DEI at the Department of Geographical and Sustainability Sciences

As Geography faculty, students and staff, we recognize that historical and contemporary inequities exist due to institutionalized racism, sexism, ableism and other forms of structural discrimination. Assumptions of meritocracy in academia disregard advantage and disadvantage that exist both societally and across the university.

Acknowledging privilege accepts that societal social stratification requires some to navigate more barriers than others to attain the same levels of success. Realizing equity, respect, and inclusion requires examining unrecognized obstacles and implementing mechanisms for their removal. We must scrutinize departmental and university systems to create new structures that are inclusive, equitable, and non-discriminatory.

As such, we are critically examining ourselves, our teaching, and mentoring. This includes revising procedures (e.g., advising, graduate admissions, performance reviews) toward building a more inclusive departmental culture and curriculum. We seek continuous improvement toward a supportive environment that helps us all better understand how our place in the world is shaped by both individual effort and larger political, economic, and environmental forces, and how our agency and actions in the world matter in meaningful ways.

Addressing inequities, lack of inclusiveness and absence of diversity will take collective and long-term action and investment of time and resources, to which we are committed. We hope you will join us in this undertaking. Ongoing activities and processes are outlined in the links on the left. We gladly welcome your feedback about diversity, equity and inclusion considerations for the major, in the courses that you take and in your interactions with us.

DEI at the Department of Geographical and Sustainability Sciences

DEI within your course work

As a department, we value creating a safe and inclusive atmosphere within the classroom. We believe this should extend into the course work students encounter within the Geography department. With that, we have implemented language to be put into all syllabi that are within the Geography Department.

Syllabus language

Meaningful and constructive dialogue is encouraged in this class and requires mutual respect, willingness to listen, and tolerance of opposing points of view. No student will be penalized for the content or viewpoints of their speech as long as it is germane to the subject matter of the class and conveyed in an appropriate manner. Should any student disrupt the instructor's ability to ensure a safe environment, control the class agenda, and/or deliver course content, the instructor has the right to ask that the disruptive action cease immediately. In such an event, the responsible student should cease the disruption and utilize non-disruptive means for expressing disagreement or concern. Students who are physically or verbally disruptive in class may be asked to leave the class and will be dealt with according to the Code of Student Life or referred to the Dean of Students in 135 IMU (319-335-1162). The instructor will report in writing to the Dean of Students the nature of the disruption and any disciplinary action undertaken against a student. (See the Code of Student Life, "Interference with University Operations.")

Any student wishing to provide feedback regarding classroom disruptions may do so at the departmental level, the university level, or to the Dean of Students

DEI undergrad chairpeople

In order to ensure all undergraduates are included in important talks about DEI within the Geography department, we require that an undergrad be present in these talks. Every year, a new undergraduate is selected as a representative in meetings with the DEI committee and share important input. Our current undergrad representatives are Martha Fey and Emmeline Kraus.

As part of DEI efforts, the admissions process for graduate students has been revised to both be more equitable and to better assess candidates holistically. This includes standardizing the interview process, providing greater clarity in the materials requested from applicants, removing standardized testing (GREs) from the application portfolio and increasing transparency in how decisions are made about applicants. 

Graduate students in the department from underrepresented groups have received funding to support their graduate studies from the Lulu Merle Johnson Fellowship and the Diversity Fellowship. These fellowships provide both stipends and tuition support and supplement other funding from the department.    

The Geographic & Sustainability Graduate Cluster (GSGC) is an organization that provides support for graduate students in the Department of Geographical and Sustainability Sciences in areas important for academic and professional development within the discipline.

The GSGC Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Liaison represents graduate student concerns and experiences on the department’s DEI committee. The DEI Liaison is an integral member of the committee and helps guide department policies and programming regarding underrepresented groups. The DEI liaison will attend all department DEI meetings, and is a resource point on DEI issues for students in the department.

The GSGC also recognizes the importance of mentoring for student retention and success. All graduate students also identify mentors, outside of their academic advisor, who can support them in their progress to degree. These mentors can be in the department, in other units on campus or in outside groups with shared research interests or identity characteristics. The role of non-advisor mentors is to provide guidance in both academic and non-academic matters. More senior graduate students often mentor newer graduate students.

The Research Support Group is a group for and by graduate students. The group meets regularly to discuss a variety of topics identified by students. Topics have included: how to navigate teaching responsibilities; how to select research topics and questions; how to best utilize committee members; and how to access and use campus resources. The group also provides examples of and feedback for degree milestones such as research proposals. The Research Support Group is ultimately meant to provide a safe and candid environment for students to help each other through the graduate experience in the Department of Geographical and Sustainability Sciences.

Research & collaboration

The faculty and students in the Department of Geographical & Sustainability Sciences are actively working on projects that explore the multiple dimensions of DEI. Work includes, for instance, disparities in birth outcomes and access to healthcare in the US, social vulnerability and resilience to natural hazards, and gender inequity in agricultural production.

In addition, the Department of Geographical & Sustainability Sciences is actively engaged in the Advancing Environmental Justice (AEJ) Initiative, which provides curriculum and speakers and research on environmental justice topics.

The University of Iowa’s College of Liberal Arts & Sciences has a postdoctoral fellowship program designed to recruit and retain, as tenure-track faculty, highly promising applicants from underrepresented backgrounds.

Multiple opportunities for undergraduate research are intended to increase the interests and skills of traditionally excluded students in geographic research. These include participation in the Summer Research Opportunities Program (SROP), the National Science Foundation-funded research experiences for undergraduate programs that geographers at Iowa offer (on watershed science or evolutionary science) and the University of Iowa’s Iowa Center for Research by Undergraduates (ICRU).

ICIGO projects

ICIGO is a student organization within the Department of Geographical and Sustainability Sciences that utilizes experiences and skills gained in the classroom to support projects focused on sustainability in the community and state. Examples of past and current projects include mapping campus-wide sustainability efforts, mapping and visualization of local and organic producers, merchants and markets, visualization of campus health activities and more.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

The principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are fundamental to the mission of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Iowa, as we conduct our work in the context of the whole of humanity.

  • In our teaching, we draw on, explore, and question every facet of human experience and understanding.
  • In our scholarship, scientific inquiry, and artistry, we create new knowledge and insight, reflecting and shaping the cultures and societies in which human lives unfold.
  • In our service to Iowans, we collaborate with communities to solve critical problems arising from inequity.

DEI values are inseparable from those of the liberal arts tradition. To fully realize our college’s critical mission of advancing human understanding within that tradition, we must actualize these values in every aspect of our decision-making and every area of our academic community.