History of Diversity at UNI

The University of Northern Iowa has a long history of promoting diversity. Here are a few examples:

1921- Anna Lawther, a UNI alumna, became the first women to serve on the Board of Regents, State of Iowa. She was also a distinguished leader of the woman’s suffrage movement in Iowa, serving as President of the Iowa Equal Suffrage Association. Lawther was also the first woman delegate from Iowa to attend the National Democratic Convention in 1920.

1968- UNI established the UNI Center for Urban Education (UNI-CUE) when President Maucker saw the need for a center on the study of minority group education. UNI-CUE, which is located in Waterloo, provided an opportunity “for UNI staff and students to be exposed to a black community, promote education in general, and for counseling and recruitment of disadvantaged youth.” The center offers classes designed for non-traditional students, provides counseling to underprivileged students and school drop-outs, provides mentoring by UNI students to underprivileged students.

1971- The center for Multicultural Education was established at UNI, following a sit-in by students at the President’s House. Although media accounts claimed students were rowdy uncontrolled, the protest was actually very peaceful and the students played games with the President. Still, seven students were suspended for their role in leading the demonstration. They became known as the UNI-7.

1991- Mona Van Duyn, a 1942 graduate of UNI, won the Pulitzer Prize in poetry. In 1992, she became the first woman named as Poet Laureate Consultant to the Library of Congress.

1999- The Jumpstart Orientation Program was started, which serves to provide students from ethnically, culturally, and socioeconomically diverse backgrounds with a “jump start” on their first year at the University. The participants come to campus one week early before the fall semester and receive help registering for classes and learning about resources available on campus. The program also provides students a chance to meet other students, UNI faculty/staff, and former Jump Start participants who serve as mentors.

2008- UNI, under the leadership of President Ben Allen, establishes the University of Northern Iowa Diversity Council. The Diversity Council is responsible for providing the leadership and coordination necessary to achieve the diversity-related goals of the university.

2009- UNI held its inaugural Town Hall Meeting on Diversity. The annual meeting is a chance to celebrate diversity efforts and reflect on what still needs to be done.

2009- UNI served as host to Iowa’s Impacting Diversity through Educational alliances (Iowa’s IDEA) 4th Annual Diversity Summit. Over 300 participants from organizations throughout the Midwest came together for a day of reflection and learning through keynote presentations and a myriad of breakout sessions incorporating a full spectrum of diversity-based issues. Speakers included UNI students, fortune 500 executives, and numerous members of the UNI faculty.

2009- For the first time, UNI developed an official definition of diversity: Diversity describes the rich differences that people bring to the University of Northern Iowa community. It can refer broadly to culture, identity and ideology, or more specifically to age, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, ability, gender identity, socioeconomic status, political affiliation, marital status, national origin, or veteran status. Diversity is a dynamic concept, shaped by history, and changing as our understanding of the world and its people evolves.

2010- UNI awarded the first set of Diversity Matters Awards, recognizing students, faculty, and staff at UNI, as well as community members, for their individual efforts towards promoting diversity. The award was given to nine individuals at the 2nd annual Town Hall Meeting on Diversity and continues as an annual tradition today.