ISCORE finds unity in diversity

People head into the Cardinal Room at the Memorial Union on Mar. 4 at ISCORE. The session being held was called, “Anyone know where I can cash in my white privilege points? Do I need a card? I keep hearing I have this, but I’m not sure where to go or how to use it.” It was held at 3:10.

Mica Magtoto

The Thomas L. Hill Iowa State Conference on Race and Ethnicity (ISCORE) brought together more than 800 students, faculty, staff and guests on Friday to address two of society’s most pressing issues: diversity and inclusion.

Students and deans from various colleges and parts of the university facilitated critical dialogue for making Iowa State a more inclusive environment. The conference offered 30 sessions to discuss issues of race and ethnicity on campus.

Sessions covered issues such as the role of media, microaggressions, privilege, sexuality and intersectionality. Friday’s ISCORE conference was the first to discuss white privilege.

By being more strategic in inviting academic colleges through the creation of ISCORE champions, individuals and colleges have more opportunities to get involved. ISCORE is meant to be a tool to facilitate difficult dialogue, not an answer. 

The conference was renamed to the “Thomas L. Hill ISCORE: Iowa State Conference on Race and Ethnicity,” after Tom Hill, retired senior vice president for Student Affairs who first developed and implemented ISCORE in 2000. ISCORE is modeled after the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education (NCORE).

ISCORE, which is in its 17th year, has grown tremendously since its inception. Initially, students were the primary focus, but faculty and staff have begun to be more included as the conference has led continued growth and impact. When Hill founded ISCORE, he didn’t foresee it growing to its present caliber. Having ISCORE named after him has been “a very high honor and humbling.”

“I hope that, in a sense, we can declare the victory in dealing with issues of race and ethnicity on this campus and then include the city and the state,” Hill said.

Brenda Jones, professor of art and visual culture, has been creating paintings for the ISCORE conference since Hill first approached her to create a painting for the first conference.

“Unless you know who I am, unless I can project each one of you on those pieces, is the idea that I don’t exist,” Jones said. “Yes, you do exist, so I use my art to project that on this campus.”

Japannah Kellogg, director of NCORE and ISCORE believes ISCORE participants grow to be more equipped and don’t shy away from difficult conversations. These students feel a duty to facilitate thought, feedback and involvement.

“The responsibility of making this a learning environment for everyone is something we should take serious,” Kellogg said. “But sometimes, people’s experiences make Iowa not an inviting place. We’ve all been caught in situations where we don’t know what to say. As a university, we’re training you to be a professional in a number of different areas. As you go into your fields, this is something you should bring with you — an understanding and appreciation of human differences.”

ISCORE encompasses many aspects of race and ethnicity, so the term “change agents” was developed to describe the goals of ISCORE. It helps push individuals to apply what they have learned to personal, collegiate and communal levels. NCORE student delegates enter as a cohort, and they are placed into teams outside of their ethnicities. They go to NCORE based on an ethnicity and discuss their experiences.

Through these discussions, NCORE becomes a shared experience. NSCORE students also complete a research project in either the Native American, Asian-American, African-American/black, latinx or white research groups. Students of color and white students are given the opportunity to learn how to educate their peers throughout this journey.

“I’d like people to understand fear is in both sides, in the majority and minority,” said Christina Hillman, senior in child, adult and family services and presenter at ISCORE. “There are a lot of benefits to diversity. There’s progress to be made in ourselves. The more progress within ourselves, the more we can accept others.”

Barbara Love, professor emeritus of social justice education at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, believes ISCORE gives people a chance to hear what they haven’t heard before, to learn and to be exposed to new and different ideas. She traces historical and present-day greed as the source of race-based fear mongering in her keynote speech, “Love and Liberation.”

“Race-based fearing mongering is being used to get people into disunity, to get separated, to get people to support policies, practices and programs that are not in anybody’s best interest,” Love said.

She said hate, racism and division can be traced back from the “historical, cultural legacy that has been passed onto us by the society which we find ourselves.” It is all used to stir discord about minimum wage, women’s rights and basic right to health care. However, Love is optimistic that love and liberation are the antidotes to fear.

ISCORE is necessary to bring people together so they can be energized by, learn from and motivate each other to move forward, Love said. She noted the importance of youth in pursuing change in the world. Even when youth don’t realize the impacts of their actions, she encourages them to keep fighting.

“You don’t always know the effects of when you stand up for love and liberation, to oppose fear and disunity,” Love said. “Don’t ever assume what you do won’t matter, is too small or is not important to create the world you want to live in.”

Beate Schmittmann, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, thinks ISCORE helps people build more connection by recognizing differences and commonalities. 

“We’re living in a world which is very globally connected, so I think it’s critically important for our students to be able to work in this kind of environment, to be effective, to be respectful of people, to recognize differences and at the same time celebrate those differences,” Schmittmann said.

Kellogg anticipates more involvement and increased comfort in having difficult conversations in the future. With the help of ISCORE, the ISU community has better tools to have dialogue around the topics of race and ethnicity to make Iowa State University a great institution for everyone.

“We have opportunities today to learn and to share,” said Martino Harmon, recently named senior vice president for Student Affairs. “It’s our responsibility, being more knowledgable, to share the information we’ve learned … I challenge you, and I challenge myself, to reach other people.”