Scott Siepker: Iowa Nice

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Scott Siepker is a nice guy. But he’s not THAT nice guy. He really wants you to know that the famous Iowa Nice Guy he portrays is just a character. One of many characters. Because he’s an actor.

OK, so now that we have that out of the way, we can talk about Scott Siepker the person and how he’s a full-time actor in the state of Iowa, with no day job. The 2005 psychology grad knows that he’s a bit of a unicorn in flyover country.

“I’m an actor in Iowa!” he declares. “It’s not a punch line! Most people laugh when I tell them. I’m like, ‘I’m an actor in Iowa,’ and they go ‘Hahahaha.’ I’m like, ‘No, really!’”

Siepker juggles a ridiculous number of acting and theatrical projects. He does regular guest spots on a radio show each week. He hosts “Iowa Outdoors,” a program on Iowa Public Television. He’s on stage in local theatre productions (including recently portraying  Macbeth). He used to do a show on ESPN. He does a lot (a LOT) of public speaking. And he and his business partners manage a film company, Iowa Filmmakers.

But it was one less-than-two-minute video shot on New Year’s Eve during the 2012 Iowa Caucus cycle that made Siepker a media star. “Iowa Nice” was the brainchild of Siepker’s Iowa Filmmakers partner Paul David Benedict.

“The reason Iowa Nice came about was Paul was listening to some radio report about Iowa, and the way they were describing Iowa just didn’t fit with what he thought the reality of Iowa is. In his head he started saying these funny insults and curses, and he thought, ‘This is funny. I should write this down.’ And then he thought, ‘Who do I know who’s OK with swearing?’ So he came to me. And then we went out and filmed it, and I guess the rest, as they say, is history.”

Siepker posted “Iowa Nice” to Facebook and to his seven Twitter followers. Several media outlets in town for the caucuses picked it up. The video went viral, he says, when Rachel Maddow of “The Rachel Maddow Show” called it the best political ad to come out that year. At last count, the video had more than 1.4 million views on YouTube.

With his newfound success, Siepker tapped back into his Iowa Nice Guy persona for Cyclone Nice and Hawkeye Nice videos, flinging insults at other schools that, he says, “solidified the Iowa Nice Guy as the Sultan of Smack.”

But Siepker himself isn’t anything like his most famous character.

“I’m certainly not that dry,” he says. “I’m not that cool. I’m much more spastic. But I know that character. I can feel it. And it certainly is a part of me, there’s no doubt about it.”

Siepker left his full-time desk job with a major corporate employer in Des Moines in May 2015 to devote more time to his acting career. He recently moved into a larger apartment to accommodate his growing need for workspace. And he can tick off a long list of projects he wants to work on, everything from a feature-length documentary film about Iowa heroes Jack Trice and Nile Kinnick to television series to expanding his reach as a speaker. But mostly he wants to help promote the state of Iowa as a place where artists of all kinds can make a living.

“There are challenges to being a filmmaker and an artist in Iowa, but part of my mission is to make it easier for those who come after me,” he says. “Money is the big thing that’s missing now in Iowa. More artists need to be able to make a living off their art. I’m one of the few, and there have to be a lot more of us – painters, sculptors, musicians, writers, photographers – more of us who are fortunate enough to be able to do that. I don’t want to move. I want to stay here. I love Des Moines, and I want to figure out a way to make everything happen HERE. I have a wonderful life. I might have the BEST life, I really might.”

View the Iowa Nice video
(warning: strong language)

Learn more about Iowa Filmmakers

Five Things

Here are five things to put on your Cardinal & Gold radar this week:

1) The Iowa Board of Regents meets at 1 p.m. this afternoon in the ISU Alumni Center to vote on a  $300/semester tuition increase at ISU, UNI and the University of Iowa that, if approved, would be effective this fall. The potential increase, which would be the first at Iowa’s state-run schools in four years, is something the Regents say is necessary to cover a $14 million shortfall in funding from the Iowa legislature.

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Photo by Barb McBreen

2) The ISU campus is seeing white lately, as white squirrels are increasingly taking up residence. White squirrel sightings date back to 2000, and associate professor in natural resource ecology and management Tim Stewart says that original squirrel’s descendants are the ones being spied (and ballyhooed on social media) today. Stewart says it’s not necessarily surprising to find the leucistic creatures on campus, even though they are rare: college campuses, especially ones with lots of trees, make great homes for squirrels of all colors.

3) A group of ISU experts recently got together to talk about body image with ISU News Service. The result is a thought-provoking article on the history of BMI, the effect of media images on eating disorders, and what associate advertising professor Joel Geske refers to as the “slippery slope” of regulating the body images used in advertising, as was recently done by the mayor of London. Read the article online now.

4) Big 12 Football Media Days starts this morning in Dallas, Texas. The ISU athletics department website has all the links you need to follow the live coverage.

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5) Central Iowa Cyclones: We have two fun events coming up in Greater Des Moines, so mark your calendars for July 28 and Aug. 6.

Cyclone Night at the Des Moines Botanical Garden July 28 will include live jazz music, hors d’oeuvres and cash bar, hands-on learning stations, guided tours, and a short program featuring ISU alum Kelly Norris, director of horticulture, who will share the story of the garden’s dynamic renewal. Register online by July 20.

Iowa State Night at the I-Cubs Aug. 6 is an annual favorite. The Cubbies take on the New Orleans Zephyrs at 7:08 p.m. at Principal Park, but we’ll be gathering as a Cyclone family starting at 5:30 p.m. with a picnic in the Left Field Corner. Register online by July 29.

Five Things

Here are five things to put on your Cardinal & Gold radar this week:

1) In last Friday’s ISU News Flash, we told you about Team Canada’s promising bid to qualify for the 2016 Olympics in men’s basketball, thanks in large part of the strong play of former Cyclone All-American Melvin Ejim (’14 history). The Canadians ended up advancing all the way to the finals of the FIBA Olympics Qualifying Tournament Sunday in Manilla, Philippines, but lost to the Tony Parker-led France team, 83-74, stopping Ejim’s Olympic dream short by just one game. Ejim previously played for Team Nigeria (the country of his parents’ birth) during the last Olympic cycle, but was cut from the team just before the Olympics.

The Toronto native, who was named to the all-qualifying tournament team, kept his reaction upbeat and his feelings about Canada’s future hopeful on social media:

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Hillary Bor (via cyclones.com)

2) As far as we know right now, there will be just one Iowa State alumnus competing in this year’s Rio Olympic Games: Hillary Bor (’10 accounting and finance, MS ’12) earned a spot Friday night on Team USA, qualifying in track and field in the men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase.

“Coming in, I knew the race was going to be for the last 800 meters,” Bor said Friday night. “I wanted to be close to the leader but make sure I had enough space when I made a move. The last 200 meters I realized three of the guys in front of me were not moving that fast, so I just tried to boost the last 200 meters.”

The Eldoret, Kenya native and four-time NCAA All-American at ISU finished second to U.S. record-holder Evan Jager in Friday night’s qualifying race, clocking a personal-best 8:24.10. Bor became a U.S. citizen in 2013 when he joined the military. Until last year, he ran only for recreation before realizing 2016 might be a good opportunity to chase the Olympic dream.

“I can’t believe I made the team,” he said.

3) Dr. George Jackson, who served in many roles during his tenure at ISU — including assistant dean of the Graduate College and President of the Ames Chapter of the NAACP, died last Sunday, July 3, at his home in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. The retired Iowa State leader was beloved by many on campus and was a mentor to countless students, particularly in the black community. A home-going service will be held tomorrow in Florida, but an ISU community memorial service in Ames is also in the works for this fall (details to come). In the meantime, the Dr. George Jackson Memorial Fund is also being set up at the ISU Foundation.

4) The university lost another loyal Cyclone family member last week when Romie Orr, wife of the late Johnny Orr, died Saturday following an extended battle against Alzheimer’s disease. Since being diagnosed with the disease in 2001, she was an activist for Alzheimer’s research, even traveling to Washington, D.C. to lobby the U.S. Senate with her husband. Her husband, who spent 14 seasons as ISU’s head men’s basketball coach, died in 2014.

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Photo by Christopher Gannon

5) The Memorial Union will be selling the furniture from the former Hotel Memorial Union guest rooms at a public garage sale this Thursday, July 14 (4:30-7 p.m. in the Great Hall). The hotel ceased operations on July 1 in order to make room for much-needed student housing. Learn more about the sale online.

One man’s campus

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Through 50 years and five university presidents, Warren Madden has been a stable and continuous presence at Iowa State

Quick: Name a building on the Iowa State campus that was not built or improved
under the watchful eye of Warren Madden, senior vice president for business and
finance.

That’s a tough one, because Madden (L)(’61 industrial engineering) has served in a management role at Iowa State since 1966 – a full 50 years of leadership and involvement at his alma mater. During that time, Iowa State has grown from 15,000 students (up from 9,800 students when Madden enrolled here as a freshman in 1957) to an enrollment last fall of 36,001.

“Warren Madden has been instrumental in shaping Iowa State University into the world-class institution it is today,” ISU President Steven Leath (L) said following Madden’s announcement in February that he would retire this summer. “He’s impacted every corner of campus over the past 50 years.”

LIFE WITH 36 WOMEN
Madden came to Iowa State as an engineering student in 1957 from the Chicago suburb of Glen Ellyn, Ill. He and his future wife, Bev, were high school sweethearts. Bev (L) earned her degree in home economics education at Iowa State in 1960 and began a graduate program in home management. As part of her graduate appointment she became adviser to the home management houses that were located on the east side of campus.

During Madden’s senior year in college, he and Bev decided to get married. The question was, where would they live? Madden remembers being invited to the Tearoom in MacKay Hall, where he was “thoroughly grilled” by then-dean Helen LeBaron Hilton for the better part of a morning before she and others in the department determined it would not be inappropriate for him to live in North Fisher, one of the home management units, with his new bride.

Thus began his adventures living with 36 women.

Every six weeks 12 women would move into the house to serve their quarter-long home management residency. The women had bedrooms on the top floor. The main floor consisted of a big, traditional living room, a kitchen, dining room, and the adviser’s bedroom. The newlyweds had their own living room and study in the basement. Each quarter, the 12 women lived full-time in the home management home, planned all the meals, did all the shopping, and managed the budget. Every meal was unique.

“Think about six weeks of breakfasts and never serving the same thing twice,” Madden says, chuckling. “About week three, you’re out of your traditional eggs and bacon and cereals and toast, and then they’re into cream cheeses and things at 7 o’clock in the morning. I finally said to Bev, ‘Thanks, but why don’t you go out and do all of this and I’ll stay down in the basement with our milk carton, cold cereal boxes, and toaster and I’ll do my own thing.”

A UNIVERSITY ON THE MOVE
After graduation in 1961, Madden went to work for 3M. He earned an MBA from the University of Chicago in 1965.

And then, in 1966, he returned to Iowa State to be the grants and contracts officer for then-vice president for business and finance Wayne Moore. Iowa State was a very different place at that time. W. Robert Parks was president, and the campus was about to embark on a substantial growth spurt, both in terms of its physical size and its student enrollment.

Madden’s role also grew under Parks’ administration (1965-1986). He became the assistant vice president and treasurer and then associate vice president and treasurer. When Moore became vice president for economic development in 1984, Parks named Madden vice president for business and finance, a position he would hold until 2012 when his title changed to senior vice president under President Leath.

In his role as the senior financial adviser to five presidents, Madden oversaw facilities planning and management, accounting and finance, human resource management, public safety, purchasing, University Museums, and more. He helped lead the growth of the campus as it moved south to include what is now the Iowa State Center (Hilton Coliseum, Stephens Auditorium, Fisher Theater, and the Scheman Building), Jack Trice Stadium, Reiman Gardens, the ISU Alumni Center, and the College of Veterinary Medicine facilities.

“I’ve sort of been here through the life cycle of that southern end of the south campus,” Madden says. “Getting those buildings down there and the stadium done, that’s probably done more to change the character of Iowa State than anything else.”

Madden was instrumental in the renovation of Iowa State’s historical buildings: Old Botany (now Catt Hall), Morrill Hall, the Memorial Union, the Campanile, Curtiss Hall, and currently Marston Hall, to name a few. In 1999, Iowa State’s central campus was one of three university campuses to be recognized by the American Society of Landscape Architects as a special place embodying the “heart and soul” of the institution.

Director of University Museums Lynette Pohlman (L)(’72 interior design, MA ’76) is one of Madden’s longest-reporting employees, having joined the staff in 1988.

“Warren is very supportive of all of his units,” Pohlman says. “He is very supportive of his staff. He listens, he seeks recommendations, and he fine-tunes your thinking. He allows you to fail, and he celebrates when you succeed. He’s always about moving forward. His greatest assets are continuity, stability, vision, and the trust that he builds.”

Madden coordinated the campus recovery following major flooding in 1993, 2008, and 2010. He worked to establish the Green Hills retirement community, the Gateway hotel complex, and Research Park. He’s served on the boards of many of Iowa State’s affiliated organizations, including the ISU Foundation, ISU Alumni Association, Stanton Memorial Carillon Foundation, and the Agricultural Foundation.

withwarrenHe and Bev have given their personal financial support to projects on campus, including construction of the Palmer Building and the Jischke Honors Building, renovation of Beardshear and Morrill Halls, and key cultural offerings such as the performing arts and museums.

“In addition to managing the university’s budget as it increased from just over $268 million to $1.4 billion and overseeing the expansion of campus to more than 13.8 million square feet of building space, he and Bev have also personally supported a number of campus and community projects,” Leath said.

Madden concurs that he’s had a hand in not only the size and scope of the campus, but also its reputation.

“There are a lot of building programs in 50-plus years – that’s a third of Iowa State’s being around – so I’ve had the chance to see the impact of a variety of facility projects, and lots of them have been challenges,” he says. “The campus is a very different place than it was when I was here as a student.”

TOWN / GOWN RELATIONS
Madden’s impact can be seen beyond the confines of the campus. He’s addressed issues that have benefited the city of Ames as well as the university. He’s a master consensus-builder. And he’s served on countless boards and committees within the community.

He cites the creation of what is now Ames City Hall from what was once the high school as an early victory. He’s worked with the city on student housing issues, the challenges faced during several VEISHEA celebrations, the expansion of meeting and convention facilities, cultural offerings, the CyRide transportation system, and the recent reinvention of Campustown.

“I’ve had a chance to travel around the country, and I really do believe we probably have one of the best relationships you’ll find in college and university communities,” Madden says. “I think we’ve done a good job… Th is is a company town in reality, and Iowa State’s the major enterprise. On any given day there are probably 45,000 people on the campus – and the community’s probably around 64,000 – so more than half of this community is connected with Iowa State either as students or staff and faculty who work here.”

The Maddens can be seen at Iowa State and community events ranging from cultural activities to athletics.

“I tell people – and I’m partly kidding but partly serious – that I get half my work done Sunday mornings in the grocery store,” Madden says. “That’s the kind of community Ames is. Our social life and our work life are so intertwined you can’t separate them. You go to basketball games and you’re there to be a fan and watch and cheer Iowa State on, but I end up interacting with alumni and business in that, which I happen to enjoy.”

For his longtime contributions to the Ames community, Madden received the Ames Tribune’s Citizen of the Year award in 2013.

WHAT’S NEXT
The Maddens plan to spend their retirement years in Ames, their longtime home.

“I hope to be involved in some community and volunteer things,” he says. “I hope I can continue to be an Iowa State supporter, fan, and alumnus and be engaged in ways that are helpful. Bev and I also have a bucket list of some travel we’d like to do.”

He says he’ll miss the day-to-day connections with the people on campus, and he’ll miss his interaction with the students.

“There’s this vibrancy that you have every fall when another 6,000 or 7,000 new people sort of arrive, and they look the same every year and yet you get a year older. I’ll miss some of that interaction. Bev says she’ll know [my retirement is] really happening when I don’t get up and walk out the door early in the morning.”

Madden’s many contributions to campus will no doubt be missed. “Warren has so much Iowa State knowledge and so many connections,” Pohlman said. “Iowa State will miss that.”

“Warren is an institution here and one of the most loyal, generous, and humble people in our Iowa State family,” Leath said. “His legacy is unmatched, and we will be forever grateful for his dedication and service.”

 

Five Things

Here are five things to put on your Cardinal & Gold radar this week:

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1) Two Cyclone men’s basketball players have joined the elite group of Iowa Staters drafted by the NBA — last Thursday, the Indiana Pacers selected Georges Niang with the 50th overall pick of the draft and the Boston Celtics took Abdel Nader eight picks later.

“The game is athletic, but I think he’s always gotten by and been successful because he’s super crafty,” Pacers GM Kevin Pritchard said of Niang. “My boss (Larry Bird) is pretty crafty, too. He knows how to use his body, he’s got the spin moves, he does all that and he knows how to be in the right position on defense, too. We needed to improve our overall team IQ.”

2) Decades after it was researched, screwworm sex took center stage last week with the announcement of Raymond C. Bushland and Edward F. Knipling’s (PhD ’47) 2016 Golden Goose Award — an honor that recognizes work that may seem silly but has led to important scientific breakthroughs. ISU grad Knipling worked with Bushland for the USDA and passed away in 2000, but the legacy of their work has implications today — including biological control efforts that are today being implemented around pests such as soybean aphids and Zika-carrying mosquitoes.

3) We’re still looking for alumni stories about Lake LaVerne to include in our celebration of #100YearsofLakeLaVerne, coming soon to our website and VISIONS magazine. Send your memories and Lake-related stories to ISUAA associate director of communications Kate Bruns at kbruns@iastate.edu.

4) Next Monday is Independence Day, and the campus will be closed for the holiday. But if you’re in Ames, be sure to visit Reiman Gardens on Sunday for a celebration and 10 p.m. fireworks display.

5) Our catalog of 2017 Traveling Cyclones adventures is now available online. Browse the site and find a great opportunity to escape next year.

Cy’s Suitcase: June 2016

Cy's Suitcase Web Banner - SIZED

A Message from Shellie

Of all the books in the world, the best stories are found between the pages of a passport.

How many of you like to look through your passport? I do! It tells the story of all the places I have been. Each stamp holds different memories. One of my new favorite stamps is from my recent trip to Italy. I traveled with a group of colleagues from around the country to the Northwest region of the beautiful country, including a stop in Florence. I have always wanted to go to Italy, probably due to one of my favorite movies, “Under the Tuscan Sun.”

shellie_june2016The day we arrived, we went up to the terrace of the hotel and the view took my breath away. I instantly fell in love. I could have left right there and been completely satisfied. It was everything I had imagined. I have been in a lot of different countries, but this one was special. As we traveled through the Cinque Terre area and the Chianti and Tuscany regions, the scenery never disappointed. The Cypress trees and poppies were exactly as I had seen in photographs. In addition to the scenery, the food and wine was amazing. I have never tasted fresher tomatoes, and the bruschetta was the best I had ever had. In one hotel, I slept with the window cracked to hear the sound of the locals speaking Italian late into the night. I savored every moment I spent in that country.

That experience is what I hope for each of my travelers. I want them to be transformed by their surroundings, the food they eat, and the people they meet. I want them to remember how they felt while they were there. I want them to remember how the food tasted. I want them to build memories that will take them back instantly to that place in time. We all travel for various reasons, but escaping our everyday lives has to be on the top of the list.

In 2017, I have chosen an array of trips that will hopefully help you escape — trips that will transport you to another time and another way of life. We all have different bucket lists, but hopefully we have a trip that you can cross off your list.

Safe travels,

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Shellie Andersen ’88, Director of Alumni Travel
Iowa State University Alumni Association


Travel Tips

How to keep your passport safe while you travel:

HAVE TWO (OR THREE) COPIES
Before you even head out on your trip, you should make multiple copies of your passport. Copy the page that has your photo and full name on it, and keep these copies in separate places – at the bottom of your bag in different pieces of luggage, or even with different people who may be traveling with you. Leave one copy of your passport at home or with coworkers if on a work trip. (Also: Don’t forget, when traveling your passport must not have an expiration date that is less than six months from your departure date.)

HIDE IT
When traveling, keeping your passport concealed is almost a no-brainer, but of course that doesn’t mean just carrying it in your pocket and hoping it stays out of sight. Instead, look for a flat money belt, which can be worn around your waist and neck and concealed under your clothing.  If you’re looking for something a bit more comfortable, try a travel wallet or passport cover. Both conceal your passport (and nationality), while the travel wallet also has room for other valuable, including credit cards and emergency cash. (Note: Avoid carrying your passport and spending money together if you can, as taking out cash will alert potential thieves.)

LOCK IT UP
Most hotel rooms now have room safes. It’s a good habit to start to store your passport in your safe.

PROTECT IT
When most people think of passport safety, they think of safeguarding it from theft. Weather, however, is another consideration. To prevent water damage, travel with a waterproof cover.

Diversity: A fundamental component of the Iowa State experience

White police officers shooting black suspects. Fear and prejudice against Muslims. Campus uprisings across the U.S. by students who do not feel supported, valued, or safe.

Incidents of racial, ethnic, religious, and gender-related differences have been simmering for years in this country, and they have recently come to a full boil.

At Iowa State, President Steven Leath has made campus diversity and inclusion issues a priority since Day One. During his installation address in September 2012, he announced his commitment to promoting diversity on campus. In 2013, he ordered a university-wide diversity asset inventory and audit. Based on the recommendations from that analysis, he named a search committee that would attract the university’s first vice president for diversity and inclusion, and implemented other key initiatives.

Iowa State’s fall 2015 enrollment of 36,001 included a student body with record ethnic and multicultural diversity. But that increase has not come without some growing pains. In recent months, President Leath has responded swiftly to student concerns about safety and inclusion issues.

“Diversity isn’t something we should merely tolerate; it’s a fundamental component of higher education and the Iowa State experience,” he told the campus community in a Nov. 20, 2015, open letter. “By working together to embrace diversity and create a more inclusive culture we will make Iowa State a more inspiring and invigorating place to discover, learn, and achieve.”

Taking stock
During President Leath’s installation address in September 2012, he outlined his key priorities for the university. One of his initiatives was to “promote diversity on campus by supporting several recommendations proposed by the University Committee on Women and other key groups, and also by partnering with King and Moulton Elementary Schools in Des Moines to help increase the number of lower income and minority students enrolling at Iowa State.”

Just a few months later, in March 2013, Leath announced that Iowa State would conduct a university-wide diversity asset inventory and audit. Th e inventory was intended to take stock of the university’s diversity programs and initiatives; the audit phase would examine Iowa State’s diversity strengths and weaknesses, creating a road map for the future.

Leath said at that time that the project would help Iowa State better understand its existing diversity assets and more efficiently align those resources so the university could effectively support and promote diversity on campus and throughout the Ames community.

“Iowa State University is as diverse as it has ever been, but we have a responsibility to build upon past successes and ensure that we strive every day to create an environment that is as welcoming as possible to all people – regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation,” Leath said in a memo to the campus community.

The study
Jerlando Jackson (L)(PhD ’00 educational leadership and policy studies), founder of The Jackson Consulting Firm and distinguished professor of higher education at University of Wisconsin-Madison, has donated his services to conduct the diversity review and develop the final report for his alma mater.

Some of the report findings highlighted Iowa State’s already-positive practices, such as aligning groups based on affinity, recruiting diverse candidates for open faculty and staff positions, the presence of a supportive climate on campus, and a strong town-gown relationship. Jackson’s key recommendations for improvement included:

  • Provide incentives for colleges and units to increase diversity
  • Create a chief diversity officer position
  • Support groups in diversity-related endeavors
  • Be transparent in moving diversity efforts forward; hold regular listening sessions, invite suggestions, and include student leaders in planning
  • Conduct an institution-wide policy review to sharpen commitment to diversity
  • Assess and meet the social needs of diverse groups on campus
  • Focus equally on retention and promotion of diverse groups
  • Ensure that central administration reflects diversity expected in the campus population

Also in 2014 the University Committee on Women published the findings of its Status of Women at Iowa State University report. Key findings showed improvement since a similar report was conducted in 2002; however, the report indicated improvement was still needed in areas including representation, professional development opportunities, work/life balance, and knowledge of diversity initiatives on campus.

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Reginald Stewart, ISU’s first vice president for diversity and inclusion

Vice president for diversity and inclusion
Chief among Jackson’s recommendations in the university-wide diversity review was to create a chief diversity officer position, and in early 2015 Leath created a first-ever position for Iowa State: the vice president for diversity and inclusion. A search committee was formed, a job description was written with broad campus input, and recruitment efforts began. By September, candidates were invited to campus for public forums and a series of interviews.

Reginald Stewart was Iowa State’s choice. He began his duties on campus Dec. 1. Stewart is the former chief diversity officer and adjunct professor of educational leadership at the University of Nevada in Reno.

“Iowa State’s commitment to diversity isn’t simply measured by statistics; it’s a principle that guides our land-grant mission of education, research, and service,” Leath said in naming Stewart to the position.

Stewart says he was attracted to Iowa State because it was a well-known, well-respected institution and that the university had put a great deal of thought into the establishment of the diversity and inclusion position.

“President Leath communicated that ISU has a dedicated faculty and staff, an engaged student body, and a desire to add a national reputation as a leader in diversity and inclusion to an already impressive list of accolades,” he said. “It was clear that Iowa State wanted to see long-term evolution in its diversity and inclusion efforts and was willing to invest the time needed to implement structural and procedural change.”

Working together
But before Stewart even arrived on campus, the Iowa State community was faced with overt acts of racism and bigotry during a peaceful protest against a presidential candidate outside Jack Trice Stadium on Sept. 12, 2015. A public forum, coordinated by ISU’s Student Government and Latinos United for Change (LUCHA), was held on Sept. 30 in response to the incident, in which a woman ripped a student’s protest sign.

That forum, President Leath said, “reminded us all that racism, bigotry, discrimination, and marginalization are happening on the Iowa State campus. The forum provided me an opportunity to listen, learn, and feel – to truly understand what some of our minority students, faculty, and staff have endured – and it underscored the importance of empathy and action.”

As a result of the public forum, and of subsequent meetings with groups on campus, Leath and his senior administration took a number of steps to continue addressing these issues, including:

  • Assigning ISU Police officers as liaisons to Multicultural Student Affairs to establish a strong partnership with ISU’s multicultural community
  • Developing a plan to expand the safety escort service
  • Developing a plan to relocate multicultural artwork to more visible areas on campus
  • Establishing a Diversity in Art course and a multicultural art exhibition
  • Launching a process to develop the university’s new strategic plan, which includes a subcommittee to ensure a welcoming, safe, and inclusive campus environment

In a letter dated Nov. 20, 2015, Leath told the university community that the university was developing an initial plan of action in close collaboration with Vice President Stewart and all stakeholders focused on three areas:

  • Classrooms: Existing training for faculty, lecturers, and teaching assistants on issues of diversity will be evaluated and, where necessary, new training will be developed and offered annually.
  • Academic advising: A framework will be established to enable departments to understand more about the cultural climate in all of our programs.
  • Student experience: Student orientation programming will be evaluated to ensure it includes culturally dynamic opportunities for students to engage with one another. Existing diversity committees and initiatives within colleges and departments will be reviewed and evaluated to determine gaps and ensure student representation. All student clubs and their advisers will be expected to understand the university’s expectations for creating a welcoming and inclusive culture.

“Acts of racism, bigotry, discrimination, and marginalization have no place on college campuses or in society,” the president concluded, “but we cannot ignore the fact that they are happening, and Iowa State is not immune. The reality is there are students, faculty, and staff on college campuses across the country, including here at Iowa State, who do not feel completely accepted, welcome, or safe. We must acknowledge this openly and candidly. We must work together to change this reality by taking action every day to reinforce a culture of inclusion and respect that upholds freedom of speech and expression in a way that fosters open discussion and civil discourse.”

– Carole Gieseke