Wednesday, November 14, 2012

On behalf of the University of Iowa, it is a great pleasure and honor to welcome you to our community. We are very happy to be hosting this important conference, and we are thrilled that people have traveled from all over the United States and Canada to be here.

The essence of the university is the free exchange of ideas, and collaboration is becoming only more important in our research and creative work, teaching and learning, and service and engagement. This conference represents both so well. This is a forum to share ideas and experiences. But as a coalition-building organization, your work here is also about forming partnerships for a more open, just, and cooperative society.

As we build a community of diversity, trust, empowerment, and collaboration on our campus, we at the University of Iowa are very proud to have an NCBI Affiliate at our institution. NCBI plays an important role at Iowa in supporting a welcoming and inclusive environment and community. Our Affiliate is important to developing the leadership we need on campus to understand and facilitate diversity issues. And it’s important to building strong relationships among groups within our university community. NCBI also provides us with an opportunity to expand our knowledge and our coalitions with others. Our Affiliate group allows us to connect with like-minded people all over the world as well as with each other on campus. We have a marvelous group of people here at Iowa who can come together for further learning and support as we work through diversity-related issues and build the most inclusive campus possible.

One of NCBI’s operational assumptions is that “programs to welcome diversity require an ongoing institutional effort.” Singer, composer, founder of the a cappella group Sweet Honey in the Rock, scholar, and social activist Bernice Johnson Reagon once said, “If you’re in a coalition and you’re comfortable, you know it’s not a broad enough coalition.” We all know that coalition-building is a never-ending process. The more connections we make, the deeper our understanding becomes. The more ties that bind us together, the stronger our community becomes. The more ideas that we exchange, the more enlightened our society becomes. By the end of the conference, you’ll have done all this. And I’m sure you’ll all be much more comfortable with each other, which will allow you to draw upon each other’s knowledge and experience across the miles into the future. But at the same time, let’s heed Bernice Johnson Reagon’s warning. Let’s not get too comfortable. Our coalitions always need broadening, and it’s our job to keep building leaders, networks, and inter-group collaborations.

Thank you for all your work on behalf of expanding diversity, developing leadership, and building coalitions. And thank you once again for joining us at the University of Iowa and in the Iowa City-Coralville community. I offer you my best wishes for an inspiring meeting.