Reginald Stewart to take on diversity position

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

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

Michaela Ramm

If he could have any kind of superpower, Reginald Stewart would chose to have the same powers as the Incredible Hulk.

Stewart said he would choose those powers because there are no costumes or gadgets to help — it’s just him. The more intense the situation, the stronger and more focused the Hulk can make himself to succeed.

“I’ve always looked at it no matter how hard the situation is, you can continually push yourself to be stronger,” Stewart said.

As Iowa State’s new vice president of diversity and inclusion, Stewart will have the chance to flex his superpower on campus.

Stewart was named to the position Thursday and will take on the role on Dec. 1 if the Iowa Board of Regents approve his appointment at the meeting on Oct. 22.

Pamela Anthony, dean of students, said the process to fill the position was a nation-wide search.

The position is the first of its kind at Iowa State and was created by President Steven Leath in response to a study released last year.

Iowa State’s Diversity Audit and Asset Inventory collected data on the university’s diversity programs and resources and created several recommendations for improvement on campus.

One of these improvements was the investment of a chief diversity or inclusion officer on campus, which led to the creation of Stewart’s position.

The study conducted and released on diversity, which Stewart called a “road map,” will act as a guide for where he needs to go as he takes on the position. He said his goal is to essentially prioritize items identified in the document and put those in place.

“In some instances, it can be like swimming upstream,” Stewart said in regards to prioritizing. “But with this, at least you have a raft, you just have to guide it.”

Anthony said there are a lot of expectations for Stewart and the new position, but collaboration between and among departments at Iowa State is key to success.

Anthony also said the very first person to get hired to a position is critical.

“There is no road map, it’s a brand new position,” she said. “Stewart is capable of creating that road map.”

Discussion on diversity issues, in particular multicultural issues, has been prominent on campus in the last few months. Most recently, Student Government passed a bill Wednesday that would send a list of suggested initiatives to improve the experience of multicultural students to university administration.

Stewart said he will take on the conversations on campus regarding multicultural students.

“No matter where we are, what university you’re in, what organization you’re connected to, there’s always a collective of people,” he said. “And sometimes, people will say and do things with the express intent of hurting other people. So there’s no diversity officer in the world that can make people be nice.”

Stewart said he plans to work to rewrite the narrative that takes place when something negative takes place.

“When something negative happens, you want to a student to see it as an anomaly or an outlier,” he said.

For example, in regards to the incident of a woman ripping a protestor’s sign at the Cy-Hawk game on Sept. 12, Stewart said he would want students at Iowa State to look at that and think, “Clearly, that’s not someone a part of our learning community because we don’t do that to each other.”

Stewart said this includes the concept of being proactive. It’s a narrative that changes over the course over a long period of time, he said, and starts in the recruitment process.

As the university recruits the incoming freshmen class, he said the university should teach values and expectations as they come to Iowa State. By doing so, he said it recreates the student experience in real time.

“Do that with next class then the next one and what you find, over time, is that they will have a different prospective on this than everyone attending now has experienced,” Stewart said.

Iowa State will not be the first place where Stewart has served on an inaugural position at a university. He has served at the University of Nevada at Reno as the chief diversity officer since 2011. Stewart has also served as a diversity consultant for the City of Reno and the Reno Police Department.

Stewart visited Iowa State this semester during his interview process and said he believed the university demonstrated a remarkable amount of forethought into the position.

“The process was remarkably well-mapped-out,  and so, because of that, it just increased the interest,” he said.

Stewart said during his visit to Iowa State he had the chance to meet a collective of people who were engaged in the success of this vice president position, including administrators, faculty, staff and students.

“After it was done, on the way back to the airport, I said, ‘This feels really good,’” he said.

Stewart said he is excited to make the move to Ames with his wife and two children.

“My wife and I are looking very forward to raising our family there,” he said. “We’re looking at it as this wonderful family adventure and a great opportunity.”