Fall 2020 Diversity Seminar Series

Implementation Leads:

  • Nick Creary, PhD, Center for Diversity and Enrichment
  • Elizabeth Lara, Graduate College
  • Carlette Washington-Hoagland, UI Libraries

The Center for Diversity and Enrichment (CDE), in collaboration with the Office of Graduate Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; the University Libraries; and the Office of the Provost is pleased to announce this semester’s Diversity Seminar. The Diversity Seminar is a series of presentations that provides a safe and supportive space in which scholars may present their research to colleagues and students on campus. As part of its mission to promote student success and enrichment, the CDE seeks to support and promote the scholarship of faculty, staff, and graduate students with historically underrepresented global majority and/or marginalized identities at the University of Iowa. Scholars whose research addresses populations with marginalized identities may also submit proposals. All sessions will held via Zoom.  

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires a reasonable accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact the CDE in advance at 319-335-3555 or cde@uiowa.edu (link sends e-mail).

Photo of Morgan Stangl

September 24, 2020
Via Zoom
Zoom Link: https://bit.ly/cdeds2020
Morgan Stangl, School of Social Work
“The Iowa Edge: Assessing the Effectiveness of an Orientation Program for the Improved Retention of Underrepresented and Marginalized Students” 

The Iowa Edge is an extended orientation and mentoring program that serves students of color, LGBTQ+ students, and first-generation students. The purpose of this study is to review literature associated with student retention with an emphasis on the served student populations. The literature review is supplemented by survey and interview data from students who participated in the program. This study found moderate positive correlations among Iowa Edge’s social and academic support system building and feeling safe on campus. Furthermore, this study did not find a correlation between experiencing discrimination/microaggressions on campus or in the classroom and feeling safe on campus. This suggests that The Iowa Edge is succeeding in building a supportive community for its served student population. 

photo of nick cearary


October 8, 2020
Via Zoom

Nicholas Creary, Center for Diversity & Enrichment
“‘Charting the Unknown Possibilities of Existence’: The Crimes of Humanity on Trial in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Abderrahmane Sissako’s Bamako” 

This presentation focuses on contradictions between notions of benevolent explorers and the realities of colonization and explores the disparity between romantic visions of exploration and the realities of conquest in a comparison of Q’s trial of the Enterprise crew for the crimes of humanity in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Africa’s trial of international financial institutions for the crimes of neo-colonialism in Abderrahmane Sissako’s film, Bamako. In “Encounter at Farpoint,” (1987) the series premier of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Q accused humanity of being “a dangerous, savage, child-race,” and called on Picard and the Enterprise crew “to answer for the multiple and grievous savageries of the species.” In the epilogue of the series finale, “All Good Things. . .” (1994), Q asserted that “the trial never ends” and that the “exploration that awaits [humanity]. . .[is] charting the unknown possibilities of [human] existence.” In a similar fashion, African society places the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on trial for the crimes of neo-colonialism in Abderrahmane Sissako’s courtroom drama, Bamako (2006). This presentation argues that it is possible to read Sissako’s vision of the chastened international financial institutions sentenced to “community service for life” as one of Q’s unknown possibilities, i.e., a world in which the former colonial and current neo-colonial powers voluntarily give up domination of the underdeveloped world and allow African nations to chart their own courses and develop their respective societies to their fullest potentials in their own ways, on their own terms, and in their own times. 

Photo of Ashley

October 15, 2020
Via Zoom
Zoom Link: https://bit.ly/cdeds2020
Ashley Cheyemi McNeill, Obermann Center for Advanced Studies
“Receiving Strangers: Cosmopolitan Ethics and the Narrative Works of Seiichi Higashide and Barack Obama” 

Despite worldwide mandates to quarantine, COVID-19 has forced many people (often marginalized and ethnic minorities) into transitory states, seeking both place and shelter. Yet migrants have negotiated the liminal status of perpetually not belonging long before the novel coronavirus blanketed the globe. This presentation restores a humanitarian perspective to the pandemic by inquiring how humanism and migration intersect and effect how every being—in transit or stasis, global Northerner or Southerner, human or non-human—is in the world and works toward their own individual or collective well-being. The institutional, governmental, and social reactions to the state of migration today ultimately asks: Who has the right to pursue perceived safety, to move into ecologies of well-being? Moreover, when transnational travelers are marked as distinctly national (through race, language, war time fears, global viruses, or international politics) in ways that render them as perpetual strangers, what other methods of belonging can migrants receive and offer? 

Employing the philosophical notion of cosmopolitanism—the worldview that all humans are part of a common communal order—I consider how Others could be received in this current sociopolitical moment, in which all national governments must reckon with being under-prepared, both in terms of humanitarian resources and also empathetic capacity. As I examine these questions of global migration, cosmopolitanism, and how the ties and imprints of the nation are always present and regulatory therein, I refer to two autobiographies that provide a lens for this analysis: Barack Obama’s Dreams of My Father (1995) and Seiichi Higashide’s Adios to Tears (1993). Both authors extend existing paradigms and perceptions of migrants to foreground a cosmopolitan ethic of self-knowledge through empathy for difference with Others. Obama and Higashide’s stories are dynamically different, the former based in a self-reflective critique of race and the human condition while the latter offers an outward gaze of geo- and bio-politics; yet both gesture to a broader phenomenon in the world, wherein many disenfranchised peoples uniquely access an empathetic humanism despite their often precarious well-being.  

Obama and Higashide’s narratives provide rich, nuanced accounts of how the Other––the perpetual stranger––can be both recognized and received. The cosmopolitan ethic that Obama and Higashide’s narrative works reflect is relevant, and even imperative, today in ways that has not been realized in the past in part because COVID-19 harkens a revived sense of humanism on a scale unlike any we have previously encountered. Ultimately, this presentation seeks to reveal how the principles of international right that bind all human beings collectively depend on a capacity to recognize and receive the stranger, and how our survival will be measured by our ability to cultivate some sense of shared identity.  

Photo of Kristine Munoz


October 29, 2020
Via Zoom
Zoom Link: https://bit.ly/cdeds2020

Kristine Muñoz, Spanish & Portuguese
“Moving Beyond the Media: A Digital Humanities Correction to Stereotypes of Colombians” 

Colombian Americans face nearly inevitable comments that link their national heritage to drug trafficking when they identify themselves. This presentation focuses on creating resources for people to be better informed and more respectful of Colombians, both in their own country and in the US, including digital venues to bring a critical social scientific lens to a public that gets most of its images of Colombia from a Netflix series called “Narcos”, an unbearably violent and glorified Hollywood version of Pablo Escobar’s life. Drawing on materials from a course in Spanish called “Medellín”, and a website now called Medellín after Escobar (medellin.lib.uiowa.edu), this presentation will introduce the site and its goal: To show US Americans how much more there is to Colombia than the stereotypes they so often see on television. 

Photo of Christine Shea

November 5, 2020
Via Zoom
Zoom Link: https://bit.ly/cdeds2020

Christine Shea, Spanish & Portuguese
“Linguistic Prejudice: Let me tell you who you are based on how you sound

Linguistic prejudice is a form of prejudice that manifests through implicit biases held by individuals about others based upon the way they speak. Linguistic prejudices influence the way messages are perceived and have a severe impact on people throughout their lives, starting in kindergarten and reaching into searches for housing or employment and interactions with the justice system. Linguistic prejudice is one of the last widely socially acceptable ways to discriminate against certain racial or socio-economic groups, by using criticism of nonstandard dialects as a proxy for criticism of their speakers. Linguistic prejudice exists in all societies and across all languages. While we will focus primarily on the United States, it is important to keep in mind that it is by no means limited to the US (or English) context. 

American English exhibits substantial variation across regions, races, social classes and age groups and many people hold the belief that some forms of English are more ‘correct’ than others, a fact that has been disproven time and time again by linguists. Most linguistic prejudices are in fact implicit and subconscious, reinforced by an education system that operates in ‘standard English’, with the goal of preparing individuals for the workplace. Thus, right from our earliest educational experiences those who are native speakers of the standard variety enjoy benefits and privileges denied to those who speak nonstandard varieties. Nonstandard variety speakers are forced to acquire the ‘correct’ linguistic code or run the risk of being judged as uneducated or incompetent. 

In this presentation, we explain why no language or variety of a language is better than another – rather, notions such as ‘goodness’ and ‘correctness’ are subjective evaluations connected to speakers of the language or dialect. We will discuss ways of recognizing and overcoming our own linguistic prejudice in daily interactions and reflect upon the rich diversity that exists in American English. Confronting linguistic prejudices is not easy; the way we speak is intrinsic to our identities and perceptions of ourselves and others. However, being conscious of our attitudes about language is a major step forward if we hope to overcome our own language prejudices. 

Photo of Hao Zhao

November 12, 2020
Via Zoom
Zoom Link: https://bit.ly/cdeds2020

Hao Zhou Cinematic Arts

“LGBTQ+ Iowa: The Conundrums and Potential Impacts of Diversifying LGBTQ+ Creative Representations in Iowa

This presentation will introduce and discuss an ongoing artistic project, “LGBTQ+Iowa.” This project is a dual photographic series and documentary short film centered on LGBTQ+ people in Iowa. To achieve this goal, I will photograph and film verité documentary of individuals in locations across the state, particularly rural regions. Through the participants’ widely varied backgrounds, the project will expand narrow representations by exploring how gender and sexuality are culturally and economically inflected in Iowa. Thus, I seek at once to highlight LGBTQ+ Iowan individualities and bring attention to the ongoing struggles that many face in the state. This project will contribute to the vitality of artistic research in Iowa as a project made by and about LGBTQ+ Iowans. The project’s participants act not merely as passive subjects, but as agents sharing their creative input and on-camera performances. They will also contribute to the descriptions that accompany the photos. In 2021, I will exhibit the photo series at public libraries in Iowa, aiming to provide Iowans the chance to appreciate current queer artwork where they otherwise may rarely encounter it. A brief, anonymous online survey will be available beside the exhibitions to sample the public’s response to this project. The documentary film will be programmed at a nonprofit cinema in Iowa City (FilmScene) and submitted to film festivals in the US and beyond. The Diversity Seminar presentation would give an overview of the project’s phases (development, production, and exhibition) and introduce samples of work in progress. A major focus would be a first-person description of how I developed and carried out this independent project as a foreigner newly arrived in the United States, lacking prior networks and traditional research structures.