Tuesday, August 27, 2013
S401 Pappajohn Business Building


Thank you very much for inviting me to share a little time with you today. I am enthusiastic about the work you are doing, building on the remarkable success we have enjoyed with minority graduate students here at Iowa, particularly in STEM fields.

I have spoken often of the math department’s incredible work over the years in both recruiting and graduating underrepresented graduate students. I was especially proud a few years ago when Phil Kutzko went to the White House to be recognized for his Presidential Award of Excellence, awarded by President Obama and administered by the National Science Foundation, in recognition of his mentoring of minority students. And what was even more remarkable was this recognition followed the department itself earning the award in 2004, the only one of its kind presented to an academic department that year.

It is especially rewarding that this tradition—and all the work that goes with it—continues without any letup. Over the last decade, the percentage of underrepresented graduate students in the math department has ranged from 15% to 25%, and we often boast the highest percentage of minority doctoral graduates in that field in the country.

The College of Engineering has been another source of pride, and I also thank Tonya Peeples for her efforts with the Ethnic Inclusion Effort for Iowa Engineering (eI2). With 25% of Engineering’s U.S. doctoral students from underrepresented ethnic groups, we remain a national leader in those disciplines as well as math.

And on top of our nationally significant minority enrollments, 35% of the math department’s doctoral students are women, as are 42% of the College of Engineering’s domestic doctoral students.

These achievements come from strong faculty commitment and a lot of hard work. And our success builds upon itself.  Thanks to the persistence and accomplishments of our programs so far, we have built a strong infrastructure here at the University of Iowa for minority recruitment, retention, and graduation in STEM areas. The Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professorate successfully institutionalized its success by 2008, and today we enjoy the nationwide networking and support benefits of the National Alliance for Doctoral Studies in the Mathematical Sciences, which grew out of the math department’s success and is based here at Iowa.

I am also grateful for the strength, support, and imaginative work of our Chief Diversity Office and its affiliated programs through the stellar leadership that Georgina Dodge has provided. I often emphasize the high priority that diversity plays in my institutional vision, and the fact that Georgina reports directly to me both affirms this commitment and reflects my support for her superb work.

With all of this excellence in our portfolio, I am delighted, then, to see the work you are doing to expand the Sloan Scholars program into a University Center of Exemplary Mentoring (UCEM). With the math department’s status as one of the earliest and most successful Sloan departments and all the other infrastructure we have in place, expanding the Sloan program to other departments is logical, principled, and exciting, all at the same time. I very much support the work you are doing to make all this happen, and I thank Phil, Tonya, and Georgina, as well as Colleen Mitchell, our Sloan Director and Director of the Department of Mathematics’ Committee on Diversity and Inclusion; and Raul Curto, Executive Associate Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, in this historic and important effort.

In closing, let me emphasize that the strength of our programs is in our understanding that a commitment to diversity is not about diversity for its own sake. It is about something that is fundamental to our university mission:  educational opportunity. As a university, we seek to offer opportunity to all who are willing and prepared to study here, no matter what their personal background or circumstances are. The opportunities for excellence that a university provides depend on diversity.  Without intellectual, social, and cultural diversity within the university community itself, our institution cannot fulfill its mission of learning, discovery, and engagement to its fullest potential.

As I have often said, diversity—in all its manifestations—is not something that we can delegate to an office or an individual or a particular program. It is something that must be part of the fabric of our everyday work. Your work here today is strengthening that work by expanding opportunities for our students and the diversity of our university community.

Thank you for all you are doing, and I offer you my best wishes and strongest support for success.