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UI must adapt to changing demographics, diversity candidate says

BY ARIANA WITT | APRIL 20, 2010 7:30 AM

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Boosting efforts to reach out to UI minorities during their time at the university is something Nicole Nisly, a candidate for UI chief diversity officer, said she hopes to improve in the position.

And she feels that contact could help improve retention rates.

The number of Latino students at the UI has increased by more than 30 percent in the last five years, and the number of African American students is up 15 percent, according to the Registrar’s Office. Meanwhile, the U.S. Census Bureau predicts that by 2050, Latinos will be the largest minority population in Iowa.

Nisly, speaking to a group Monday of around 50 people in the University Capitol Centre, said these are significant reasons the UI’s current faculty should do more in terms of outreach to minority students, and officials should recognize the changing demographics.

“Should we wait for other institutions to recognize these changes? Or should we lead the way?” she said.

Instructors can help by addressing minority students when building a course because they may have thoughts that differ from their fellow classmates, said the third candidate to interview for the chief position .

“All of us are responsible for how the world will be in the coming years,” she said, noting diversity education is a campuswide issue.

Last week, Gov. Chet Culver signed legislation that will help increase the number of minorities teaching in Iowa. But Nisly said fostering diversity shouldn’t fall solely with officials and minority leaders.

“Of course, we need to build a critical mass, but the critical mass is of every color,” she said. “We have to do it together to change current statistics.”

The UI’s chief diversity officer has wide-ranging responsibilities, monitoring equity efforts among students and staff and faculty members. The chief diversity officer also oversees offices that implement programming for underrepresented populations and mediate discrimination and harassment complaints.

A native of Brazil, Nisly earned a medical degree from the Universidade Federal de Pernambuco Recife in 1982. She has been at the UI since 1990, and she began her current position as the diversity officer for the internal-medicine department in 2006.

Peter Kaboli, UI associate professor of internal medicine, said Nisly’s experience abroad and in America has helped her view of education in many backgrounds.

“She does things in a way that involves her own experience, colleagues, patients, and general information, and I think that relates well to diversity issues on campus because it takes on all views,” Kaboli said.

Maryann Rasmussen, a UI lecturer and the head of the Council on the Status of Women, said diversity groups have enjoyed working with Nisly. Rasmussen said she’s looking forward to helping chose the officer.

“To have a chief officer who can coordinate our activities and make us aware of what is going on on campus would be a wonderful thing,” Rasmussen said.

The fourth candidate will attend a public forum at 10 a.m. Thursday in 351 IMU.

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