much to talk about when it comes to the subject of diversity at Iowa State.

Each meeting is held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Memorial Union and will provide a buffet-style lunch that will feature an ethnic dish.

The dates for this semester’s Dialogues on Diversity series are March 18, April 1 and April 15.

Attending all three sessions is necessary to fully benefit from the experience.

There is no fee for faculty, administration and graduate students. There is also no registration deadline, but Stein suggests that those interested should call the Office of Training and Development at 294-8914 soon to assure participation in the program.