New diversity officer reflects on first week at Iowa State

Reginald Stewart has been named the vice president of diversity and inclusion. 

By Makayla Tendall [email protected]

Reginald Stewart has been named the vice president of diversity and inclusion. 

Adam Sodders

A recently selected administrator began his new job at Iowa State on Dec. 1, and he said he is still getting used to the new campus.

“My calendar is like the Dow Jones right now. Every day it’s something completely different,” said Reginald Stewart, vice president for diversity and inclusion.

The search for a diversity and inclusion administrator officially started in May 2015, when President Steven Leath set up the Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion Search committee.

In October, Stewart was selected as the new vice president and was approved by the Board of Regents.

“We started immediately. There was really no warm up process,” Stewart said. “I’m happy I was allowed to get started immediately.”

The new campus and the various groups and organizations were among the things Stewart said he wants to familiarize himself with.

“I will probably be getting used to the new environment for a while,” he said. “Ames is different than Reno.”

Previously, Stewart worked at the University of Nevada, Reno, where he served as chief diversity officer.

“I think students here are happy here in Ames,” he said. “I think they’re excited for the new vice president position.”

Stewart said he is excited to start getting involved on campus.

“I’ve noticed what many students want and what administrators want is often the same thing,” he said. “I would like to act as a translator between those groups.”

Student action is something Stewart said he enjoys seeing. For instance, he said he saw the Students Against Bigotry protest during the Cy-Hawk football game in a positive light.

“What do millennials get critiqued for?” he asked. “They are criticized for being disengaged.”

He said the protest shows that some students at Iowa State are willing to have their voices heard and want to see change.

“I went to San Francisco State University, which has a history of students demonstrating,” Stewart said. “I have a very social justice-based approach to the job.”

When it comes to action plans, Stewart said he is getting to know people and groups on campus, figuring out what problems need to be solved.

“Most good university vice presidents know they must first understand the campus,” he said. “They don’t just come in and start implementing policy without understanding the students.”

A flexible approach for the first months in the new position is what Stewart has planned.

“It doesn’t make sense to be too rigid with the job right now,” he said. “That would be counter intuitive to the work.”

Stewart said he is concerned about the future of the university as well as current issues, adding that some changes made in the present may only be seen by future students, faculty and staff.

“When students protest and make change or a vice president implements policy, that goes into helping future students and faculty,” he said.

With different students, faculty, staff, organizations and colleges within Iowa State, Stewart said giving some time to everyone is a big part of the plan for the first few months.

Additionally, he said the critical thinking that goes in to being vice president for diversity and inclusion is an attractive part of the job.

“I enjoy thinking deeply about issues faced by people on campus,” Stewart said. “This job isn’t just about problem solving. It’s also about creating.”