Office of Diversity, Inclusion & Social Justice Stories & News

Iowa suffragist Gertrude Rush

Suffrage exhibit features African American women

The year 2020 marks 100 years of women having the right to vote. But the ratification of the 19th Amendment only gave some women the right to vote. African American women were almost completely excluded. 

Iowa has many prominent African American suffragists in its history, yet they receive little recognition. A new traveling exhibit at the UNI Museum in the Rod Library seeks to change that.

UNI economics professor David Surdham.

Sports labor strikes in times of unrest: A conversation with David Surdam

When the Milwaukee Bucks refused to take the court for Game 5 of the NBA playoffs in protest of the police shooting of Jacob Blake, it sparked a wave of similar wildcat strikes across the NBA and MLB as athletes called for an end to police brutality. We asked University of Northern Iowa professor David Surdam, who has written eight books and published 18 articles on various economic issues of the NBA, NFL and MLB, to bring his decades of research to  discussion about the historical precedents for the strike and the effectiveness of athlete protests to drive social change.

UNI alumnus Pernell Cezar

UNI graduate making impact one cup of coffee at a time

A cup of coffee in the morning is a daily ritual for millions of America, but for University of Northern Iowa alumnus Pernell Cezar, it’s something more.

UNI President Mark A. Nook

President Nook addresses COVID-19 and diversity concerns in annual address

University of Northern Iowa President Mark A. Nook’s annual address to campus was a little different this year, and not just because he was speaking to his audience virtually.

This year, Nook eschewed the traditional topics of budgetary and legislative issues to focus on two of the most pressing concerns facing the university: dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and addressing problems with UNI’s diversity and inclusion.

Annette and Bob Morden

George Floyd fund established to educate UNI community

From their home in Punta Gorda, Florida, Annette and Bob Morden watched the memorial service for George Floyd, whose May death at the hands of Minneapolis police officers sparked a national protest movement that drew millions into the streets. 

Both retired University of Wisconsin-Superior faculty, the Mordens listened as speakers eulogized Floyd. During his remarks, Scott Hagan, president of North Central University in downtown Minneapolis where the memorial service was held, challenged every college in America to establish scholarship funds in memory of Floyd. 

UNI student Joyce Levingston leads a Black Lives Matter protest.

‘Blood, sweat and tears’: UNI student helps lead the charge for racial equality

The first time Joyce Levingston watched the video of George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police, the mother of four said her heart “shattered.”

Seeing Floyd on the ground, crying out for his mother brought back all the battles she’s fought for her own children - how, as a single, Black mother, she’s sometimes felt overwhelmed fighting her own battles against racism in America.

Waterloo mayor and UNI alum Quentin Hart.

Waterloo mayor, a UNI alum, is building bridges

Elected five years ago as the first African-American mayor in Waterloo’s 147-year history, UNI graduate Quentin Hart has focused ever since on building bridges.

University of Northern Iowa criminology professor Gayle Rhineberger-Dunn

UNI professor discusses the future of policing

The death of George Floyd reawakened demands for police reform across the country. From calls to defund police departments, to reexamining use-of-force policies, policing practices are once again falling under scrutiny. Here, University of Northern Iowa criminology professor Gayle Rhineberger-Dunn discusses these topics and the role UNI plays in preparing future criminal justice professionals.

What is your work at UNI focused on?

A UNI student puts up a diversity mural in Waterloo.

UNI mural project highlights Cedar Valley's diversity

During this time of national discussion of racial inequality, UNI is uplifting underrepresented voices. The Diversity Is Our Strength project aims to challenge racism and stereotypes about the Cedar Valley in a visible way with a downtown Waterloo mural and accompanying website.

A Confederate monument

Demonstrators march, statues fall as US grapples with racist past

Anger over the death of George Floyd has led to a reappraisal of the history of racism and oppression in America. In recent weeks, demonstrators have toppled Confederate statues, Congressional leaders have proposed renaming military bases and NASCAR has banned Confederate flags from being displayed at events. We asked UNI associate history professor Thomas Connors, an expert on historical memory and monuments, to weigh in on the discussion. 

How do you feel the demonstrations happening now have reignited debates regarding Confederate displays?