UNI conference to address challenges facing underrepresented populations in the Cedar Valley

UNI conference

The University of Northern Iowa will bring together key members of social and educational programs in a conference dedicated to examining and addressing the challenges facing underrepresented populations in the Cedar Valley, including immigrants, racial minorities and members of the LGBTQ community.

The conference, System of Support in the Cedar Valley: Neighbors for Peace, Prosperity and Compassion, will provide about 100 helping professionals, such as social workers, counselors and non-profit employees, the knowledge and tools to support the populations they serve in the areas of employment, education, criminal justice, health, gender, sexual orientation and housing.

The conference will be held on Nov. 1 in the Van G. Miller Adult Learning Center at Hawkeye Community College and will include guests such as Waterloo Mayor Quentin Hart, Cedar Falls Mayor Jim Brown, Waterloo Police Chief Daniel Trelka and Cedar Falls Police Chief Craig Berte, among others.

“The System of Support conference is our opportunity to give back to the community and connect further with all the wonderful service providers that are out there,” said Brenda Bass, dean of UNI’s College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. “This year, with the topic being about neighbors for peace and prosperity, we’re looking for ways that we can address the challenges facing our communities. We think we can spur people on to a better future if we can bring people together for these conversations.”

The conference will feature a number of speakers and breakout sessions to dive deeper into the issues and challenges facing the Cedar Valley.

Discussions about education will focus on the “achievement gap” that still persists between African American students and their white counterparts and address inequalities in the education system.

A talk about housing will cover the culture of poverty and the demand for affordable housing in the area. 

Libby Fry, a UNI social work instructor, will discuss examples of microaggressions and blatant discrimination the LGBTQ individuals face, specifically when accessing social services.

Overall, the conference will serve as a conduit between UNI’s research and expertise and the on-the-ground work by professionals in the community.

“This is a way for the university to give back to some of the unsung heroes in our community,” said Alan Heisterkamp, director of UNI’s Center for Violence Prevention. “These are high stress positions, and we know that as a community partner, the university has an obligation to think about how we use our resources and expertise and connect the dots between education research and practice.”

The conference is co-hosted by UNI’s TRIO Educational Opportunity Center, College for Social and Behavioral Sciences and Center for Urban Education.

The conference is full and registration is closed.